LEMON SUN: EDUCATION IS A DARK THING
Lemon Sun may not live very close to each other or rehearse very often but this bunch sure can put on a remarkable show. After finding some new members and playing shows for a crowd full of rock stars, Lemon Sun is getting ready to head into the studio and record a new album. But first, they made some time for lunch and a little chat about themselves. This interview by Britt Witt.
What do you do in your free time?
Patrick O’Connor (guitar/vocals): Acting. Rob is Professor Electric!
Rob Kolar (vocals/guitar): Yeah, I found the job on Craigslist. It’s mostly high school science so if you have some high school education, you go through the training process of being taught the fairly typical stuff. They give you a refresher and manuals of all the stuff and different facts. One time we mixed all these horrible chemicals together and it made this glossy muffin and one of the kids heard that it was called a ‘magic muffin’ and I guess thought it was eatable and so I turned to put some stuff in my box and he had yellow froth around his lips. He had eaten the magic muffin which is full of horrible chemicals that could kill you! So I run to the sink and wash his mouth out with water! There might as well be a skull on the side of the chemicals I’m pouring in. I probably should do that. Education is a dark thing—you have a lot of power. It’s also really rewarding.
Do you have an agent?
Rob Kolar: I do for commercials. Patrick and I have the same agent. We go out a lot together as a band. Most of the time we get cast as ourselves so we don’t have to play anything too weird or wear clothes we don’t want to wear. We try not to sell out too badly but it does help fund a lot of things. We did a VH1 commercial once for Latin America—Felipe just pounded for hours.
How often do you rehearse together?
Felipe Ceballos (drums/vocals): About twice a week, if we’re lucky.
Patrick O’Connor: Yeah, but sometimes that even seems like too much.
Rob Kolar: Pretty much, but we’ve been having a lot of shows so those sort of count as well. Plus Felipe and I play in another band—He’s My Brother She’s My Sister, with my sister—so we have to rehearse with that band sometimes.
Felipe Ceballos: I’m their cousin! He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister—she’s his girlfriend, I’m their cousin! I play a different type of drumset.
So if you don’t rehearse that often then do you just have a natural connection?
Rob Kolar: I’d like to say that we do, but we do fight a lot.
Felipe Ceballos: Yeah, a lot.
Rob Kolar: Patrick is the most cordial of all the members. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Patrick fight with any of us.
Patrick O’Connor: I can see everything from all angles. A lot of times I just can’t decide which side to be on.
Felipe Ceballos: I don’t think it’s necessarily that we don’t rehearse a lot because we do play a lot. We have a fair amount of shows. At least 4 shows a month to start with.
Rob Kolar: And the guys that we play with are pretty good players. The lineup was completely different a little over a year ago and I was really fortunate to find really good players to play with. And they like the songs even though we didn’t write them together so I have to give the band a lot of credit too. Getting down the set took some time but now we’ve got it and now we’re just working on a new record. Getting stuff going, splitting a lot of time trying to come up with new stuff. March is recording month for us. It was supposed to be January so we’ve been postponing because we kept getting shows so we’re really excited about it.
Does this mean lockdown in the rehearsal space?
Rob Kolar: Kind of. Certainly instead of rehearsals we’ll be recording and weekends we’ll be recording.
Have you already written the new songs?
Rob Kolar: No, I have a lot of music written but I’ve been having really bad writer’s block for lyrics and singing melodies. It kinda comes in seasons so I’m hoping with this new season just around the corner I’ll get this flash of new inspiration. But as for music, we have a lot of it so we’ll just be putting it all together piece by piece. I think the sound will be different, I’m expecting a new avenue for us musically.
Felipe Ceballos: Yeah, it’s definitely changing. I mean, it still has a lot of the elements of Lemon Sun in it but it’s definitely a bit different than before.
More psychedelic or more rocky?
Felipe Ceballos: I feel like it’s a combination of both.
Patrick O’Connor: I feel like its more psychedelic but at the same time a little bit more earthy or western.
Felipe Ceballos: ‘Raw.’ ‘Raw’ would be a good word to describe it.
Rob Kolar: And with recording, the last album we did was with a pretty well-known producer in a studio and I have issues with how well-produced it sounds. I mean I enjoy the record but I want to do something that sounds more spontaneous and alive and has a frenetic energy to it. I think it’s the right vibe for the lineup that we have now.
Who are these new members?
Rob Kolar: Patrick, Felipe, Scott is playing bass. Scott is the veteran of the L.A. music scene. He’s played with like a hundred bands. And Timothy, who is also in a band called Astra Heights.
Felipe Ceballos: Just one of the brothers. There’s like thirteen. I had a band before that did a tour with them and it was quite fun. When we got to Houston where they’re from, the whole family was there and that’s what tapped out the show! It was just the family in the audience and the whole place was packed!
What is your blog about?
Rob Kolar: The blog is all about what is weird and random.
Felipe Ceballos: I don’t even know about this blog.
Rob Kolar: I have told him about this blog like five times. I haven’t had one post.
Felipe Ceballos: I don’t know about this blog!
Rob Kolar: Oh yeah, you do. I’ve sent at least four or five emails about it.
Patrick O’Connor: I’ve meant to come up with things for it but I haven’t.
Rob Kolar: Well, it’s just a way to put funny stuff up for people to enjoy.
Felipe Ceballos: Send it to me one more time and I’ll probably put something up.
Rob Kolar: I haven’t put anything up in a while but I also put up videos of bands that we like. I used to do ‘band of the month’ or ‘band of the week’ so whatever band I was really excited about, old or new. Sometimes I’ll do a film review or write something, or post a video that’s funny. I used to write for an upstart magazine that never went anywhere. But it was cool because I could get into shows for bands that I liked for free and that was pretty much why I did it. I got a bunch of albums for free, like the Spoon record before it was released. I would review them but no one ever read the magazine. It’s all about who’s running it—the girl who was doing it was in over her head.
Is it more about the lyrics or the music?
Rob Kolar: Patrick, you write lyrics with your fingers.
Patrick O’Connor: For me it’s really about how the lyrics affect the music and how the music affects the lyrics.
Rob Kolar: I think we’re focused on lyrics but I don’t think we’re really recognized for it, I think people are more responsive to the melodies and hooks of the songs. I aim to be socially conscious in my lyrics but I don’t think anybody pays attention.
Felipe Ceballos: Yeah, I don’t care about lyrics. I mean—
Rob Kolar: Both are very important.
Patrick O’Connor: You’re a drummer!
Felipe Ceballos: No, I mean I like lyrics too, but very rarely I like a song because of the lyrics. Generally it’s usually because of the melody and whatever that grabs me. And then it certainly happens that I recognize the lyrics and they’re amazing but it’s just usually a secondary thing for me.
So no SXSW for you this year?
Rob Kolar: No, we’re making our record! We went a couple years ago with a different lineup and unless everything is set in stone and everyone is like ‘that’s the band I want to see,’ I kinda feel like—is it worth spending all the money when we could be recording an album?
Felipe Ceballos: It seems like there’s a lot going on and if you’re not a big buzzing band—and by buzzing I mean about to completely break to the world, a band that everybody knows about. Being buzzing in L.A. means nothing if you’re going to SXSW and spending all this money just to get there and play one show when at the same time Spoon is playing two stores down.
Rob Kolar: We do well here and we have a name here but, you know, we’re not the number one band on like ‘My Old Kentucky Blogs’ or whatever. I’ve found that you almost have to get in with the blogs before anything.
So what is success to you?
Patrick O’Connor: Extreme fame and extreme riches! Limos!
Felipe Ceballos: Girls!
Rob Kolar: Massages.
Felipe Ceballos: Massages on demand!
Patrick O’Connor: I feel successful after a good show. And a massage.
Felipe Ceballos: If we could have a massage therapist every time we play, I think that would be successful.
Rob Kolar: It’s been a good year for us. The two shows we did with Supergrass in January were really fun. We were playing with people that we try to emulate and then having them embrace you and wanting you to play the show and being really cool guys. And there were some fun rock ‘n’ roll celebs in the crowd, other people that we look up to. Thom York was at both of the shows. Britt Daniels from Spoon.
Patrick O’Connor: Dave Davies.
Rob Kolar: Yeah, Dave Davies was at one of them. Steve Jones.
Patrick O’Connor: That was a fun week. They were all there for us—not Supergrass!
Rob Kolar: We’re getting music placements—that’s kind of cool. We were on an NBC show like two weeks ago?
Patrick O’Connor: Yeah, I saw it! It was like, ‘Where’s our song going to be?’ And then they were in a bar—there’s our song! It’s like ‘Shots!’ and our music in the background.
Were you mentioned in any credits?
Felipe Ceballos: No. Generally they don’t do that. Some shows will do that—at the end they’ll say some of them, but generally they don’t really do that. We just get a check.
Are you signed to a record label?
Rob Kolar: Lemon Sun records.
Felipe Ceballos: Your wallet records!
Do you have a manager?
Felipe Ceballos: Your wallet manager!
Rob Kolar: Felipe and I are the managers. We’d like to find a label and do that whole thing but for right now it works out okay because we can self-release things. Amoeba has been really cool and put all their stuff in their stores and iTunes is great. It’s amazing getting a check for that.
Felipe Ceballos: The thing is, when there is not that much money rolling in, there’s not much other people can do for you. I’ve had experience with managers before where you end up doing all the work and they still want a check.
Rob Kolar: I think the industry is changing. You aren’t making much money off of a record and music videos should be promotion.
Felipe Ceballos: You could make a lot of money through placements. To me, records are more of a souvenir at a show than anything—you go to a show, ‘Oh! You have a CD or vinyl’ I’m down for vinyl, put that shit on vinyl! That’s what we gotta do. Vinyl and download for free!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad review of you guys.
Rob Kolar: There was one. Kevin Bronson from Buzzbands described our music as somewhere in the realm of Matchbox 20 and Counting Crows. But it was so scathingly bad that it was great. He was raging on my voice but the funny thing about Kevin is that now he always talks about us and we were in his top one hundred songs of the year. Even worse than that, we played NoisePop and got a review saying ‘I want the last thirty minutes of my life back’ as the main quote for the show. He spent most of the review talking shit about L.A. and how we so obviously were an L.A. band and how we looked like we had been put together by a stylist which I was like, ‘Well, hey, we didn’t have to spend any money on our outfits so that’s great!’
How does positive feedback affect your performance?
Patrick O’Connor: I always feel a little nervous but I think it’s good nerves—it brings energy to the performance. When I’m not nervous, I don’t play as well.
Rob Kolar: I’ve been less and less nervous. I think the more you perform—especially after you’ve got a few drinks in you! That does make quite a big difference I’ve noticed.
Felipe Ceballos: Here’s the reality—I usually have my one.
Patrick O’Connor: Yeah, his rule is that he usually has one.
Felipe Ceballos: I usually have one drink before I play. But on the last four dates of our tour we were going on kinda late and getting there kinda early and I had a bunch of drink tickets so…
Rob Kolar: No, no—that’s at the end of the night.
Patrick O’Connor: Definitely on those nights, there’s a lot more talking to the audience by the band going on—which I like.
Rob Kolar: Definitely like a wall comes down. My crowd interaction goes way up. But there is a threshold—you don’t want to go over that threshold.
Felipe Ceballos: Oh, no—not me.
Rob Kolar: Oh, it’s been done. I can get belligerent.
Patrick O’Connor: Felipe, you’ve gotten angry at the crowd! I think we just go up there and do our thing. It’s pretty hard to tell. Our experience on stage never lines up with the feedback. Sometimes when we think we’ve played a shit show, people tell us it’s our best stuff or the other way around.
Does it make you more uncomfortable to know that specific people are in the crowd?
Rob Kolar: I think it used to be that way—like in the beginning. But we’ve just had so many times where someone is going to come to the show and then they don’t that I think at this point we just do what we do.
Patrick O’Connor: You tend to get yourself in trouble when you overthink things.
Felipe Ceballos: Just got to rock!
You’re going on so late on Saturday!
Rob Kolar: Well, its Astra Heights’ CD release and they’re playing at eleven so we either play at ten or at midnight and we rather get the drunken people riled up. And no band likes to go after us!
LEMON SUN WITH ASTRA HEIGHTS, THE ROMANY RYE AND JEFFERTITI’S NILE ON SAT., FEB. 27, AT THE BOOTLEG THEATRE, 2220 BEVERLY BLVD., LOS ANGELES. 9 PM / $10 / 21+. FOLDSILVERLAKE.COM. LEMON SUN’S RUN WITH THE FAITHLESS IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM LEMON SUN. VISIT LEMON SUN AT LEMONSUN.ORG OR MYSPACE.COM/LEMONSUN.