Producer Lewis Pesacov helms L.A.'s sounds of summer
Inside Lewis Pesacov's recording space, on the first floor of the Bedrock rehearsal complex in a dodgy stretch of Echo Park near the 2 Freeway, there is an oil portrait of the entire team of his production company Black Iris. The mostly bedraggled-looking staff is depicted with mock-Victorian splendor. It's hung next to a gigantic mounted marlin. The decor is a hilarious vision of winking, masculine mock-self regard.
In the last few weeks, his work behind the boards for Best Coast’s excellent upcoming debut, "Crazy For You," and a trunk-rattling rap remix of Local Natives' "Wide Eyes" have unexpectedly vaulted him to the center of L.A.'s 2010 summer-sound zeitgeist.
Pesacov is better known for the long-form Afro-pop jams of his day job. But in this room, where he splits duties between composing for advertisements and producing bands, he's a genre-rebuffing mercenary as quick to cite J.R. Rotem's beat-making as primary source material as he is versed in the exploits of Snacks the Cat .
"I would love to be producing pop and R&B," Pesacov said, dialing up his forthcoming beat-centric remix of a track from classic-rawkers Free Energy on his monitor. "That Jason Derulo song 'Whatcha Say' has an indie hook for the chorus, but then has this production where you just want to cruise."
"Cruising" may be the defining ethic in both his main band and his production work. His love of African music and the repetition of the composer Steve Reich informs everything he does.
"Reich said that in music there's 'real time' and 'perceived time,' and maybe even 'stoned time,' " he said. "In African music you don't realize there is time, it's a trance, and it's amazing to think about how that sound can be a pop hit there."
While "Wide Eyes" and "Crazy For You" share little of Fools Gold's musically wandering sensibility, a vibe of transport and forward motion underpins each. Splicing the Local Natives' ethereal hook into an orthodox, 808-splattered Atlanta rap track wasn't just a funny gesture. It digs up common driving-song ground between them, and it could propel one through Big Boy’s Neighborhood or the House of Spirits parking lot with ease.
"All of that kind of rap has this half-time bass line, and I just heard it inside that Local Natives song," he said. "I don’t think they listen to much rap, they’re all really sweet guys who sing so softly, so I thought it’d be great to take it and make it super tough."
Even the two-minute fuzz-pop pearls on "Crazy For You" accrue into a woozy, sunburned day on the PCH when taken as a whole. Again, Pesacov's job was to take small good sonic ideas and splay them out into a new and total vision.
"Bethany really let me produce her, which was tough because they were kind of standoffish about that at first," he said. "But we really pushed to get out of the fuzz, and the source material as so good that eventually we really trusted each other. I'd love to hear her and [bandmate] Bobb try some more involved pop in the future, to make like an ELO or Fleetwood Mac record."In the meantime, Pesacov is off making extremely involved pop with Fools Gold on a national tour, and between dates returns to Black Iris to compose for video games and ad campaigns (a recent Nike spot asked for a sprawling Afro-electro jam, and he jumped at the job). But his recent good run behind the boards has seeped into how he's playing live. He's keeping the cruising, but maybe staying in his lane a bit longer.
"We'll play 'Surprise Hotel' for 15 minutes on tour, and we'll all just be loving the vibe and jamming," he said. "It's like we black out onstage, and when we come to we'll look at the audience and realize. 'Maybe that was more fun for us than for them.' "
-- August Brown
Photo: Lewis Pesacov. Credit: Marianne Williams
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