When Chad Elliott was penning the lyrics to Funeral Party’s best-known song (and most barbed single), “New York City Moves to the Sound of L.A.,” he had a certain gang of ex-Californians on his mind.
“I used to like the Rapture so much more when they were from San Diego, and 'Mirror' was such a great record,” he said. “Then they moved to New York and started acting like they were from there. It kind of bothered me, like, ‘Hey, be proud of where you’re from’."
For Funeral Party, that means riding hard for its home turf of Whittier. It’s an unexpectedly suburban starting point for a band equally skilled in the double-time punk funk of Public Image LTD. and inventive updates of U2’s arena-ringers.
The micro-niches of the urban Los Angeles music scene shift practically weekly, but the distance gave the three-piece some space to cohere into one of L.A. County’s deadliest live acts. Elliott, guitarist James Lawrence Torres, bassist Kimo Kauhola (plus touring percussionists Tim Madrid and Robert Shaffer) may tap veins of fairly established sounds. But they play it with the urgency of a band that looked around a sleepy hometown and wanted more. Much more.
But “The Golden Age of Knowhere,” the band’s debut full-length, comes at an interesting juncture for the band. One might remember hearing takes on the bongo-crazy single “Car Wars” and “New York City…” kicking around the Internet as early as 2009. After signing to RCA and some release-day delays (buoyed by a Bootleg Theater residency and a live EP recorded at the BBC), “Knowhere” arrived this spring as both a collection of their first ideas as a band, and as a mission statement that they’re ready to move up.
The title track is a bleary, waltz-time hailstorm of suspended chords; “Postcards of Persuasion" is textbook disco-rock made epic with yearning, desperate vocals. Elliott’s timbre has a bit of the sassy snarl of the Blood Brothers, but it’s leavened with an earnestness that makes the more sincere moments soar.
“Youth & Poverty,” one of the more bracing tracks, also comes as one of the more unexpectedly nasty -– “I'm sorry that we can't be friends, I really can't relate,” Elliott sings atop a fuss of tom rolls and a busy bassline. “You know that I can't pretend to care about how you have been, what a waste of your f- life.”
“I started writing that as a breakup song,” Elliott said. “But in the end it wound up really being about myself, like a breakup song with my own old life.”
But the past doesn’t slip by so easily. As the band preps for tours in the coming months with bands as disparate as the arty doom-rock of Deftones, the precision-cut thrash of Dillinger Escape Plan and the recovering emo titans Panic! at the Disco, they face the dual challenges of playing three-year-old songs to very mixed-bag audiences. Elliott admits it’s weird playing songs written in the fever of post-adolescence when the band has decidedly moved on aesthetically and emotionally from that time.
But when he thinks back to his formative years, and to the impression a certain other snarling, loose-limbed frontman made on his young suburban mind, he says he can find a way to translate it all over again.
“My family was super religious growing up and they didn’t allow me to listen to secular music,” Elliott said. “But I had a cool aunt who brought me over one day and showed me a Stooges video and I saw Iggy Pop writhing around and was like ‘Wow, I have to do that’.”
-- August Brown