“Physical Forms is the band I’ve dreamed of being in since I was 11,” explains multi-instrumentalist and composer Jeffrey Byron. The L.A.-native and veteran underground musician debuts his newest creative endeavor, the highly anticipated Physical Forms, this Monday at Pehrspace.
There’s a lot of love out there for Byron. That’s because, along with his brother Tim (and an extended “family” of notable players), Jeff Byron helped spark and shape an L.A. musical renaissance in the mid- and late-Noughties with the iconic band the Mae Shi. The Mae Shi’s blend of punk, pop, rock, and jubilant rowdiness inspired so many. Just go back and look at old Mae Shi concert photos and you will see half the current L.A. scene fresh-faced and admiring from the audience.
But don’t expect Physical Forms to be a Mae Shi clone. “This is a completely different band,” Jeff Byron states emphatically.
“Everyone in Physical Forms have been in great bands and have done really cool projects,” Byron continues. “Regan as a rapper goes by Busdriver, Marty and Marcus were both in Bad Dudes, Silver Daggers and Upsilon Acrux (respectively). Kevin plays drums in Division Day and Little Ones. These guys are some of the most wonderful and talented people I’ve ever met.”
Byron gives clues to the new sound of Physical Forms via a list of his own musical obsessions: “I like big powerful over-the-top epic stuff, but I also am a sucker for dance music and cheesy ’80s stuff… It kinda sucks that we have to nail it down in order to be a band and promote shows and records and blah blah blah. Why can’t I just make music?”
The Mae Shi may be gone, but their spirit lives. Physical Forms guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter (and Mae Shi alumnus) Jeff Byron says: “It took [the Mae Shi] three years to make one record, and now there’s going to be all these songs and records coming out by bands related to that project. Band fractal!”
This Monday night, Physical Forms joins that illustrious posse. I caught up with Jeff Byron for this exclusive SEANCARNAGE.COM interview…
How old are you, Jeff? Where were you born and where do you live now?
I’m 30 years old. I was born in L.A., in the valley I think. I live in Highland Park, just north of L.A.
Growing up, who is the first person you remember seeing or hearing make live music?
Good question. I don’t remember ever being moved by a live musical performance as a little kid. My dad used to drag me to karaoke bars and I hated it. The first I ever remember being excited about someone playing an instrument in front of me was when my older brother, Tim, got an electric guitar. I think I was 11. Tim and I were obsessed with MTV as little kids. I remember being really excited to see the new Loverboy or Great White world premiere videos. I didn’t discover live shows until I was a teenager. Until then anything beyond the television and my brother’s Fender Squier was almost supernatural.
What was your reaction to music making at that time?
No one in my family played a musical instrument, so I didn’t really think of it as something I could do. I was into nerdy record collecting as a kid. As far as I knew music was made by gods and magic, not me. I was happy to have a pair of headphones and $8 to spend at Tower records, or the Wherehouse.
What’s the first instrument you played?
It was a Yamaha keyboard. The cardboard box had a picture of Michael Jackson and the demo played “Together Forever” by Rick Astley. My mom still has it!
What instruments do you play now?
I play a bunch of instruments very poorly. Ask anyone who has played with me, it’s true, I’m not just being humble. My brother taught me how to play guitar chords when I was little and I got hooked on learning every easy Beatles song. I borrowed a crappy electric bass in high school because there seemed to be a shortage of bass players in punk bands. I sort of took it on, ended up in an orchestra playing upright bass. In part of high school I lived with a different family and shared a room with Ezra Buchla, who played viola. We’d tinker with electronic instruments. Then I went to college and studied music there.
When did you start Physical Forms?
Regan and I had talked about doing something together a couple years ago. Last summer I started sending him songs and he started singing on them. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, it was pure fun. I would cover my eyes and smash keys on the keyboard, and Regan would come up with amazing vocal parts. Within three weeks we were staying up until 5am three nights a week making tunes. We still do that!
Who is in Physical Forms and what do they play?
Well, for the next show, it will look like this (I think): Regan Farquhar (aka Busdriver) will sing and play some omnichord. Marty Sataman will play bass guitar and some keyboards. I’ll play some guitars and keyboards. Marcus Savino and Kevin Lenhart are going to play drums, electronic drums, and a giant light-light up musical instrument we built, if it works.
Who knows what we will be playing for the next show. I can’t think that far ahead.
Did you compose the music? Or is it a collaboration?
Its a collaboration, but Regan and I had a head start.
What songs did Physical Forms write/rehearse first?
The first song idea I sent to Regan is called “On The Brink,” and it will be out on a split 7″ with Deerhoof next month. That’s the first one we rehearsed!
Did you have a moment where you went “Whoa—this is going to be good!”
For me it was more like “whoa—this is fun, and its only going to get funner!” Who cares if its good at that point. In some ways I knew the stuff I was writing was really bad, in that it was cheesy or poppy or I knew people wouldn’t like it. Whatever. I do hope people like it, though.
What about lyrics?
That’s pretty much all Regan. Ask him. I could never wrap my head around writing lyrics. It was only recently that lyrics started to resonate with me. I’ve only written three words in all our songs.
Will this be music that fans of the Mae Shi will like?
I definitely don’t want people coming to the show thinking its “the new Mae Shi” or anything like that. I’ve seen some posts online that say “Physical Forms—the new Mae Shi band” etc., but that’s definitely not what we are. Marcus and I played in the Mae Shi, but everyone who was in the Mae Shi is doing something creative and interesting. Ezra has his solo stuff, Brad has a new record coming out, and Signals is an amazing band featuring Jon, Bill, and Jacob from our last line up. Out of all of the projects, I’d call them “the new Mae Shi.” I think Mae Shi fans would love Signals.
What are your future plans for Physical Forms?
We’re going to do a record! Play some shows! Make some friends!
Is you could collaborate with someone who’s on the radio right now, who would it be and what your song be called?
Is Deerhoof on the radio? We just did a collaboration with them and that was kind of a dream come true. Don’t know what the song is called yet, but it will be out next month.
I’ll listen to the radio in the morning and let you know!
Don’t miss this Monday…
Sean Carnage presents…
A Very Special Monday Night with
Physical Forms (at 11:30pm)
**New band featuring members of Mae Shi, Division Day, Hiking, Bad Dudes, featuring Busdriver…**
Doors at 9:30pm / $5 / all-ages
Pehrspace—325 Glendale Blvd., in Historic Filipinotown
**THIS SHOW WILL START PROMPTLY—DON’T MISS OUT**