When the guys from new DIY venue Dem Passwords presented me with the opportunity to bring some underground music to West Hollywood—an area which has not had a cutting-edge performance space in decades (at least)—I wanted to kick things off right, and that meant bringing in the best.
Kevin Greenspon and Nicole Kidman (real name: Jon Barba) are those guys.
And for this special occasion, these two have grafted those signature Nicole Kidman punch-you-in-the-heart, primordial pop songs to Kevin Greenspon’s immaculately edited bursts of melody and noise.
I can’t think of an event that I’ve been more excited about than this one. Now, Nicole Kidman and Kevin Greenspon tell us what they’ve been doing and what to expect at Dem Passwords.
What have you guys been listening to lately?
NK: A lot of Roy Orbison and this World Sings Goodnight tape which is just like 33 lullabies sung in different languages.
KG: The new Work/Death CD on Semata Productions and cassette on Jugular Forest have completely taken over my stereo. Incredibly thoughtful and emotionally moving arrangements that combine and redefine various noise/experimental sound genres. W/D is a gamechanger, and these albums aren’t just going to be at the top of my “best of 2010” list—they’re going to be on the lists of everyone who hears them. I can’t recommend these two enough.
DJ Creepster Scumbag’s tape is top shelf as well. It’s a unique “Casiotone-related” project, if that will encourage anyone to check it out. All the classics are chopped and screwed to weirdo perfection on this: Warren G, Nate Dogg, Dr. Dre, R. Kelly, Biggie, 2Pac, Bone Thugs… It’s sold out, but the mystery artist’s given me permission to share download links for both sides, enjoy: Download side A, Download side B.
Are you working on any new songs, Jon?
NK: Yes! I just wrote like three or four new ones. One of them’s called “Da Bears.” I’ll probably be debuting it on the October 18th Folktale Fest show. I dont know. I also have a new song about a dream I had where I’m in the ocean drowning…
So preparations for saturdays show are going well then?
NK: We’re practicing. Mostly its been us just like goofing off and coming up with goofy ways of introducing ourselves but we’ve got like two or three songs NAILED.
KG: We’ve been practicing every few days, reinterpreting songs so that we can execute them in a new way that we’ve never done before, but that is still familiar to everyone who’s heard the originals. All in all, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for us. We’ve been playing and recording music together since 2008 so our interplay comes pretty naturally. We’re very aware of what we’re capable of, what fits together, where to hold back, and when to be silly or lighthearted about what we do.
NK: Collaborating with Kevin is amazing. He’s just like so talented that its like all I have to do is have an idea for something and he’s already spitting out chords and arpeggios and layered melodies. It’s embarrassing how talented he is.
Is there a theme or structure for your special split performance performance?
KG: “Sketchy teenage weirdo loser pop punk” sums it up pretty accurately. Anyone who’s heard our Blue Crush collaborative album or my split with Cloud Nothings won’t be too surprised by the themes or music. If anything’s surprising, it’s just the fact that it’s taken Jon and I this long to perform live in public together.
NK: We just like having fun and stuff.
What part of your collaborator’s music do you think is most in sync with what you do? And what’s most different from your approach?
JB: We both write songs about how shitty life can get and stuff. His music’s just a lot more refined and subtle and listenable.
KG: We’re closely aligned by the fact that we create the music we share with whatever we have available to us, which usually isn’t very much in terms of recording equipment/accessibility, as well as the fact that our songs are usually very personal and negatively themed. The two of us often have very different artistic directions or methods of execution, but that doesn’t affect our ability to be friends or work together so often.
How was your tour with Vehicle Blues, Kevin?
KG: Southern California treated me better than ever before, which was amazing. There were a few shows with horrible gear problems, a handful of which I was able to salvage or plan alternate song sets around, but I was really disappointed and critical of how the first ones sounded, specifically that Pehrspace show because it was the first time certain pieces of gear weren’t working and it came from out of nowhere. I guess when you use equipment you’ve had for 9 years or is older than you, it’s inevitable. But despite all this, Gabe and I got great reactions and the shows were some of the best I’ve played in many of those cities. I honestly don’t think a completely unknown artist like him could come to California with essentially no fanbase/draw and play such great shows, so while our initial idea to do this was risky, the tour was a huge success.
You went on tour, too, Jon. How did that go?
NK: Really really awesome! I took along three friends of mine and we turned it into more of a road-trip with lots of sight-seeing and dumb touristy stuff. It really was a very memorable trip where like I played with just a lot of friends, I didn’t bother myself with the tour looking good on paper, I just wanted to make sure me and my friends had a good time and would, like, actually enjoy each show on tour. I wasnt really promoting a real album or anything for it. I just put together a quick CD-R the month of and gave most of those things away in exchange for floor space and a meal or two.
What else have you been doing lately?
NK: Truck driving school and trying to remain happy
KG: I had to jump right back into school the day after I got back from tour, so I’ve just been really swamped with projects, papers, presentation and reading. Music’s on the backburner for the next few weeks, but I’ve got some releases I’m working on and am already booking a December tour with Jon that starts the day I’m free of this visegrip. Expect sets from both of us, as well as a short collaborative set of songs like the ones we’re doing on Saturday.
How have recent events affected your music?
NK: Oh man. Recent family stuff and life stuff and girl stuff and friend stuff completely fuel my reasons for making music. I dont really want to get into specifics.
If you were to tease Saturday’s to a stranger, what would you tell them to expect?
NK: Something pretty goofy and quick. Its like me playing all my regular nicole kidman songs but like more dancy and with like kevin SHREDDING over it. I plan on buying some treats for anyone who goes. But for like someone who’s a total stranger id say like “oh that kevin and nicole set’s gonna be just like 2 dudes playing really simple pop music.” and then like the stranger would be like “thats it? that sounds like its gonna suck” but it really isnt, its actually going to be pretty fun.
KG: There’s a lot of strange “Internet preconceptions” of what the Los Angeles underground is like, regarding hugely promoted bands that are niched into made-up buzz genres and play at places with 500 person capacity but that’s not really as low as you can get. When you really get down to it, L.A.’s diversity and prominence on the stage of underground music can be much more accredited to the nobodies who go to all of the DIY shows regardless of what the current trend is and support the artists that tour through here than the flash-in-the-pan celebrities who have obtained their level of success and recognition through PR agents and such, just to disappear a year later.
I think Saturday’s show is a pretty accurate representation of what a show in the real LA DIY scene is like. A musically diverse and openminded combination of experimental and accessible music, as well as old and new blood from active performers and supporters in the scene and as always, a band on tour, which is the most important reason to ever be throwing a DIY show in my opinion. Shows with all locals are a heavy strain on the limited resources we have here for independent artists to perform, especially now that Echo Curio isn’t active. We have a great thing going here, and I think that this show could bring out a lot of new people who aren’t aware of how involved they can get, and more importantly, show them that they can be a part of it.
Don’t miss this very special Kevin Greenspon/Nicole Kidman collaboration tomorrow, Saturday, October 9 at a brand new DIY venue:
Sean Carnage & cLAyTV! present…
Very special guests from Ohio
With L.A.’s finest
11pm KILT (noise maker/co-founder of Il Corral Bob Bellerue + Harrassor’s Sandor Finta + Raven Chacon reunite)
Starts 8pm / $5 / all-ages
Dem Passwords—7914-B Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood
**Enter from the alley side in back**
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