Band name: Tujunga
Personnel: John Casey Connolly, plus Joel Karahadian, TJ Walter, and Paris Yavuz (there have been eleven guys in the band since the beginning).
Quote: “When I first began Tujunga, I had a rule that my songs would be fast, short, and kinda sad. And I promised myself that I would only repeat a lyric or a section if it was really worth repeating.”
Next show: This Monday night, March 14, at Pehrspace.
There is this part in the song “The True Wheel” where Brian Eno sings “We saw the Lovers, The Modern Lovers/ And they looked very good/ They looked as if they could.”
If I could write an Eno-esque ditty name checking a cool new group I would mention Tujunga.
Not sure how I’d rhyme that.
But what I’m trying to say here is: Tujunga are very good. And they look as if they could—they really do! They sing, rock, do bendy dance moves, and make extremely emotionally affecting/disturbing prolonged eye contact. Just like icons should. Just like they always do.
Who is in Tujunga?
My name is John Casey Connolly. Tujunga is my solo music project. I mostly focus on vocals and sometimes guitar. I write all the songs and then assemble a backing band consisting of a rotating cast of friends of mine to play guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, etc. Tujunga is basically just myself plus whoever happens to be available for a show or a recording session. The following is a full list (in alphabetical order) of everyone who has ever played in Tujunga: Devyn Carnes, Hugo Castillo, Ford Crispino, Justin Johnson, Joel Karahadian, David Lenhoff, Mikey Macapagal, Mackenzie Owen, Jarrod W., TJ Walter, and Paris Yavuz. All of the eleven boys in that list are amazingly talented and have made my songs sound a million times better than I could ever make them sound on my own. And they all have their own bands and solo projects that are really impressive. I love what they do. I wish I could spend the rest of this interview just talking about their music!
Are you really from Tujunga? Why that name?
Yes! I’ve lived in Tujunga my whole life. It’s where I live right now. The only time I’ve ever lived elsewhere was when I spent a couple years attending The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. When I graduated back in mid-2009, I decided to move back to Tujunga. I’m still not totally sure why. But I wanted to get a solo project going, and I figured Tujunga was as good a name as any, so when I moved back to Tujunga I just borrowed the name for my music. I love bands who name themselves after cities, countries, even continents. It always sounds and looks pretty cool to me. And I was shocked that there hadn’t been a band called Tujunga yet! I felt obligated to snatch that up and claim it and do it justice. Although I have absolutely no ownership over that name. If someone out there wants to start a band and call it Tujunga, they can go for it. That’s cool. Just as long as you’re actually from Tujunga.
What are your main influences?
A lot of ’60s music, especially garage rock and girl group stuff. Outside of that decade, I quite like Beat Happening. Vera Lynn, too. I love her. I think if you mix all of that together you more or less get Tujunga.
Is there one group or aesthetic that everyone in the band agrees on?
When I first began Tujunga, I had a rule that my songs would be fast, short, and kinda sad. And I promised myself that I would only repeat a lyric or a section if it was really worth repeating. I’ve broken away from some of that a little, but those aesthetic aims have basically shaped everything I’ve written since the project’s early days.
In many ways, I’ve always hoped that my songs could be a musical approximation of Tujunga itself, even when they’re not directly referencing it. That town has always evoked a certain wistful feeling for me. I’m tried to convey that feeling to people through these songs.
What was the first song you wrote and rehearsed about?
The first two songs were “Yr First Semester” and “Her Winter Coat.”
They came in a pair. They’re both about being young and feeling uncertain about the future and sad about a total lack of anything going on in the present. That’s where I was coming from at the time. I still feel that way sometimes.
What’s your most recent song or songs and what is that about?
The most recent song is “Gemini, Don’t Cry”. I wrote it for a friend of mine. She hasn’t heard it yet.
What kind of affect do you want to have on audiences?
I’ve always written songs expressing melancholic or nostalgic feelings. It’s what I’m most comfortable writing about, and I know they’re subjects that everyone can relate to on some level: having a crush on someone; missing a friend you haven’t seen in a long time; finding out the person you have a crush on doesn’t feel the same way. Stuff like that. I know what it’s like to feel lonely and cut off from your surroundings sometimes. And I know everyone feels the same way from time to time. More than anything, I’ve always hoped my music could serve as some kind of comfort or catharsis. That’s the kind of relationship I have with a lot of the music I listen to, so my utmost hope is that my own music might work that way for someone else. I try to enunciate my words very clearly when I sing. These songs are all about the lyrics.
In terms of the performance, I always try to create an energetic atmosphere. I try to move a lot and I like to see other people move. I guess it’s silly to say this when the lyrics are so darn sad sometimes, but I really wish more people would dance at the shows! Then again, I rarely dance at shows when I’m in the audience. So who am I to talk!
What should people look out for on Monday?
We’re going to play a really high-energy set. The rest of the band for this show will consist of Joel Karahadian, TJ Walter, and Paris Yavuz. Our practices for this show were pretty intense. I’m thrilled to make this happen.
The whole night in general is going to be spectacular. I can’t believe how many cool bands from so many far-flung places will all be gathering together under a single roof!
Why did you choose Coup Pigeons?
Coup Pigeons is the solo music project of Mackenzie Owen. He’s a long-time friend and musical collaborator. He and I used to be in a band called My Name is Dalloway. For the longest time, we’ve been making shows happen for each other, making music together, and watching each other develop our sounds in our solo projects. I wanted him to play this show on Monday because I just really, really love his music. It’s always a beautiful surprise. Sometimes he does these droning dreamscapes, other times it’s a thrashing electro party, and then sometimes he’ll just show up to a show with an acoustic guitar. I have no idea what he’s going to do on Monday, but I can’t wait to see it. No matter what he does, it’s always really captivating watching him work. There’s obviously a lot going through his mind while he’s performing. There’s a courageous and otherworldly nature to what he does that I can’t even properly describe.
How can people get your music?
Right now the best means of acquiring my music is by going to soundcloud.com/tujunga. Every recording I have is posted up there and available for free download. Mostly demos and live tracks.
What other shows do you have coming up?
I’m playing at Silver Factory Studios on April 2nd with The Diet Thrills Foreman (another band from Tujunga!). I’m very excited to play with them. They’re one of my favorite local bands. They have this awesome post-punk sound that just kills me. Seeing them live is like traveling back in time and watching Josef K in 1980 or something. They have such a non-stop, spastic live energy. And they’re the nicest guys.
What’s your favorite song or songs on the radio right now?
A lot of radio stations come in very poorly here in Tujunga. I like doing this thing in the car where I swivel the radio dial back and forth between a religious station and an oldies station (both of which are really scrambled and full of static), so it’s just this harsh noise with quick bits of a preacher screaming about the apocalypse and Sam Cooke singing “Wonderful World” phasing in and out of the mix. It’s a really heavy experience.
How will you know that you’ve been a success in music?
After a year and a half of playing shows, I’m finally going to start working on Tujunga’s debut album. It’s going to be a two-disc album. I’m probably just going to give it away for free. If someone tells me they like it, I’m good with calling that success.
Don’t miss this special show
Sean Carnage presents…
Starts 9:30pm / $5 / all-ages
Pehrspace—325 Glendale Blvd., in Historic Filipinotown