Los Angeles surf rock band The Californian prides itself on being one of the hardest working indie bands in in the South Land. After releasing an EP last year, the five piece band led by singer John Graney has put together a modern-day surf tribute with its debut self-titled album.
Check out the first single below:
The Californian “The Man With the Goodnight Gun”
We spoke with John about the band’s beginnings and memories and the recording process for the new album.
So what are you up to on a weekday like today?
I’m putting packages together for all the Kickstarter people who payed for our album.
You raised the money for your first official album completely through Kickstarter and easily surpassed your goal. How did you get the word out and get so much support?
I honestly have no idea how we got so many people to help us out so much, it was really overwhelming. We went on tour with She Wants Revenge for just under two weeks and I started the 45-day Kickstarter [campaign] literally from the merch booth fifteen minutes before we played our first show with them. I hit the “go” button and we got our first two donations seconds before we walked on stage.
On the fifth day we surpassed our goal of $5,000; it was insane. We would mention it onstage but we really only got four days into the tour before it was done. We got a lot of support from the local scene in Los Angeles. It’s a pretty tight-knit musical scene and a big audience comes out. I think a lot of it came from that.
Do you think it’s a good idea for most artists to use that method to fund their various projects or was that unique to you?
I definitely don’t think it was unique to us, and I know a number of other people who have run successful Kickstarter campaigns. I remember 5 years ago, when artists would send out emails on their own asking for support and funding before they made albums. There are other services out there, as well, now so it’s really accessible.
I hear two sides: One is people thinking it’s a weird business structure for bands to be begging for money, but on the other hand the fans—the ones who really want to hear the music—are the ones supporting the funding.
You guys went through numerous band members before finding the perfect combo. When did you know it was the final band?
Well it wasn’t like we were kicking people out because they weren’t right. From the beginning, it’s been made up of musicians of all kinds. When we started out, everyone was playing with about four different bands. When a few of us decided to start taking it completely seriously, staying in LA and working on The Californian, it was mostly about scheduling and who wanted to do that same thing with us.
At a time when I decided to take the band to a new place and brought in Darren and Mike, drums and guitar respectively, that was when it was made clear that we were really going to do it. After about two rehearsals with them it was a whole new band and we were on a really exciting level at that point.
The last person to join was Jake, our bass player, and he’s been a friend of the band for a long time. Once he finally joined it was a moment like “Okay here it is, here’s The Californian.”
When you write music and songs is it a full band experience or do you do the writing and bring it to the studio. How does that process work?
I do all the actual writing, frantically in a room and recording some horrible quality demo that’s tough to understand, usually in a lump of 5 songs or so. Then I take it to the studio with the whole band and we’ll bang it out and make some changes and work together on making it listenable and a great song.
Any particular studio memories from recording the new album?
Other than sleep deprivation and going insane? (laughs)
We basically locked ourselves in the studio for a week working on stuff. I think it was on day two that Darren brought in his juicer. After that day there was a mountain of fresh produce in the studio and people would randomly go and juice, drinking some sort of horrific green liquid all day long.
It was kind of funny for a rock band to be doing that. I feel like 10 years ago there was probably like a mountain of cocaine on the same table and people going nuts, not The Californian—we were drinking beets, ginger and apples. Our version of the rock ‘n’ roll dream.
You make surf rock, do you guys actually surf?
(laughs) No we actually do not. My older brother is a great surfer, and he’s tried to teach me my whole life, but I suck. Most of us would really like to try but in LA we’re close to the beach, but it still takes an hour to get there so it’s not very likely.
The Californian performs Sunday, October 2 at the Milk Bar. Tickets are $5.