Take a trip with East L.A.’s very own psych rock group, Levitation Room. Although 1960’s inspired psych rock may not be for everyone, Levitation Room infuses garage rock elements into their lo-fi dream-like music which is ideal in the modern indie cosmos. A few months ago the band joined Burger Records on their SXSW caravan touring through Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. We had the privilege of interviewing Julian Porte, Jonathan Martin, Gabriel Fernandez, and Jonathan Martin back in April.

Julian Porte -Lead Vocals/Guitar (Whittier, CA)

Jonathan Martin-Bass guitar/Vocals (Long Beach, CA)

Gabriel Fernandez -Lead Guitar/Vocals (West Covina, California)

Jonathan Martin-Drums (Whittier, CA) 

 

Natalie Somekh: Your EP, “Minds of Our Own”, was officially released January 9th, 2015 on Burger Records. What was the recording/release process like?

Julian Porte: It was a little tedious. We had been a band for 2 years already and we hadn’t put out an official EP like some of our friends bands and peers that we started off with, had already done. Also we had never really been in a studio, other than our own, to let anyone record or produce any of our songs, so it took awhile finding someone we were comfortable with. Eventually, a good friend of mine, James Torres (guitarist of Funeral Party), asked us to let him record our EP. And since he was willing to do it for free, it took a long time to produce anything ‘cus we were on his time and schedules with us and him were always conflicting, but it allowed us to take our time and make sure we did things right. As far as the release on Burger Records… it was smooth sailing. Lee and Sean took a listen to our EP and said “Okay, let’s do it!”. The EP was released and we’ve gotten nothing but love from them and new people listening to our music.

NS: Are you pleased with the way the EP turned out? Also, what is your favorite song to perform live?

Gabriel Fernandez: although the EP took some time to record it was worth it. We kinda did a different approach to put the song together because the first half of it was all new material recorded with James Torres, and then the 2nd half of the EP we took old songs that we had recorded ourselves that never made it onto our demos, but really liked still, so it was like, why not put them out? As far as my favorite song to play, it’s always changing. Lately it’s been one of our newer songs called “Crystal Ball.”

Julian Porte: I’m really pleased with the way it came out. At first, we had recorded some rough ideas and it wasn’t really what I had pictured the songs sounding like, but then James tuned into our vibe and put the project in the direction and sound we envisioned. Favorite song to play live? I’m gonna have to go with Gabriel on our new songs “Crystal Ball”. It’s the last song in our set right now, and I always like to cut loose on it when we’re performing. 

 

NS: You guys recently ventured out of California and toured through Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas for SXSW. How was your experience at SXSW? Do you have any crazy road trip stories?

Julian Porte: This first SXSW was a great experience for us as a group. There were a lot of things we had to come to terms with and it really helped us grow as a band, not only in regards to the flow of our performance in front of a different audience each night, but as individuals coping with the reality of being a touring band. It’s not all sunshine and rock-n-roll all the time. It’s 12 hour drives from one stop to the next, sleep deprivation and shitty food… add that to the confined space of a van, and it’s enough to drive anyone mad haha. But all the shows we played were super positive and we were well received in Austin. I already miss being there.

Jonathan Martin: Yes! We recently hit the road touring with the burger records caravan out to AUSTIN for the annual SXSW music festival. It was a crazy, fun, rewarding, and sometimes strenuous experience (14 shows in 12 days with a handful of 10-14 hour drives between venues was no easy task) but most of all we were super stoked to showcase our talents across the southwest! We got a lot of love and good vibes from everyone we crossed paths with on our journey and made a lot of rad new friends/fans on the road. A bunch of stories come to mind.  Probably the most memorable of which involve our struggles with our van. A little back-story…we originally intended on borrowing a friends van, but unfortunately he had gotten into a minor accident the week before and his car was stuck at the auto body shop being repaired. So we were kind of screwed at the last moment scrambling to find a suitable vehicle for the tour. It was so last minute that a van rental would have cost us a fortune. So we reached out via the interwebz to see if anyone had a vehicle they would let us borrow or rent for the tour. Luckily a friend was nice enough to let us rent his 1999 dodge 1500 van. We’re super grateful that we were able to borrow the van for two weeks. Decent rental price ect. The problem is we were unaware of the potential problems that would arise. 

NS: Wow 14 shows in 12 days!?! That’s insane. Focusing back on the EP, were there any bands that influenced the creation of “Minds of Our Own”? Should we expect more music from Levitation Room in the near future? 

Jonathan Martin: yah there were a ton of influences for the EP, far too many to name. We’re really big fans of the classic 60s/70s legends the Beatles, the kinks, the Rolling Stones, etc. plus a few modern bands that inspire us (we’re a big fans of tame impala). As far as new music, yes! We actually have a full length album that is complete and being mastered as we speak! It’s our proudest accomplishment to date. It was recorded and produced by our keyboard player Glenn and we really can’t wait to release it hopefully later this year! We also just finished shooting a music video for “crystal ball” which will be related shortly! Were proud of minds of our own. But we really can’t wait for everyone to hear the new stuff. It’s gonna blow minds!!! (At least it’s blowing ours Every time we listen to it) 

Julian Porte: We have a lot of influences, like Jon said. The Beatles and the Kinks are definitely a great source of inspiration for us. Grateful Dead is another. Some of our contemporaries like Tame Impala and White Fence have set the bar for us. Personally, I like music that sounds harmonious and lyrically driven, so I hope that people can make that distinction with us when they hear this EP. Sometimes we feel like we’re just being lumped into this psychedelic musical category that is completely saturating the LA scene. But you know, a lot of these bands are writing songs to make you wanna dance and feel good… that’s great and all, but it lacks substance if that’s all you’re trying to convey. How come people aren’t as socially conscious anymore in this “psychedelic scene”? Where are all the musicians and writers trying to arouse the peoples attention? We hope that people can not only find our music appealing, but really tap into what we have to say as well, and I think they’ll see that with our forthcoming album. Our friend Glenn Brigman, who is now playing keys for us, recorded and played on the album. We can’t wait to release it, ‘cus it’s by far the best thing this band has produced, and Glenn really took our sound to the next level as far as recording and ideas go.   

That’s a wrap! You can listen to Minds of Our Own here and keep an eye out for Levitation Room shows near you.

Interview and Photo by: Natalie Somekh