Lost in Los Angeles Re-Imagines Their Sound with In the Dark
EXPERIENCE BY: KAGAN RICHARDSON
Two months ago at MDA's first edition of Summer Home 2018 with Télépopmusik, I had the chance to sit down with Christoph Hetier after his amazing set to ask him some questions. Before his set, however, I met Christoph to discuss the interview and he introduced me to his friends Danny Klein and Tara Zepeda who came along to check out Summer Home.
The pair proceeded to tell me about their band, Lost in Los Angeles, and how they were gearing up for a single release in a couple of months. Well a couple of months have passed and In the Dark, a single marking the re-imagining of LiLA, was released on Friday, May 4th (may the fourth be with you).
Here’s a little background about Lost in Los Angeles. The group formed in 2006 out of Los Angeles as an indie and alternative band. Their self-titled LP, LiLA, was released in 2010 and was followed with a number of singles and EPs. Over the years, LiLA’s personnel and sound has evolved and arrived at an electronic dreamwave sound with Tara now taking vocal duties. Danny takes on synth, piano, and vocal duties as the pair discovers their true voices through music.
In celebration of the release of In the Dark, I had the opportunity to pick the brains of the Los Angeles based duo. Here is what they had to say:
Kagan: How did you and Tara first start working together?
Danny: We were working on an album a few years ago and we were looking for an amazing female vocalist. Tara and I had connected through some other stuff so she came in and started laying down some vocals. The producer at the time and I looked at each other and were like wow this woman is special. We had several people come through and I knew right away when I heard her voice that it was the voice I was looking for I feel like all my life. That production lasted quite a while and Tara came into the fold and helped with a ton of writing. We started writing and singing together, and it all came toward what we’re doing today which is a fresh re-imagined version of Lost in Los Angeles. It’s the version I’ve been trying to get to for so long and finally with Tara it makes sense.
Kagan: How would you say Lost in Los Angeles’s sound has evolved over the years?
Tara: When I first joined the band it was an alternative pop rock synth band and then about a year and a half ago we left that producer and some band members decided to leave so Danny had the opportunity to write on his own. He started writing all this electronic stuff and like he said before he’s wanted to do it for a long time but with other band members and producers in the mix it was kind of discouraging and not working. I came in and would collaborate on it. It kind of went from one genre to a whole different one, but to the one that he’s been wanting to do.
Danny: I personally had always been a fan of beats and electronic beats versus live drums. We had incorporated a lot of that in our prior stuff so it had electronic hints and shadows here and there. It wasn’t until we were able to isolate ourselves that the true sound came out. We owe a lot to our new producer, Vaski. He takes the tracks that we feel are pretty good tracks, we do a lot of production on our side, and he polishes them into diamonds. He’s really amazing, it’s a good collaboration.
Kagan: What was it like to work with Vaski on this project?
Danny: It came about through our manager, Kyle Emerson-Brown. Vaski had been working with one of our management mates, Ninth Child, who’s an amazing DJ in Los Angeles. Tara and I had been looking at a lot of electronic music producers and Vaski stood out, he just had the best vibe.
Tara: We really liked one of his tracks and we thought it fit with our sound. We didn’t want to see another producer that would take our music and change it to another genre. We had done that before and it was devastating. It was like someone taking your painting that you just finished and then painting over it. A big part of collaborating with someone is everyone has to vibe well and get along. He’s really great.
Kagan: Can you tell us about In the Dark’s meaning to both of you?
Tara: Danny and I work a lot at night because it’s quiet and we’re just night owls. Sometimes it’s the best time to work because you’re not being texted or called or on social media as much. It’s great to be able to focus at night. “We’re only alive in the dark” is also a reflection of society. During the day we work and do boring stuff, at night is when we really come alive in the dark.
Danny: This song is a great symbol of the collaboration between Tara and I. We kinda went from an instrumental track then to her chorus and I hopped back in and I was super inspired by her lyrics and her melody too. When I was writing my vocal parts and my lyrics, it was great because I used her as the inspiration. It was a metaphor for me because we finally found this place where we can create what we wanted to create. It’s one thing to hear something in your head but it’s next level to get it into the computer and out someone’s speakers. The lyric that stands out for me is “the universe is ours and it never ends”. It makes total sense as to where that’s all coming from.
Kagan: What was the original inspiration behind the name Lost in Los Angeles?
Danny: It came from an unreleased EP from a former project. There was something about it, the alliteration of it and the feel of it kinda stuck. For me personally it stand for the concept of never giving up and persevering. The name has travelled through some periods but when Tara got here she was able to put meaning to it. The name has always represented something deeper in getting lost in something bigger than yourself.
Tara: When I first started collaborating with the band four years ago, I was kinda taking a leap of faith. I never really put myself out there, I never really shared with people that I did music. I was also going through a huge transition in my life, I was breaking up with someone I was married to. I came from Simi Valley and ended up in Los Angeles and was kind of lost in a way so the irony is funny. I felt like I had no friends and that I was committing some terrible crime by leaving my husband. Escaping and being able to be in the studio with Danny at that time was really cool because he opened up this whole word and gave me a huge confidence boost, the producer at the time as well.
It took me a while to get used to the name and I thought about wanting to change it. The shortened acronym of our band name is LiLA so people pronounce it as ‘Lyla’ but a month ago I was visiting my friend in Oakland and she called us ‘leela’. She said it means something in Hinduism and means the energetic play between one person and someone else or the absolute. That is how Danny and I are when we write music, we have this energetic play and it exudes happiness. Now that I have this new meaning that I relate to more, I feel good about it. I didn’t come up with it but I can make it my own in some ways. I was waiting for the light bulb to turn on and my friend did that.
Kagan: If you could spend a day with any musician in the world, past or present, who would it be and why?
Tara: Bianca Casady from Coco Rosie. I have no idea what her personality is like but I really like her poetry and her lyrics. Her sister as well, they’re a band. I’d love to sit there and watch them write a song.
Danny: I could easily insert a million bands and artists but I guess I’ll go with one of my favorites called Boards of Canada. It’s two guys, no vocals, it’s all just beats and atmospherics. The way they construct their albums is one track to the twelfth or however many are on there, it feels like one complete journey. It would be somewhere in the desert and it would be perfect.
Kagan: Could you see yourselves ever playing a DJ set?
Tara: Our set right now is pretty much that. Danny has a controller and his keyboard and I have a mic. I may or may not be contributing instrumentally as far as drums when we play live. Maybe I’ll have a drum pad and do some beats but I’m thinking for live I just want to focus on singing. If we get asked to DJ we would definitely jump on it because we love music and we love performing for people. If it means us DJing and not actually performing our songs, that’s cool too. It’s definitely a route I would love to do because I love showing people songs and playing music for people when we’re talking about music.
Danny: It’s weird, it’s kind of come full circle. I’ve always had vinyl at home and spun vinyl. I played a few parties with vinyl but haven’t gotten into using CDJ’s. Recently we decided to consolidate our live rig. We were collaborating with Kyle and some other people and said let’s just get a DJ controller and have our tracks run through that. In the process I’ve been diving into how to best interact with CDJs. I think what’s gonna make it fun for us doing DJ stuff in the future is incorporating stuff that we’re writing. We’ll probably have a keyboard or a synth or two around so it might not be the traditional loading tracks and mixing them with effects onboard but rather doing that with stuff that we’ve already written. We’re looking forward to that because any opportunity to get in front of people and share our passion with fans, we’re all about it. We realize that sometimes just bring a USB and a keyboard is much easier than bringing the whole rig so we see that in the future.
Kagan: What is your favorite synth in your studio?
Danny: I’ll go one analog and one digital. I’m kind of a synth and keyboard freak, I have a collection that I love. We have an ARP Omni 2 which was used in a lot of the 80s new wave stuff like Pet Shop Boys. You can enter into these different synthesizer sections. One is more bass and one is more strings and you can blend them. It just has this sound when you press the keys, the world is in another place.
That’s on the analog side and then on the digital side it was always a struggle because I didn’t want to leave behind the Juno-60 which is a legendary Roland. I came across Revealed Sound who makes a soft synth called Spire. The cool thing about it is it’s somewhat open-sourced so that other developers and contributors can create different voicings for it. Through Spire, I’ve been able to amass a great library of sounds from basses to plucks to leads to effects to beats, you name it we’re able to develop it in Spire. That’s our go-to regarding sound design.
Kagan: Do you have plans for upcoming shows or perhaps a tour?
Danny: We’re still working on more collaborations and more tracks but next week we’re having our rehearsal studio back out of the form it was in before which was more about writing and now we’re gonna start rehearsing. I’d say give us about 60 days and we’ll be ready for prime time and ready to share the new music. Tours? Absolutely.
Tara: Over the next month we’ll be rehearsing. Once we start getting our set dialed in, we’re gonna have some people over because we want to playing mini-rehearsal shows here. I’m gonna try to incorporate some performance art and/or art installations into our show. I don’t want to be on stage and have us just play and sing, we’re gonna be giving more in a way. It’s another way for us to express ourselves so we’ll gonna be testing ideas on people here and getting feedback. Sooner than 60 days, I feel like we just need to get stuff dialed in for about a month.
It definitely sounds like a lucky group of people close to Tara and Danny will have the opportunity to see the duo displaying their passion before they hit the road on tour. Make sure to pay attention for new LiLA releases and shows coming to a city near you.
Until next time Ambassadors.
AKA DJ Moose Trax