Out now: Native America's Grown Up Wrong


Native America. - CAMILLE GAC
  • Native America.

From the handclaps and muted, murky shuffle on album opener "Rabo," Native America's Grown Up Wrong plunges into the kind of swampy garage-pop you'd expect from south Louisiana. Brother Martin and Loyola University grad Ross Farbe turned his bedroom project into a full outfit with bassist John St. Cyr and drummer Ray Micarelli, and its full-length is out now on Inflated Records (home of Bass Drum of Death and Speedy Ortiz).

Grown Up Wrong picks up and dusts off Nuggets-worthy rock 'n' roll and psychedelic pop, lovingly treated with a liberal dose of reverb, recorded to tape and worth spinning between The Barbarians and The Black Lips.

Following a monthlong fall tour and an album release show at One Eyed Jacks, Gambit caught up with Farbe and St. Cyr over coffee. Stream Grown Up Wrong as the band talks recording on tape, jazz, and antiquing in Pontchatoula.

Has New Orleans influenced your songwriting?

Farbe: Definitely. It’s not all intentional, like, “We should bring that into the music.” It just bleeds into everything. It’s the place we’ve lived in for so long. We love old New Orleans soul music, that’s a direct, obvious thing we try to take something from. Playing live a lot, it’s really big in this city. If you can’t play a good show, you’re not really part of the New Orleans music scene. Bands that just release digital music aren’t really part of the New Orleans music scene. That’s a big part of it for us, being able to play good live shows.

St. Cyr: There’s so many shows all the time.

And you’re both from here.

Farbe: I am. John is from Hammond.

St. Cyr: I’m actually from Pontchatoula, but... They’re city folk, man, in Hammond! I haven’t gone back (to Ponchatoula) in years. I want to go back and check it out as an outsider. When I was a kid, it was fun. We’d just run around. There are a lot of bikers. People are just drinking margaritas and shit. There are always a lot of bikers in Pontchatoula, though. I could never understand it, but apparently it’s because they’re antiquing. There are a lot of antique stores in Pontchatoula, and a lot of these weekend bikers are into collecting antiques. There’s an antique bike trail in Louisiana and the southeast, where people bike and check out these sweet antique stores. I guess they’d buy it, and ship it to their house? You can’t exactly take a dresser with you.

You’ve taken what was essentially a bedroom, or solo recording project, and turned it into a full band. What kind of direction did you give them?

Farbe: Not much at first. It was like, “Hey guys, you want to try and play these songs with me?” I had no idea how it would go. It wasn’t planned. All I was doing was making pop songs, figuring it out from there. Then we slowly started — I wasn’t giving much direction, and it grew into something that’s just a different version of that original idea.

How were you introduced to Inflated Records?

Farbe: (Inflated founder Dan Donnelly) actually heard us on the radio, old school, and hit us up. He heard “Digital Lobotomy” on the radio last year, from the EP. That’s the only song we re-recorded for the new record, it being the one that brought us together. He emailed us and said it sounds sweet, let’s work together. He’s a sweet guy. He’s got real close to us at this point.

St. Cyr: He’s such a good guy. Such a hard worker. We met his mom in New York, like, “Your son is just wonderful.”

Farbe: We recorded it at The Living Room with Chris George. I can’t get enough of that place.

And you recorded on tape?

Farbe: We did. I’m never going back.

St. Cyr: We lived there. We stayed for five days.

Farbe: I stayed for two weeks. We basically just recorded and mixed, I came home for a weekend and went back and stayed for another week and mixed the whole thing. Me and Chris are close. We’ve been working together a while. I told him we wanted to keep things simple. Not necessarily strive for these sounds, specifically, but keep everything minimal, and do it all to tape. We did the three of us playing together, and did some overdubs, but it’s based around the three of us playing live.

St. Cyr: The only extra personnel was (Community Records co-founder Daniel Ray). He did a bunch of keyboard stuff. The renaissance man.

Farbe: We had to call in the man himself.

What show have you played where you look back and think, “How do we do that again”?

Farbe: The release show was excellent. It was all bands we really liked, and all people we loved involved. It was a show that I was into, 100 percent, all the way through.

Do you tend to not be 100 percent sometimes?

Farbe: Oh, no, it’s just we go to so many shows in a month, it’s cool to go to one where you don’t want to step away, you want to watch every minute of it.

St. Cyr: There was a show in New York we did at CMJ. We did seven shows in five days. Most of them were the kind of SXSW-style, playing to small amounts of people or people who were obviously there to be at the show, take pictures and hang out. The fourth show we did, we went outside of the CMJ thing in Brooklyn, in deep Bushwick, and it was so gnarly. There was a packed room of kids just raging and partying. I remember being there like, “I forgot about this!” I was so tired of shows at that point, it was a good reminder why I love playing shows.

Now that you’re in the middle of your first album cycle experience...

Farbe: We’re going to have a video soon, maybe even a couple videos! (laughs). It feels so good to have a vinyl out with songs we’ve been working on for so long.

St. Cyr: It’s one of the first releases we’ve done that wasn’t just vomited up on Bandcamp. They literally give them to anyone!

Farbe: We might have another release soon, with some more nasty recordings, homestyle, on cassette. The studio experience was incredible, but we also have a bunch of demos and other stuff that didn’t make it on the album, and some new stuff. We might have another release going back to our nasty roots.

The album is a more “hi-fi” experience.

Farbe: Not particularly hi-fi, but hi-fi for us. I’ve always loved tape, as opposed to digital. I’m just falling deep down the hole now. It’s an instrument on its own. Digital is like a blank slate, but the tape is an instrument you play with your recording.

St. Cyr: It’s like when your parents make you get dressed up for church and you get home and you’re like, “phew, where my friends at?”

What happened to Chinquapin Records? Is it still around?

Farbe: Not so much. It was more like, in that moment it made a lot of sense to try and help organize each other. Now that we’re out of school and not around each other all the time, it kind of dissolved. It was all in the same house. That was the incredible part about it.

But it’s a great snapshot of that time, which is really important now. There are so many missing things in New Orleans music that were never documented.

Farbe: It really was. We have a few things that are still around. Our compilation we made, I’m still so proud of that. We should reissue that on cassette.

St. Cyr: We keep getting Facebook likes. “How did you find that?” A lot of things from Chinquapin got absorbed into Community Records. (Greg Rodrigue) and D-Ray were there all the time anyway. They’d be the voice of reason. Why don’t we let the voice of reason be in charge.

What have been some of your favorite bands to play with?

Farbe: These guys we played with in Nashville called Fox Fun. They’re really young, but they’ve been doing it a while, and they’re so good. I finally got some of their 7 inches. They gave me a couple singles and I’ve been playing them on repeat. We have some friends from Memphis we love and always play with — Loser Vision, Berkano and Gimp Teeth.

St. Cyr: I always shout out Ex-Breathers from Tallahassee. [Ed note: Ex-Breathers performs with Heat Dust and Woozy at 10 p.m. Monday, Dec. 8 at Saturn Bar.]

What have you been listening to lately?

Farbe: I’ve been obsessed with Joe Meek, this strange recording engineer from the early ‘60s, late ‘50s. I can’t stop listening to two of his records right now.

St. Cyr: I keep coming back to this Ahmad Jahmal with Voices record, Cry Young. Some of it’s improv, some of it’s written, but it’s so good. He’s just grooving on piano. I’ve been getting into Taj Mahal lately, and I’m in an ever-present Stereolab thing. There are like, 30 albums. You think you get tired of one, then you put on another.

I got stuck in doing loops in a parking garage listening to Stereolab and felt like I had entered some other world.

St. Cyr: Like you’re in a machine, like you’re being digested.

Who’s in charge of music on the road?

Farbe: Right now we’re traveling in my vehicle, which only does CDs, no Spotify hookup, nothing like that. We do a lot of NPR. We have 50 CDs, 20 of which are unlistenably scratched at this point. We cycle through them.

St. Cyr: It’s whatever we’ve found, like Bob Dylan B-sides.

And a lot of CDs you’d never actually purchase.

My auxiliary jack is broken. I’ve just had the Twin Peaks soundtrack on CD.

Julee Cruise, I’ve been listening to her a lot lately, actually. So good. Can’t get enough of that.

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