how the paranoyds are changing los angeles garage punk
Mega model Staz Lindes' buzzy four-piece is creating the LA DIY scene's most richly layered punk sounds of the moment. We talk touring with DIIV and playing Rihanna covers at a high school car wash.
A giant orange sun is slowly setting as The Paranoyds begin soundcheck on Avenue A. It's the second Friday in June — summer is just starting, but the LA foursome is winding down, having spent the last month gigging across the country as the opening act on DIIV's North American tour. I meet the gang when the light is still long, a few hours before they take the stage at East Village gutter punk staple Berlin (a raucous bash Hedi Slimane will swing by later to photograph). We set out for a nearby Thai place where Paranoyds frontwoman Staz Lindes has made a reservation. As we weave along East 3rd Street, Lindes and Lexi Funston (the band's bassist, guitarist, and co-vocalist) spot one of the Wolfpack brothers, who's now sporting a faithful 80s hair metal look. When a van nearly mows drummer David Ruiz down in the middle of Second Avenue, Lindes, Funston, and keyboardist Laila Hashemi erupt with howls. "You missed it, man!" Funston and Hashemi chide from across the street, nearly in unison. "That was his 'I'M WALKIN HERE' moment," Lindes explains, still laughing.
This is sort of a perfect introduction to Planet Paranoyd. Its members are bound together by the intuitive telepathy and ceaseless laughs typically shared between siblings. They're curious, energetic, and open, but focused. Their music mines the best traditions of their native Southern California's raw garage rock; they dirty surf pop's reverb-soaked guitar licks and rumbling drum beats with sludgy, aggressive basslines. Hashemi's layered keyboard parts — which almost sound as though they've been lifted from the scores of early 60s cult horror films — add texture and uniqueness (her spooky solo on "Rat Boy," the opening track of the band's debut EP After You, is one of the record's high points). Another is The Paranoyds' chorus of three vocalists, who hit an insane sweet spot between the gritty spunk of Phil Spector girl groups and take-no-shit 70s punk.
Within a month, the band released its debut EP, dropped its first music video, and tore up its first ever East Coast shows. But The Paranoyds are not in a rush — they never have been. After You's four tracks sound so full and tightly constructed because the band has honed its sound in the LA DIY scene— splitting bills with Wild Wing, Sunflower Bean, and SadGirl, Staz's brother Misha's excellent eerie punk band. "I really like the idea of EPs a lot instead of one big full length; we want to do a couple more split comps with other bands, and write a whole other set of songs to keep on playing. A West Coast tour with all of our friends is the dream," says Lindes, this time on the phone from Los Angeles, a week after the Berlin show. "There's nothing better than having a purpose every place you're traveling, working with other artists, playing your art, having people respect it," she adds. "It's the coolest shit."
How did The Paranoyds form?
Staz: Laila and Lexi met in preschool. And both picked up instruments since you were, what, 11 or 12?
Laila: Nah, I've been playing since I was like four.
Staz: You've been playing for 20 years? Shit!
Laila: I should be a lot better. Well, I stopped for a while — the angsty years.
Lexi: You were too moody.
Laila: Exactly. Like, 'I gotta go listen to Radiohead, I don't have time for this.'
Staz: I met the girls in ninth grade, and I was already on guitar and bass by that point. They had a band in high school; they played the carwash! It was so cool.
Laila: Yeah, that was tight. We did a cover of "Umbrella."
David: The Rihanna one? Ella?
Lexi: Of course!
Staz: We all started playing together by the end of high school, but we never really publicly played until the girls were out of college, two years ago. And we met David about a year ago, after we'd played with a few different drummers. So now it's the faaabulous four.
What kinds of stuff did you guys grow up listening to that shaped your style? Which of it forms The Paranoyds' universe?
Lexi: I listened to lot of pop-punk growing up; I was ride or die for Blink 182. But now, I really like late 70s punk, Television, and Violent Femmes.
Staz: I was super inspired by No Doubt when I was a kid; being a frontwoman in a band of dudes, being a tomboy but still hot, was the coolest thing ever to me. Gradually, I got into punk stuff and more modern music throughout middle and high school. But I think the music that influences us most is what comes out of the scene we're a part of. Being surrounded by so much music makes us want to do things differently, or examine how we can make our sound our own.
Tell me about the process of making your most recent EP, After You. Do you guys write and record all together? Do you workshop stuff separately and bring it to each other?
Staz: The two songs that I wrote on the record were mostly done when I was living in New York, so it was a little long distance. Every time I'd come home, we'd play a show together and I'd bring what I'd been working on to the girls.
Lexi: That's definitely how it used to be, when you were away.
David: More recently, stuff has sort of fallen into place just from jamming. Staz, when did you move back?
Staz: Pretty recently, so now we definitely go over to each other's houses and write the songs all together. Someone might bring a foundation, but it's all a collaboration in the end. I'm more of a pop writer at heart — I've always written pop songs since I was a kid — but someone like Lexi writes pretty fucking cool time signatures. I feel super lucky to be in a band that challenges the normal structure of songs. I don't know how to write drum parts, I don't know how to write keyboard parts. I value a thousand times every piece of input from the band — that's the whole point. There's no way I'd be doing it by myself.
What was it like growing up in LA being a young person interested in music? And how has that changed over time?
Staz: Getting to gigs was always a nightmare. We grew up in Santa Monica, that's a two hour bus ride to Hollywood — it was such a bitch!
Lexi: Looking back, I think I took for granted that pretty much every artist comes through LA; that's not something every 13-year-old in the country has access to. The first two shows I ever went to were with Laila's brother: one of them was an in-store performance by the Violent Femmes at Amoeba that he drove us to, the other was Franz Ferdinand at the Greek Theater in, like, 2005. It was amazing.
Laila: I was influenced a lot by my brother, and Lexi's little brother is becoming really influenced by the music scene now. It's kind of interesting to see him coming to shows, and play in younger LA bands. It's a huge community.
What are your hopes for The Paranoyds' future?
Staz: Right now, we're focused on writing. We have a new cassette coming out in August that we recorded live, straight into an eight track, so it's got a bit of a different sound. We recorded it with this kid Vinny, another crazy prodigy from Orange County. He's in a band called Vaguess.
David: He's got another side project called Fernando the Teenage Narc, so we're going to do a split release with him.
Lexi: We've been working with a collaborative group, Hard Feelings Records — they're who we release our music with. It would be great to do a Hard Feelings tour, with Staz's brother and SadGirl. It's really cool just working with all your homies — just knowing people who can help make it happen when you can't do it all yourself.
Staz: We're in the right place, it feels like, and it's all just really exciting. It's a really exciting time.
The Paranoyds play The Constellation Room with Sunflower Bean this Sunday, June 26. All ticket sales will be donated to the Pulse Victims Fund, and to Everytown, an advocacy group to end gun violence. They play LA's Echoplex on July 12, followed by two nights at Pomona's Glass House on July 16 and 17. More information here.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Zachary Chick