Know Your Scene: Cinder Cone

September 17, 2008

As you will find out through my exhaustive questioning, Cinder Cone is a Los Angeles based two-piece consisting of guitarist/vocalist Anthony Fournier and drummer David Foley making quite a racket out here and if you don’t know them already, you will in just a couple of minutes.  Check them out September 25th at Mr. T’s Bowl.

1. SC: How was Cinder Cone formed?

David: I play drums, Anthony plays guitar, 4 years ago the drummer in Anthony’s old band moved to the Bay Area, and right around the same time, I moved home from college. Before any of that happened we worked at a summer camp together for a few years and spent a lot of time geeking out over the bands we liked.

Anthony: Yeah, we originally met through a part-time job I had while I was in school.  Our friendship began on making tapes of bands we liked for each other, so music was there from the get-go. Then we started playing music together informally each summer when David would be home from college on the East Coast.  In the summer before his final year at school, we decided to make a serious attempt at writing songs and actually playing a show, which we did.  When he moved back to LA, we started playing shows regularly.

2.  SC: The fact that Cinder Cone is a two piece is obviously an important part of how you’ve obtained the sound that you have.  What do you think are the biggest benefits that you’re configuration brings.  Do you find that working within a two instrument format forces you in different directions or brings a different point of view with it than any of your past band experiences?

Anthony: Definitely.  When we first started, I don’t think we knew for sure that we wanted to be a two-piece.  In fact, for a while, we were definitely considering adding someone else, but we just weren’t finding anyone who fit.  Then, I think as time went on, we got more into being and staying a duo.  Practical benefits are obvious: we can fit all of our equipment into David’s Prius.  We also don’t have to go through any kind of protracted, democratic vote on decisions.  If one of us isn’t down to do something, we don’t do it.  Communication and coordination are easier.

David: As a drummer, the two-piece gives me a lot of space to fill.  I get to be busy without the songs sounding too busy.  I also like the fact that the drums become a central part of the song as opposed to just the dude in the back keeping the beat.  My favorite bands are those where the drums are really memorable and I’d like to think we fall into that category.

Musically, though, it certainly takes us in different directions than we would otherwise go.  I think the biggest difference is that the drums need to fill up more sound.  We like to get a really deep, booming sound from the drum kit to help fill out that bottom end.  I think both of us have adapted the way we play to fill up the sound more.

As Anthony mentioned, the song writing process is also very straightforward with only two people.  I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve written so many songs in the past 3 years.  And yes, its also very practical to be able to fit the two of us and all of the gear into one car.

3.  SC: If I’m not mistaken you’ve actually pared down your instrumentation, cutting out bass in the recordings.  What was the deciding factor in that shift.  A more realistic representation of the band?  Would you have altered the songs for shows or did you used to have a live bass player?

Anthony: We’ve never had a bass player in the band.  When we recorded the first album, we didn’t know whether or not we would seek someone out to be a permanent bass player, so we had friends fill in on bass.  However, we never had anyone play bass with us live, and as we developed that sound, we liked it more and more.  The EP sounds different, because it sounds exactly how we want it to sound!  By the time we recorded it, we knew how to get our sound across, and our friend Christian who engineered it was instrumental in getting this to work.  We feel like the EP is an excellent representation of the band, and it hits the nail on the head as far as approximating our live sound.  We recorded it live, no instrumental overdubs, and maybe just added a double tracked vocal in a few places.  I’m really happy with how it represents us.

4.  SC: There has been a lot of interest generated by other two pieces recently, are there any specifically that have influenced you or who you’re really digging at the moment?

Anthony: Hmm . . . not really.  Most of our favorite bands are not two-pieces.  It also seems like most two-pieces focus on either sounding bluesy, as in the case of the Black Keys, or sounding quieter, like the Evens.  We aren’t really doing either of those things; we try to sound as big as possible.

David: I can’t think of a two-piece that I listen to regularly and I don’t think we sound like any of the more popular two pieces out there.

Anthony: It’s worth noting, though, that playing as a two-piece has helped introduce us to a bunch of other great duos in LA, and we’ve played shows with many of them.  Obsolete Heart, National Sunday Law, Clevis, the Nocturnes, the Secret Invisible, etc, are all local, two-piece bands with whom we’ve had the pleasure of playing shows.

5.  SC: I’d say there’s a definite shift from your lp to the sharkelepharhino ep. It’s starker and it definitely seems to deliver more of a wall of sound.  It feels like you guys went in and really streamlined the sound.  What were your goals when you went in to record?

Ha! Funny you should express it that way . . . it delivers a “wall of sound,” yet it is “starker.” That’s exactly what we wanted to do with it, and we went into recording with that goal.

We wanted the EP to sound true, just the two of us playing our instruments and some vocals, but we wanted it to have that huge sound that really jumps out of the speakers at you.  I don’t think it’s so much “raw” as it is “accurate.”  Again, I think Christian La Rocca, the engineer, did a phenomenal job.

I also think another key component to having that sound really grab the listener is the way we use space.  The music isn’t a constant barrage of unimpeded noise.  There are brief moments of silence, there are builds, and the loud parts are there for emphasis and play off of quieter parts.  In this way, the EP stays true to the whole minimalist idea that we have for the band.  Those four songs are among our very favorites, and we play each of them at most of our shows.

6.  SC: I’ve got to ask, where did the idea for the ep’s name and imagery come from?  Maybe you should describe it for anyone that hasn’t seen it yet.

David: I went to China last Summer and out in front of one of the big Chinese state run banks was this statue of a sharkelepharhino.  Elephant body, rhino horn, shark fin, standing on the top of this nautilus chamber thing.  I took a few pictures of it and was messing around in photoshop a few months later and thought we could turn it into a cool album cover.  A huge amount of credit goes to Anna (who does all our graphic designs, fliers, logos, etc.) for taking the design and actually making it look cool. Eventually we turned it into a silk screen and silk screened 500 eps by hand.  We give them out for free at shows, and you can’t get them anywhere else.

7.  SC: When I saw you guys it was at the knitting factory with a couple of bands that would become Heard of Elephants and what I’d consider to be Heard affiliates.  Those bands all have a sort of common perspective I’d say.  Where do you see Cinder Cone within the Los Angeles scene and what would you consider to be your primary differences with some of the other explorative bands?

Anthony: One of the most fun aspects of being in a band is the opportunity to meet people in so many other bands that we might otherwise have never met or heard, and that particular show was no exception.  It was a fun night all around.

In terms of how we fit within the LA scene . . . that’s tough.  LA has a ton of bands, but we feel that we’re operating in a totally different framework from most of these bands.  We practice in one of those big lockout spaces for bands, and so we hear countless people practicing their songs, and without discounting them completely . . . it sounds like the vast majority of them sound the same.  I’m sure our band sounds like crap to them, but I feel like, at the very least, we’re doing something different.  So, on the one hand, I often feel like we are out of place in any “LA scene” that might exist.

However, our very favorite bands have all been intrinsically tied to the cities from which they originated . . . Unwound from Olympia, Sonic Youth from New York, Fugazi from DC, a lot of the Touch and Go bands from Chicago, these bands, for me, are very tied in with local scenes from their home towns.   We feel similarly about LA, and there are a handful of bands here with whom we feel akin.  We’ve played with many bands who don’t have many sonic similarities with us, but who are trying to do something different, and insofar as they have a certain approach, we feel a bond with them.

8.  SC: Will Cinder Cone really play anywhere? What’s the worst show situation you’ve found yourself in.

David: We managed to get a show down in San Pedro at a brewing company about a year ago.  We were supposed to be the house band for the night and play an epic 3 sets.  We were both pretty psyched because we’re both Minutemen fans and Pedro has this bad ass blue collar dock working vibe that we wanted to go check out.  So we get down there and the brewing company is a restaurant with hardwood floors.  The stage is about 5 by 5.  There’s families eating dinner.  They don’t’ have a PA or a mic.  And its raining outside so there’s nowhere for people to go if they wanted to get away from us.  Tony hit the first chord and it was completely deafening.  Shockingly, they let us play a whole 45 minute set before they shut us down.  They also gave us 100 bucks so all in all it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  We also drove over to that huge Korean bell from the Usual Suspects where Redfoot throws his cigarette into Stephen Baldwin’s eye.  We were pretty exited about that.

9.  SC: At that same Knitting Factory show someone had put out a bunch of earplugs, was that for you?  You guys seem to be believers in the benefits of bone crushing volume.  If someone’s grandma asked you “But why so loud?” what would you tell her.

Anthony: Those earplugs were ours—we try to provide them for the audience at every show we play.  We can’t really turn down the volume of the drums, nor would we really want to, so the earplugs are our way of allowing people to listen and check out the band without necessarily damaging their hearing.

David: We do the ear plugs for two reasons.  One, we can’t get many of our friends out to shows unless we promise that we’ll provide ear plugs.  Two, we’ve found it can be a solid peace offering when we walk into a bar filled with locals who don’t know us and we start making all this racket.

Anthony: In terms of why we enjoy the higher volumes, I think there’s something about actually feeling the music as well as hearing it that we enjoy.  When it’s that loud, you feel the sound sort of collide with your body.  If people aren’t into it, then that’s ok, it’s not for everyone.  If people are into it, even better.  We’re primarily interested in doing what we do and finding others who enjoy this sound as well

Heard of Elephants Opening @ Unknown Theater July 10th

July 9, 2008

Herd of Elephants Opening Thursday July 10th @ The Unknown Theater 1110 Seward St. Los Angeles, CA 9:30 PM $5

This is something that I’m very excited for. Heard of Elephants is a multi-media art collective that is being assembled and is comprised of some of my favorite local bands. I haven’t fully understood all of the intricate workings of this group but it promises to be more than just a social network or umbrella term for a set of related bands and will involve tax-write-off eligible donations among other things in order to keep the art flowing from the artists to the observers and support to the artists in a more equal and organic manner. One release from the herd describes the group as “an art collective drawn together around the urge to create an open environment for creation and consumption of free thinking art and the desire to have some laughs while doing it.” Can’t go wrong with that.

This opening event will feature live music and art from

Charts and Maps, Danger Bees, Pride of Kenya and The Nocturnes, Steve Baldino and more.

Herd of Elephants currently consists of

Danger Bees
Charts and Maps (check out the free ep)
Pride of Kenya
Semiconscious Gloria
Random Patterns
Fuckasaurus Rex
Little Things

and art by

John Taylor
Steve Baldino
The Twinz (Brenda & Juli So)
Liz Petersen

I highly encourage anyone that can go to check it out, I really can’t imagine that you’d be disappointed.

*edit* here’s a sample of Steve Baldino’s art I just found