Dapper indie rockers The Airborne Toxic Event get inspired by death and Don DeLillo, and Sky Parade beat back injuries with woozy guitar noise.
Anna Bulbrook, standing, and, from left, Noah Harmon, Mikel Jollett, Steven Chen and Daren Taylor are performing together as Airborne Toxic Event. (Erin Broadley)
Songwriter Mikel Jollett is of a breed that counts at least as many literary references as musical. That certainly accounts for his band's Scrabble-worthy name, the Airborne Toxic Event (from Don DeLillo's apocalyptic treatise "White Noise").
But how is it the Los Angeles quintet arrived at a sound so exuberant that the band's fellow art-schoolers want to dance through their MFA projects?
"A year and a half ago, I was trying to finish a novel, and I was alone in a room constantly," says Jollett, a former music journalist (including some freelance work for The Times). "My mom had just been diagnosed with cancer, and I had just been diagnosed with a congenital skin disease, though it was the kind that only attacks your vanity.
"I quit smoking, spent a month walking around in a daze. It was like the moment in my life I realized I was going to die."
What began as cathartic songwriting gained momentum after Jollett, 32, met drummer Daren Taylor and "we locked ourselves in a warehouse in downtown L.A. for four months," Jollett says. Slowly, the pair surrounded themselves with pedigreed musicians — jazz bassist Noah Harmon, keyboardist Steven Chen and violist Anna Bulbrook. They emerged with a batch of nouveau-wave songs that are equal parts Modest Mouse, the Smiths and scholarly journal.
With only about 10 shows and a self-released EP behind them, ATE has turned heads — Rolling Stone tabbed the band one of the 25 best bands on MySpace. Their headlining show Friday night at the Echo is expected to attract a cadre of label scouts.
"This has all happened pretty fast," Jollett says. "I just know the first time we were in a room together, there was an energy — we could feel it."
Whole lotta love has gone into it
More than two years ago, Sky Parade caught the ears of the L.A. underground with the song "Losing Control," a joyride of dense, churning guitars that sounds like Primal Scream getting Spiritualized. Now, a couple of drummers, a lot of sweat and a back injury later, Sky Parade is emerging with a new album. Appropriately, "Love Is Forever" will be self-released on Valentine's Day.
Simple concept here: "Every song is a modern indie rock-inspired love song," says singer-guitarist Tommy Dietrick, who spent much of last year fine-tuning the record — when he wasn't laid up with back problems.
Dietrick, a former member of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, credits new drummer Joel Patterson, who joined a lineup that includes bassist Bobby Bones and guitarist Matthew Lindgren, with helping him put the pedal to the metal and get the album finished. Featuring guest vocals from Miranda Lee Richards and Guylaine Vivarat-Goodich (Molecules), "Love Is Forever" figures to hit the spot for fans of British psychedelia, and anybody else who misses the Verve. Sky Parade opens for Midnight Movies tonight at Spaceland.
Shouts: Tom Morello, playing as the Nightwatchman, continued to make his regular Tuesday benefits at the Hotel Café must-see events; this week Wayne Kramer of the MC5, Jill Sobule, Shooter Jennings and Chicago rocker Ike Reilly were among his guests. Proceeds from the night go a fund that provides food for the homeless.... Rodrigo y Gabriela, the Ireland-based Mexican guitar duo, made flamenco safe for metalheads at the Troubadour on Friday, peppering their set with "Enter Sandman," "Stairway to Heaven" (their current single) and a re-creation of "Wish You Were Here" that inspired mass karaoke. The two return in April for the KCRW "Sounds Eclectic" show, and then Coachella.... And Dustin O'Halloran's solo piano shows the last two weeks at the Derby were met with respectful silence, and you don't get that often. The male half of the indie-atmospheric duo Devics performed each of his "Piano Solos" albums on consecutive weeks.
Touts: Can't get into the sold-out Peter Bjorn and John show tonight at the Roxy? The One AM Radio, with an album due in February, plays the Echo....Dengue Fever headlines the Temple Bar on Friday, while the Cat Empire brings its wildly eclectic sound to the Key Club.... Nice lineup on Monday at the Viper Room: Foreign Born, In Waves and the Black Palms.... And Stellastarr is working out some new music; the New York band plays Tuesday at Safari Sam's and Wednesday at the Troubadour.
— Kevin Bronson
More on these bands and others, along with exclusive downloads, at the Buzz Bands blog: www.latimes.com/buzzbands
Stream "Does This Mean You're Moving On?" and "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" at www.myspace.com/theairbornetoxicevent
Download Sky Parade's "Love Is Forever" at www.latimes.com/media/mp3/2007-01/27616763.mp3