Noise and melody are in the ears of the beholder. For singer Yasmine Kittles of the synth-industrial duo Tearist, colliding the two can lead to a particularly beautiful blend of pop music. “It’s my version of pop,” she insists with a smile. “But I guess to everyone else it’s not going to seem like pop.”
Onstage with Tearist, Kittles shouts and convulses on stage, sometimes singing a mix of English and Farsi, then falls to her knees to scrape and pound pieces of metal as her partner provides layers of intense synthesizer sounds. It is a blend reflective of the Tearist name — which is not about music of sadness and tears, but signifies one who tears things open, who tears things apart and tears it up.
On April 7, Kittles and her new Tearist bandmate on the synths, Jesse Nolan, will perform at Complex in Glendale. At the show, longtime fans of the much buzzed about act will hear far more new songs than older tracks. These days, Kittles is emphasizing the new, and during the duo’s recent European tour many songs were improvised on the spot or written the day of the show. “Some of the songs we were just making in the car and then we’d just try them,” she says.
Audiences there were receptive, which was important to a band stepping back into action. “It was such an amazing place to try this out because it was so accepting,” Kittles says of the European dates. “What I didn’t know was that there were die-hard fans going ‘Where’s this song? Where’s that song?’ They were asking about songs that had never been released, that they had only seen on YouTube videos.”
One male audience member she described as “a metal gentleman” told her after one set that “he didn’t think he was going to like to show. He mostly listened to metal, and he said it felt it was more metal than the metal shows.”
Her inspirations are wide-ranging. In her Silver Lake apartment crowded with keyboards, framed pictures of Patti Smith and Prince hang on the wall, near life-sized cutouts of Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan and Martin Gore. Blasting on her computer is a prog wall of sound from vintage Rush, as Kittles sits on a couch and leans into a Three Stooges pillow. Beside her is a teddy bear with its mouth sealed by duct tape.
It’s been some time since Tearist were regularly on the local club circuit, after drawing an excited club following and critical notices that included an LA Weekly cover article. Kittles split with original partner William Stangeland Menchaca more than a year ago, she says, after an already tension-filled relationship collapsed during the recording of an EP with producer Dave Sitek. That EP has yet to be released.
The Complex show will be Tearist’s first local set since her name was included among several female rock musicians who accused New York indie music publicist Heathcliff Berru of inappropriate physical sexual conduct. The charges were first raised in a Tweet by Amber Coffman of the band Dirty Projectors and exploded among music scene followers across the Internet, leading to additional accusations from others with similar experiences, including Kittles and Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast.
“These people have already taken so much of my time, of my energy and my head space,” she says of Berru and others. She’d much prefer to focus on music. “I do wish I could be talking about that all the time. I get super nervous before a show, if I care about it. In Europe, that was every day. I couldn’t eat. It’s really the audience and me. I’ll know when we’re there how it’s going to be. I’m excited about it. That’s all can say.”
She says the Complex set will be a special one. “I love playing there. They have a great sound system.”
After the recent European tour, Kittles was inspired by her new creative partnership with Nolan. “He just understands music in this other way that is fully different. His influences are different. He knows about so much. I like that contrast,” she says.
“There’s songs that I feel are poppy, and there’s one that’s kind of a ballad, which I’m super proud of. I structurally organized it to the feeling I wanted: I want to feel the goose-bump sensation; I want to feel like I’m thinking about a boy and ‘Will he ever like me?’ A lot of times I’ve shunned choruses and verse-chorus/verse-chorus. but it’s kind of fun. It seems to me like pop.”
What: Tearist, with Vowws, Night Club and Street Fever
When: Thursday, April 7
Where: Complex, 806 E Colorado St., Glendale
Tickets: $12 to $15; 21 and over.
More info: (323) 642-7519, complexla.com
Steve Appleford, firstname.lastname@example.org