TWJ Interviews: Superhumanoids
It’s not every day a band who describes their own songs as “music to help kiss the doldrums away” gets to play at a venue where Dinosaur Hall and Butterfly Pavilion are perfectly normal points of reference. But when Superhumanoids perform at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum along with Cut Chemist on Friday, that will be the case. The trio calls the City of Angels home, and they make dreamlike pop music that could perfectly fit those nights when your personal disco ball lights up your bedroom, or the dark confines of that trendy nightclub you frequent.
What began as the bedroom project of Cameron Parkins soon added the excellent pieces of Sarah Chernoff (keyboards, vocals) and Max St. John (bass, vocals) and the band is now set to release its debut full-length later this year, titled Exhibitionists. Parkins was kind enough to grant TWJ a bit of his time to talk about the band and the upcoming album. What follows is a Q&A.
First, if you could just talk about how you guys came to be where you’re at now. How did you become Superhumanoids?
We all met through mutual friends in LA. I think we all were looking to play similar music, that none of our other musician friends were really interested in playing at the time. So it just grew naturally out of that. Nothing too exciting about the way we met. We played around and kind of took a slower approach to where we’re at now.
We used to play with our good friend Evan – he played drums for us. And he would play a stand-up kit, a cocktail kit. He left the band about a year ago, and at that point we kind of changed up the sound a little bit, sort of refined it and started using a full drum kit. I think that that’s been really cool and interesting over the past year.
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard your music?
I guess I’d really just describe it as pop music. We try to write music that has the ability to appeal to anybody. We’re defined by our instrumentation a little bit – you know, I play guitar, and we use a lot of synths and drum machines otherwise and Max plays bass on a handful of tracks, and we use synth bass on a handful of tracks. So it’s really contemporary pop music.
Is there anyone from LA that you guys are into, or somebody under the radar who you dig what they’re doing right now?
We listen to a lot of beatmakers and hip-hop producers. This one guy Lapalux is really rad. And we’re really into Lunice’s stuff. And of course, we just finished up a tour with Balam Acab and Active Child, and they’re both awesome bands.
What was your aim in making this new record?
Our aim was just to make a really good record – something more refined than our EP is, and more consistent in terms of the sound, and something that’s really a step above what we’ve done before in terms of quality, songwriting and lyrics and recording quality and production quality. We wanted to create something that’s more well-thought out as a whole.
These first two singles off the new record — “Geri” and “Too Young For Love” — seem to be about unrequited love, or circumstances getting in the way of love. Did that turn out to be a theme throughout the whole LP?
I don’t think that was an intentional theme. What we try to do when we write lyrics is write in a way that leaves the song up to interpretation by the listener. The fact that you’re pulling that from the songs makes perfect sense, but that’s not necessarily what they’re about. I think what we do is look at situations – be they romantic, or social, or maybe pieces of events from our own lives – and turn it into a story people can relate to.
Obviously place informs every band’s sound. Is there any particular way Los Angeles has influenced the kind of music you guys make?
I think that LA has an awesome culture for music, and so far we’ve been able to really experiment and try out new things and do so comfortably. And we’re friends with people who are in bands of many shapes and sizes, and it’s inspiring to watch them grow and learn from them. And there’s a really cool electronic scene in Los Angeles, and I think in general it’s an environment that’s encouraging and supportive. And I think without that we would’ve found it much harder to do what we do, which is familiar and contemporary but also unique.
You’ve got a gig with Cut Chemist coming up in the Natural History Museum of LA. What’re you looking forward to about playing there?
They’ve been doing great shows there for awhile, and we’ve gone to a ton of them. And we’ve always wanted to play one so we’re really excited about it. I think it’s going to be fun to play a show in LA that’s not at a typical venue. It makes it more exciting and makes the show a little more special, at least to us. It feels fun and interesting. We haven’t played a proper LA show in a minute, and I think we’re really honed in an ready to play at that level to a home crowd.
What do you want people to get out of one of your live shows?
We just want people to feel something, and just walk away having felt something, no matter what that emotion is. To feel like it was an experience that was worth it for them and for us. I think live music is one of the last great elements of music that can really effect people in that way. I think it’s hard to do that in recordings, with the way people digest music now.
What do you think people will latch onto about Exhibitionists?
I hope that people just latch onto that we really worked to create a specific sound and something that was consistent throughout and really high quality. There’s a lot of interesting textures and arrangements on the album that hopefully will engage people right off the bat. And then from there, just the songwriting will hopefully keep them around.