Last night I had the pleasure of practicing with the great Molly Allis and Jenica Anderson of Bear Club. We’ve been playing electric lately, but in preparation for a more intimate show we were armed with marimba, cello and acoustic guitar. And of course their voices. Sorry, the cello is a bit loud on this recording of us practicing a song since the recorder was close to me.
Recording in a living room while a party outside. This song. The one about one night camping in the woods in North Carolina.
This one is all yours now. Just an impromptu recording I decided to do as I was working on mixing for my upcoming albums.
This one is a little rare for me in that the bittersweet-ness (not new) is mixed with a little mean-ness (new!)…
Backstory? Hmmm. Well I just wrote it quickly after going through an old box of memories and realizing that some states of mind are better left behind as far as possible… It’s good to forgive and to move forward but sometimes too it’s good to expunge and exonerate yr own feelings.
Life has been rolling along. All the sudden it’s May. It’s not even May, it’s the middle of May. Wow.
That slip of the tongue of time has happened (for me) because I’ve been buried in music. Culminations occur tomorrow night, Thursday at the downtown art walk in Los Angeles, where I’ll be playing some jams at the Annex Gallery. Basically I’m playing cello, mixing it up with beats, and making rad action happen all the time. It’s cool, playing music in the center of one of the biggest cities in the world. It’s why I’m here.
On the other fronts, I’ve been writing new songs and nostalging about old ones, culminating in at least a couple new albums by the end of this (very busy) Summer.
Life is good, my fingers have callouses, I’m deeply inspired.
Still awaiting, I suppose, the big break, but I’ll just keep making this music, like I always have, and that will do it, I think.
Let me know when I should come to your town and play a gig.
I sincerely hope you are well. Thanks for checking in. You know I’ll post some new music here when I feel it is deserving of your ears…
In all things, do good, be well. Etc.
*warning = this is a loooong rant.
Photo: Pete Geniella
Last Thursday, January 28th, I got to open for AFI, one of my favorite bands. We played The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, and all the pieces fell into place for a great great show.
The show had been big in my mind for too long, I knew it was on, but the band I had recorded REDWOOD SUMMER with wasn’t to be available. I thought, ok, we’ll just make it happen for a good long while, and yet the band wasn’t nailed down, even just a couple weeks before the show.
My own fault, because the obvious choice for the best drummer was right in front of my face; I finally realized that I needed to call one of my best friends and bandmate of many many years Mr. Keith Feigin. He was with me for my first show ever, he recorded Blue Star, he recorded The Key, he is an amazing drummer. However, he hadn’t played drums, literally, for 5 years. Nonetheless, he was open to the idea. We’d jam on the songs, and if it worked, great. If not… welllllll….
My brothers pointed me in the direction of a guitar player they knew also in Ukiah (Keith lives there now), my hometown. A really talented guy who knows the business, touring all the time with his band, Luke Slinkert. Fortunately for me, Luke is also a huge AFI fan, which meant that the expenses and time spent practicing and traveling, especially when compared to the nominal guarantee we were getting to play (standard for opening bands) were worth it.
So I headed up to Northern California with less than a week to prepare for the show. A new band, I didn’t know Luke S. that well, and I didn’t know if Keith was going to be comfortable playing drums at all. I didn’t know how well my cello would play live, if my amp would even do the trick, if this was really realistic at all, or if it would all sadly implode.
I was optimistic, however!
Got into Ukiah, really really excited and anxious for our first practice that day, stopped by a friend’s apartment, bent down to pet the cute gigantic growling pit bull and promptly got bit in the face by said dog. Everything was suddenly chaotic, the dog got pulled off, I looked down at my hand and blood was dripping everywhere. Asked where the bathroom was, went in, and saw my lips looking pitifully mangled, kind of hanging there, as if confused, in all kinds of directions.
We rushed to the hospital, Keith was there, my brother Nate was there, my Mom showed up soon. I was sitting in the emergency room and I was on the verge of tears not because of the pain, which was pretty intense, so much as the idea that we would not be able to play this show. I wanted, I needed to play this show. It mattered to me.
The doctor stitched things up and took his time. He was great because he seemed to care and methodically put 28 stitches in my lips and face. He did a nice job. I went home, high on morphine and still wondering about the show.
The next morning things were good enough in my face to go ahead and schedule a practice, albeit without vocals from me. We’d play through the songs and kind of evaluate if it was even conceivable to go up on a stage in front of 1,000 people in less than three days. Things went well. I don’t know how, but Keith could really really bust it out still. Luke S. had memorized all the songs quickly and instantly was laying them down. The first time through the set was a little scary. The second time, the songs already sounded great.
So we had two more rehearsals to go. And they went really really well. Our set was only 6 songs and went like this:
The Unattended Ball
Time Is Near
Fever Saved Me
It clocked in at about 25 minutes, and we played it over and over again, just one song leading into the next. The last rehearsal we played through the set 5 times straight. That’s all we could do.
And it sounded good. I can honestly say that I wish I could re-record a version of REDWOOD SUMMER with the songs recorded in this raucous, garage/punk style that we had formed together in few days. Cello, Acoustic Guitar, Drums, Vocals. Simple, sweet, short.
There’s a kind of crummy sounding/looking recording of it available for the curious here:
We drove down to Santa Cruz the day of the show. I went to college in Santa Cruz and knew it oh so well. I learned to really play cello there. I played the clubs and coffee shops (mostly coffee shops when I was there) often, it was my town. It was epic to return to the big venue in town and be loading my stuff in.
AFI’s bus and equipment truck were there, and the equipment had been unloaded. To me, it was an impressive setup, boxes and boxes of gear and stage equipment. The stage was already setup, with AFI’s huge banner tied like a curtain behind the drums. Davey Havok was walking around talking to all the folks at the Catalyst (he is a verifiably super-nice person by the way), Adam, their drummer was there. I love Adam, I don’t think I know very many people, musicians or otherwise, who are as cool, kind and humble as he is. Smith was running the show, Fritch was selling the merch. Much of the AFI crew was intact from the last time I had seen them play, only since then they had gone on to sell millions of records and land a #1 billboard debut. And yet they are still real, down to earth, nice people. No BS. And they are GOOD if not AMAZING as a band these days. I watched their sound check and they now have this amazingly fluid sense of their own sound, super super tight and just, in their element. I suppose the countless weeks of touring will do that for you.
My nerves were crazy. I was still on antibiotics for my wounds and couldn’t really eat well so I had been on a liquid diet for the whole week. It was an enormous and woozy feeling. All my favorite people in the world, my family and my girlfriend to name a few, old college friends, showed up pre-show.
At one point me and Keith walked around the block to go grab a protein shake for me and a bite to eat for him, and the line to get in the club was already around block. That recognizable AFI crowd, dressed in black, non-conformist, devoted. Then we were scared… would they boo us off the stage? Also, up on the marquis, my name alongside AFI and Ceremony. Really cool for me, a good image, unexpected, and great.
Then we just tried to be not nervous. And soon enough it was time to get on stage. And we’d have to not blow it, of course.
And we got up there and just tore through the songs. The crowd was amazing. They were kind and into it. There were a lot of people in there too, 500-1000, I can’t really say a good estimate, but a lot. And the sound ruled, and my bandmates NAILED IT. And it was fun. This was it, a good show, good music, that euphoric state that musicians live for. It really was… yeah. It was great.
I had a lot of people to talk to when it was over, and thus I missed Ceremony. AFI put on an incredible performance, as they always do. Those guys play their hearts out EVERY TIME they go on stage, and that is often. They give everything to their fans, which is how it should be, in my opinion. The songs were so tight and so good, they played a couple really old ones, and a couple new ones off of Crash Love, and a few from in between. I was kind of in heaven, I had a great view, and I love seeing AFI play.
My brother took some amazing pictures of AFI that night, check them out here.
So the night settled down, nothing to crazy that evening, as my stitches were still healing and that was a good excuse to kind of get to ruminate on the whole thing. I couldn’t have asked for a better show, with better people around me. I’ve already directly said my thanks to all mentioned, but to my family, my girlfriend, my friends, to that crowd, and to AFI, I have a lot of gratitude.
Now it is on to the next big show. I’m eager to get it all going. I’ll let you know as it unfolds… Thanks so much for stopping by…
I’m happy to report my first gig since landing in Los Angeles, this Friday, January 15th at Pehrspace. 8pm (ish). It will be a lot of fun, and gives a chance to air some stuff out. I’ve been wrapped up in cords, connecting drum machines and effects, working on the set. And that’s about all I’ve been up to, so, life is good.
Just took down the full album preview of REDWOOD SUMMER on MySpace… now it is time to get the whole album. It’s available at several outlets, digital and physical versions, and it wants you to get it today…
Things are on the move, I’m planning a massive change in scenery, heading from the Nevada County mountains to the Los Angeles hills. Yeah, big change. It will be a fun adventure. More on that later.
As promised, two more albums are in the works, to complete my initial vision of 4 total, all different in theme and tone. The 3rd and 4th are more electronic, one instrumental dance music like I’ve been playing at parties and gatherings, and one full on singing and beatboxes like I’d been doing live previous to REDWOOD SUMMER.
I played at St. Joseph’s in Grass Valley this past weekend and it was seriously one of the most fun shows I’ve played in a while.
I always love playing there, even just being in that room, but this was super cool and fun and good. Got to play with Molly Allis of Huff This! on a couple of songs, and later in the evening she returned the favor and played with me.
And it was all about the crowd: they/you ruled. As soon as Molly started pounding out awesome drum action, everybody was on their feet and dancing and we ripped through new material off the upcoming album “Redwood Summer”… people danced to ‘The Unattended Ball’, ‘True North’ and then it all got crazy and everyone got loose for ‘Fever Saved Me‘. I mean, I’m telling you it was great.
Thank You!!! to all who made it, I had a ton of fun.
I’m heading up to Portland this weekend to play a show with Aaron Ross as a member of the Heirs Of Mystery.
I’m looking forward to a return to Portland, hoping to see some friends there. Not looking forward to the drive, as the weather is looking questionable, and it will be 12 hours. Sometimes a long drive is what you need though.
Yes, so I would love to see some friends there, at the show, which will be great, or at the Paradox for breakfast the next morning…
The Heirs Of Mystery, our band with Aaron Ross, will be heading down the mountain to play in Davis tonight.
This coming Sunday we are trekking up to Portland to play at Alela Diane’s CD Release, at Holocene.
So this song is totally flooding your inbox now if you are subscribed to the podcast. I had a delay in my website being working, so, thanks to Tyler Booth at Stephouse.net, things are back in action!
Now that I’m playing these songs out live a lot, the recording of the new album is coming along… more to come, but for now, Candle:[display_podcast]
I love New York City, having had Oh So Much Experience there (I’ve spent a total of like, two weeks there). But it is super amazing. And I’ve been wanting to play this place Pete’s Candy Store for a long time. Much respect to it, a lot of my musical heroes have passed through there at one time or another.
And so, I’ll be there September 21, a Sunday evening, playing at 10:30. NYC People, come out and be there. Spread the word if you have friends there (it seems like we all do!).
Pre-PS… if you have any pictures that you’d like to share via flickr, go to http://www.flickr.com/groups/lukejanelalive and join in…
It was, indeed, the best show ever, and, though I can’t really sum up why, here are some of the elements:
1. My family was there. My cousin, two of my brothers, my sister in law, and my girlfriend were there, and it made me happy that they made it. I felt more at ease and comfortable pre-show (I am usually freaking out feeling ill with nerves) then I have in a long long time. I’m so glad that after all these years they’re not sick of my music (or me) yet!
2. My friends were there. A lot of my brothers’ friends showed up and it really meant a lot to me to see them there. They’ve been coming to my shows in SF for several years now, and I really can’t begin to say how much it rules that were there. I really respect them in general, and so it meant a lot to me.
On top of that, amazingly, some friends whom I had not seen in literally 7 years showed up. (One of them brilliantly sang for the headlining band SEAQUENCER). When I saw them in the audience (I didn’t know they were coming) I had to do a double take to believe that it was actually them. It was so good to reconnect. It kind of blew me away. It made me appreciate what real friendship is (you know… it stands the test of time, no words necessary to catch up, et cetera).
3. The venue/sound was perfect. Amnesia is a really cool bar, the ambience is dark and bohemian, the drinks are strong, the velvet plush, and the sound guy (thanks mike!) did a fantastic job with my absurdly over the top setup (two drum machines via midi, two cello pickups, vocals, and effects!). I felt really at home there, and the room glowed a cool red.
4. The crowd was really cool, and totally into it. Looking out over the crowd, the room was packed, some people were dancing (which I love), and everyone was just… into it. It was great… really great!
5. Things went right. I was playing all new material, and any number of things could have gone wrong… forgetting parts, pressing the wrong button, falling out of tune… it certainly wasn’t perfectly in tune (it is still a cello after all) but really, it was fun to play new stuff.
6. The SF Weekly review, and a blurb in the SF Ist… Honestly, I can’t say enough about the insightful, kind, and, I felt, poignant review in the SF Weekly. It did a lot to bring people out, and it did a lot to kind of affirm the sound I’m going for now…
7. On and on. I just really can’t sum up how much I enjoyed this show. Here is to many more. As a friend toasted at the end of the night:
“May the best of your past be the worst of your future.”
SEAQUENCER, Luke Janela, Round Mountain
Date/Time:Thu., July 31, 9:00pm
Dreamy Cello + Dark Beats + Smart Emotional Vocals
â€œElliott Smith with a celloâ€ would be a lazy and reductionist way to introduce the music of Luke Janela, despite the parallels between the two songwriters â€” namely, their intimate, minimalist, melancholy acoustic elegies originally born in the bedrooms of gray and rainy Portland, Oregon. Janelaâ€™s inclusion of a drum machine and effects pedals, combined with the rich, deep, sonorous tone of his cello, gives his performances the time-collapsing atmosphere of ancient eras meeting the future. This is no mere gimmick at work, though: Janelaâ€™s welding of words to melodies is as accomplished as any erudite troubadour. That Janela left Portland for Nevada City, CA, hasnâ€™t altered his desolate atmospheres, either â€” it merely means that maybe heâ€™ll wheel his way into the city more often. Good news for us indeed. â€” J. Graham
Read the original review here.
This is a really nice, and amazingly insightful review of my music in the SF Weekly. I wish that I could write these words, the way that it so respectfully and accurately conveys what I am attempting to do musically really blows my mind!
Work on the new album, the beats cello vox album has started. I just want to share some early drafts for you for a few days, more to come soon![display_podcast]
Remember the earlier versions of this song?
What you hear/see in this practice session is two beatboxes, one cello, effects on the cello, and the vocals. This song was writ about two months ago… part of the new batch. This is all live, just the mic on the camcorder (not the most perfect performance but you know… honest 😉
I’ve been trying to keep a fresh supply of new material up here on the site but wow it has been a busy time!
Also I’m in a period of transition, where I’m really figuring out my new sound right now: By putting this restriction that everything that goes onto the new album must be able to be done live, it has raised the bar. I now have multiple beatboxes as part of the cello/beat sound on top of that, so it’s tricky.
And it is fun to work this stuff out, I’m really excited!
Thanks for watching/listening!
The Basement in Nevada City is one of the best places I’ve ever played, and I’ve played a LOT of random places, from small clubs to big outdoors thingys.
It is an integral part of a music scene that only happens once in a generation.
It is cozy yet big enough to pack people in.
It is comfortable to go alone or with friends.
The sound is amazing.
The audience feels really warm and friendly, but it is not as disarming as playing for your friends.
It is an organic response to an evolving culture, in other words, it is a place that was created out of pure necessity, without pretense, and that, like a healthy plant, is thriving without the need of marketing, alcohol, food, or ‘coolness’.
What I am trying to say is that it is the quintessential underground music scene place. And I thank Ryan for making that be.
We had a great show on Saturday, the night was warm and friendly. Cody was splendid. The Actionists really blew me away, they had a great sound going on, they reminded me a bit of Karate, but they took it beyond that mellow ness. It was like, very intelligent, very … good. It was good music. I was impressed. Aaron Ross came up and you know, that guy can sort of have a quiet presence but halfway through his first song he really really commands a room. His lyrics wind, unwind like a river, and though they are very sort of big, epic, profound lyrics, he never makes it feel as though he is preaching… it is just amazing to watch him.
A lot of my friends came out to the show and man they have to know that they are the best. And a few people came not knowing what the scene would be like and I have to thank them especially. It was a fun night.