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Gothic Tropic interview with Cecilia Della Peruti


Gothic Tropic has been carving out a reputation in the crazy LA scene for years now since the release of their debut EP Awesome Problems back in 2011.  The brainchild of the insanely talented multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Cecilia Della Peruti, Gothic Tropic have finally released a follow-up to Awesome Problems in the form of the two-song single for Old Flame Records near the end of 2014 and have announced an upcoming full-length album FASTorFEAST which you can read a bit more about below.  There’s a little something for everyone going on in Gothic Tropic’s deceptively simple sounding music.  The psychedelic pop tendencies are easy to pick out, and when combined with a perfectly formulated combination of punk and garage rock, the result is an energetic but seemingly calm and placid sound, Della Peruti’s vocals dancing like angels echoing through the caverns of sound.  There’s an added element of almost jazz like flourishes in the drums as well and Peruti’s ethereal vocals drift above the bass and dissonant guitars that create the serene soundscape…  Gothic Tropic’s interesting to say the least.  Initially a one-person band, in the form of Peruti and a loop station, she booked some shows around the release of Awesome Problems, assembled a group of people to perform the material in 2011, and Gothic Tropic has evolved from there.  Refining and perfecting the dreamlike sound that they’re capable of channeling so successfully, the single for Old Flame shows an even softer and more contemplative side to Gothic Tropic’s sound, created for the first time by a group of individuals and translated into a palpable experience of musical transcendence.  There’s a link below so you can check out some music for yourself, but I highly recommend just picking up the single and the EP, reading the article and giving in to the inevitability that is Gothic Tropic.


I know that the band was kind of the brainchild of Cecilia Della Peruti, but unfortunately I only just recently started listening to your music so I’m not super familiar with the band’s lineup.  What’s the current lineup in Gothic Tropic?  Is this the original lineup or have you gone through any changes as far as that’s concerned since you all started performing?

I had a couple shows booked a month before the Awesome Problems EP came out, so since I wrote that material on a loop station, I took it around with me and started gigging by myself as Gothic Tropic.  Liv Marsico played drums on that EP in 2011, and Daniel Denton was on bass.  Since then, we’ve played with Lia Braswell, and conclusively Rhys Hastings now on drums.  Daniel’s still on bass.  I’ve experimented with having a second guitar player occasionally, but we decided it’s best as a three piece.  I was nervous I couldn’t handle all the parts, but I just buckled down and got better ha-ha.

Are any of you in any other bands right now or do you have any active side projects going on?  I try to keep up with what everyone’s up to but nothing beats getting the answers straight from the source anyways!

Rhys and I work as session musicians, so we’re always playing with other people.  But no, I’m not a partner in another project.  Rhys is a partner in Lucy, and I love their sound, so we’re taking them on the road with us for our Spring Tour in February.  Daniel has played on other material, Chelsea Wolfe, others, and had his own band Never At Night, and he’s always writing personal material.

Have you released any music with anyone else in the past?  If so, can you tell us a little bit about that here?

Awesome Problems EP is on New Professor Music, and our debut LP is coming out on Old Flame Records this year!  I have a lot of freebees on SoundCloud, and MySpace, believe it or not, that I’ve recorded over the years onto my phone, or Garage Band; little sound clips and demos.


How old are you and where are you originally from? 

I’m twenty six.  I was born in New Jersey but was always bicoastal and permanently moved to Los Angeles when I was eleven.

What was your home like growing up?  Was there a lot of music around?  Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or extremely interested/involved in music when you were a kid?

My mom is an opera singer and vocal pedagogue, and my dad is a jazz musician and composer, so yes, always, ha-ha!  They met each other at the Metropolitan Opera, my dad was playing in the pit and my mom was the season’s soloist.  I grew up taking formal violin, piano, and vocal lessons.  I had to surrender too many forest green velvet and lace dresses.

Do you feel like the local music scene where you grew up played a very large role in shaping your musical tastes or the way that you perform at this point?  Did you see a lot of shows or get very involved in the local scene when you were a kid?

I started noticing the local music scene when I was fourteen, I was going to school in the valley, and many of my best friends lived around Hollywood, so I started out going to the Knitting Factory a lot.  It was all punk, and I had a band with Kirk Podell called The Cheats, who listening back now, are not bad at all!  We played with The Rabies, now The Shrine, and The Diffs, now Fidlar, so it’s crazy seeing everyone back in roughly the same broad circle of music again ten years later.  Since high school I’ve branched out and tried all kinds of music, literally everything, but something that always stuck with me was a weird and dark guitar playing sensibility.  It’s just what I go to, even if I’m playing a sunny song.

What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?

Probably seeing my parents perform.

If you were to pick a moment where things seemed to completely change for you musically or your mind was opened up to the infinite possibilities that music presents, what would it be?

When I opened Garage Band and started recording, I was in the middle of art school, so I had to confess to my parents that I’d found something better and that they’d perhaps wasted some time with me pursuing fine art.

What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get that?

Piano; it was in the house.  I think the piano is more beautiful than guitar, or at least that it exposes what I’m not capable of on guitar; but guitar is so fun.  Guitar came after piano, drums, flute, and violin.  I’m horrendous at violin now.

What led to you starting to write and perform your own music and when would that have been?  Was that a direct result of being given an opportunity to express yourself and create something of your own or had that kind of always been an innate urge or need that you’ve had?

Probably sitting down at the piano when I was a kid; Improvising is the only way I’ve done it, and I’m still that way, that’s how I explore anything.  Then, I got into guitar and improvising through a loop station (see our SoundCloud) expresses the innateness.

What does the name Gothic Tropic mean or refer to in the context of your band name?  It’s extremely fitting and kind of just lodges itself in your brain from the first time you hear it.  Who came up with the name and how did you go about choosing it?  Are there any close seconds or runners up that you almost went with you can recall at this point?

I came up with it initially as play on words, and a working title, but it ended up sticking.  Actually, I first wanted to call my first solo project, which is what this was, Sparkle Motion, but it was taken.  I’m glad we’re not called Sparkle Motion anyway, I was in a parodical mood when I was brainstorming names.  At the same time, I knew that whatever I was going to make was going to be both dark and light; which isn’t wise usually, but I hope it works.

© Bokeh Monster

Where’s the band located at this point?  How would you describe the local scene where you’re at right now?

We all live in Echo Park within walking distance from each other!  The local scene has a couple sub-scenes, so it’s hard to say.  We’re friendly people, so we all have our hands in a few different pies, but it all feels like a big basket of puppies to me, no separation at all between the genres.

Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or anything?  Do you feel like you’re very involved in the local scene there?

I’m naturally on the languid side, so it takes a special mood for me to want to go out and party.  But when I do it’s always fun, and I often go out solo, because I know I’m gonna run into friends.  I love referring bands I like to venues I have relationships with, I do think community is really important, and I always love helping friends’ bands from out of town.  My house has become a safe haven for a few bands up and down the coast, I like hosting.

Has the local scene played an integral role in the sound, history or evolution of Gothic Tropic, or do you feel like you would be doing what you are and sound basically like you do regardless of where you were at or what you were surrounded by?

I think we would sound like this regardless, because I honestly don’t think we “fit” in with the music scene here anyway.  To me, the local music scene sounds like that washy sunny vintage sound, soft punk, strummy parts, very listenable in my opinion, but I don’t think we sound like that.  I don’t necessarily make music I want to throw on while I’m cooking or having friends over or anything, it’s more about the live performance, I think.  I make music like I’m a deaf and blind dog charging through a pile of leaves, I really have no reference for what I should sound like.  Less method than people think.

© REDSLURPEEE

Are you involved in recording or releasing any music besides your own/Gothic Tropic’s?  If so, can you talk a little bit about that here?

I’m jamming with a friend for a possible other project, but nothing to speak of now.  I do have some stuff credited as “Cecilia Della Peruti”, in the form of demos for a film, or a theme for a commercial or something like that, but not as a different artist.  Just as a writer or mechanics player. 

You have a sweet combination of sounds going on in your tunes that seems to simply pull from just about anywhere you want it to, which is a varied array of different tricks that you’ve assimilated from a ton of places as far as I can tell.  Who are some of your major musical influences?  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?

All of us love artists like PJ Harvey, Cocteau Twins, Slow Dive, stuff of that genre, and we bring our interest for felt progressive music to Gothic Tropic, so when you hear the dark melodies, I think these artists have influenced us a lot.  At the same time, we also like Fela Kuti and sunnier sounding artists, so that comes to the table too.  I think I’m the only one who loves BeyoncĂ©, Katy Perry and Rihanna, but we come together on that mid-pop range of bands like Blood Orange or Little Dragon.  I’m constantly impressed when Daniel likes something I think is too pop for his palate.

As I mentioned you all have a really cool combination of sounds going on which leads me to my next question.  Whenever I talk to bands for Psychedelic Baby I obviously have to describe how a band sounds to a bunch of our readers who have never heard them before, and not only do it in an appealing way, but in an honest and descriptive fashion as well.  It can be an extremely daunting task to say the least and I feel like I’m putting far too many of my own perceptions of things in there.  How would you describe Gothic Tropic’s sound to our readers who might not have heard you all before in your own words?

Psych-Pop, Proto-Punk probably.

What’s the songwriting process for Gothic Tropic like?  Is there someone who usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea to work out with the rest of you, or do you all get together and just kind of kick ideas back and forth until you hit on something that you’re interested in working on and refining from there?

Every song is different, but I’m always writing the topline vox/guitar, and arranging the material.  Daniel, for instance though, wrote the hook line for a track, “Teenage Behavior”, which will be on Fast Or Feast, and I riffed off what he was doing.  It often happens that he comes up with a cool bass line that gets me going on whatever I’m doing, and then Rhys will finish it off with the right beat.


What about recording?  I think that most musicians can appreciate the time and effort that goes into recording and releasing music when they’re finally holding that finished product in their hands.  But getting to that point though, getting things recorded and sounding the way you want them to, especially as a band, can be extremely difficult.  Even little things like getting the recordings mixed and mastered like you want them to can be a headache.  What’s it like recording for Gothic Tropic?

It took a long time to record Fast or Feast because we tracked with two drummers over a span of a year.  Originally, we were demoing the material with Liv, then Lia, and now finally Rhys.  So, even though the songs were already there, we had to dissect them starting from the end, instead of the beginning, which was a first for all of us!  But the songs were played live, and then I usually tracked a few layers of guitars, then vocals last.  I produced it pretty fast because I knew what I was going for.  At the same time, I was constantly learning how to produce a record, and wanting to implement new ideas, so this was a huge learning experience for me.  Daniel and Rhys did a few passes during mixing, and contributed a lot of valuable feedback before we moved on to mastering.

Do you all like to take a DIY approach to recording where you handle things on your own time and turf so that you don’t have to work with or compromise on the sound with anyone else?  Or do you like to head into a studio and get someone else behind the board so that you can concentrate on the music and getting things to sound the way you want them to from the start?

We didn’t really have a producer for this record, so I was describing all the actions.  I’m not an engineer so I learned how to communicate, and in the process became really familiar with production.  Daniel’s recorded full albums on his own, and they sound fantastic, so his input was welcome.  As was Rhys’.

Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into working out exactly how a song’s going to sound with the arrangement all locked down and airtight before you record, or you get a good idea of what a song’s going to sound like while allowing for some change and evolution during the recording process where you feel necessary?

It pretty much stays how we first play it or write it, there’s some re-arranging every so often, but nothing drastic.  I think the first instinct is usually the right answer, so once you get into picking it apart it’s easy to loose sight of the song.

Despite the ass backwards laws across the globe, at least in my opinion, people have been tapping into the altered states that drugs and alcohol produce for the purposes of creating for thousands of years and I’m always curious about their usage and application when it comes to the art that I personally enjoy and consumer.  Do psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a large or important role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes for Gothic Tropic?

Not a role at all when it comes to Gothic Tropic as a project.  But speaking for myself only, I do endorse psychoactive/hallucinogenic drugs for use as a tool to achieve spiritual enlightenment or personal healing.  I think the guys in Gothic Tropic, or any progressive adult would agree with me, but I can’t speak for them.  What it did for me was induce a state of childlike wonder that served as a reminder, and implanted a sense of ease and perspective.  It can introduce you to a blissful meditative feeling you can’t otherwise as easily achieve, and you can take that mental motor memory with you out of your “trip” and into your daily life.  I haven’t done it in a while, but I personally don’t think I need to again, or at least for a while.  To me, it seems like a landmark moment needs to be chosen wisely.


There was a rumor about a 7-inch release with HOTT MT back in 2013 or 2014 but I don’t remember that ever popping up.  Did that ever end up happening?  If not, have the song(s) you were going to put on there found a new home?

We put the two songs we recorded out on Old Flame Records in August as a pre-release to our album.  The label Hott MT and I were speaking with just never did anything with it, so we took it back.  I would love to do something with Hott MT, but we never picked it back up.  They’re good friends though, so we’ll do something when the time is right.


In 2014 I know you released a cassette single for Old Flame Records Underwater Games with two brand new songs on it.  Was the recording of these very different than your earlier session(s) for Awesome Problem?  When and where were “Underwater Games” and “Bird Of Prey” recorded?  Who recorded those tracks?  What kind of equipment was used?  Is that limited at all, or it an open ended release?

Those were the songs that were supposed to come out on that split!  They were recorded at East West Studios Room A, thanks to Dale Stepp for introducing us to the idea of recording songs for the split.  Wil Anspach recorded it.  I just remember that I played Elton John’s piano and the mics in the drum room could buy a house.


I try to sporadically check in on Facebook pages and that kind of thing to keep up with stuff coming down the pike from people and I’ve seen a couple of awesome pieces of news pop up on your feed.  I saw a post were you were talking about recording a track for the soundtrack to a film, Centerland which turned out to be entitled “Flesh Dance”.  Is that song going to be exclusive to the Centerland soundtrack?

“Flesh Dance” is published under an agreement that allows it many uses, so no, it’s not exclusive.

© John Ferrer

I recently saw a post on your page about the upcoming release of your debut full-length album FASTorFEAST.  Did you all try anything radically new or different when it come to the songwriting or recording of the material for FASTorFEAST?  What can our readers expect from the upcoming album?  Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for FASTorFEAST?  When was that recorded and who recorded it?  Where was that at?  What kind of equipment was used this time around?  Is there any kind of projected release date for FASTorFEAST at this point?

I like how you typed it!  Can we use that, ha-ha?  It will be out by this summer on Old Flame Records.  That track I mentioned earlier, “Teenage Behavior” will be on it.  We have a few live sessions up on YouTubeCry Like A Man” and “God’s Pleasure” will also be on it.  FASTorFEAST has a duality, like Gothic Tropic does.  There are songs that make you feel like driving fast with the top down, and songs that take you inside a dark moment in your life, so you’ll hear that and it will listen very much like a story. 

Does Gothic Tropic have any music that we haven’t talked about, maybe a demo or a single that I don’t know about or anything?

Those freebees I mentioned are just little moments captured live, but they’re on SoundCloud and MySpace.  You may be hearing them written, or re-mixed or re-arranged later on. 

With the upcoming release of FASTorFEAST are there any other releases in the works or on the horizon for Gothic Tropic?

Just the videos that precede the album and maybe a visual companion for the record, different media, but no new music until the next release which is to be announced.

Where’s the best place for our interested US readers to pick up copies of your music at?

If you’re in Los Angeles, Vacation Vinyl is selling our Underwater Games & Bird of Prey tape and Origami Records has our pink marble vinyl of Awesome Problems EP.  If not, iTunes and Spotify! And you can pick up Underwater Games & Bird of Prey on Old Flame Records’ Bandcamp page.  If you want to help support the band directly, name your price at gothictropic.bandcamp.com and I would be very grateful.

© Eric Reid

With the completely insane international postage rate increases over the past few years I try and provide our readers with as many possible options for picking up imports as I can.  Where’s the best place for our international and overseas readers to buy your music?

The online links above.

And where’s the best place to keep up with the latest news from Gothic Tropic at?

Follow us on Instagram @gothictropic.

Are there any major plans or goals that Gothic Tropic is looking to accomplish in 2015?

Keep playing and making more records.

What, if anything, do you have planned as far as touring goes right now?

West Coast Tour Feb 20th-28th, dates on our Facebook!

© Bokeh Monster

Do you spend a lot of time out on the road?  Do you enjoy being out on tour?  What’s life like on the road for Gothic Tropic?

I notice we rock a bit harder on the road.  It’s like a sense of freedom on stage that we all suck in.  It’s awesome.  We love playing to new audiences.  It’s really exciting.

Do you remember what the first song that Gothic Tropic ever played live was?  When and where would that have been at?

I think you can see the first show on YouTube!  It was “Monkey Bars” at Echo Park Independent Co-Op, me solo.  Then our first live band show was at Lot 1, and we ended up jamming this random funk number for about fifteen minutes while everyone was dancing.

Who are some of your favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?

We played with Mike Watt, and I’m a big fan.  Unknown Mortal Orchestra was great to play with and I recently opened for Tegan & Sarah and that was incredible. 

© Greg Katz

Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent?  Stuff like flyers, posters, shirt designs, cover artwork and that kind of thing?  Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re attempting to convey with the visual side of Gothic Tropic?  Is there anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to the visual side of Gothic Tropic?  If so, who is that and how did you get hooked up with them?

I think the visual branding is pretty much how we are, playful, primary colors, classic patterns, etcetera.  Our cover for Fast or Feast is very evil/sexy, so I’m excited to have that come out.

© Donna Coyle 

I grew up around my dad’s killer collection of music and both of my parents really encouraged me to listen to anything that interested me from a pretty young age.  I think it was my dad taking me to the local shops that left the biggest impression on me though.  I developed this ritual for listening to music that’s led a pretty hefty lifelong obsession with physical music products.  I would rush home, grab a set of headphones, read the liner notes over and over again, stare at the cover artwork and let the whole experience carry me off on this whole trip!  Having something to hold in my hands and experience along with the music has always made for a much more complete listening experience for me.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Totally, I’m a tactile person so I identify with that a lot.  But to be honest, I didn’t grow up with a record player, so I didn’t experience that feeling until recently, and I understand why it feels so good.  For me, I remember looking at an Enya tape when I was eight and thinking “this is what it sounds like!” and I thought that was cool, ha-ha.

© REDSLURPEEE 

Like it or not right now, digital music is here in a big way.  I think it mostly depends on how you deal with things really, there are always going to be upsides and downsides to any given situation.  On one hand, people are being exposed to all this amazing music, not only from around the world but in their own hometowns and backyards.  Along with the internet it’s also facilitated an unprecedented level of communication betweens band and their fans; this interview being a wonderful case in point.  On the other hand though, while people are being exposed to all this amazing new music they’re not really that interested in paying for it.  A lot of people have begun to regard music as a disposable form of entertainment, a kind of free soundtrack to their lives that will always be there regardless of whether they pay for it or not.  And while people’s relationship and interaction with music is constantly changing and evolving, I don’t think that digital music has done any of us any favors in those regards.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

I think the music industry is inventing new ways to monetize, and evolve with this, but it’s not going too well for even the top tier artists, at least not to their standards.  No one’s going to make a lot of money unless they sell a song to a big popular artist, or they are the big popular artist or someone in their camp.  I don’t need much money to be happy though, I’m okay with my glass ceiling as an artist, but I’m constantly finding new ways to be involved and make a living at it. 

I try to keep up with as many good bands as I possibly can but there’s so much stuff out there right now it’s hard to even know where to start!  Is there someone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of before?

I really like Ryder Bach’s (Body Parts) stuff on SoundCloud.

What about nationally and internationally?

New artists; Hiatus Kaiyote, Kindness, Autre Ne Veut, Darkside.


DISCOGRAPHY
(2011)  Gothic Tropic – Awesome Problems EP – Digital, 12” – New Professor Music
(2014)  Gothic Tropic – Underwater Games Single – Digital, Cassette Tape – Old Flame Records
(2015)  Gothic Tropic – FASTorFEAST – TBA – TBA

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015

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