Funeral Party

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Funeral Party


Lots of people come to Los Angeles to make it big, but it’s rare to hear of someone who was actually born there. Off the top of my head, I can name professional famous person Kim Kardashian – but from there, it starts to get a little trickier. A rock band who actually hail from the City of Angels, Funeral Party are rare beasts – although as singer Chad Elliot is quick to point out, they have always felt somewhat like misfits in their home town. “When we first played shows on the Sunset Strip, we didn’t feel right there at all,” Elliot tells me. “We’re not some L.A. rock band – it’s a different persona, that guyliner rock band bullshit. It’s so fake and manufactured, it’s the rock version of seeing Paris Hilton on the street. We had to make up whatever we did, and it all comes from us.”

Funeral Party come from Whittier, a suburb of the city that’s reasonably far removed from the glamour and excess of the Strip. “People say that we’re an L.A. band, but we don’t really feel that way,” he says. “I mean, the suburb we come from is a very sleepy, boring part of town – it was planned as a retirement community, so there were never really meant to be a lot of children there.” Elliot’s love of music was borne of the kind of desperation that comes from being completely and utterly bored. “I had to be friends with myself because there were no other kids on the block,” he laughs. “When I met the band, that was kind of our ticket to get out of our parents nagging us, our school nagging us, or whatever was bugging us. The band was our escape, and when we started experiencing a bit of success, and realised we were able to make money – or beer money, at least – out of it, we started to see it a bit more as our ticket out of Whittier. Escape has a lot to do with it.”


Named after a song by The Cure, Funeral Party make spiky, rhythm-intensive music that harks back to English bands of a few decades hence. “At the time of starting the band, it was a lot of post-punk,” Elliot tells me, of his musical influences. “A lot of Gang Of Four, a lot of The Pop Group, and then a lot of different obscure post-punk, bands who only made one song. There was also a lot of funk music from our parents’ collections – Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross albums – and we drew on a lot of that for the record, too.” When it came to recording their debut, The Golden Age Of Knowhere, the band’s biggest influence was a more contemporary one – specifically, LCD Soundsystem. “We were really inspired by the way they put their music together, the way they work the rhythms, and we wanted to try doing that too.”


The Golden Age Of Knowhere was produced by Lars Stalfors of The Mars Volta – a fan of Funeral Party’s since their early days playing anarchic backyard gigs around L.A- and his aim was to bring out the energy of the band’s live show. “Lars knows us from years ago,” Elliot says, “and recording the album … he wanted to capture the spirit of those backyard party days.” The band recorded all their parts in isolation, at their producer’s insistence. “Lars loves us,” laughs Elliot, “but he knows that when we work together, we bump beads too much, so instead of keeping us together and having us argue, he separated us.”


You might assume that particular working method would inspire competitiveness, with each member hearing what the others had accomplished and vowing to do better. Looking back, though, Elliot doesn’t remember the experience as being like that at all. “As the singer, when I got the drafts they were still very rough,” he says. “I didn’t get the final draft to sing over, I had to sing over something fairly rudimentary-sounding, and since I didn’t know how it was going to turn out, I just had to give it my all either way. Lars’ll surprise you. He’ll record and you’ll think, ‘That was crap’ but he’ll say, ‘No, we got it!’, and then he’ll come back with something amazing. I’d think that I’d sung something that sounded like shit and Lars would bring back something incredible. He can work magic in the studio.”


Another hallmark of The Golden Age Of Knowhere is the presence of the cowbell – the single New York City Moves To The Sound Of L.A. is drenched in it, but it shows up on just about all the songs. I haven’t heard the instrument used this freely since The Rapture were ruling the indie rock roost. “We had the pleasure of having Alfredo Ortiz, the Beastie Boys’ percussionist, on our album,” Elliot explains. “He also plays the drums on a couple of tracks, and he’s a great percussionist. We always wanted to have cowbell, we were right on top of it, and that guy can play one mean-ass motherfucking cowbell. We were just like, the more the better; this is awesome – let’s put it on every track!”


In their relatively short career, Funeral Party have played a lot of shows, from those anything-goes backyard gigs through to international slots in the U.K. I ask Elliot if, of all of these, there’s one that sticks out as the most fun or memorable, and he pauses for a second. “From then until now?” he says. “There have been so many shows, it’s hard to pinpoint; I have a really bad long-term memory. The most recent one that was really fun, or that really sticks out, is a show that we played over in Manchester. It was insane – people were going crazy. I was wearing a necklace and I got pulled into the crowd, and someone was ripping my necklace off, someone was kissing me, another person was ripping my hair. The fans in the crowd were going crazy. I guess if people really want to pull you apart that much, you’re doing something right.”


Bringing back that narrative of escape, I ask Elliot where Funeral Party are going from here – are they planning on relocating to New York or even to the U.K., which feels a lot more like the spiritual home of the music that they make? “Sadly, the story hasn’t changed much for us,” Elliot laughs. “We’re still living in Whittier. We travel so much that it would be silly for us to move out. I mean, we have the means to, but we choose not to. It’s nice enjoying the comforts of home on our time off.” So it’s sex, drugs and rock and roll, plus clean sheets and free food, then. It kinda feels like the best of both worlds.