By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Photo by Matt OttoDon't mention the lip tattoo. Don't mention the smoking. Not that anyone's smoking. Anything. Don't mention the . . . Well, that's something we can't even mention in the context of not-mentioning because the mere mention of its mentioning could cause horrible things to happen. But why all the not-mentioning? Living Science Foundation sigh a collective sigh.
"My parents are going to read this," says guitarist Justin Wright. Or maybe it was drummer Justin McMahon.
"But you can mention my parents," says singer John Ringhoff brightly. "Eve and Steve Ringhoff. From Modesto!"
So there's a lot of . . . concern in Living Science Foundation, a band that—besides critical acclaim (which they deserve), financial comfort (which they also deserve) and a tour van with a DVD player (which was supposed to roll in Monday)—really just hopes their parents are proud of them.
Which they should be. Especially if their parents are really into dub and Krautrock and as long as they don't try to hang around backstage (kidding, Eve and Steve, kidding!). But unlike every other band who cares about what their parents think—like the punk bands who can't cuss or else daddy takes the gas card away—Living Science Foundation aren't worried about making mommy mad. They're just a band who likes to follow a plan. And that plan, at least today, doesn't happen to involve lip tattoos.
They built their own studio so they could get out of the pay-to-play places, with four Limp Bizkits straining away on all sides, says Ringhoff. And now they rehearse in a hospitable-if-corrugated warehouse in Alhambra for as long or as often as they want. And they record there, too, in what bassist Pete Lyman named Infrasonic Sound, an up-to-the-minute digital-or-analog facility you'll likely be hearing more from—especially if you buy anything on GSL Records. And they also watch DVDs, eat Mexican food, drink beer and even sleep there. They mixed their album in the same room where they spaced out on Pink Floyd's The Wall flick.
Wow, we say. You're a commune.
"Yeah!" says Wright with a grin. "Like Amon Duul!"
Apt comparison: like the German psycho-hippies who turned barns and old barracks into sound laboratories of the future in the '60s and '70s, Living Science Foundation do best what they do as a unit all tuned to the same weird wavelength. And like those German psycho-hippies, Living Science is meticulously Teutonic about everything except making their music, which they let coalesce together like patterns out of smoke.
Not that anyone's smoking.
"There's a lot of uncertainty in our music, which I like," says McMahon, who grew up in Dana Point and has the Chinese characters for "music" tattooed across his wrist—so he can remind himself at any moment what he gets to do when he's done with work. "You never know how the song is going to turn out."
And by the time you hit "Seaswept," track five on their debut album, Last Call for Nightfall (out soon on Second Nature), you understand what he means: suddenly, the booster rockets fall off, and it's time to just . . . float. Living Science is one of those rare, technically accomplished bands that plays fair with each and every influence, parceling out slivers of song structure to heavy, echo-wet dub; drone-y Krautrock Moebius loops; six-cylinder, post-hardcore, incomprehensible noise-improv head-ons; even guitars-on-10 rock & roll—though when Living Science rock out, they're still always careful not to disturb their guitar pedals.
Forget dance-y bands who've never heard ESG, dub-y bands who've never heard Keith Hudson, Krautrockers who have yet to hear Electric Sandwich (file traders, start your engines!). Living Science Foundation has—as of last Sunday, when they were getting ready to stay up all night watching the reggae movie Rockers—pretty much heard it all. "I am still going to post my favorite albums from 1971," explains Wright in a what-we're-listening-to section on the LSF website. "I shall continue on my own."
And they use it all, too: while the Rapture sits around Brooklyn listening to the Cure all night, Living Science gets stoned—not that anyone's smoking—with Mikey Dread on Skylab.
"The main thing about the band," says Lyman, "is that everyone listens to different music. But then we rip on one another's taste a lot."
"Yeah," says Wright. "Like me."
"Justin would make me listen to a guy who, like, strings up his ball hair and plays it like a violin," says Ringhoff.
Who is he talking about? we ask.
"I think he's talking about . . . Glenn Branca," says Wright.
Ah, Glenn Branca, the drone-pioneer at the heart of the storied New York no-wave scene, the heir to American genius Harry Partch's motley alt.-symphony tradition, the dude who helped deliver the kick in the pants Sonic Youth needed to get sonic-ing back about 1982. Ah, Glenn Branca: ball hair.
"He's not pigheaded," explains Lyman. "There's a lot of shit I said I once hated that I now like—because I understand it."
Dread would get it. So would Amon Duul. So might mom and dad. It's about evolution, artistry, creativity unfettered by convention, seeking the new, building on the old—commune-manifesto plans. Living Science like plans because it makes sure they don't have to deal with limits. Unless they put them there.