By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
They built the city of Echo Park only in anticipation that one day Future Pigeon would settle there; they preordained the old Echo Park Beauty Supply store to one day fail at supplying beauty so Future Pigeon could move in and set up their practice space and start a new beauty-supply outlet of their own; they green-lighted the permits necessary for the construction of a big rust-red storefront on the corner of Echo Park Avenue and a little cul-de-sac that pokes like a thumb back into the hills just so Jason Mason (Future Pigeon singer and scratch guitarist) could sit and smoke and hold court—his joke—at the first-floor coffee shop all afternoon long, a lighthouse lookout for the assessment of local vibes; they made sure the unmarked bomb squad SUVs got there but quick when a Future Pigeon neighbor (and Dengue Fever member) found 15 coffee cans of aging gunpowder in a disused bathtub just to preserve each Pigeon's vital limb and life; they even named the place that it might please these nine variously psychedelic post-Beefheart scraggly-hair sidewalk rockers, who started what's been called Eastside Los Angeles' first and only outlaw dub band because dub music itself is based on the infinite echo (the same way rock & roll is based on that 2/4 back-and-forth hip pump) and they really loved echoes. "I just love echoes," smiles Jason, ashing on a sketchbook. Some wild girls in plaid and tights walk up: "Are you interviewing Future Pigeon? They're the legendary long-term . . . hey, can I get a cigarette?"
Mason was an OC kid once, attending Huntington High (back when Huntington was all brick buildings, he says) and graduating into the Santa Ana river-roots-country-rock band you may remember as Wiskey Biscuit. But he also loved reggae and dub—a happy genre 180, like finding out rapper 2MEX is a hardcore fan of Fiona Apple, which he is—and he and Future bassist Eddie Ruscha (joined in parts later by percussionist Brandon Wells, guitarist Jeff Cairns—brother to Costa Mesa's famous Josh—drummer Lindsay Glover, keyboardist Danny Preston, saxophonist Liam Philpot, trumpeter Slim Zwerling and sound-system controller Tom Chasteen, plus an eight-foot joint that hangs over the band spraying out fog) started their outlaw dub band as a recording project dedicated to satisfying submarine explorations of the deepest trenches of dub. Says Mason: "If you're gonna do dub, you need tracks, so you can dub them out—so the band started accidentally, out of our need for tracks." They really were outlaws at the beginning, Eddie laughs—they stocked their homemade CD only at an Echo Park liquor store, where it sold tens of copies a week, and hunkered-down gangsters in hunkered-down cars used to stop them on the sidewalks and say, "Heyyyyyyyyyyy, it's Future Pigeon!" This was how Echo Park announced to Future Pigeon that it wanted their dub.
There wasn't much of a crossover then, Mason says, though Jamaican dub originators like Scientist had transplanted to semipermanent local homes. A band like Sublime left big frat-boy-sandal footprints on the idea of LA reggae, and local reggae club nights didn't much touch the golden oldies Mason and Ruscha were reverse-engineering in their studio. But LA punk and LA psych history—of both there are colossal turgid piles—meant LA dub too, says Mason—not an excuse for gross novelty soft-shoe as LA's pet hipster reggae band; instead as an obviously harmonic overlap between some of Ruscha's favorite locals—Beefheart, the Seeds, the Doors; psychedelic reverb artists all—and Jamaican echoplexers like Keith Hudson (the dub dentist, who cleaned teeth by day and washed brains by night) and Lee "Scratch" Perry and Mikey Dread. Two different trips toward the same black hole: an outer-space sound, says Mason, thinking of Wackies-style beeps and bloops noisily derezzed into their component pixels, thinking of the Future song "Wicked Man," in which (on the coming Echodelic Sounds Of . . . full-length, out soon on Record Collection) Mikey Dread disintegrates a melody like the Kinks' "Yes Sir No Sir" into reverb oblivion, thinking of the ping-pong percussion and the lo-fi busted cyber special effects that spark across Future Pigeon songs like a bumper dragging down the street. It's a bummed-smoke and bomb squad kind of sound, apocalyptic but with an LA Miracle Mile what-can-ya-do? smile, a high-altitude contrail connection between two smoky music cities pushed right up against an ocean. "Think of the psychedelic aspects of Jamaican music," says Mason, "and think of punk dub. Who's done it? Clash, Slits, Ruts, and that's it. It's kind of an unfinished thing."
That's what Echo Park was waiting for: not dub revolution but dub resolution, a long-time-coming local sound that could bounce back off the hills even better than hip-hop. Dub put real muscle on the heaviest cosmic pretensions of psychedelia, pulling the false bottom out of reggae rhythm so the music could just float in empty space. More so than almost anything else, it was heartbeat music, a supernatural—in both senses, really—subset of genre that worked through the bloodstream as much as the ears, gently aligning its own lattice of echo and rhythm into the internal echo and rhythm of the listener. Dub music is mercilessly persuasive; an infinite echo is infinitely patient. So the Future Pigeon interview takes hours: girls keep coming by; band members walk in and out; a yard sale sets up and breaks down on a fence across the street; from the back end of a cigarette, Jason watches dogs walk their owners by; and longhaired girls sing a cappella auditions of "Amazing Grace." On the wall behind him is graffiti that says VIBE CENTRAL. "I just like to come down and hang out," he says. "Listen to dub—I do it on these little speakers, so everyone can hear."
FUTURE PIGEON AND BROOKLINE AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600. THURS., FEB. 23, 9 P.M. $5. 21+.