After 4 years of gathering local buzz in the Orange County and Los Angeles music circuits, Highland Park's Levitation Room have finally released their debut full-length album, Ethos. The throwback pysch-rock group raise political awareness and somber introspection on Ethos. At times, the album feels like a fun acid trip meant to cleanse a melancholy soul as it carries a musical lysergic and euphoric haze— a sense that no matter what you're going through, everything's gonna be alright. Levitation Room consists of Julian Porte (guitar/lead vocals), Gabriel Fernandez (lead guitar/vocals), Johnathan Martin (drums) and Jonathan Martin (bass/vocals)— yes there's two Jon/John Martins in the band! Lead singer, Julian Porte, chatted with the Weekly about the band's signing to Burger Records, their relationship with Top Acid and the philosophy behind Ethos.
OC Weekly (Denise De La Cruz): I read that you played guitar on the streets of Uptown Whittier for tips, I'm personally from Whittier are you?
Julian Porte: Yes and I still do! Busking on the streets of Whittier were formative years for me. And yes, I was born and raised in Whittier. Whittier has always been a big part of who I am. They say that we're products of our environment, and if that's the case, then Whittier is a wonderful place to grow up and have a childhood. It's an old quaker town named after a poet and you can tell that the community has preserved its natural beauty and has been home to many artists, writers and musicians. I sing its praises!
How did you guys hook up with Burger Records?
Well me and John (drummer) used to play for The Abigails whenever they needed fill in's for their tours. We were on a Burger caravan tour to SXSW and we eventually got to talk to Sean and Lee. We told them we had a band back home and that we would love for them to check us out. They were sweethearts and told us to come by their shop in Fullerton to show them what we had. When we finally did, they liked our music and invited us to be apart of the Burger family.
How do you think your new album differs from the Minds of Our Own EP?
There's a few distinctions. First off, Minds Of Our Own was recorded digitally and on separate tracks in our friend's studio. Ethos was recorded live on a 6-track analog tape recorder with a few decent mics. Even though a couple of the songs from Minds Of Our Own made it onto Ethos, Ethos is a different animal altogether. The sound is a little warmer, the songs start to go in a different direction towards the end of the album and there's more instrumentation with the addition of our keyboardist, Glenn Brigman, who actually helped record and produce the album with us.
Lyrically, what themes are explored on Ethos?
The theme of this album and the lyrical content focuses on problems that pertain to the struggle of life, introspection, love and politics. There's definitely an element of fun in there, but we wanted this album to have a little more substance than to just talk about girls and relationship problems.
Why name the album Ethos?
The album title just came to me. The word ethos was stuck in my head for a long time after taking a philosophy course in college when I was younger. So when the album was done and we started thinking about a title in correlation to the theme of the songs, ethos was the first word that popped into my head. We wanted the album to voice and encompass everything that people believe or struggle with, personally and collectively. If you look up the word ethos on Wikipedia it says "The Greeks also used this word to refer to the power of music to influence its hearer's emotions, behaviors, and even morals." We thought that was pretty cool.
Why are you so drawn to '60s psychedelic culture?
To us (well, I think I speak for most of us in the band), there's nothing like the music from the '60s. The music then was genuine, innovative and encompassed everything that is powerful about music. They weren't afraid to fight the establishment and be vocal about the immorality of social issues that plagued their generation. It was an era where art, music and the best minds culminated into something revolutionary and implored people to think and expand their consciousness. I guess we just wish that we could find that same kind of expression in the world today.
Who are your musical influences?
I know people get tired of hearing it because it's so typical, but The Beatles are my greatest influence. To me, they're the quintessential band. In fact, they're so important to me, that my only fear of death is that there will be no Beatles music to listen to wherever I go [laughs]. God, let there be Beatles music in the afterlife! Umm... The Kinks are another great band that had a profound influence on me and the band. The Stones, The Pretty Things, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Bob Dylan, jazz, blues, country, folk, world music, classical music etc. The list goes on.
You guys have a show on March 30th at The Yost Theater with Top Acid. How did that relationship form?
Chris Gonzales from Top Acid reached out to us a while ago to play an outdoor festival in Santa Ana. He did a really great job putting it together and a lot of kids came out to catch our set. Ever since then we've been good friends and have always been down with his endeavors. We need more people like him to bring people together and keep the love of local music alive.
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What do you hope people take from Levitation Room's music?
Like any band, we hope that the listeners will enjoy it. We hope that it will arouse their consciousness in some way and maybe inspire them to realize the true value of their life. Our message for them is: don't let anything compromise your dreams or aspirations. It's incumbent upon them to try and make a change and take heed of all the love and possibilities that surround them.
You can stream Levitation Room's debut album, Ethos, here.
Levitation Room will perform at The Yost Theater on Wednesday Mar. 30. 7:30p.m., $10. and at the Constellation Room on Thursday Apr. 14. 8p.m., $8.