More poetry from the Star Wars generation
There is something very perfect about Paul and Lara McAdams, the brother and sister who comprise the pop duo Paul and Lara. To begin with, they're fantastically, out-of-this-world, exceptionally perfect-looking, down to their perfect straight white teeth, excellent posture and smooth, sanguine complexions. Paul, 23, and Lara, 21, are obsessed with health, so they eat right, work out and get allergy shots. They also smile easily, laugh at the appropriate times and listen intently. Paul and Lara possess lovely hair, every strand in its proper place; Paul sports his natural honey hue in a stylish mod cut, while Lara opts for a frosted, tousled, nape-of-the-neck-skimming style. Along with their younger sister and parents, they attend church every Sunday and have, for the most part, always attended Christian schools. In the summers, Paul (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, drums) and Lara (vocals, organ, percussion) live with their extremely supportive, close-knit family in a homey, art-filled house in Corona del Mar. During the school year, the two live—together—in Los Angeles, where they attend USC. Paul, who ended up at USC after taking classes at Orange Coast College and UC Irvine, has two semesters left before graduating with a music degree. Lara, who ended up at USC after taking classes at Biola University, has two years left before graduating in religion.
And, for the record, Paul and Lara do not like television, sex in advertising, smokers, white sugar and white flour, fat, being in a band with anyone besides each other, and most music made today. "I don't listen to much new stuff," says Lara. "I surround myself with things that aren't going to influence me as much, like Carole King or the Partridge Family."
"There's something about listening to music where we're not inundated with advertisements and promotion for the artist, that we can listen to the music more unbiased, with a clear opinion," Paul adds. "That's one reason we like music that might be a little bit older. Also, I think, it's just usually better, for some reason."
Growing up, Paul and Lara listened to pop. Paul loved the Monkees; Lara loved the Beach Boys. "I think the only thing I owned when I was little was Beach Boys albums," Lara recalls. "When I was in sixth grade, I was all excited because they had a concert on TV."
"Oh, yeah, wasn't that with, like, John Stamos on drums?" Paul asks his sister playfully before making fun of her for the one lame mass-culture crime she probably ever committed in her sunny-dispositioned life: watching Full House. "You totally watch TGIF? Don't you?" Paul asks, referring to the WB's Thank God It's Friday lineup of really bad TV shows including, for a time, Full House.
"I used to watch it when I was working out," Lara admits. "That was when it was good, though."
Paul and Lara serve up this jovial ribbing in a way that's less about public humiliation and more about affirming, repeatedly, how close they are. When Paul and Lara agree on something, they will say, sometimes at the exact same time, with the exact same intonation, in a way that's so exactly the same that it's somewhat alarming, "I know. Seriously."
For example: you are at a coffeehouse, and it took you forever to meet Paul and Lara at an outside table because you were inside trying to get a cup of coffee, and there was only one guy working in there, and man alive, was he ever slow!
You: Sorry about that. It was really slow in there!
Paul and Lara: I know. Seriously!
When Paul and Lara talk, they look at each other, smile at each other, and giggle at each other.
"We've been best friends ever since we were 2 years old being 'super buddies' down the hallway with our capes on," says Lara.
"We're really good partners because we've lived with each other our whole lives," says Paul.
"We think alike," adds Lara.
Paul and Lara make music that's much better, much more creative and very different than what you're probably imagining at this point. As retro as the music they listen to may be, there is a decidedly science-fiction, futuristic new-wave sound to the poppy music they make, which includes an array of samples, loops and computer sounds. But—and this gets tricky—their music is futuristic not in the way we think of the future, but futuristic in the way people thought of the future about 50 years ago, which makes it retro-futuristic. "More poetry from the Star Wars generation," Paul says, laughing.
The amazing thing is that Paul and Lara's music doesn't suffer for its lack of a harder edge. It's layers of melody upon melody, yet never cloying. You begin to wonder whether they ever listened to anything hard growing up, or if it was all Monkees, all the time. "We like punk from the late '70s and early '80s, the Damned, all that stuff," says Paul. Lara says she likes the Ramones. And then Paul explains his take on "the hard stuff": "I think a lot of metal is comical; that's why I don't listen to it," he says. "It's not so much that it's hard; I mean, you have a guy on double bass, and it sounds, I don't know, kind of silly, and some guy trying to be tough but," Paul pauses, scrunching up his eyes and gesturing with his hands for emphasis, "you know, you just know that he's just as scared as everyone else."
Paul and Lara have tried being in bands with other people, including, most recently, Antenna Force. But they've found it's easier when it's just the two of them. "When you're in a band, there's this maintenance sometimes of 'Are you still interested?' and making sure everyone is enthusiastic about it, and that's a chore that we don't want to have," says Paul.
"We live together and work together. It's just easier. We think alike in what we're doing," says Lara.
Which doesn't mean it's only always the two of them. For most live shows, Paul sings and plays guitar, Lara sings and plays organ, and they get a bass player and drummer to perform with them. But "in terms of songwriting and things like that, we're pretty sufficient with ourselves," says Paul. "We're not really a band, it's not how we operate. We pretty much have everything conceived and figured out before it goes out."
A few years ago Bob Hurley of sportswear company Hurley heard a demo, liked what he heard, and offered the duo some money to record in a plush recording studio. They recorded three songs. One of them—a peppy, surfy pop song called "Picturella" that is about watching too much television—is featured on the compilation Heal the Bay alongside tracks from Blink 182, Reel Big Fish and Goldfinger. The song pops up again in a slower, more bizarre, synthesizer-laden form on Paul and Lara's self-titled, self-released debut album, which they recorded themselves at home using digital technology.
Recording purists, who pray at the altar of all things analog, would find Paul and Lara's methods reprehensible. "I understand how they feel, and I love recording with 2-inch tape, but I love making an album, too, and this is how we were able to make an album," says Paul.
Plus, Paul and Lara felt more comfortable recording in their own home.
"We've recorded in nice studios before, and the benefit of doing this was we were so relaxed," says Paul. "It was just the two of us, taking our time."
Paul and Lara play at The Hub, 124 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-2233. Fri., 9 P.M. Free. All ages. For more information on Paul and Lara, go to www.paulandlaura.com.
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