An older man on his phone leads me through his Inglewood home to his backyard where a big brown and black dog named Bowie greets me. I’m here to meet Inner Wave who are in their garage studio, aka the Swamp — named for the studio’s ability to clog up pores with sweat. I catch them just after their rehearsal. The Swamp is filled with iridescent blinking lights, five keyboards, several amps, guitars, mics, a trumpet, a new drum set, copacetic stickers, and posters plastered all over the walls, a huge LCD monitor with their setlist, and a small black A/C unit. A big 7 by 5 poster donning their band name from a Cal State Fullerton ASB performance is hung on the ceiling.
The five-piece indie rock ensemble is part of a new L.A indie scene which includes Cuco, Bane’s World, Katzu Oso, Jasper Bones, August Eve, the Red Pears, and the Altons. The group consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Pablo Sotelo, bassist and vocalist Jean Pierre Narvaez, guitarist and keyboard player Elijah Trujillo, keyboardist Chris Runners, and drummer Luis Portillo. Three of the bandmates – lead vocalist and guitarist Pablo Sotelo, bassist and vocalist Jean Pierre Narvaez, and guitarist and keyboard player Elijah Trujillo – met in middle school in Gardena and have been playing music together for 13 years.
There might have never been an Inner Wave if Sotelo’s mom didn’t pull the poor mom’s Aunt Becky and use a different address to get him to go to a better school in Gardena instead of a school in South Central.
“I remember my mom said the middle school I was supposed to go to smelled like weed,” says Sotelo as the band passes around a Stiizy vape pen. Instead, she decided to move him to a middle school in Gardena. “Shout out to Gardena,” he adds.
Inner Wave early work is in the garage rock style of the Strokes. Even their band insignia is conspicuously similar to the Strokes. However, the last couple of releases have shifted away from this nostalgic sound. What led to this change of musical direction? The typical catalyst for a genre change is usually drugs, a life-changing experience, or getting a U-Haul containing their drum set and a Fender Hot Rod Deville amp stolen while on tour in Portland, Oregon. For Inner Wave, it was the latter. Luckily, they were on their second to last day of the tour when their U-Haul full of gear got stolen. Triathlon graciously shared their gear for the remainder of the tour.
“When I showed up to get the U-Haul, there were just two chains,” says Trujillo. “I was so confused.”
This forced them to shift their songwriting from instrument driven to electronic beats when they wrote new music. This was back in March 2018 and the result is the four-track EP WYA, the culmination of that experimentation. They have since expanded on this electronic sound and created a second EP. The first EP, WYA, will be released on May 23rd. The second EP is slated to be released later this year.
“I feel like it’s just B-sides really. It’s a mix of old stuff, new stuff, and we decided to group it together and put it out,” says Sotelo. “Are we calling it WYA…is that all we’re saying about the stuff?
WYA consists of three methods of songwriting: Sotelo writing parts and bringing them to the band. The second way is Sotelo and a few of the guys collaborating on a song together. And the third way — and the more rare method — is when they all collaborate together and jam. Much of WYA was done by the first and second method on a laptop. They used drum samples and loops instead of real drums because they had no drum set. He also added voice over samples inspired by MF Doom and Madlib.
“I’ve been listening to a lot of Tears for Fears and Rico Nasty when I made this. It’s hard to say though,” says Sotelo. “It’s our attempt at pop stuff.”
They are set for their first UK tour and are finally on the verge of a burgeoning career. However, this might not even have occurred if they never met Doris Muñoz at a Night on Broadway event in Downtown L.A. Keyboardist Chris Runners ended up hanging out with Muñoz at an after party and talked about music and business the whole night. He was immediately attracted by how business savvy she was. This friendship blossomed into a partnership with her company Mija Mgmt.
“I knew her because I saw here at shows,” Runners says. “On Night on Broadway was the first time I hung out with her. We went to her house afterward. Even though we were partying and having fun, they were talking about work until 4 am. I learned a lot from just listening to them. Over the next couple of weeks, we talked more and asked her if she could manage us.”
They had a manager before Muñoz. According to the group, he didn’t seem to be a good fit with the band. “There was a guy trying to manage us, but we just didn’t really click like at all,” says Runners.
“He did not understand us…in every way possible,” adds Sotelo with a laugh. According to Sotelo, he had no connection to the current music scene. Every story he had, was “10 years ago I worked with the dude from Daft Punk” but he didn’t know anyone current.
“I’m reluctant to say more because I don’t know if he reads the OC Weekly,” says Sotelo.
“Drag him,” says someone.
“Naw, he didn’t do us any harm,” says Sotelo.
“He didn’t do us any good either,” says Runners.
“From what I know, he’s a decent human,” says Sotelo.
“He does have good taste in coffee spots in the westside,” adds Runners. Everyone erupts laughing.
Inner Wave will perform at the Observatory on June 6th and at the Fonda on June 8th. You can get tickets here.
I like to stare at my computer. Occasionally I type words to pass the time. Those words are usually about music.