Space Is the Place

Far fuckin' out, man—the Year Zero is a band, but it's also a lot more. Lili De La Mora and Rodney Sellars explain.

Artwork seems to be a big part of the band, considering the list of visual influences that runs alongside musical ones on your MySpace page, plus the art gallery on your band site.

Sellars: It all kind of goes together. I do a lot of these otherworldly paintings and collages, and the music has the same vibe as the artwork. Luckily, I'm not organized enough to do a concept album, but I like the concept of a concept album. For me it's fun to have this vision of these songs and then this notion of the space that these songs take place in or come from, this kind of world.

Is your album an actual concept record?

Sellars: It is in the sense that I heard somewhere the Beatles said people think of Sgt. Pepper's as a concept album, but they only got two songs into the concept and then it was just a bunch of songs. And people still think of it as a concept album. This record is a vague concept album—a concept album without a real specific thing going through the whole album, but everything's related to everything else.

So Rodney created all the artwork on the sites and the album cover?

Sellars: Yeah. It all kind of comes from the same brain, so it all goes together. Most of my art is that retro futuristic style. Originally I had a movie concept for the Year Zero, but I didn't have enough organizational skills to work all that out with the plot and everything. I think a movie is the most elaborate creative endeavor you could ever undertake. We're doing the band first to make money, and eventually we'll make the movie off the profits. [Laughs.]

So there's a general concept for the Year Zero that includes artwork, the band and maybe a movie?

Sellars: Yeah. I was fascinated with 1984, kind of these futuristic states where everything's all centrally controlled, the whole totalitarian state thing—like Anthem by Ayn Rand, or the song “2112” by Rush. That whole concept has always freaked me out. So maybe if you have a band and you sing songs about a state like that, then it won't actually happen. It won't come to pass. But a lot of the songs aren't about that. It's something more existential, about life experiences. But there's definitely a sci-fi influence.

De La Mora: I'm very much inspired by it—the whole idea of alternate futures, like life could have gone in this direction if just a few things had gone a different way. And just the whole idea of the year zero—you have a blank slate and you can start over. Sort of like what if there was an apocalypse, but it wasn't necessarily a bad thing, and it meant that some of the things that are taking us in the wrong direction just kind of stop? It would be scary because the comforts would be gone, but then again you would have all of this freedom and a chance to start something else. Those are the feelings I get singing the songs and looking at the artwork.

The band's sort of mellow, spacey sound isn't really typical of Southern California.

De La Mora: One thing I've heard is that it was nice to hear a band that wasn't so loud. Usually you go into a bar and the music might be really good, but it's overwhelming how loud sometimes people feel they have to play. We don't necessarily feel that we have to be all that loud. We've been doing mostly acoustic shows, but we brought out the electric guitar at the last show for a few songs. In our own mellow way we tried to rock out a little bit. And Rodney stood up. That's the “rock out” part.


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