IMPURITAN interview

I did not know Impuritan until Alex Iliopoulos (Greek-American) sent me their first cd album called "look like nothing happened". One great psychedelic rock album, full of trippy songs and also with some experimental and dark elements.

Brick and Mortar liveIntroduce us the band. When did you actually start?
Impuritan (http://www.impuritan.net) is me, David Molina, and Pepe Abad.  David and I are multi-instrumental (covering guitar, bass, keys, and vocals both live and in the studio to varying degrees on different songs). We use loops and David handles electronics. Pepe is our drummer/percussionist.

I started Impuritan as a solo recording project in 2005 while living on the US east coast.  It became an actual band in 2011 a few years after I moved to San Francisco. David and I were mixing & producing the first EP "Hijacked Artifacts, Treasured Forms" (http://distantspore.bandcamp.com/album/hijacked-artifacts-treasured-forms) when he joined the band.

Our friends Owen Grace and John Lee played bass and drums respectively for a while, and recorded with us on a few songs from our LP "Make It Look Like Nothing Happened" (http://distantspore.bandcamp.com/album/make-it-look-like-nothing-happened).

The current trio has been together for over a year and we've toured together.  We have a US east coast tour planned for September, and are currently recording eight new songs.

The production of the record is by you?  Who is responsible for your sound?
David and I mix and produce all Impuritan recordings. We mostly self-engineer and self-record, but basic tracking for past releases was done at Tiny Telephone studios with engineer Ian Pellicci.  All of our new material 100% is self-recorded with a mobile studio setup.

Both David and I handle mixing and production. David has years of sound engineering and music production experience, plus a keen ear and technical proficiency. We have a real blast working together and feed off each others' ideas naturally.  Our recorded sound is a direct byproduct of many hours and days of work. We know better than anyone else what we want things to sound like.

Which are the first sounds that you remember?
Eastern tones and scales were some of the first sounds I remember hearing, other than pop music my parents listened to when I was young. I grew up in the Middle East and was exposed to Arab culture from a young age. So my first music exposure was definitely a mix of eastern sounds (amplified prayers in mosques) and the western/American pop my parents would listen to on their stereo.

Greek folk music also has lots of eastern tonality. Incidentally, American surf music has the same tonalities, a kind of west-meets-east via reverb-drenched guitar and high energy. Even early sounds have a lasting impact.

Do you know anything from greek music?
I think the most influential "classic" Greek music for me is rembetika.  Its roots involved hash-smoking in caves and playing music in secrecy. There are not many original recordings of those songs, but people replaying them instead.  There is something romantic about that.

Acid Baby Jesus are a fun band and I like their music, but you wouldn't know they are Greek from the sound of their songs. I don't listen to much contemporary Greek music to be honest. I'd love some tips from you, George, on good Greek bands that are underground, non-pop, or trippy. (Check the Crystal Thoughts, Yesterdays Thoughts, Purple Overdose, Social End Products…..)

Which musical styles forced you to form a band?
Brick and Mortar live
Impuritan is a real mix of influences.  We are lovers of post-rock, psychedelic, shoegaze, surf, ambient, punk, and experimental noise.  Our specific influences would vary if you ask each person, but there's also lots of common ground.

If I start listing individual bands and artists that influence me, we'll be here a long time.  I am personally a big fan of bands that have taken noise and sculpted something of beauty out of it, such as Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine.  Fuzzy guitars, feedback, and the weird tones of psych music have played a big role, as have bands that use unconventional song structures.

We have musical heroes from every decade, basically.  I always like to hear what influences people hear in our music - sometimes it's bands I don't much listen to.

Non-musical influences play a role too. Film, visual art, cosmology, philosophy, and of course relationships with people.  It's hard to run out of inspiration when there are so many interesting thoughts and ideas in the world.

 What kind of music did you hear as a child? Nowadays what kind of music do you like most?  Do you believe that your musical influences are reflected in your music?
I think all musicians and music-obsessive people naturally grow more eclectic the longer we explore what's out there.  I originally played clarinet and trumpet starting age 8 or so. What I learned to play guitar on was grunge, punk, and metal during my early teens.  In my early 20s I dove deeper into 60s psychedelia, old soul music, surf, and experimental genres. It's been an ongoing process of seeking newer sounds and tracing your influences' influences back further.

Today, many bands that fit under the "psychedelic" umbrella are most enjoyable to my ear provided they are doing something interesting and not just rehashing the 60s.  The list is always changing.  My rotation is old favorites (classic punk and old metal) mixed with contemporaries like Thee Oh Sees, Laika, Serena-Maneesh, and Ty Segall.  I don't like making lists because I feel like I'm always leaving something out!

Your album is out on cd. Are you interested of making a vinyl release?
We are definitely interested in releasing vinyl.  Vinyl and cassette have seen a resurgence in popularity. I think it's because those formats pay tribute to a time when finding and listening to music took more effort on the listener's part, and wasn't a stepping stone to digital duplication.

The only limiting factor for vinyl so far has been manufacturing cost.  We'd like to do a split release with another band of our ilk, or work with a label to make a vinyl release happen.

Have you been members in other bands? How you would describe your music?
David is involved in so much it's hard to keep track. Some of his other bands include Ghosts & Strings and Earthlike, plus he's done a ton of film scoring and soundtrack work.  He plays with Idris Ackamoor of The Pyramids, and also has an ambient solo project called Transient. He and I actually did a duo show as Transient vs. Impuritan once, with me on noise guitar/loops and him on many instruments, samples, etc. doing pure improvisation. It was off the hook and lots of fun.

My old bands in Washington DC were Psychic Twin and Red Right Return.  Here in San Francisco I played with a band called Spiral Bombs shortly before Impuritan came together.

Pepe's old band from Peru is called La Ira De Dios, who he played and toured with extensively.

We generally call our music "experimental rock" because people's eyes may glaze over if you throw out four or five genres for a single band.  It's psychedelic, but also more than that.

In your hometown are any other bands with similar sound?
San Francisco has always been a hub for counterculture, progressive thinking, and honoring "the underdog."  There is a vibrant music scene both here and in the East Bay.

Unfortunately, it has also become the most expensive city in the US (not a good thing for art and creativity). Lots of musicians have been pushed out and relocated to Oakland and other parts of the East Bay were life is more affordable.

The music scene is still vibrant here.  You can see a good live show or art event almost any night of the week if you are adventurous and know where to look.
Who made the cover art? This creepy skeleton how is connected to your music?
ImpuritanJohn Benko did the cover art for our LP. He has a fantastic and unique style.

The image actually ties into the title of the album. Earth is an ancient place compared to our tiny human lifespans. Much older forms of life have no doubt been buried by meteor strikes or geological events.  The skeleton on the cover is an imaginary creature.

This planet has a talent for making it "look like nothing happened".  What physical trace will we leave if humans went extinct?  After enough time, possibly nothing.

The lyrics of 'Show us your hidden daggers' are referred to. 
The song title is a calling to people to unleash hidden desires or repressed imagination. The only lyrics in that song are the refrain, "Your dormant dreams." The abstract, fantastical, and creative is often at odds with a materialistic and money-driven society.  But thoughts and imagination are really the true weapons of change. They are our hidden daggers.

How people respond to your music at the internet and to your live shows?
People seem to really enjoy our music. We've gotten positive reviews from all over the world.  I believe that our sound may not be for everyone or geared toward mass appeal, but those who gravitate towards psychedelic, experimental, or noisier rock music really enjoy what we do.

The internet is a blessing for reaching people's ears, but it can be tough to get people's genuine attention. We are all constantly bombarded with music online, and not all of it good.  I like to think great music will naturally rise to the top even in this new medium.

For live performance, we've been using visuals and projections at our shows increasingly more.  Not because it's kind of trendy at the moment, but to put people into a different head space and alter their consciousness naturally via their ears and their eyes.

I assume that this is your own label, isn't it? DIY  is it the best way for your music?
Distant Spore is our own label, correct.  If a record label is interested in working with us, we'll be very receptive.  It's just not our style to sit around and wait for others to make things happen.  If you are making art you believe in, you should do everything you can do spread it to as many people as possible.

We have been recording eight new songs so far this year.  Our rough plan is to put out four of them as an EP on Distant Spore.  We would ideally like to get an indie label that is enthusiastic about our music to release the other four songs in some type of format. Either way, we're 100% committed to creating and playing our music.

How do you write your songs (music and lyrics)? Is it a team work?  
We collaborate with songwriting now more than ever.  Sometimes I come to practice with song ideas and pre-written parts, which we usually combine with other sections or sounds we create through pure improvisation.

It's really a mix. We consciously try to blend conventional composition and structured parts with more chaotic, dissonant, or ambient sounds.  Improvisation is always in the equation, both live and on record.

David and I are both sound junkies, so we are always tweaking and refining parts till they feel right to us. I am a bit more of a words guy, so I like to have my hand in the lyrics when I can. Pepe also has good fundamental instincts when it comes to feel, vibe, or arrangement of a song.  The fact that we're able to create quality, raw stuff regularly out of improv is a real blessing.

Which are your future plans?
We are recording 8 new songs right now, and still trying to determine how they will be released (at least one new EP will be out soon).  We are also playing an Austin Psych Fest/Levitation pre-show on March 7 in Austin, TX (https://www.facebook.com/events/693038427508609/).  We plan to do more consistent touring, and may even come to Europe and Greece soon.  Label support would help us widen our tour scope and schedule.

Our music is also well-suited to soundtracks and scoring, and we'd love to work with other visual artists or filmmakers by either contributing our music or creating unique music in a more collaborative approach.

Anything else that you would like to add?
Nothing else to add, really.  Thanks for your support and we're glad you enjoy the music!

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