Facial's second LP Facade is a darkly luminous affair, a perfect reflection of our times. Chain Letter correspondent Emily Twombly sat down with the group last October while they were on tour to discuss the meaning and genesis of the new record. The result is a frank and enlightening conversation on all things Facial.
You can catch Facial at the Hi Hat Jan 27th for the Hi Hat's 2 Year Anniversary party.
(ET) This has obviously been a super tough year for everyone. How has that affected your song writing for your new album?
Jay: Well, actually all of the songs on FACADE were written before Trump was even elected, but a lot of the lyrics on the record talk about things that are extremely applicable in a post-trump America. We have been writing continuously all year, and the current state of our world has certainly affected our songwriting, giving us new perspective and a new passion to feed off.
Cam: I feel like the political climate is an unavoidable influence, even if it feels tired it’s just so overpowering between the media and the anger felt by peers. I wrote the lyrics to Zero Sum months before Trump was elected from my experience in England, everyone was cold to me as an American and I just wanted to wear a sign on me everywhere like “I am an American but also hate this orange Cheeto man!”
Sam: I think it is important to use the chaos of today’s world to reexamine what it is we are doing with our time and energy. To use the overwhelming uncertainty of it all to focus on the things that matter and make sense to you. I definitely feel a renewed sense of purpose with music in today’s world.
What is your process as a band for writing songs and how do you decide what you want to write about? Talk about the importance of your lyrics to your songs. Do you have a favorite on the album?
Jay: We write in many fashions; all together, alone or tag-team. Cam and I handle most the lyrics, and one of us will usually decide what the song is about and give the other a theme to work off of. It may be abstract and vague or concrete and specific, depends on what kind of song it is. In some songs the lyrics act to paint an impression of mood and feeling, and in other songs they are literal and are trying to say something specific.
Cam: Ditto what Jay said, we trust each other’s ideas and passion so it always comes out on top. I’d say lyrically my favorite on the album is probably Animals.
Talk a little bit about what Animals is about and what it means to you.
Cam: In LA's music scene (or of course any music scene) there seems to be unavoidable large chunks of time spent in dive bars. It's part of the culture. Sometimes though it’s disgusting, people lining up desperate for sedation, like cattle waiting for the slaughter. I grew in small town Oregon and have seen slaughterhouses. It's pretty brutal. I guess we just wanted to paint that connection, corralling together in dark places slowly offing ourselves...damn this came off dark!
Jay: We all work in bars too, so we have front row seats to this display almost nightly. People totally checking out mentally, probably running from something or another. People completely lose awareness and I think that kind of self-induced unconsciousness is a plague within our culture and is something that leads to a lot of the sexual behavior that we are now becoming aware of in this industry and the movie industry. I drink and do drugs but I'm not into checking out.
I've been thinking a lot about how to make shows feel more inclusive to everyone and what responsibility the band has in facilitating that. Do you think a band has the responsibility to make their own shows inclusive and safe?
Jay: Sure, I think the band sets the tone for shows. Our music is pretty serious but at shows we like to keep it silly and have a lot of fun being crazy and being ourselves, which I hope makes people feel open and let loose. That being said Facial is not for everybody, but all are welcome! Except Nazis.
Sam: I agree with Jay. While it is not the responsibility of the band to write music for everyone, it is everyone’s responsibility to promote an environment that is open to including anyone. When you have a stage of any kind that you can use to speak to others, it is your responsibility to set an example that does not promote hate. That goes for any stage, from a plywood platform in a dirty bar, to being the president of the USA.
I'm writing these questions in the wake of the shooting at the music festival in Las Vegas. There have been multiple terror attacks (domestic or otherwise) in the past couple of years that have happened at music events. I guess I'm wondering if, like me, you feel personally violated by these attacks since they've been on what normally feels like "our turf."
Jay: Certainly it hits close to home, and makes you think twice about going to any large events. but this fear it creates in us, its the only thing we actually have control over. I think we have to stare that fear in the eyes and tell it that we aren't scared and we won't cower. We will always congregate to experience live music together, no matter what. If you close off because of fear, you aren't open for life and love, then life isn't worth living. Then the terrorists win! Fuck that.
Cam: Of course, deeply violated, it’s disgusting and makes me fucking sick. But you start living in fear and the domestic terrorists win. It’s hard to go off about without getting into a gun control argument, which I’d rather not, so yeah, guess we’ll just wait for the next one huh? Fuck domestic terrorism. And fuck the media who won’t call it that.
I really like the video you made for Black Noise. Tell me about what it means to you and how you came up with the idea.
Jay: we came up with the idea with the director, Jack Mikesell. The idea transformed through many iterations, but to me its basically saying: no matter how much men think they are all powerful and no matter how impervious they think what they've built is, they will be put into the ground by a force much greater than them, i.e. mother nature (or strong women who take a stand together)
Sam: I also means that we are killer dancers
Do you guys like dancing? So often, I see dudes in their own music videos just standing around and looking cool or doing "tough guy" things. I really appreciate that you guys take a more active approach and aren't afraid to look weird or gross. Was it a challenge for you to push those boundaries?
Jay: I love to dance! I am definitely not interested in portraying a cool guy image. I feel when that image is exalted, everyone tries to act cool too but really just makes everybody more uptight and controlled. But when u set an example that is more loose and crazy, then it gives room for people to be that way as well. When i was a kid, though, I was terribly scared and embarrassed to do anything that might bring any attention or judgement to myself. I would never dance or sing or be loud at all. But now that’s pretty much all I do! iI was a really uncomfortable and long process for me to get to slowly break free, but now I dance and am wild and free.
Sam: There were definitely a few times before we shot the video, like while we were rehearsing the dance, where we were laughing, 'are we really gonna do this dance on video?'
Jay: But we did it, for all to see!
What art//film/books inspire you to play music?
Jay: I don't know if they inspire me to make music exactly, but stylistically I think Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cy Twombly capture the facial ethos pretty well. Primitive childlike abandon!!
Cam: I’m hugely inspired by David Lynch. His use of sound design blows my mind. Also his detached use of plot & mystery retools how I think a piece(whether a song, film, piece of art) is supposed to go. He throws out all the rules and just goes for raw human emotion, to me he’s kinda the musicians filmmaker.
I can definitely see the influence of all those artists on your music. They're all pretty wild and dark at times and as you said, Cam, none of them really play by the rules. And in fact! Have you listened to either Basquiat or Lynch's music? They're very similar in themes and use of sound design. Not really much of a question there.. just a fun observation. I wonder what Cy Twombly's band would sound like if he ever had one.
Cam: I love Lynch's sound design, his actual released music can be a little too odd for my tastes, though not always. That "American Women" remix he did for Twin Peaks was absolutely brilliant. He just took a modern rock song and slowed it down until it felt like Type O Negative, so dark and groovy.
Jay: I've heard Basquiat's band Gray and i really like it.
What are your hopes for the future of the band?
Jay: My only hope is that we get a weed sponsor, that would be great!
Cam: A weed sponsor is a good realistic goal. I gotta say, despite all the negative in the world, what a time to be alive for a weed smoker! West coast tours have never been stonier.
Sam: I’d like to see more people follow the Del Taco trend with their brilliant $1 milkshakes.
In what way, if any, has Los Angeles had a part of who you are as people and as a band?
Cam: It connected the dots for us in a lot of ways. The 3 of us are all NW born & raised but all moved down here to explore music.
Jay: It hass played a big part, inspiring songs like "Fashion Show" and "Unknown" on the new record, which are about the trappings of superficiality and the quest for fame, respectively. i think being in LA drives anybody who lives here a little nuts, which you can definitely hear in our music!
Sam: Not only does LA provide endless amazing content to inspire and irritate, but we have found a pretty amazing family of beautiful and creative people here who have pushed us along the way. Our label Chain Letter Collective, for example, has not only allowed us to get Facial out into the world, but have inspired us as people in this scene for years.
How would you describe the music scene in LA to someone who has never experienced it before?
Jay: That’s like trying to describe Los Angeles itself, its very complex and diverse and big. There are so many different things happening in so many different parts of town, and most things you will never experience because its just too vast of a city and because you are trapped in your own bubble. So you can't really pretend to know what its like just because you know what’s happening on the east side, but you have a better idea than someone in Montana.
Sam: It's also like TV, mostly full of things you definitely don't want to watch. but you find the few things you do like, focus on those, and block out everything else.