Independent Record Label | Est. 2009
Wilmington, North Carolina



Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Suitcase Full of Emotions

[Repost from Aldora Britain Records; b Tom Hilton, April 10, 2024]

Tucson, Arizona is the home to post-rock experimentalists LA CERCA.  Combining the disparate worlds of ambient avant-garde, shoegaze, and spacey psychedelic rock, this Southwestern sonic collective deliver something undeniably fresh and completely reinvigorating.  Their original compositions are brooding and unfolding soundscapes, pushing boundaries and gloriously disrespecting borders.  Records such as 2018’s Night Bloom and 2020’s A Nice Sweet Getaway are archetypal snapshots of La Cerca’s delightful approach, stellar adventures through creative worlds, a never-ending journey of discovery.  With the fourth anniversary of A Nice Sweet Getaway fast approaching, key bandmember Andrew Gardner agreed to chat with Aldora Britain Records about La Cerca’s experimentations so far.  We discuss the coming together of the group, a selection of their recorded output, their approach to songcraft, and much, much more.  That exclusive in-depth conversation is published here in full for the very first time.  

La Cerca have previously contributed their track ‘Free of Expectation’ to our independent, underground music sampler ‘We Didn’t Start the Fight’.  Listen or download HERE.

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Aldora Britain Records: Hello Andrew, how are you?  I am excited to be talking with such an experimental musician.  I am a big fan of what you do!  Let’s start off by rewinding the clocks.  What are some of your earliest musical memories and what was it that first pushed you towards pursuing this passion of yours?

Andrew Gardner: Hello Tom, I just got back from a thirteenday West Coast tour with La Cerca.  It was eight shows.  It rained a lot in Southern California, where it’s not supposed to rain.  We had a lot of winter weather.  In Tucson, spring is starting, but not so much for the West Coast.  We jokingly called the tour ‘Prolonging the Winter 2024’.

I grew up in a small town in Ohio before we moved to Tucson, Arizona.  Our neighbours had a guest living in their basement who had an organ.  I would be over at their house asking to go downstairs to watch the player, but I was denied, so I would put my ear to the floor.  Music was always a constant.  My mom had a good record collection and I was taught how to carefully handle albums and turn them over on the turntable at a young age.  Everybody knew that music was the direction for me.  I had opinions on Jimi Hendrix records, Dark Side of the Moon, and Sgt. Pepper.  I loved the 1980s Top 40, at least up until 1987.  The first album I purchased with my paper route money was David Bowie’s Let’s Dance.  The Fixx, Reach the Beach was my second album.  I was lucky enough to have guitar lessons.  Within a couple of years, I was drafting the neighbour kids to start a band.

Aldora Britain Records: And now, let’s take a leap forward to the beginnings of the brilliant La Cerca.  The early days of the group must have been such an invigorating time.  How did it come to be?  How did you meet the other members and what was the initial spark that brought you all together on a musical level?

Andrew Gardner: La Cerca evolved from my band called Wise Folk Malcontent, which played the underground rock scene in Tucson from 1992 to early 2000.  The musicians wanted a name change because we had felt that we had arrived on a musical level and they were aspiring to be permanent musicians.  We were fans of 1970s punk rock and art rock, New Order, The Cure, and 90s American indie rock.  Within a year and a half, those musicians had moved on to other projects only a few months after the release of our first album Goodbye Phantom Engineer, 2001 on Unlike Label.  It was again a revolving member band surrounding my songwriting.

Miguel Villarreal was my neighbour who loved La Cerca’s music so much that he decided to play bass from 2002 to 2012.  I decided to be in a band with my neighbours as much as possible, but that limited us to not being able to tour.  That was okay for a while, but touring aspirations kicked in and I would go out by myself and then grab a friend or two along the way and we would go play shows sporadically across the States, then pairing down to just me playing solo shows.  Bill Oberdick came onboard as guitarist in 2005.  He is still a big part of La Cerca’s sound.  By the time he had joined, I felt like the real band had started.

Aldora Britain Records: In 2020, you released a fantastic record in the form of A Nice Sweet Getaway.  This was my introduction to your work, so I look back on it very fondly.  What are your memories from composing, recording and releasing this set, and is there anything that you would edit or change with the benefit of hindsight?

Andrew Gardner: In 2013 and early 2014, the band was in a kind of limbo waiting for mastering and pressing of our third album, Sunrise for Everyone.  I was working at a guitar shop and acquiring better gear.  I was learning how to use a Tascam handheld two-track recorder.  I just got a monster delay pedal, the TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay, with a decent fortysecond looper.  I was obsessed with pedals.  It used to be that I had a chorus, fuzz, and delay.  Now there was much more on my palette.

After La Cerca band rehearsals, I started these recording experiments.  I would place the recorder in different places to see how the room would sound.  I started making these ambient mood jams.  I didn’t think that much of it, but in the back of my mind, I thought that some of the recordings were listenable.  I started treating them like ‘songs’, but I would improvise.

Sometimes, I had ideas in advance, like ‘Ice Cubes’, other times, it was made up on the spot, like ‘Walking the Underbelly’.  I would have my neighbours over to listen on our porch while I was in the process.  I would go to our nearby venue, The Flycatcher, RIP, and record the jams in the lounge, like ‘Gloomy Vista Way’.  Sometimes, the songs were sculpted for an hour before I hit record, like ‘Shimmering Peacock’.

At the time, I was just trying out ideas and creating new ideas.  I wanted to be spontaneous and keep a performance feel.  There were no overdubs.  I gave a burned CD to a couple of friends and that was about as far as it went.  I liked it, but I didn’t think it was good enough to release.  It was just some ideas for later.  By April of 2020, we had to cancel a tour and the rest of the music world was on pause.  I started listening to these lo-fi recordings.  It felt very fresh and it still had a lot of melody to the noise.  It was interesting to see how I was nowhere near the state of mind, but that state of mind was perfect for our pandemic world.

It became a soundtrack to strange times.  I felt like it wasn’t too far off from the noise and melody that La Cerca made.  It just wasn’t made with any bandmates.  We already had a project in the works, but I had many more actual songs and there wasn’t a studio open for us to record.  I had not yet set up my living room with the studio that I have today.  I had Jim Waters do some sonic treatments and EQing.  It has a new life and I wanted to share it with the world.

Aldora Britain Records: I am fascinated by the way you make these intense, immersive soundscapes.  There is just something about La Cerca’s songcraft!  How do you approach this part of your creative process?  Is it a case of jamming away and striking gold, or is it a more methodical and repeatable approach?

Andrew Gardner: For A Nice Sweet Getaway, about one-third of the tunes were improvised on the spot with very little or zero planning.  One-third were sculpted in advance with a loop or two already crafted beforehand or had some editing, post-recording.  The remaining were a little bit of both.  Sometimes, I would come up with a title first and go with how I was feeling.  Other times, I thought about a feeling and was seeing if I could recreate a sonic version of that feeling.  The goal was to keep it ‘live’ as possible.  I had a lot of jams that didn’t go anywhere, or so I was thinking at the time.  By performing them and pressing the record button, it gave me the pressure to figure out how to finish them.

Aldora Britain Records: Previously, if we travel back to 2018, you unveiled another stellar LP called Night Bloom.  This is a brilliant earlier snapshot of the band and your artistry.  How do you reflect on this set as a whole now, and how would you say you have grown and evolved as a band since its initial release?

Andrew Gardner: Night Bloom is a widescreen version of the band.  We started writing those tunes as early as 2012 or before.  We were able to play them at our shows earlier in the songs’ existence.  We still play many of those songs in our live performance.  ‘Echolocation’ and ‘Tumbling Boulder’ have a bit of an ambient feel.  As for the new material we have been working on, there is a bit more of an ambient feel.  However, the new material also has older songs or ideas that have been around since the beginning of the band.

Aldora Britain Records: As you well know, I am a big fan of the La Cerca sound and your approach to making music.  That psychedelic shoegaze wall of sound.  Brilliance!  How would you say this style of yours came about, what goes into it for you, and who are some of your biggest influences and inspirations as a band?

Andrew Gardner: In the late 80s, Top 40 music was becoming boring for me, so I turned the dial left to the college radio stations and watched MTV’s 120 Minutes.  I discovered bands like Ride, Pale Saints, Spacemen 3, Dinosaur Jr.  I am still listening to those bands today.  I can’t speak for the other guitarist, Bill Oberdick, but I know he had a similar experience with college radio and discovering bands like Fugazi, R.E.M., and Minutemen.  As music went in and out of fashion, I was still into bands with loud noisy guitars and I made my own versions of that music.  We tend to go for vintage 60s guitar and amps, but we use modern pedals.  We like our fuzz pedals, chorus and whammy or vibrotos.

Aldora Britain Records: A broad question to finish.  We have been through such a unique time in history over the last few years.  Both politically and within society, and that is before you throw in the pandemic.  How have the last several years impacted on you personally and as an artist?  How do you think this time has changed the music industry, both for the good and the bad?

Andrew Gardner: When the pandemic hit, I had a bunch of musical projects to explore.  I had a bunch of half songs that I wanted to finish because I felt they were worth finishing.  Going through a backlog of material was frustrating and yet informing me as a reminder of where I’ve been as a person and where I wanted to go.  I also felt that I was a lazy songwriter.  In the past, I would start songs but not finish them and then the song would get placed on tapes for later.  2020 was the time to finish songs, and so I finished forty songs during the summer.  And then twenty more a year later.  Some of the songs were mostly written, some were just ideas, others needed new lyrics.

The other issue was that I did not have a way to record the songs properly.  I had my handheld recorder which worked for the time being.  I saved money and purchased some great mics and the rest of the recording gear, so I didn’t have to go to an expensive recording studio for all of my songs.  Having a session in the living room actually works well for my lifestyle and the songs are more realised.  I am more focussed than I have ever been.  I have been able to create a life where I can go on tour more often.

As for changes in the music industry, I feel as though music is not as appreciated as it once was.  There is an idea that musicians should release more frequently.  I agree to that, but I find that if we release something without promoting it properly or not releasing it on vinyl, it may become lost in a digital haystack.  I’m not the best at social media and self-promoting is not my favourite thing to do, but it has to be a big part of the promoting platform.  So, now I have to be good at social media and make better artwork for shows, make more videos, and learn how to edit.  La Cerca is a touring band, we can’t only release music, but there might be a future of not touring with the way gas, food, and hospitality have gone up.  It seems there are less show venues and not enough people supporting live music.  Some of that might also be generational.  Young adults spend more time on their phone at home with a much shorter attention span.  Same can be said about people my age.

Quickfire Round

AB Records: Favourite artist?  Andrew: Too many favourites.  I am still a big fan of The Cure.  AB Records: Favourite album?  Andrew: Too many favourites!  Big Star, Radio City; American Music Club, Mercury; Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde; The Cure, Disintegration.  AB Records: Last album you listened to from start to finish?  Andrew: The Go-Betweens, Before Hollywood.

AB Records: First gig as an audience member?  Andrew: The Commodores or Cheap Trick.  AB Records: Loudest gig as an audience member?  Andrew: Tucker B’s.  AB Records: Style icon?  Andrew: Skate shoes, flannel, Mark Gonzales.

AB Records: Favourite film?  Andrew: River’s Edge.  Not the best, but hilarious and creepy. 

AB Records: Favourite TV show?  Andrew: The Young OnesAB Records: Favourite up and coming artist?  Andrew: Null State.