Gilded Palace of Sin
Lomita's boot-hill mystic
A 14-year-old Jonas Wilson immediately recognizes Clifford Antone making the rounds of his namesake club during a "We Three Kings" tribute night. He approaches the bluesman and, with a zeal only possible in youth, informs him that he'll play his club one day.
As the evening teeters to a close, Antone hauls Wilson onstage, handing him Mike Keller's guitar. The club owner straps on a bass. They jam. Boogie. "You've got to slow down," Antone exhorts, grinning. "You're pretty good, kid, but you've got to slow down."
More than a decade later, Wilson ends the reverie by lighting a cigarette, his glossy, azure eyes cast downward. That was a long time ago. He prefers the name Deluxe Peroux now. Remnants of his days as a blues prodigy, including VHS tapes from a European tour he took at age 17, are stacked in the closet of his studio, overshadowed by boxes of tape reels from his reincarnation in Lomita.
The local quintet's raucous rock & roll is the antithesis to Peroux's past. Or maybe not. Raw, unpredictable, and penetrating like Antone's blues Lomita comes on stronger, like every brain-cell-damaging Texas music tradition: narcotic cosmic country, the 13th Floor Elevators' incensing garage-bred psychedelia, and Trance Syndicate's equally scintillant and somnolent tones and rhythms.
"There's a conscious effort with Lomita to make music that's drastically different from song to song so that nobody will ever know what to expect from us," Peroux explains. "That's the ultimate freedom."
Beneath the disco ball at Beauty Bar, Peroux looks free. Eyes closed, back arched, and right foot firmly planted, his body sways like a pendulum, sensually rocking back and forth to the music. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Ray Jackson, in tight pants and cowboy boots, moves more in the knees. Daxter McGarnigle and Dorian Colbert support on bass and drums, while Sweney Tidball, shoved in the corner, holds the back line down like Ian Stewart once did for the Stones.
The band closes with a cover of the Cramps' "Garbageman," electro-thrash suburban scum, primal and perverse. Hysterical, Jackson cups the microphone.
You gotta beat it with a stick.
You gotta beat it 'til it's thick.
You gotta live until you're dead.
You gotta rock 'til you see red.
Now do you understand?
The band exits. Peroux tosses his instrument and drops to his knees at the altar of his guitar pedals, fanning feedback and scrambling signals. Satisfied, he stands and walks away.
Liberation begins at the Lomita Opry House. Like Alejandro Escovedo's former "Paradise" (Austin Chronicle, June 28, 2002), Peroux's studio, which takes its name from the site of his first show in his hometown of Victoria, overlooks the San Marcos River on the outskirts of Guadalupe County, 15 minutes from the hustle of I-35. The Gilded Palace of Sin is subdivided into control, live, piano, and studio rooms, with two additional isolation booths, all cluttered with an array of instrumentation and equipment and overseen by the immortals Lennon, Cash, and Cobain who paper the walls. Beside the building sits another safe haven, his parent's two-story log cabin, replete with bluebonnet fields out front and kayaks in the back beneath the deck. It's heaven down here.
It's also where Boothill Graveyard a psychobilly cover band featuring Jackson, Tidball, and McGarnigle, all former students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston came to record in 2005. Almost immediately, Peroux and Jackson hit it off like Keith Richards and Gram Parsons at the Villa Nellcote, a seasonal exile whose "History of Leaving" bridges the two influences like "Wild Horses."
"It was literally an entire summer of smoking, drinking, and playing music," recalls Jackson, a Dallas-native with a slight Southern drawl. "We could make as much noise as we wanted, day or night. And we did. It expanded my horizons."
"We couldn't create the music we make without the studio," nods McGarnigle, the band's engineering expert. "The songs wouldn't be able to evolve."
Lomita's resulting self-released debut, Stress Echo, develops into a sonic daydream, warping time and space. "More Than a Name" drips Psychocandy as a wall of sound slowly erodes, while "Venom Flash" pops surreal surf-psychedelics. The reverb-drenched vocals in spiritualized "To My Lovely Daughter" appear like streaks of light through the Church's stained glass. The no-wave textures in "Green Eyes" and "Mr. Execution" slum through the Velvet Underground and the Stooges' Fun House.
Dániel Perlaky, owner and sole operator of Indierect Records (see sidebar), wound up with one of 800 copies the band distributed for free, resulting in his attendance of a private party at the Opry House. "Once I saw them perform live there, I knew they had the goods," he remembers. "They were so expressive and passionate. It immediately made me want to work with them while wondering what their 10th record might sound like."
The local label re-released Stress Echo last year, accompanied by a handful of late-night musings, drunken soundscapes, and Frippertronics soaked with the sense of loneliness found at the bottom of the bottle.
"We were pushing every effect to its absolute extreme just to see where it would take us," Peroux says. "There were endless stupid nights where we pressed every single fader on the soundboard to the max or used random tunings we would never be able to find again just to try and make something that we had never heard before. Then once the fog eventually cleared, we'd go back and see what became of it. It's obnoxious, but what's there left to do with rock & roll except make fun of it, make people wonder what the hell you're doing to it?"
That question certainly lingers throughout the band's sophomore effort, Downtown Mystic. The album, recorded in binges between touring and odd jobs beginning May 2006, is a beautiful mess, conveying personal disillusionment with layers of shoegazed guitar, discordant piano, and pitch-altered atmospherics that swagger through the Top 40 spectrum.
"There were some pretty dark times for a while," admits Jackson, who moonlights in Brothers & Sisters, hesitant to elaborate further. "The whole record's basically about girls leaving us and being completely obliterated."
Peroux prefers to leave his personal insights off the album altogether.
"There's a reason things sound wrong at times," he comments. "For this album, we tried to write the most straight-ahead pop tunes and then put our own touch on them, something that would turn the listeners' heads and build anticipation for what comes next. We'd shatter songs and then try bringing then back together."
In jump blues rocker "Inspiration," dug up from the Boothill Graveyard, Peroux purposely dismantles his solo, making it as abrasive as possible with Tidball following suit on piano. Like Music From Big Pink, the soul-stirring "Pictures and a Postcard," which features Brother Will Courtney on vocals, singes at its seams, leaving a trail of repressed memories, while "Foolish," a bass-heavy slow jam, washes out midway into a bed of white noise before gradually reawakening for the rousing finale. Most successful is "Broken Boy," where playful staccato piano chords and a carousal of acidic guitars melt down into the bridge to form one throbbing, loveless mass of fuzz.
"That's what happens when we get together," Jackson says. "Things get out of control. Between the two of us we've got some pretty sick pedals. We can make some ungodly noise."
"It's a snowball of excess, just pure expression," Perlaky contends. "They have absolutely no regard to commercial success. You've got to respect that."
Easter Sunday, with a glass pipe and a pint-sized bottle of Absolut resting on the windowsill at the Lomita Opry House beside a dry erase board that states the studio's general guidelines ("Less is always more!!!"), the band gathers to archive Downtown Mystic. Crouched over the soundboard, adjusting knobs with a sinister smirk, Peroux is anxious to push forward. He's working on a solo album, a side project with Tidball and original drummer Davey Hamrick called Nurtured by Love, and he and Jackson have already laid down tracks for the next Lomita disc.
"You ready?" he prefaces a selection, McGarnigle and Tidball joining the fixed stares of Sonic Youth and the Clash in the background. "I have a feeling people are going to hate this."
A monolithic and industrious drone floods the speakers, dark and demented but eerily seductive. Halfway through the second song, Peroux stands and sings his to-be-recorded harmony. No one has any intention of slowing down any time soon.
Lomita unveils its Downtown Mystic Friday, April 27, at the Beauty Bar.
The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle
Lomita's Essential Albums:
The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Whiskeytown, Faithless Street
Big Star, Third/Sister Lovers
Suicide (first album)
Sonic Youth, Goo
My Bloody Valentine, Loveless
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours
Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Blood and Chocolate
Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street
Alejandro Escovedo, The Boxing Mirror
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, You're Gonna Get It!