In 2012, Julian Porte set out to form a band, and in what can only be described as perfect timing, longtime friend Gabriel Fernandez was on board from the start. Thus, Levitation Room was born, emerging into the Los Angeles scene at the height of a musical transition. During a time when psychedelic rock bands were popping up more rapidly than one could keep count, Levitation Room set themselves apart by creating the sun-dried psych rock, making listeners float with them.
With the group’s ability to infuse lo-fi guitar riffs with a psychedelic aesthetic, Levitation Room has managed to create this 1960’s dream gaze sensation. The East Los Angeles quartet consists of lead vocals/guitarist Porte, lead guitarist Fernandez, bassist Jonathan Martin and drummer Johnathan Martin, each contributing their element of style that allows the music to drift across the floor and permeate within the audience.
After joining Burger Records on a caravan of shows that eventually ended at SXSW, Levitation Room is looking forward to taking a well-deserved break right after they play Desert Daze in May. As the group continues to work hard until then, Julian Porte took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to amadeus about evolving musically, watching the evolution of the Los Angeles music scene and a support group made up of Burgers and Lolipops.
Let’s start with the basics: how did Levitation Room form?
Levitation Room started back in 2012 when I made a post on Facebook about starting a band. Up until then, I was just playing folk music by myself. Gabriel, my longtime friend (11 years +), had immediately answered my inquiry about forming a group. We had both played in a band called ‘The Hitz’ a few years back, and our musical interests seemed to change and evolve at the same capacity. We bonded over the same punk bands when we were teenagers and now we were bonding over the same psych rock and musical landscapes that we listen to today. It was a long process though; it took some time to find the right members to groove with. I found John, our drummer, at a party when I asked to play his harmonica. He’s been kicking the drum and keeping time for us ever since. Our bass player Jon came last, but not least, as his bass lines are the backbone of our sound.
How did this psychedelic rock develop into music that makes listeners literally feeling like they are levitating?
I guess our sound comes from our musical background and has a lot to do with our tones and settings. There are a lot of atmospheric sounds and whispers in there, but it’s not completely drowned in reverb. It’s like having a vivid dream. We want to instill a feeling of weightlessness when you’re listening to our music, but we don’t want you to forget what it is you were dreaming about.
You guys just released your album, Minds of Our Own, two years after your Demo. Did these past couple of years allow the group to maybe develop more, or differently?
Well that two year gap between our demo and this first official EP, had allowed us to evolve tremendously. The demo was recorded on our own at our studio, and we had no clue what we were doing, but we knew we needed something to show people so that we could book shows. We were a little naive about everything, a lot of our friends bands had right away started recording EP’s and albums and we kind of just slacked off and played tons of shows for a while. Also we had no representation as far as labels went. Lolipop was always cool enough to keep us associated with them and give us great shows, but we never released our demo or anything through them. We basically printed out all our demos out of our own pockets and gave them away to anyone who would have a listen.
So for those two years we lingered around, trying to figure out who would record our first EP, but all the while, writing new music and finding our direction. A few people tried to help us, but it wasn’t coming out the way we’d hoped. Joel Jerome was definitely our first choice when he helped us record “visions of my mind” which made it to the EP. Unfortunately, the timing and financial struggle on our part left us to wait for a window of opportunity. That opportunity came when our friend James Torres (guitarist of Funeral Party) asked to manage and record us in his awesome studio complex. He did a wonderful job, and by then, we had already changed a lot and the ideas were flowing so it was almost like a blessing to hold off on some of the songs that still needed shaping.
What is the recording process like for Levitation Room? Do you guys like the studio time or do you prefer playing different venues?
The recording process used to be really tense for us. Recording ourselves was always really tedious, because we had to manage the programs ourselves and sometimes the room would get really heavy when we couldn’t get that sound we were looking for. Then when we went to record with James, it was like, ‘Shit… well I hope we’re not wasting this guy’s time with all our insecurities and revisions about how the song is going come out’.
Running a take 2,000 times until you get it, can really mess with a man’s patience, but now we got our buddy Glenn Brigman, who is currently playing keyboard for us, and just finished recording our full length album, which should be coming out later this year. He and his roommate Josh Menashe (Guitarist of their band The Triptides) have given the recording process a whole new meaning to us. We recorded everything live on a 6 track tape recorder, with a compressor and some chill mics, and it was the most and most exciting time we ever had recording our music. Glenn and Josh have this incredible ear for music and recording production and knew exactly what we were going for. Not only did they make the room light with laughter and ideas, but they also helped put the cherries on top of each song. We feel super blessed to have those guys around. And if any of ya’ll out there in LA land want to cut a quality album, I suggest you hit them up!
Okay, so you are associated with Lolipop, but Burger Records eventually produced your EP? On the same note, both labels seem extremely supportive, how have each of them affected both your style and passion towards music?
Well our EP was released through Burger Records. But it’s interesting, we started out with all our friends bands in the Lolipop scene (Mystic Braves, Mr. Elevator, Froth, Corners, etc), and we still associate ourselves with them because they’re our good friends, but like I mentioned earlier, they never released any of our music.
It’s kind of strange, because we definitely love being a part of the Lolipop circuit and their community, but our first EP came out on Burger. It’s almost like an identity crisis. People think we’re a Lolipop band, and essentially we are, because they gave us our first shows and have treated us like family, but now we’re also a part of the Burger family. The Burger dudes, Lee and Sean, have shown us nothing but love and support. Given us good shows, put our music on a skate video for RVCA and beckoned us to go on tour with them on their SXSW caravan. To us, Lolipop and Burger are one in the same. We can roll down to Echo Park any day of the week and run into our friends at Lolipop and have a jam session or play music in the park. Or we can roll down to Burger Records, cut loose, watch wrestling and have a few laughs. The communal vibe that both these labels project are amazing and we’re proud to be part of both of them.
It used to seem like the music world was an ‘everyman for themselves’ type of atmosphere, until recently it is noticeable that everyone supports one another. What are the bands feelings on how the music scene is changing in Los Angeles specifically? And do you think living in Los Angeles has helped shaped how the group came to be and where the band is now?
Oh the music scene in LA has changed significantly. When I first got into playing music, there was no scene. There were bands like Dead Meadow, Darker My Love (Tim Presley of White Fence’s previous band), The Warlocks and psych bands like that in LA, but there was no palpable scene to tap into. It wasn’t until a few years later when Lolipop came on the scene, that it connected everybody and made an inclusive platform for a lot of bands in LA to stand on. Musicians and friends helping other musicians and friends to get their art into the world is a beautiful thing. Every facet of society should function that way… people helping one another. If you apply that philosophy to anything, of course it’s going to yield positive results. Levitation Room just so happened to emerge at the right time when this was happening. Growing up in LA, we’re definitely a product of our environment. We write music about our world and the world that surrounds us. It’s street lights, billboards, tarnished buildings and loud sirens, but we love it and we draw from its raw inspiration.
With the Desert Daze in sight, what other shows can we look forward to in the near future? Anything that the band is really looking forward too?
Well we’ve been working really hard lately. We’ve released our first EP, recorded our first full length album, toured to SXSW and started editing our first official music video all within the last 3 months. Oh and did I mention half of our band also runs and operates a music store called Everydaze Music? We’re exhausted to say the least but we definitely have some momentum going for us. After we finish up at Desert Daze, I think we’re going take a little break and just continue writing new material and working on the business aspect of things. Got a lot of ideas brewing and we can’t wait to get to them out!
-Taylor Wojick, Contributing Writer