On a cloudy Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles’ Arts District, a man in a camouflage tee with the sleeves rolled up twice, neutral taupe colored pants, and a black backpack is walking briskly down 2nd Street towards the cross street, San Pedro. I walk towards him from the opposite direction and his face looks familiar.
As our distance starts to close, I keep thinking, “Is that him? It must be. Right?” I squint to zoom in on any distinctive features that will identify him, but not so intently as to give off the impression that I am a complete creep. Hesitantly, I call out, “Are you, Misha?” He grins and takes claim to the name. I begin edging towards the direction of my car as I explain how I’d forgotten my wallet in the car. He feels bad for having me go back to retrieve it and graciously offers to spot me. Not wanting to waste anymore time, I reluctantly agree and vow to Venmo him once we settle in. In an effort to ease my embarrassment, he tells me not to sweat as this happens to him more often than not too. We make our way to the wafting fragrance of roasted coffee beans and I’m realizing that this chance encounter prior to the official meeting, coupled with his generosity and empathy may, in a sense, be the perfect, albeit embarrassing, icebreaker that allows us to skip the standard slightly awkward introduction. He pays for our coffees inside and we head to the patio area where we settle into cold metal chairs at a table on the far right side of the cafe. As we patiently wait for our beverages to brew, we dive into topics of SadGirl, his musical upbringing, as well as the band’s upcoming show at the Echo on the 28th, and future projects.
SadGirl consists of Misha Lindes, Paul Caruso, and Dakota Peterson, and was formed around “2014, maybe even 2013,” according to Lindes’ guesstimate. The start of the trio’s journey happened fairly organically with Misha playing the common link that brought them all together. Misha and Dakota had been neighbors and friends since he was about seven or eight years old, and although they kept in touch over the years and into their adulthood, the band originally began between Misha and Paul.
Lindes fiddles with the short, thin, gold chain hung around his neck, possibly out of habit, as he recalls, “I grew up playing music and I went to art school [in London] for a year. I didn’t particularly like it, so I came back to Los Angeles to get into some kind of creative industry. I kind of wound up at a screen-printing shop [and] Paul had started a screen-printing business out of his mom’s garage. While his business was growing, he would outsource large jobs to the shop I worked for, so we met through that.” They would run into each other through either work, seeing each other at shows around town, or following each other’s accounts on Instagram. Around that time, Lindes was acquiring some equipment to start a small DIY screen-printing shop of his own and Paul was selling an appliance that he was interested in. “We got to talking and I found out that he played drums. Shortly thereafter, I hit him up to jam and pretty much started the band from there.” Dakota came into the picture shortly after when the duo needed a bass player for a show at a dive bar where Paul’s friends were also performing. In search of their missing link, Misha hit up Dakota, his childhood friend and skilled bassist. Peterson learned the songs that the two were working on, played the show, and the three of them have been in collaboration ever since.
The name of the band as well as it’s typographical design, eludes to the Chicana derived term ‘sad girl,’ which is an ironic nickname referring to the outwardly tough women who display their hardships prominently and proudly (for reference, we give you 1993 classic, Mi Vida Loca.) Surprisingly, Misha didn’t choose the band name in any relation to that lifestyle, but happened upon the term from a cassette he had scored on a thrifting adventure that contained the 1983 song, “Sad Girl” by Thee Midniters. Lindes explains, “I used to go to LACC flea market and I found a couple cassette comps. One of them was an East Side Story Vol. 1 that someone had just ripped and made on their own blank cassette.” That name stuck with Misha and he loved the fact that he found this rare gem on something that someone had copied and made themself. Though that is the official reason, it is still conceivable that the empowering “sad girl” figure is at least passively evident throughout SadGirl’s works. One of the more apparent examples comes from their “Norma & Jessica” music video, featuring Danny Trejo. The main female character throughout the video has mascara tears streaming down her face and in the end, saves her partner from a group of mafia men by killing them all. Lindes illustrates that if it “comes through in the music or the aesthetic, it is from filtering through my environment in Los Angeles. For example, having Danny Trejo in the video was because we grew up with Gilbert, Danny’s son. Dakota and Gilbert used to play in a punk band together as teenagers — like I have a memory of Danny where he took me to see my probation officer to kind of get me off the hook. So that kind of stuff sort of occurs organically in the music as it’s filtered through my experiences here in my environment and growing up.”
The common depiction of punk rock is illustrated with fast, hard-edged melodies often paired with arguably, hyper-aggressive lyricism and vocals. SadGirl maintains the cynical characteristics and DIY integrity of it, but blends in “oldies”, Americana, and surf/garage rock. One of the first songs they recorded and later implemented into their first EP, Vol. One, was “Breakfast is Over,” which was produced via a combination of Paul’s digital 8-track and Misha’s cassette 4-track, resulting in an eclectic yet harmonious sound that is seemingly lo-fi, garage-y, and punk with lucid lyricism reminiscent of late 50s to early 60s love songs. Misha states that his original inspiration was to do “a cynical take on these traditional 50s and 60s songs. These were songs that I was familiar with growing up like “Earth Angel” or “Blue Moon.” They’re still so good for some reason, but they’re very straightforward. They’re not really snarky or ironic in anyway so I think the idea was to make SadGirl sort of a cynical version of that.”
It is evident that there is an evolution in the band’s interpretation of what punk rock should sound like, for them. “I think the whole idea behind our newest album, Vol. Three,” is that I’m slowly outgrowing this type of aggressive style of music as a means of communicating punk mentality,” Lindes informs. Vol. Three is split into Head to the Mountains and The Hand That Did The Deed, with one side being more “aggressive” and the other more ballad-focused as a means to reflect the band’s transition out of that more hard-edged styling. The way punk music is typically depicted, in Misha’s opinion, is not always the best representation of the genre. One of the biggest influences that changed his perspective on punk was the legendary band, Suicide. Misha asserts, “Finding Suicide totally opened my understanding of what punk music really is. It’s not about this aggressive, loud or fast music, sure that can be part of it, but it’s really about your approach to the kind of sound you want to make.”
SadGirl attempts to maintain that punk ethic, but has begun to couple it with the sounds played by early American guitar legends; an influence directly correlated to Misha’s musical upbringing. Growing up in a musically inclined household with a father who was a musician and an English mother who continues to be an enormous fan of music and creative arts, in general, gave him a liberating and stimulating environment to experiment creatively at a young age.
“My sister, brother and I were born in England and moved here when I was seven. I feel like for me, any scenario where we would visit family and friends in England, I was always the American kid, but when I moved here as a child in elementary school, I was the British kid. I had a rush of trying to identify myself as an American and figuring out American culture, sort of.” In an effort to find identity in a culture that was fairly unfamiliar to him at the time, he found a connection with “the early stuff in particular.” Early guitar legends like Les Paul, Mickey Baker, Link Wray, and Charlie Megira continue to be major influences and fuel SadGirl’s evolving sound.
In anticipation of their upcoming show on September 28th at The Echo, Misha hints that they have a new set that the group had been working on and will most likely debut that night; plus a couple of new songs that had been in the works. In terms of upcoming projects, “I’ve been working on writing and accumulating new material for a release eventually. We’ve got a tour in November which will be our first headlining tour in the Southwest and on the West Coast with the Paranoyds.” SadGirl will also be playing at Tropicalia on November 11th. For all the dates for SadGirl’s headlining tour see below.
11/1 – Phoenix, AZ*
11/2 – Albuquerque, NM*
11/3 – El Paso, TX*
11/4 – Dallas, TX*
11/5 – Austin, TX*
11/6 – Houston, TX*
11/7 – San Antonio, TX*
11/9 – Tucson, AZ*
11/11 – Santa Ana, CA
11/12 – San Diego, CA
11/13 – Fresno, CA*
11/14 – San Francisco, CA*
Featured photo by Alex Aristei.