Bad Weather California's Chris Adolf on Back Seats, the new EP, and the band's breakup

Categories: Profiles

Josh McNeilly

Bad Weather California has reached its natural conclusion. Although the outfit still has a string of dates left to play, including a tour kickoff show is this Thursday, August 15, at the hi-dive, celebrating its brand new EP, Back Seats -- due out this week on Fire Talk -- Chris Adolf confirms that this is the end of BWC as we know it.

Bad Weather California was formed from the Love Letter Band. The early Bad Weather shows featured Adolf and a kind of beat-up acoustic guitar delivering an emotionally raw and moving performance that had all the power any rock band could command. A year or two later, Adolf started playing with friends in more of a rock-band format. Those friends included Joe Sampson, Roger Green, Xandy Whitesel, Nathaniel Rateliff and Adam Baumeister.

See also: The members of Bad Weather California are just young punks at heart

The rock eventually evolved into a more funk, even reggae, direction, with the later lineup of Sampson, Baumeister and Logan Corcoran on drums. It was that group that recorded the full-length album Sunkissed, which was released by Family Tree Records, the imprint run by Akron/Family.

Bad Weather, more than many bands, tried different sounds, aesthetics and methods of releasing its music over the course of its nearly decade-long existence. With the band's latest lineup -- Adolf, Corcoran, Tyler Ludwick and Lucas Johannes -- Adolf seems to have written some of the kind of music he's been itching to craft for the past few years.

The songs seem to have been inspired by growing up in the '80s and '90s in places no one brags about, reflecting a time when your sensibilities were shaped by whatever music you could find through friends, on the radio, on TV, or in magazines and so forth, pre-Internet. That sense of innocence and artlessness inspires you to create music simply because it gives you a sense of wonder and joy of discovery. A bit of that can be heard on the band's new and likely final EP, Back Seats.

In advance of Thursday's show at the hi-dive, we spoke with Adolf about the new EP and the breakup of Bad Weather California, and he also talked about underground culture in the time before the Internet, where it is now, and where it might be going.

Westword: Your new Back Seats EP has a completely different sound from your previous releases. It's more like what you've been expressing that you've been wanting to do for a while but could not, or did not, up to this time.

Chris Adolf: I've been wanting to have kind of a power-pop-meets- new-wave band. Joe Sampson and I -- the main thing that brought us together was the Cure. That's both of our favorite bands. I haven't been able to make that in a while. Tyler [Ludwick] can play anything I can dream up.

Some of your new music, particularly "Again & Again," sounds like Journey, if that band wasn't somewhat cheesy, mixed with the Cars, if it wasn't as clipped and occasionally angular.

That's so funny, because me and Tyler listen to Journey. I don't listen to them at home. But we end up talking about recording and what we should do live a lot when we have long drives in the van. Tyler always brings up Journey, and I get it. That's a pretty astute observation with Journey, and the Cars is one of my favorite bands. One of my fantasies is to have Ric Ocasek produce one of my records.

A couple of other bands that seem like sonic touchstones for the new album are Aztec Camera and the Cure, whom you mentioned earlier. There's a riff on "Keep It Together" that is especially reminiscent of the latter.

That one does have kind of a Cure riff. And Aztec Camera, back when I was more involved with underground indie pop music, Aztec Camera was one of those bands that was in everyone's record collection, and the early Sarah Records catalogue -- I'm from that world, though Aztec Camera was before my time. But the first person to put out my records was Stuart Anderson, from Boyracer. Going back to the C86 cassette, that was his world, and that was my introduction to touring and all of that. Though Aztec Camera wasn't part of that world, that band was a big hero of all those people.

Aaron Miller from Bleak Environment has been talking about them of late.

Me and Aaron work together, and we've been listening to Aztec Camera a lot. You're a little older than me, but I think I was twenty years old before I got an e-mail address. The Internet wasn't a thing. High-tech people had it in the '90s. It's funny when I can turn Aaron on to something because younger people have a deeper library of what they're knowledgeable on, you know? When they were discovering alternative culture, they had the Internet, and they could dig a lot harder. When I was doing my digging, it was a slower process, and it was cool to come up with a band he hadn't heard of.

It's interesting that some stuff, if you don't know what it is and it's not often referenced by other people in interviews or in articles online, it's not as easy to learn about.

Even when you talk to a really well-versed guy like Jason Heller, you can pull up records where he can say, "Oh, cool, I've never heard of those guys." There's even regional stuff where the band didn't tour very far. A guy like you is a well-versed dude, but I feel that with younger people, their library is denser because they grew up with the Internet. When I had to order from someplace, an insert would come with that record, and even if you loved that record you ordered, you took a gamble on ordering anything else.

Not so long ago you could -- and you probably still can -- call up SST and order a T-shirt or a record over the phone and speak to someone who is actually at their office.

I remember doing stuff like that. I remember K was one of the earlier ones for me. Because of Beck, I knew about K, and because of that shield, I found out about one of my favorite bands to this day, Karp. It was like, "Oh, wow, there's that same little shield from the One Foot In the Grave record!" An older friend told me I should check out Beat Happening, and then, everything with that little shield on it, I would gamble on. Though with K, you get burned, and you end up with a D+ record that's not very good and stuff like that. But spiritually, it's all coming from the same place.

Was this EP the stuff you recorded at Dub Narcotic Studio?

It's not. There's one song that was recorded at Dub Narcotic -- "Again & Again," I think. The rest were recorded in Lucas's basement. Then finished out at my house. Overdubs on the computer.

You won studio time at Dub Narcotic?

Yes. Here's the thing. Records don't sell anymore. Record labels are suffering all over. K Records has been old-school like Motown: We own a recording studio, our bands come to record there, we put out the record. K operated that way with their studio. It wasn't open to the public. It was a studio where, "Hey, we have a studio. Do you want to do a K record? You have access to this studio."

Now that records don't sell anymore, K has opened the studio to the public to raise some income. To promote it, they are doing marketing ,and they want the world to know and so they put it out there to give free studio time if you can get people to sign up for the K Records mailing list. You can unsubscribe anytime.

On Facebook, we said use our name to sign up for the mailing list. We didn't get the most people. We got first place at first, but this band called Pro Wings from California got first place. Turns out second place was some sort of generator, and they disqualified that. So we got second place and three or four days at the studio. Because Calvin Johnson knows me, we slept on the floor of the studio and got up and worked. Those records, I don't know what we're doing with those. They're getting mixed and we'll put out a record of that.

Continue on for more from Chris Adolf and to hear a tune from the new EP

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