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interview: la vampires

LA Vampires is Amanda Brown. And Amanda Brown is awesome. Making her Australian debut, Zahra Khamissa had the privilege to chat to her about her sound, her collaborations, and a great little anecdote, involving none other than Sonic Youth.

Welcome to Australia! How was last night’s show in Cairns?
Thank you so much! It was…wild. Wacky. Amazing, very different to any show I’ve ever played. It was such a well thought out program, very interesting, involving everything from spoken word, acrobats, poetry, there were DJs, and it was all so much fun. And everyone is so welcoming and hospitable! Coming here, I was full of trepidation, you know, stranger in a strange land, but they couldn’t have been any nicer.

I’m not sure how many Australian bands you know, but is there anyone in particular you’d like to play with?
To be honest I don’t know many, but after last night, I can definitely say there are a few things I’d love to get involved in. I know Blank Realm, Angel Eyes and Canyons, and they are all so talented and inspiring.

This might sound a bit cliché, but coming from The States to Australia, how does the, well, let’s say ‘scene’ differ. Even though you’ve only played one show so far, has anything markedly different stood out?
Not cliché at all! I totally get it, and there really are differences. Last night, I felt so much enthusiasm, everyone just enjoyed the music, and they were there for the music. I feel that in LA, or America in general, they’re so jaded and caught up in their own cynicism, they’re all jaded and walk into places with their egos in mind. And in that way, they can’t enjoy it, it all becomes an observation. Being in Australia, I was overwhelmed with how they completely embraced me, and I’m a stranger, a beggar, and even though I’m an LA local, it’s so much harder to get other locals’ attention.

You’ve done so much on your own, but one of my favorite collaborations was the one you did with Zola Jesus, can you tell me a little more about that?
Oh, geez, what can I say about Nika? She is one of those people who has so much to offer, whatever she contributes, you know it’s only a fraction of what she’s capable of. She’s warm, funny, and kind of stuck to her mid-western values. She never got caught up in the Hollywood bubble, she eats cereal for breakfast, goes to bed at a decent time, and takes pride in that. And her sound is so original, so fresh, and we definitely brought out the best in each other with that record.

Here’s another odd question. With your music being so different to anything I’ve ever heard, and collaborating with so many other unique artists, how does it all pan out so wonderfully? Because you obviously had to compromise a lot, but it still has such a wacky LA Vampires feel.
That’s so true. When I decided to go solo, it all became very all about ‘me’. This is my music, my project, my inspiration, what I want to do. But it got lonely. So I finally got to the point where I got to pick and choose who I want to work with. Like Nika, for example. Her music is so very different to mine. I don’t really delve into that dark, deep part of me to make music, whereas she’s all about that. I’m a crazy Virgo, I’m loud and happy. And writing songs with her, it really woke up a part of that realised that this isn’t MY music, this is so much more, and it takes away the ego. It really introduced me to that theatrical side of performance. So I guess I allow myself to be elevated by other musicians in that way.

Now that you’ve finally made it to Australia, what else are you looking forward to ticking off of your musical bucket list?
Actually, every record feels like that. And actually, playing live. Every show that I play, I feel, wow, I did that! To be honest, I never really ever wanted to play live shows. I was so much more focused on wanting my music to be about wacky videos and pictures. And then when people started approaching me, asking to play in towns and cities I’ve never been to, I started to feel the pressure. But definitely happy that I’m here in Australia, as nervous as I was about it!

Just to wrap up, can you tell me about one of your more wackier experiences? There have to have been more than a few!
Oh wow, let’s see. This is really hard actually, I’m such a nerd. I just sit around watching the Disney Channel all day! Well there’s one, I wouldn’t say it’s all that wacky or adventurous, but I probably wont forget it. While Bethany (of Best Coast) and I were in Pocohaunted, we did this tour, just around the States, and for some reason Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) really liked our stuff, and wanted to us to open for a show they were playing in Berkeley. And I told you about how uncomfortable I am with playing live, but Bethany was all, are you crazy! This is Sonic Youth! So naturally, I agreed, and we were on the way to the venue when I started to feel really, really sick. I told Bethany this, and she said it was probably just nerves, and I’ll feel better soon. So we got there, met all of Sonic Youth and I thought, okay, I can do this, I’m actually excited. Then we went up to soundcheck. And all of a sudden, I wet my pants. In front of Thurston Moore. Bethany, the great friend she is, immediately jumped and started yelling, “Oh no! She spilt her drink! SHE SPILT HER DRINK!” basically saving me. And I ran off to the bathroom, dabbing at my crotch in front of all these industry people, crying my eyes out, going all “I’m such a mess, I’m such a mess!” But.. Yeah. That was…interesting. I mean, how many people have wet themselves in front of Thurston Moore?

You can catch the achingly cool vibes of LA Vampires at The Workers Club in Melbourne this Friday night!

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