Hello. This is a new song called The Space Between that I played with an acoustic and an FM synthesizer.
The acoustic video session was directed by my great friend, Sights So Sudden.
Happy Valentine’s Day – to the lovers, the dislocated, and everyone in between.
Around the 5 Year Anniversary of Leaving Paris, Josh, an awesome supporter and pal, shared this piece he wrote on Leaving Paris. You can read it on his blog here or proceed below.
Before the multi-talented Emily Dwyer was gliding her bow across violin strings and helping to sing about feeling like a faded cardboard cutout on Lavola’s phenomenal 2014 LP This Book Is My Cowardice, founding member Julian Cires had already crafted an enduring release that’s too short to be seen as a “proper” album but too long to be seen as a “proper” EP. It’s called Leaving Paris, a release full of interludes and ambience, shrieking screams over towering guitar riffs and gentle pleas with … whoever it is that might be listening, it seems. It’s the kind of music that seems to speak to the scorned romantic, blood pumping through a heart that’d rather grow trees than keep the body it’s stuck in alive.
Five years later, albumette Leaving Paris remains potent, still ready to latch into the bloodstream of whoever is unfortunate enough to have not yet heard it, but lucky enough to be remedying the situation. Immediately blasting into what would convince anyone as being in pop-punk territory on “The Queen Is Dead,” Cires’ vocals instantly meld with his guitar that often seems like a second set of lungs for him. With the lines “I’m wide awake, but my eyes are so tired,” a song that seems destined for three-minute single territory begins to erupt into something more than that, instead becoming a five-and-a-half-minute epic that defies expectations at every second, a cornered animal suddenly leaping into a completely different direction than wherever the net’s been placed to capture it.
And it’s a perfect introduction to what Lavola is – it’s in a genre almost impossible to pin down, in an era when “alternative” no longer just means “different” but now has its own connotations of sound. Abrasion and melody, cooing and howls, hair-flipping hooks and peaceful on the surface, yet seething underneath interludes all stir together in the storm of a song, with the celebratory chant of “All hail dissent! The Queen is dead!” going from seemingly thrilled, to an approaching train of a roar from Cires’ vocal chords. His voice is practically mercurial, shifting to be whatever it needs to in any given moment, for any given lyric. Emotions get swapped with a moment’s notice, yet it never feels inconsistent – and it all sounds so familiar, yet it all sounds so fresh, with anything you may be reminded of too distant in the back of your mind, because what’s going on in your ears is too commanding to ignore.
It’s the perfect set-up, with the interlude track “I Never Said” offering the equally perfect follow up. Rather than maintaining bombast and sing-a-long hooks, the mood shifts to somber, with droning sounds reminiscent of early evening ocean waves, guitar loops and percussion that build into seemingly nowhere and vocals that trail off with an ellipsis, rather than a fulfillment. It’s a calm before a storm, the sound of dejected hearts and tired shoulders, too weak to carry any more.
But its companion piece, “Masochist,” brings that storm, a song propelled by a guitar that constantly promises more, a sense of dark energy always present, no matter how many times the song seems prepared to erupt, only to back down again. Every verse seems to gain more energy, every vocal spat with a bit more venom, a bit more intensity. “I’ve got the black lung, baby; goddamnit” Cires laments beneath the mix at one point, the start of a verse lost in time whose lines can only be found in the lyric booklet.
There’s a disaffection present in the abstract sound of the song, a sense of self-loathing, or, rather, just disappointment in general. Lines about God, about dead-end jobs, about drowning, about splintered relationships – it’s not easy to reduce to a single sentence summary, but there is a clear, and dark, almost-seething nature to all of it. It’s not quite hateful, but it’s on the precipice of it. It’s a marching theme for anyone stuck in a job they hate, or smothered by a relationship with someone they used to love, swallowed up by ocean’s tides and covered up in lace, waiting to cash in their check, knowing how insignificant they are, struggling to reconcile whatever relationship to God they may have.
And it’s that commissary that seems to bind everything Lavola has ever released together – every song offers some sense of struggle, yet every song seems to offer some sense of comfort, some arm around your shoulder, saying it’s okay – they feel it too. Rather than diving into a message of “kill yourself” that so many bands end up delivering, accidental or not, when they flirt with the darker parts of humanity, Lavola somehow sonically rises above that. And while nothing makes that clearer than This Book Is My Cowardice – and album where the founder had finally found his other creative half in the form of Dwyer, where the group effort is immediately clear – Leaving Paris has a profound intimacy in its solitude.
It’s the sound of a young man who wrote demos in his bedroom and left the sound of rotary fans on in on the final mix. It’s the sound of a guy fighting with his heart, and fighting with his life, and dying to break out creatively and burst into the color that the album art suggests, rather than fade away in the tides described on “Masochist” and succumbed to on “I’m Leaving Paris.” It’s the sound of a jagged sense of beauty or a beautiful sense of pain, whichever it is that reaches out to you more while you listen to it. “We Were Heroes for the Day” can be taken as a Bowie’s “Heroes”-esque desire to be more in a moment than you have in a lifetime, or as a bittersweet lament of fleeting meaningfulness, and either seems valid. There’s no right or wrong way to take it, and yet no matter how you do, it serves its function, it delivers the goods and it brings more to the table than any indie debut is ever expected to.
And it doesn’t deliver anywhere harder than on the final two songs; with the interlude track “This City Loves You” pairing up to serve as a heartsick, beautiful intro to “I’m Leaving Paris.” To pair it up like that – to jump from reminding you how much the city loves you, to then leaving it immediately – it has an effect that few instrumental bridges can, brought on by the titles alone. For a less-than-three-minute long track, it seems essential, a minimalist art piece that has more blossoming color flowering at the edges of the periphery, where it can’t quite be seen. Does anything fit romance-turned-heartache better than that?
And when that building droning noise cuts, and suddenly you’re left with Cires singing in a sweeter, sadder, lower tone than ever before – all confrontation gone, all bitterness seemingly emptied out – it hits, and it hits hard. It hits in the way the best love letters can, read long after the writer ever meant them. A song that starts so harmlessly eventually erupts into blasts of sound that build so high, only to come right back down in moments, with vocals finding that venom again, if only for a few last, bitter seconds, the anger seemingly exorcised, but the sting still left.
Lines like “I knew no better” and “Masochist, I’m a masochist babe,” softly sang and piercingly screamed, respectively, suggest an unresolved pain that just won’t go away, that can’t be shook off. It’s an ache anyone who has been there knows intimately, and here it is so intimately presented, beautiful waves of guitar and clashing cymbals making the nearly-nine-minute runtime feel anything but long (with the acoustic live outros extending it even further, yet making it seem even less tiresome). It does what some of the greatest music can do – it transports you, it sweeps you off your feet and no matter where you were when you started to hear it, you’re anywhere but there now, caught up in ocean imagery and the City of Love, only to flee from it, your head no longer in the sand.
By the time Cires quietly delivers his final “goodbye,” it’s almost disorienting to remember that this all started with a song that had you fooled in the first ten seconds that what would follow would be a poppy, anthemic album. And that’s what Lavola does best – it sets up your expectations, only to dash them completely and wildly, and, often, surprisingly, and manages to give you so much more than you expected at first glance.
And while This Book Is My Cowardice, with its longer runtime, beefier production and sense of it being a real, fully-formed “band” rather than a poured-over solo project is able to show this off in bigger flourishes with more experienced shifts and cleverer tricks, Leaving Paris seems to attract the intimate following that it has because of that. It sounds like one guy, giving it his all, trying to escape from something and ending up in a space that holds a fragmented, stain-glassed mirror up to it and reflects it all back as something more beautiful, something more delicate, and something more lovable. Five years later, it still sounds so fresh – it still sounds like you’re hearing something that you can’t believe not everyone else already has. It makes you feel like you’re just catching up to something, the moment you hear it for the first time.
Somehow Lavola manages to always offer a sense of forward-thinking, of being just ahead of you at all times, of being something everyone should be listening to, that can shock you when you realize it’s an indie act still regularly touring the local Florida circuits, putting in their time and giving it their all.
Collectors desperate to get their hands on a copy of Leaving Paris get to have an experience that seems so fitting to the music and emotions contained within – CD copies are out there, in beautiful digipaks with gorgeous art and extra bonus tracks at the end, with text from a short story printed over paintings and an overall package that more than makes it worth the pain that it might be to track it down. But it’s elusive, and hard to find, and not even known about quite like it ought to be. And you can stream it for free, but it’s never quite the same as holding the thing. What could be more Leaving Paris than that?
Despite it’s relatively unknown-state, five years on, Leaving Paris has a following few (if any) “EP”s often do. It still inspires fan art. People in the know still get hyped and sing along at every show when “The Queen Is Dead” kicks in. The band’s playing an anniversary show in Lake Worth, FL, performing the whole thing front-to-back, along with a number of surprises later on, as promised by them. There are fans catching flights from Texas to make it out there for it. People are taking drives from all across the impossibly-long state of Florida to see it. And, chances are, they’ll get to see a version of every song that will somehow outdo the source material, with Dwyer’s violin adding something so impossible to deny, an element Cires wanted to have on Leaving Paris from day one, but couldn’t get until now.
And maybe that’s how it ought to be – because for an EP that speaks so much about being incapable of reaching for something, or having to give something beautiful away, it seems poetically perfect to have something that seemed unobtainable finally given to it, five years later. Leaving Paris still sounds as polished and beautiful, as intimate and revealing as it did the day it was recorded. In an era where most music is treated as disposable, something to be played for a month before abandoned for good, Leaving Paris manages to retain its vitality to this day.
Like the artist behind it, it seems proof that coming from a wounded space does not mean you can’t have longevity. It has endured, just like the impossibly-heartbroken do. It has endured, just like the starving artists do. It’s endured, just like Lavola has, and (hopefully) always will. Whether it’s at its ear-drum punishing highs or heart-wrenching lows, Leaving Paris is a fully formed artifact that defies all expectations and continues to enrapture veteran musicians and rabid fans alike, more like something found at the found at the bottom of a shipwreck than in a playlist on the internet.
Josh is a young talent with a clever way with words. It has been a pleasure seeing him at our shows over the past year. He surprised Emily & I with this piece he wrote on LAVOLA a few weeks ago and gave me his blessing to post it here. Thanks so much, man.
Walking Through the Black Sea of Trees By Josh Sczykutowicz
Let me tell you a little bit about a Florida band called Lavola.
Lavola is a word that doesn’t really mean anything, but it sounds right, and it sounds fitting to the music it creates. Lavola wasn’t really a band at first; it was a name Julian Cires gave to his work as a musician. Lavola had a demo EP that got a CD release which you will never find. It was called Black Sea of Trees, named after a forest in Japan known both for its stunning beauty and its frequency of suicides which take place inside of its reaching leaves and wanting caverns.
Lavola followed it up with another release that’s too short to be an album and too substantial to be an EP, since dubbed an albumette. It’s called Leaving Paris, and every song on it lays out an emotional groundwork that you might call defining, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Songs are titled Masochist, songs are titled This City Loves You, and songs are titled I’m Leaving Paris, a name that brings to life imagery of fleeing a city known for love and one which, accordingly, loves you.
Despite Paris being known for its Tower and old world streets, the ghosts of Floridian coasts haunt the lyrics. “As the ocean’s tides swallowed up my face, all I saw was you, covered up in lace; Dear God, how you feel so fake, a porcelain doll barely keeping sane,” Cires both whimpers and screams, alternatingly defiant and succumbing. “I was the one to find, under the ocean’s tide, life, life, life,” he shouts after a series of thunderous guitars and sweeping distortion like crashing waves give way to this declaration. Lavola often finds life in the depths of it.
“Farewell, my friends, I’m fleeing Paris for fairer weathers, I knew no better, my heart’s grown trees,” Cires sings, first with an energetic pulse, until, by the end of the eight-minute-plus epic, it’s reduced to a soft sound of defeat, of leaving love behind and facing whatever life there is once the ocean swallows you whole.
And the thing is, you can’t really put Lavola into a genre. Lavola is too raw to be called technical; Lavola is too technical to be called punk. Guitars crash and sing; throats shred with deep screams and ascend with falsetto notes of beauty. Lavola will call itself an orchestral balancing act, given the chance. Lavola didn’t start out with a violinist, but Lavola was always made for one. Lavola writes songs about love and romance, of heartache and tumultuous relationships, and never much cares for the sexual part of it, coming from the chest and not the crotch like so many other acts.
If violins and romance are in the DNA of Lavola, orchestral love and classical beauty, then it is no surprise that the duo Julian Cires and violinist Emily Dwyer co-write all of Lavola’s work from everything post-Leaving Paris. Before and after shows they can be found sitting at the bar or standing near a merch table together, sipping off of a beer that seems to belong to neither, rather belongs to both, and when they hand it off from one set of fingers to the next, it is without thought. If you say something, they will take a moment to notice, and finally smile, and later they will harmonize, sharing a microphone when the venue only has one.
Lavola started out with just Julian in a bedroom, playing acoustic guitar and catching the fair winds of a bedroom fan in the background of soft interludes and tales of Holocaust-laced imagery, miscarriages, Victorian beauty and bound feet, but if you hear their music, and if you see them live, and if you happen to stick around to share a drink or trade a story, you will see that Lavola was never really a solo act, it just had yet to find its second half. When Emily Dwyer entered in, a hole not known became filled, and suddenly that hole was clear everywhere in the releases before her arrival.
And after her arrival, the first full-length Lavola record seemed to be uncovered from the snow that its title was buried in, called This Book Is My Cowardice. The CD comes in an unassuming black cloth sleeve, artwork both visual and audial, both full of color and muted shades of beauty concealed within. If you were lucky, you could grab a test pressing for the vinyl release with a print of handwritten lyric sheets for the album closer, Please Excuse the Blood, in which Cires can be found singing, “Please don’t listen now, these words are for sale, Mark up this failure before the ink dries up; I promise, lover, nothing’s really real, are you fading or are you pulling back?”
If you get the LP, and you turn the sleeve over, beneath the track listing you will find a cornstarch-coated Cires and Dwyer embraced in one another’s arms. If you flip through the CD’s booklet you will see the two with hands held amidst an empty field beneath a Florida sky so covered in clouds it could be considered classic geography. But neither is found fading, neither found pulling back. The cover art depicts a faceless couple, back turned, examining distant mushroom clouds, world ahead engulfed in flame.
Across the songs that expand on all of the themes the past two releases laid down with lyrical ease and sonic attention, somehow always a raw, pure event with carefully crafted string sections, samples and loops all at once, you’ll find their voices intertwined. You’ll hear violin strings played beneath the current of sparse piano and distorting guitar. You’ll find lyrical landscapes where hearts shed leather guards to give in, where Jesus Christ holds loaded guns to fucking heads, where a woman flings her lovers into the sun and Julian and Emily’s echoing voices ask you to go to sleep before the bombs echo defilement.
If you go to live shows, you might find them doing fifteen minute long Radiohead covers to packed crowds that they’ve collected across the south Florida scene in front of video screens full of color and swirling imagery, or you might walk into a bar in Orlando where the only decorations onstage are white Christmas lights wrapped around mic stands, where Julian punishes his acoustic guitar and Emily treats her violin like a thing of natural beauty. If you stick around, you can sometimes see Julian restring the charcoal-shaded instrument strapped across his back, strings snapping from how hard he strums, playing extra songs for fans who ask. Newly recorded demos get played behind the orange-glow of car dash consoles when the venues close for the evening.
In the performance rooms of a DIY home-turned-art-den, or beneath blinding stage lights, in front of neon signs that wave with changing colors and light their skin, Emily’s bleach blonde hair reflecting digital blue and green and Julian’s raven black bangs unchanged, or screaming into microphones as people jump into one another and walk toward Julian to record with phones held up, him down on his knees, mic stand ripped to the ground, band unrelenting as he sweats his voice into the chrome, you can find them playing some of the strongest sets in Florida.
If you ask them about the stories behind their songs, you’ll hear about lost loves and literature. They’ll tell you about mixing plants and musicians they know, scattered across the rain-soaked swamplands and urban streets of south-central Florida. You’ll hear about tattoo shops that offer discounts and stories of tech support and call centers, of sadomasochists cashing in their checks and hearts growing trees with roots intertwining. When you leave, and when the ringing in your ears from the speakers three feet from your face subsides, you’ll be sifting through song lyrics and searching for secrets, wanting to paint canvases in watercolor images of hearts sprouting leaves from aortas and ventricles. You’ll hear a song again and know who it’s about this time, or listen to something from Leaving Paris and wonder where the violins went, Emily’s live additions seeming like they were meant to be there all along. There will be outros missing and improvised lyrics you will want to hear and remember, digs at bad sound mixers and references to Charlie Murphy, and you’ll know that you will need to see them again.
I met Julian and Emily at a Nine Inch Nails concert, with The Dillinger Escape Plan opening in West Palm and have been friends ever since. They gave me their album for free; I paid for it later on. In under a year I’ve seen them eleven times, and soon it will be twelve, and I know that there is not a better band to be found in this coastal end of the continent. In their music and in their performances you will find beauty, intensity, passion, meaning, sincerity, and pure talent.
“This tired spirit is just a figment; A void to pacify,” Cires and Dwyer harmonize on the track “Healing Eye”. Lavola is anything but.
Josh Sczykutowicz is a young author from central Florida who’s probably drinking too much coffee. Most of his work can be described as dark, alternative and literary fiction. He has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine, East Jasmine Review and ExFic, among others. You can Like him on Facebook or follow him on twitter and tumblr at http://joshsczykutowicz.tumblr.com/.
A little throwback to the release of Paradise Oscine last year. I entered Astrea Corp at the end of 2011, an admittedly odd time personally (and at a time when LAVOLA’s future was uncertain amidst label talks and a line up fall out). In retrospect, the late night jam sessions became an almost meditative experience. Hours of noise and loops that eventually found their place.
I’m really happy to have been a part of it (and to have performed with Carly, Mike, Sandor and Chris for the past few years). Carly and Mike recently moved to North Carolina, but there are new tunes coming that I’m really excited to share once they are ready to be shared. Maybe more shows when Emily and I visit NC. Or Vice Versa?
Miami. This Saturday, Emily & I are honored to be performing 2 experimental sets using 3-D printed instruments (violin, guitar, and cello) created by MONAD Studio | Eric Goldemberg + Veronica Zalcberg with sculptor/sound artist Scott F. Hall. 7:30 at Now contemporary art.
It’s going to get noisy.
Full press release below.
Exhibition in group of 3-D printed sonic sculptures created by
MONAD Studio | Eric Goldemberg + Veronica Zalcberg with sculptor/sound artist Scott F. Hall.
During the Wynwood Second Saturday event on 10 October 2015 at NOW Contemporary Art, 337 NW 25th St, Miami, FL 33127. Solo performances from 7:30 pm onward by Hall on ABYECTO guitar and electroacoustic hornucopian; trio performances by Emily Dwyer on piezoelectric violin, by Julian Cires on MULTI guitar, and by a third performer on piezoelectric monovioloncello.