Interview: Lifeguard

EMD: Tell me about what led you to the instrument you play in the band, how long you have been playing, what players you take inspiration from, and how you knew you should work on music with the other members of your band. I especially wanna hear from the drummer, because having a place to drum consistently enough to get very good is so hard!!! (I am a drummer hahah) 

Kai Slater (he/him): I was about 12 or 13 when I started guitar. I had been playing snare drum in the school band since 5th grade and bass since my 12th birthday and I really wanted to find an instrument that I could make sound really crazy. At the time I found the other instruments limiting. I was like, I need something that I can thrash around with! And coincidentally, around that time, guitars just seemed to cling to me; I found a nice old white Stratocaster in a music store and a thirty dollar Japanese guitar right about when I started to get frustrated with bass and drums. I was sort of restless and wanted to make insane music. Not really cool music, though, more just disgusting metal and punk. So I jumped on every opportunity to play, running sort of helter-skelter from band to band, none of them particularly good. But nevertheless, all these shitty bands were probably the number one thing that taught me how to play guitar well. I was coming out of these shows with torn up fingers and blistered feet, jumping around everywhere and playing as best as I possibly could. There was this period of almost a year that I was playing in a straight punk band, and although I don’t think that was the most musically fulfilling time in my life, it was definitely the most significant part of my skill-building. After that, I started recording songs by my lonesome criss-crossed on the floor of my bedroom, and at the time my guitar playing was most inspired by jangly players like Alasdair MacLean (The Clientele) and Martin Newell (Cleaners from Venus), and more textural players like John Dwyer (Osees, Oh Sees, Thee Oh Sees, OCS, The Oh Sees, Orange County Sound, Orinoka Crash Suite, The Ohsees), Daniel Ash (Bauhaus), and Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo). I distinctly remember watching a video of Ira Kaplan spazzing out with his guitar–ripping up the strings and stuff–and being so inspired to just convey such pure emotion. All of those guitarists are very sort of reverb-y, but now I’ve been really into super dry guitar sounds that sound like barbed wires, especially for Lifeguard, so players like both Ian and Alec Mackaye (Fugazi, The Warmers), Justin Trosper (Unwound, Survival Knife), and all the guys from This Heat. It’s that insanely calculated energy. I knew right away this band was cool because the first song we did together was “Third Uncle” by Brian Eno.    

Asher Case (they/them): I started playing bass to be contrarian, but it became something that was really natural. It was funny: we had a really old Musicmaster with flatwounds in our basement and I took it to school and learned how to play it. I’ve been playing since fourth grade, but I only started learning theory in the past year. I’ve never really been a singer, but I have known how to speak for quite a while. I guess I started getting really into the process of music when I watched this Joy Division documentary, and later that summer I got really into the Bauhaus record Mask. David J and Peter Hook are definitely very big influences on my style. I think that Juan Monasterio and Kim Gordon also did wonders for my knowledge of the instrument , because I got really into Brainiac and Sonic Youth while I was writing a lot of Dive with Lifeguard and I think it is subtly reflected in some of the lines I wrote on the record. Doug McCombs is someone who has played in a lot of the bands that got me really interested in the bass in the first place–Tortoise and the For Carnation. Simon Gallup’s bass on Seventeen Seconds is probably some of the most meaningful sounds to me and that record, tracks like “M” and “Secrets,” are always on my mind when I’m writing. In a similar and final vein, I think that Paul Webb’s lines (or rather “pieces”) on Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock and Spirit of Eden have made me fully aware of how subtly the bass can have an impact in a piece of music. I started playing with Isaac almost two years ago and it kind of started working immediately. We made some good progress and got comfortable with each other right before Kai started working with us. I think that it made the eventual collaboration really comfortable and smooth. I think it’s something that really just worked when it started and kept working. 

Isaac Lowenstein (he/him) : When I was super young, probably around 5-6, my sister was taking guitar lessons, and I was super jealous, as I wanted to play an instrument, too. At the place where my sister took her lessons, there was a drum kit in the practice room and I would always mess around on the drums during her lesson. It eventually became too disruptive, so my parents had me taking lessons, too. I’ve been playing since, but right now I’m not taking lessons. Right now I’m very inspired by 1990’s hard-hitting drummers (The Jesus Lizard, Fugazi),  but what I try to mimic changes on an almost-monthly basis. I guess a big part of it is also revivalists right now that are also using that type of sound (METZ, Lightning Bolt, Melkbelly). I am also permanently influenced by Tortoise, especially Standards. I love how percussive it sounds and the transcendence between electronic and rock sounds through that album are mind-blowing. Lifeguard, being my first real band, has been amazing to drum for and I’ve never felt such creative freedom. It’s super cool to completely write a part and see it translate to a finished, recorded song a few months later. 

Tell me about the cover art for the new 7″!!! Who is this sewer boy with a gun and a…crown…made of floral print fabric?? Am I seeing this correctly?

Lifeguard, collectively: We were really not planning on making the cover art when we did. We started to casually gather some ideas and one of the first ones we found was of this kid in the 50s sticking out of a manhole from the public domain. We just eventually stuck with it because it’s such a haunting and unique image. We added the crown as a surreal mayflower queen type ornament.

Tell me what you think about these new songs in comparison to Dive…your process of creating them, releasing them…anything! 

Dive was recorded in a day at Electrical Audio during the summer, and the production/mixing process was spread across a few months after it. For this new single, we recorded it ourselves in Asher’s basement studio, similarly, in a day, but mixed and produced it over the next two or three days.

All of the songs on Dive were written over a long period of time and one was even written before Kai was in the band. The album feels like a big range of sounds, because our influences have been ever-changing, and throughout the year Dive was written, we were still developing our sound. After finishing the album, we had literally recorded every song that we had written. This resulted in us having a completely clean slate to make music with no album in mind. These new songs are continuations of that development, and they are songs that we are really proud of. 

These young musicians completely rip sonically, but it is possible their greatest contribution is really something else: the much strengthened belief that the future could be far better yet.

Hear the new songs on Bandcamp.


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