The south Los Angeles-based new age garage rock group, Inner Wave, is on the forefront of a psychedelic revival movement currently happening in the Los Angeles rock scene. Following in the footsteps of contemporaries like Tame Impala, Inner Wave is on a mission to bring sweet and floaty synthesizer rock back to southern California.
The band consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Pablo Sotelo, the turquoise-maned Chris Runners on double-decker keyboard and vocals, Jean-Pierre Narvaez on bass, Alexandro Avilez on drums and Elijah Trujillo trading lead and rhythm guitar with Sotelo.
Sotelo’s Inglewood-based garage serves as the band’s spiritual home. It’s there that they create “R&B-influenced swamp rock,” says Sotelo. “The Swamp is Pablo’s garage,” says Narvaez, chuckling. “It gets real humid, because there’s no windows and thick carpet.” The droning melodies of the psychedelic five-piece echoing from the walls seem out of place for a town better known for its local rappers, rather than indie pop bands. “It’s unusual, that we play, where we are,” said Narvaez. “But, Inglewood has kind of always been the beating heart of LA, and people are interested.”
And believe us, the locals are interested! In fact, the LA-based hip-hop mogul VerBs invited the psychedelic rockers to play at an underground hip-hop event series, called Bananas. “The hip-hop scene around Leimerte Park LA kind of accepted us,” says Narvaez. “Every act at the event will be rappers, and, then, there will be us.”
Is a psychedelic band out of place at a hip-hop show? Probably. But they can work a crowd like no one else. “The people that show up are mostly eccentric underground hip-hop heads,” says Runners. “People really can't to figure out what’s going to happen next. It’s cool when the whole night is just mics on a stage, and then you see a band setting up with keyboards and guitars.”
“We have a lot of different influences, like Marvin Gaye,” says Trujillo. “We listen to Turkish music like Barış Manço.” Neither of these influences seem to be present sonically in any of their studio releases, but the prospect that remnants of these artists may be buried somewhere deep within Inner Wave's arrangements is exciting in itself.
What Inner Wave's performance lacks in 808s, it makes up for in well-rehearsed pieces that translate into a more honest performance. When the band performs “Lola,” the vocals carry over the mic in the summery of a guitar rhythm, until Sotelo bends over the mic stand to make an exacerbated screeching “If I say it’s over, it’s over / Believe me”. The song baring more than a little resemblance to a forgotten B-Side from Is This It.
The growth of Inner Wave’s street cred was followed by the inevitable abandonment of the group’s lighter beach jam aesthetic in favor of a more glossier synth sound that would make Wayne Coyne blush. Ultimately, it’s difficult to pinpoint with any certainty where Inner Wave’s sound is headed. The band says while they're in the studio, there's been a non-stop stream of former Mac DeMarco solo projects and local legend, Kendrick Lamar.
Their open-minded musical tastes allow for both the genesis of new and exotic arrangements, and a present fickleness that results in the band rarely maintaining a single sonic identity. The band is currently working on their second full length studio album, which is slated for release in May 2016. Fans will have to have faith that the new project will be explorative, new and definitely a little weird. The boys actually seem to enjoy each other’s company, so don't worry, they’re not going anywhere any time soon.
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