Raw Geronimo is at the core of it Laena Geronimo. Having been a part of various bands, she got together 5 friends and began her current journey as Raw Geronimo. Here, Laena goes in depth and gives some insight into all things Raw Geronimo.
1. How would you describe this project and would you describe it as a solo effort, that turned into a full band?
The closest I've come to summing up our sound is: Jungle-Punk-Soul-Surf-Goth-World-Avant-Pop-Wildness... and I could keep adding hyphens for hours. Basically It's a very eclectically inspired, high energy set. Everyone has a different description for it. I haven't been sold on one yet. I suppose initially it was a solo effort- only because it was just me writing songs and recording them by myself with no specific purpose for years; I was reeeeally shy as a songwriter and kinda just kept it hidden away. Then something just clicked; I basically experienced a totally abrupt about-face early 2011 and suddenly became consumed with this mission to share my songs and to sing my heart out to the entire universe. There was never any question in my mind about whether or not to form a full band: the "band" is my natural habitat. No backing track can replace that camaraderie, not to mention the nuances of human musicianship. Each member adds their own personality to the mix and I believe in that whole heartedly. I think that the songs sound 10x better and more exciting now being played by the full band than they ever could have in my wildest dreams.
2. Where did the name originate from?
Well, I guess I should go ahead and explain my name first... If I'd been born a boy my mom wanted to name me Geronimo, inspired obviously by the great Chiricahua Apache Native American Chief. In 2009 I decided to streamline "Myers-Ionita" to something a little easier to spit out, and I couldn't turn down the opportunity to go with something really awesome and symbolic... The idea of summoning that "male" counterpart to Myself, along with the strength and prowess associated with that Name Itself felt right. I also love how the name is used in pop-culture when someone's jumping off a cliff or something...I kind of feel like everything I do has an element of that reckless faith to it. When I finally decided to bite the bullet in 2009 and put some of my own material out there online I did it as Raw Geronimo- a name I'd been dabbling with in journals n doodles; I liked the way it sounded and it seemed fitting since this was the rawest presentation of myself that I had ever made public; it really was very much a naked feeling- as opposed to always having been able to hide behind someone else's vision... Flash forward a year a half: I'd formed a band and they all liked the name. So it stuck.
3. When did you start playing music?
I'd say shortly post-womb? My parents are both very musical; my mom is a singer/songwriter from Romania who had a band (BABOOSHKA) that practiced in our living room when I was a kid and my dad is a drummer/percussionist (DEVO). We sang a lot; I was always surrounded by instruments- guitars, keyboards, percussion galore, sitars, flutes- you name it. Started studying violin in school when I was 10 and then seriously trained with private teachers and symphonies until I started touring with bands too much to keep it up. Played guitar in the jazz band in high school. Started playing bass when I was 18 in a band. So I mean, I dunno.
4. How do you approach different projects/bands?
With a smile haha. Playing music is the funnest most fulfilling thing in the world to me. I would rather work on music than watch tv or sit around a bar any day. Being in multiple bands, especially ambitious ones, does require a LOT of organization skills and also a solid understanding of priorities between everyone involved, but I enjoy playing different instruments and different roles in a band too much to have only one outlet for it all, at least for now. At one point back in 2007 I was playing in 5 different bands, all the while holding down a full time job. Playing music is seriously my passion, sometimes to my own detriment! I'm a full-on addict. I still play in 2 other bands and work other fun little projects in when I can, but really now with my baby Raw Geronimo to care for I've had to learn to be realistic about my time and turn things down a lot more often. I spend an enormous amount of time as the wizard behind the curtain organizing, conceptualizing, planning etc... It's very different when it's your own band; you can't just show up n wing it on the spot.
5. Who or what are some inspirations you either use or perhaps don't directly channel, but nevertheless look to?
As far as live performance goes- Iggy Pop is The Man- he embodies the maximum of the sort of energetic, uninhibited live performance that I love- also Jim Morrison, Ian Svenonious, Dante White-Aliano... I love a performer who gives it all to the audience, who's energy is so intense that it's contagious. On the more feminine side of that coin Kate Bush's dance and almost-pantomime performance style holds a very sacred place in my heart also. I actually studied ballet and other forms of dance for 8 years as a kid and have always interpreted music in a very physically expressive way. I also definitely admire her talent for balancing artistic freedom with pop relevance. Musically, In writing- it's just such a hodgepodge of everything I've ever heard that it's really tough to name names. I love to take extremely disparate influences and marry them all together... but it's more of a subconscious thing. More often than not my songs don't start out as just a chord progression with a vocal melody- I usually write as I record the demo, and each track dominoes the next. It's always a frenzy and never a systematic process of working in influences, which is why I generally only can name them in retrospect, usually when I'm attempting to describe a part to my bandmate who's about to play it... at practice recently I realized that the best way to describe how I was hearing the drums on Magnetic Love -which we just adapted to play live to celebrate the 'Faustine' 7" release- was: "TERMINATOR" haha
6. Who would you like to work with on some type of project?
Musically I would be in heaven to work with Brian Eno and/or David Bowie.
7. Having played with quite a few various bands, what kind of venue or setting do you prefer?
I like playing anywhere where a real connection between the performers and the audience can happen- sonically, visually, physically... A live show is about celebrating real humanity as far as I'm concerned. I do appreciate quality sound, and awesome lighting is always a plus... I mean it's hard to say. Honestly the funnest shows I've ever played have been in some of the most random places: on a speed boat out in the water with 80 people on board in Long Beach, a raging house party in Austin, The Botanique Rotonde in Brussels, a converted 2-story military bus in San Francisco... basically it's really wonderful when the sound is great, but the most important thing to me is that the crowd is feeling good and alive and having fun! The live show is all about raw energy and getting everyone to just go nuts with us. If we were somehow playing a show locked in a prison on death row to an audience that was just losing it having the greatest time ever- we could overthrow the joint or die; I'd go out smiling either way.
8. If it weren't for music, what else do you see yourself doing?
Pet psychic/masseuse. These are real jobs I am told.
9. Being LA based, where are a couple places you'd recommend to visit?
Well, The Observatory and The La Brea Tar Pits are wonderful. For food I love Sage/KindKreme, It's Thai Hometaurant, Paru's Indian, Canter's Delicatessen, In n Out, Two Boots Pizza... If you're lookin for vintage clothing definitely hit up Lemon Frog Shop and Squaresville. For live music I love The Echo, The Smell, The El Rey... but really there are so many venues and destinations... I would highly suggest picking up an LA WEEKLY and seeing what's going on; it depends so much on the interests of the visitor. If you're looking to check out the local music scene you should grab an LA RECORD or look them up online for sure. I mean personally, I would say skip the typical tourist spots. I've run into a lot of people while traveling who've visited L.A. and hated it- and I don't blame them; I personally find that most places that are considered L.A. "hot spots" are horribly superficial and I avoid them like the plague. But don't get me wrong- I LOVE L.A. One of my fave things about it is that here communities are more based on common interest than spatial necessity; the fact that the city's so spread out allows for these neighborhood cultural hot spots to evolve where everyone's pretty much on the same page. In a place so huge- I can walk down my street to the coffee shop and run into like 15 people that i know, mostly through music in some way. Pretty much everything i do and everyone I wanna hang out with is within like a mile radius. I feel at home on the East side: Echo Park, Downtown, Highland Park, Silver Lake, Atwater Village... where the gentrification hasn't fully taken hold yet- there's health food stores and nice cafes but it's still real and rough around the edges. It's actually really exciting over here right now; there is such a prolific and strong concentration of creative people who are truly supportive of each other- it's a palpable force. And then if you could use a break from the city there's more nature destinations tucked around than even I know what to do with- gigantic parks, mountain ranges, lakes, the ocean- and it's all so close. Home Sweet Home.
10. What are some bands you are currently listening to?
Current bands? The Abigails, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Holy Roller, VUM, The Growlers, Deerhoof, The Black Apples, Jail Weddings, King Tuff, Devon Williams, Corridor, ... I hear my roommate Jada Wagensomer work on her songs for Brass Tax or Baby and Guy all the time which is awesome... but mostly what I've been listening to lately is a pretty vast variety of world music; Nigerian funk, Hawaiian lullabies, Romanian dances, Japanese Koto, Cuban calypso- you get the idea. I feel like there's an inherent honesty in non-westernized music and I love thinking about the arrangements, time/key signatures, etc and letting that sink into my subconscious, maybe to pop up later on in some form in my own music.
Some old favourites/favourite records?
Siouxsie and the Banshees "The Scream," Kate Bush's "The Dreaming" and "Never Forever," Suburban Lawns' small discography, Iggy and the Stooges "Raw Power," Sonic Youth "Dirty," The Slits "Cut," Patsy Cline "Greatest Hits", Television "Marquee Moon," CAN "Ege Bamyasi," Leonard Cohen "Songs From a Room," Brian Eno "Here Come The Warm Jets" and "Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks," The Cramps "Bad Music for Bad People," Frank Zappa "Freak Out," Joy Division "Closer," The Velvet Underground "The Velvet Underground & Nico," Blondie "The Best of Blondie," Moon Dog (s/t,) Jefferson Airplaine "Surrealistic Pillow," Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg (s/t,) Ethiopiques (Volume 1 and all the rest,) Adam and the Ants "Kings of the Wild Frontier," ABBA "Gold"..... this could go on forever... I've left out the overly obvious (at least to me) Beatles,Kinks,Stones,Bowie,Hendrix,Doors,Dylan etcetcetc
Anything you're looking forward to being released?
Well this may seem horribly self-centered, but I've gotta say that I am ridiculously excited about Raw Geronimo's "Role Play/Shot On The Spot" 7"-which is our first release featuring the full band- out in late Jan 2012... and even more for the future release of the LP that we just got started recording at Station House Studio here in Echo Park. I also can't wait for the Dante Vs. Zombies LP to come out in early 2012... To tell you the truth, I am so excited about everything that Neurotic Yell Records is putting out; the label was launched just this Fall 2011 and it's already off to a running start with upcoming releases scheduled throughout 2012 from some of my very favorite bands.... very exciting to be a part of it! Honestly I don't really go out of my way to keep tabs on what's going on in music outside of what I see locally. I suppose I spend too much time with my head buried in music that I'm actively a part of to care as much as I probably should about what everyone else is getting excited listening to? But it doesn't bother me much.
Last cd/vinyl/digital purchased?
My last record purchases have all been vinyl: VUM "Night Sun," George Danquah "Hot & Jumpy" (-African artist- released by Secret Stash just this year - they are putting out some verrrry cool stuff, check them out!) and an old, undated live recording from the Sahara Desert called "Desert Wedding," (-a sampling of the music that newly weds dance to in joyful and sometimes frantic celebration for an entire day without stopping. The last line of the notes on the back reads, "The desert may be bleak and bare, but the people and their customs are full of life and color." so good.)
Last movie you saw & show you went to?
The last movie I saw was an amazing film called "Double Indemnity" from 1944. The last show I went to (that I didn't play) was VUM at Echo Country Outpost, which was awesome.
Raw Geronimo's debut single "Faustine/Magnetic Love" is OUT NOW on Neurotic Yell Records and available worldwide (order here: http://neuroticyellrecords.bandcamp.com/album/faustine-magnetic-love) It's a translucent aqua vinyl and comes with a limited-edition 11"x17" full-color poster of the original artwork used on the album by Elon Etzioni and a digital download drop card featuring an additional song. You can check our insane music video for "Faustine" here: http://vimeo.com/32534551. Our follow-up 7" single featuring the full band line-up "Role Play/Shot On The Spot" on translucent red vinyl is available for pre-order now as well! (order here: http://neuroticyellrecords.bandcamp.com/album/role-play-shot-on-the-spot)
Keep up to date with the band by staying tuned to our Facebook band page http://www.facebook.com/RawGeronimo and you can also follow us on twitter! http://www.twitter.com/RawGeronimo
photo credit: Maraiah S. Tillett