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Larry Ryan

Larry Ryan joined The Independent's website in November 2007. He writes the "Caught in the Net" music column for the paper's Arts & Books section on Friday. He wears thick glasses and talks slowly, traits which people occasionally mistake for signs of intelligence.

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Recently the paper's Arts & Books section profiled the next group of female musicians poised to follow in the footsteps of La Roux, Florence and the Machine, Little Boots et al. Among those named was the laid-back and lo-fi LA duo Best Coast, led by Bethany Cosentino. Another LA duo, Pearl Harbor (after some to-ing and fro-ing they opted for the American spelling), could be filed right alongside them.

Sister pairing Piper and Skylar (with the help of bassist Cody for live shows) are Pearl Harbor, offering appealing doses of airy surf-pop, with off-kilter guitars and dreamy vocals. They've released a digital EP, "Something About the Chaparrals" on the Mexican Summer label – get it at More can be heard on their MySpace; also there you can order two of their four-track CD-R demos.

In the light of these ethereal duos, and the equally dreamy female led LA indie band Warpaint, not to mention the floating electro sounds of LA based singer Glasser, there is definitely something in the LA air this year, aside from the smog.

Here are three songs by Pearl Harbor.

Luv Goon

California Shakedown

I've Got Some Happiness

I dropped Piper an email with some questions about the band, here's what she had to say for herself.

Tell me a little bit about the band? You're from LA right? Where in the city are you based?
Yes, we are from L.A. I live in a little city north of the Chinatown area of Downtown L.A. called Lincoln Heights, my sister lives in Hollywood with our mom. We started playing music together last year after I inherited a crappy bass from a friend. I'd just come back from a trip to New York that really inspired me. I DJ'd an R Stevie Moore (often referred to as the Godfather of Home-Recording) show at the Cake Shop, and hung out at his house later that week too. He showed me a lot of really killer video footage of past performances and candid moments in his life, in addition to songs that he'd been working on. We even worked on a song together. He recorded me reading some lyrics of his, in a very similar vein to his song "Chantilly Lace", and it was probably the first time I ever participated in creating music versus listening to it. Up until that point I always kind of viewed music as something too precious for me to experiment with, because I didn't want to make stuff I didn't like, and I was also just clueless as to how to go about writing a song. When I got home I was like, "fuck it, I might as well. I don't have anything else to do." So I started taking the aforementioned bass over to my sister's house to jam with her, because at that point she'd been playing guitar for a few years and was getting pretty good, and I felt comfortable throwing around ideas with her. The more we played together, the more we gelled and the more I felt like we might be able to do something cool together. One of my best friends, Cole Greif-Neill (The Samps, Haunted Graffiti), offered to help mix our early recordings, and has since been producing our stuff.

There seem to be a bunch of people seeming to occupy a somewhat similar area in at the moment. I'm thinking of Best Coast and maybe Warpaint. Do you feel there is a bit of a new scene developing? Are you friends with others making that sort of music?
I'm not really sure what's going on. I feel like the internet has a way of homogenizing bands that are actually quite different from each other mostly based on locale. I feel that if PH rolls with any bands in L.A., its Haunted Graffiti, The Samps, Nite Jewel, Animal Style, and Dunes, with Stan Hubbs as the casual administrator of affairs.

(Hear some of the music Piper references and is into right now with her "LA Stony Variery Houe" on Viva-Radio)

I think I read your music being described somewhere as "sandal gaze" - how does that sound to you?
It's a little bit better than "sh*t gaze", right?

What kind of music were you into growing up?
Everything from Fleetwood Mac and Steely Dan to the Beach Boys to the Stranglers. There's a pretty bitchin classical radio station that we'd listen to frequently while cruising around in the car with our mom, that I recently started listening to again. The last 4 years of my life I've gotten pretty crazy into records, which has hopefully left me with a cushy back-catalogue of inspirado for my own musical endeavors. One of my favorite discoveries in the last couple of years is this outsider guitar legend from San Francisco named Leland, who we recently did a blissed-out tribute to on our new CD-R "Wish We Were Here". It's a cover of his song "I've Got Some Happiness."

Your sound seems to encompass surf pop, shoegaze and 80s jangly guitar pop. Were these big influences? Did you consciously try to use these sounds or did you just land on that?
I'm very inspired by guys like Merrell Fankhauser, who is a total OG purveyor of the 60s surf sound, Afterglow, and a lot of other psych bands from around the world. At the same time, I love bands like Summer Hits, Lilys, and Felt.. so I think that some of our songs reflect that vibe too. I'm not really sure where my sisters ideas come from, she's got a cool and unique melodic sensibility. It's so early on with our band that it's hard to say where anything's going musically. I feel like we're free to go in any direction we want. "Expect the unexpected, and you won't be disappointed" kind of thing, you know?

Do you come from a musical background? Family etc?
I guess my grandpa used to have a music/variety TV show called like "TeenBarn" or something in the 60s.. I should follow up on that, try to find some footage...

Are you still in your teens? Are you in school still or just concentrating on the band? What's the rush?
I'm 22, my sister is 15. I go to a community college around here, my sister's in high school. We're concentrating on school and the band equally, I would say. There is no rush in my eyes to do anything with this band, but if people approach me with a cool opportunity for the band, I say "yes." At this point our main focus is on writing new songs and getting our live band together.

How do you find playing live?
Well, I like playing live for the most part, and I think my band mates share the same sentiments. It's fun. So far we get a lot more love from seasoned freaks than young people though. One time we played a show at Don Bolles' (The Germs) club in L.A., and one of the DJs came up to me and said "Wow, I'm impressed, some of your stuff really reminds me of Cleaners from Venus" which, to me, is the highest compliment. The other night this older Kim Fowley-looking gentleman came up to us at a show and said "Man, that was cool! You guys are like the Shangri-Las on fuckin' acid!" and it made me feel really good. If we could get more people like that at our shows, then I think it'd be a mutually enjoyable experience for us and the audience.

How do you approach writing lyrics? Does just one of you write them?
Yeah, I write all the lyrics.

When you record, do you just plug in and play? Is it quite similar to when you play shows?
It depends.. sometimes I'll record a part on my 8 track and my sister will come over with her guitar and we'll just jam on it until something materializes. Other times my sister has cool stuff she's been working on and I try to build on her ideas.. a lot of just getting together and jamming. My friend and our live bass player Cody comes over now and throws ideas around with us too. It's not really similar to when we play shows, mostly because we already know what we're going to do when we play shows.

Why Pearl Harbor?
'Cuz we're an American band, man, and with any luck, we too will go down as a great disaster in the history of the Pacific coast.

Are you recording an album? Have you planned that far ahead? Where next for you? Have you any grand plans?
We have some releases planned for various times in 2010 from labels like Art Fag, PPM, Gloriette, Big Love, and a few other loosely confirmed peeps. We're gonna play on Merrell Fankhauser's public access show called "Tiki TV" and I'm really stoked about that. We have some other collabs in the works with him, including a music video. We're going to start practicing with a drummer next week, and a rhythm guitar player will follow soon after so that's a huge step for us. We've also got plans for SXSW and some casual touring.

Where do you stand on the big issues of today: Tiger Woods' infidelities and that couple crashing the White House party?
No comment on Tigey. As far as the White House goes, I think that if it wasn't such a breach in security and if the implications of such a breach weren't so troubling, the Obamas would've probably been cool with some uninvited guests coming over as long as they kept it together, you know? 'Don't track mud all over the house, and let's keep the conversation stimulating. Help yourself to as many drinks as you want, but don't let me catch you hitting on Michelle,' type thing.


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