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Interview - The Voyeurs On The Cougars of Hermosa Beach, Their New Album, and Fraudulent Australians
All photos were taken by the very talented Benjamin Hoste for the LAist
Drummer and one half of the two man band the Voyeurs, Sean Johnson is shopping for a pilates DVD. Not for himself, but for his girlfriend so they can try it together. We're at a Target in Eagle Rock trying to decide between the core version or the one for weight loss. The other half of the Voyeurs, Jonathan Hylander is checking out the yoga balls. Not for yoga, but to bounce around the house. He thinks Sean should just buy a set of four DVDs and figure out which ones he likes best.
This is not how I expected to interview this promising young rock band, but hey I picked up some things for the house at the same time. The Voyeurs wander around the mega-store trying on hats, checking out cds, and goofing off with Star Wars action figures. They are very excited about their release party at the Echo for their debut LP Well Known Drag on Tuesday. After playing in bands all over the South Bay, these guys have finally got it right. Here is what was said as we perused the aisles.
Wait you guys live together? Don't you get sick of each other?
Jon -We actually don't see each other that much.
Sean - Mostly we see each other when we're playing. We're not home all that often.
When did you decide to form a band?
Jon - Oh we've been playing together since high school. We were playing in other bands that we're kinda big in South Bay at the time. We were both drummers. Our bands went on tour and we all became friends. At some point my band broke up and then his broke up. So I started a side project and asked him to drum. We did a bunch in about three years, but that fell apart.
Sean - Yeah we were the only ones who seemed to care, so we decided to have a band just the two of us. And it's been a little less than a year now. We'll be a year old in May.
Did you know there is an Australian band called the Voyeurs?
Jon - Really? Weird. What do they sound like?
Kind of heavy metalish.
Sean - Well, when we go over there we can be the American Voyeurs.
Jon - We got burned in Australia. I'm never going back there.
Sean - When we were in our old band we got signed by an Australian con artist. He was literally a con artist like the authorities were looking for him.
Jon - He didn't con us, though. He gave us fifty copies of our EP nicely wrapped, but we never got the money we were supposed to get from him.
What was his label called?
Jon - Revolution. And I looked up the guy and he was being indicted for fraud. He was in the newspapers and everything.
Sean - Yeah it was kind of a big deal. He screwed over our publicist too.
You can't really hold that against the whole country.
Jon - (laughs) Sure we can. I do.
What's the deal with the record label you have now? Otik Records?
Sean - It's a record label I started in high school and then when we became a band it became a formal thing.
Jon - Basically it's just a record label that's put out our bands.
Sean - My reasoning in the beginning was that we'll say that there's a record label. So when we put albums out they'll seem more important because they're on a record label. Some bands put out their cds and there's no record label, so people don't take them seriously.
So you figured if you had a record label it would be all right?
Sean - Yeah! I mean we sound good on the recordings, so why not put a bullshit record label on the album?
Jon - Yeah, and we'll pretend we have a marketing department, a recording department, and pr.
How did you guys hook up with JAXART Records?
Jon - We ran into Ashley Jex (owner of JAXART) at shows and she's a really cool person. We finished the record and we kinda needed help getting the word out about it. So she helped out.
Sean - Yeah and she's not wanted in Australia...that we know of.
What's with the dead bird's skull on your album cover?
Sean - Our friend, Jessica Cooper, drew that.
Jon - She's a really good artist. She actually did the art on all of our records.
Does it have anything to do with what you're trying to say in the album?
Jon - There's this theme of beauty and ugly things. I don't know. It's a skull so it's dark, but it's pretty at the same time. Hopefully that's what the music does as well.
Sean - Our songs are very cynical in a glass in empty sort of way, but our music is really poppy.
Why is it titled Well Known Drag?
Sean - (laughs) It's the life we live. Working, playing music....doing interviews. Just kidding.
I really like your cover of the Kinks' Sunny Afternoon. Why did you chose that song?
Sean - The Kinks were really the first band that Jon and I could agree on. Well besides the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Because at the beginning I was listening to punk and ska and he was listening to Nirvana, and we really bonded over the Kinks.
What is the Things That People Say about?
Jon - I don't want to get into specifics because that song is definately about someone. You know when you have a friend, who you really like as a person, but they do stupid things constantly. Then you hear about them. That's basically what that's about.
Is Walk Out the Door about one person in particular?
Jon - That's probably a composite of a few people. A lot of the songs sound like there about one person, but they're actually about five people.
That's a very safe answer.
Jon - Yeah I know, right? The thing I like about the last song on the album You're a Wreck, which is also a composite song, everybody who knew me at the time thinks it's about them. Sometimes there right, but most of the time it's about someone completely different.
What was the worst show you ever did?
Jon - There was this one show that was really disappointing. It was at the Roxy with White Star and Ima Robot. It was packed. And we were up first and they were not digging us.
Sean - Yeah by the end of the set people were clapping really slow.
Jon - It all started with the first chord. We didn't get a proper soundcheck. So when we started with the first chord he was supposed to come in, but Sean couldn't hear and he just didn't come in. It was not a good start.
Sean - We learned a lot that night.
What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen at a show?
Sean - So we used play at this place in Hermosa Beach called the Lighthouse. There was this fifty year old woman who was giving me the eye the whole night.
Were you worried?
Sean - No, it wasn't like I was going to go home with her or anything. It was just odd. The same thing happened to Jon...except there were boobs.
Jon - Yeah, and I was scarred for life.
Jon - Imagine the same thing happening except I'm a little blond drummer, who's only sixteen.
Sean - That was in Hermosa Beach too, like a couple blocks away.
Jon - I was just playing minding my own business, and she was trying to buy me drinks before we even went on. Not that I could have drunk them even if she bought them for me. So we went on and she climbs on stage clearly really drunk and she pulls up her shirt. Oh man, her boobs were all tanned and wrinkly. It was terrible. It was the worst thing ever.
Sean - We're actually trying to find a cougar for our bass player.
Sean - To take care of him.
Isn't that technically a sugar mama?
Sean - Exactly a sugar mama. We're just going to keep sending him to bars to pick up cougars until one of them decides to take care of him.
Jon - 'Cause otherwise there is no way this guy is going to survive by himself. He can't deal with having a regular job.
Does he know about this?
Sean - No, but if we make it happen for him, he'll be so stoked.
Be sure to catch the Voyeurs' record release party on Tuesday, Jan 27th at the Echo with The Monolators, Go West Young Man, and Les Blanks. It's FREE! You really have no excuse not to.
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