It’s close to midnight, and I’m driving through a deserted commerce park in Jupiter. I’m trying to follow sketchy directions on my phone’s voicemail that end with the phrase, “Call me when you’re lost.” Not an issue: I head towards the wall of sound coming from a unit in back, and I’m at Lavola’s practice space.
I tap on the tinted glass when it quiets down a bit, and Julian Cires cautiously open the door. “We never know who’s wandering around out there,” he says. Entry wins me an immediate offer of ear protection from bassist Matt Hanser. “Do I look that old?” I think, then see singer/guitarist Julian’s Orange amp head and Matt’s Ampeg bass rig and accept, hoping to keep my eardrums from being pushed into my brain.
I’m struck by the distinct lack of beer cans on the floor or pot smoke in the air, and there’s not an enormous saucer-like pupil in the room. These guys are here to play music, not to fuck around like a bunch of high school kids that just discovered how bitchin’ weed is.
I settle onto a crappy Peavy amp someone left over in the corner, the band starts to play, and the room transforms. It’s not that the music is just loud, it’s hella-loud. It’s a hugely physical experience: I’m getting it in the stomach (no brown notes, thankfully), the chest, the head. It’s so immersive that it’s like tripping, which is fun for a while unless the music sucks. But it doesn’t: it’s really, really good.
Cires and Hanser had played in bands together when they were in high school, but that ended when both left for college. Hanser headed to Colorado to study business, “I was a train wreck,” he says of his time there, Cires to Tallahassee to study creative writing. “It was a compromise,” he says of his major, “A great compromise, but a compromise.” During his time at school, though, Cires began pursuing what he really wanted to be doing.
“I didn’t have many friends in Tallahassee, maybe one or two. It was mostly playing guitar, night and day.” And songwriting, he says, which “was the first thing in my life that I can remember actually being proud of.”
Lavola formed after Cires sent Hanser an email one spring that read: “Hey, I got a Vox. Wanna play this summer?” They got together and recorded a four song EP, but weren’t a full band until drummer Brian Weinthal, of “call me when you’re lost” fame, arrived this winter via an ad in Craig’s list. “I called Julian and said there was a kid that was planning on moving to New York, but that he’d stay if we let him join the band,” says Hanser. “And he rocked,” adds Cires.
Adding a second guitarist, though, didn’t go quite as smoothly. No one that they auditioned fit; most sucked out loud. “I shoulda known from the mullet,” Cires mutters after one particularly talentless douche departs.
A moment came during one of those practices that pretty much said it all. Lavola were trying out guitar player number four (or was it five?), who was sitting down noodling with his Telecaster, trying to find something to play. Matt and Julian slowly moved towards Brian’s kit, the group of three closing up together, the fourth outside the circle.
The process had turned out to be positive. It had helped push the core three together, crystallize who Lavola were, build chemistry between band mates. Ultimately they dropped the idea of adding a fourth. And that’s a good thing, because it’s that chemistry, combined with their huge sound and singer Cires’s emotional connection to the material that make Lavola so worth seeing.
I dug out my notes from the first practice I sat in on and I found the following scratched on page one: “British Sea Power, J. Mascais, Peter Gabriel, Jeff Mangum, Pixies,” and also “fucking cool.” I also found: “Rhythm section needs to lock up better. Focus on listening to each other. Build chemistry.”
When I stopped by a practice a couple of nights ago though, things had changed. The three guys playing music in a deserted commerce park in the middle of the night had become a band. And they played like monsters. That night, I even skipped the ear protection.
Fair warning: Lavola has grown. If you catch an upcoming show (and you should) be prepared for something much, much bigger. Personally, I’d love to drag their asses into the studio and get some recordings of the new line up…..
Live Show: Lavola play tonight, Friday, Feb 26, at Respectable Street Cafe in West Palm Beach. Doors open at 9 PM, opening act is Now Breathers. And it’s free, so you have no excuse for missing it.