My first exposure to The Paranoyds was catching the quartet opening for Sunflower Bean's sold-out show at The Echo last summer. Their take-no-prisoners fury and snarky sing-song choruses have quickly made them local favorites in the DIY and indie scene, but they've proved difficult to keep tabs on, eschewing Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter in favorite of keeping things old-school—and shrouded in a little mystique.
In an often-overcrowded local scene with countless guitar bands seeking discovery, The Paranoyds have already amassed a loyal, actively engaged audience, despite a social media blackout that ended only recently. Their crowds are consistently packed with adoring, moshing fans, many of are regulars.
The self-described "dong gaze" outfit, comprised of bassists-guitarist-vocalists Staz Lindes and Lexi Funston, keyboardist-vocalist Laila Hashemi, and drummer David Ruiz, build their sound on reckless, glammed-out LA punk bones and blow it out with elements of psych, garage, and spit-addled pop. Think a 1960s girl group that flipped off Phil Spector and embraced an eerie blend of reverbed-out surf guitar, horror soundtrack synths, pummeling drums and threatening bass lines. But it's The Paranoyds' penchant for catchy choruses that ties together their varied influences. As Lindes, Funston, and Hashemi howl lines like "You said I'm freaking you out" and "I wanna be your bear" in unison with paranoia-inducing urgency, so does the crowd.
We caught up with the 24-year-olds to chat about their third EP Eat Their Own, premiering below on Noisey . We discussed the highs and lows of the LA music scene, touring with DIIV, DIY in the wake of Ghost Ship, and more. We also gave the band a disposable camera to document a week in their life as a form of vintage social media for paranoid times.
Noisey: Could you tell us about how you all came together and share some of your musical influences?
Lexi Funston: I play guitar and sometimes bass. Staz plays bass and sometimes guitar. Laila plays keys. And David [Ruiz] drums. [Staz, Laila and I] have been best friends since Santa Monica High School. We met David a few years ago. Staz and I will bring an idea of a song in or a skeleton of a song, and then David and Laila will add their touches and it'll come together…it's all very collaborative.
Within the last year we've gotten into a pretty phat funk phase, so like disco and funk from the 70s. We are also all huge Devo, Wire, Gang of Four, Television, Jonathan Richman and Richard Hell fans. We recently dressed up as Devo for Halloween and covered "Gates of Steel" and we still miss those jumpsuits and red hats.
How has your experience in the LA scene been? What have been some of its challenges?
Funston: The LA music scene is straight up, poppin'. It's nuts. On any given night, there's a good show going on. And on those cursed nights, there will be like three different lineups at three different venues and they all look baller and it leaves you feeling left out whatever you decide to do. I guess that could be considered one of its challenges, is that there are so many bands. But also, it's awesome. Everyone is out here, doing their thing and making good music.
The Paranoyds were formerly anti-social media, relying instead on a hashtag and old-school methods such as street teaming and flyers. You've recently joined Instagram, though. Why now? What changed your mind?
Funston: We finally have recordings that we're proud of and we want to share with the most people. I suppose Instagram allows us to keep people informed when we put new stuff up or when we're playing a show. We're not great at it and we don't want to post unnecessarily.
Tell me about your new EP Eat Their Own.
David Ruiz: There's definitely more of a horror theme to it. The track, "Pet Cemetery" is sort of a grim romance story inspired by, none other than, the Stephen King film with the same title. We also decided to re-record two previously released songs ("Freak Out" and "Bear"). We recorded with Kyle Mullarky and he created such a cool and comfortable environment for us to work in that we figured it would be fun to re-do those two and have some more hi-fi takes on them.
Is there a full length in the works?
Ruiz: We talked about it.
Laila Hashemi: It's just so hard. Real life is so hard. It's definitely a goal.
Funston: It doesn't really matter anymore, though.
Do albums still matter?
Lindes: You know, it started with 45s, right? Phil Spector said that albums are just two 45s and a bunch of shit to distract you from it. So sometimes I feel that way. It's kind of cool to respect the recordings you do one at a time.
Funston: We could throw them all together, but it's all going to sound different.
Sometimes things may work, but not together.
Lindes: Yeah. Well, [our debut EP] After You was recorded on reel-to-reel on a fancy cassette thing, but was mixed digitally. Whereas the Fernando one was straight into a four-track. So if you put those together on an album, it would be like two different levels.
What are your thoughts on visual albums? What would a Paranoyds visual album look like?
Funston: I think a Paranoyds visual album would just be a short B horror film or something with like gag horror effects. It'd be fun to do something like that on film and not digital.
Do you think Myspace will ever come back?
Hashemi: Justin Timberlake? Yes.
Lindes: You know what's weird is that all those profiles are still on there. And I'll listen to music from Venice bands and LA bands from middle school and high school. There's this band TDRT and Fallopian and all these Venice kids. All that stuff is still up online. I even have a…I'm not going to say what it is, but I still have music online. So it's kind of a graveyard, which is nice.
A lot of these bands aren't even around anymore, but their music lives on.
Lindes: Yeah, honestly, thank God I had that networking tool in high school and middle school, because that was the easiest way to find out about shows. It was great. And new artists? It was great for the time. Me and Laila kind of fell in love on Myspace. It was: "Hey, I see you in the hallway every day. Next time say hi."
Funston: I had to be brought along, unfortunately.
Ruiz: "I have this other friend…"
Funston: It was kind of a package deal, unfortunately for Staz. You all grew up in LA. What's it like being a younger band in the scene, and how has it evolved since back when you started?
Hashemi: Since we've started just a few years ago, there are so many more bands in Los Angeles! It's really awesome, so many talented people doing something new and inspiring and branching out past our city to tour around the world. Also, with the political climate being how it is currently, it's really brought out the community aspect of the LA music scene. We've come together in full force to do good despite the circumstances. Hosting events, playing fundraisers, it's really incredible.
What are your thoughts on the closures of Pehrspace and The Smell? Because it seems like the all-ages DIY scene could die here.
Lindes: Obviously it's super heartbreaking and bullshit. Obviously, this is how it works. LA is like a phoenix. It has nothing from the past unless it gets a plaque, but that's rare. All the old punk clubs are gone, even from before we were born.
Ruiz: I guess we're stoked be there.
Lindes: Yeah, it's great we were there, but this guy said, "You know, this is going to bring something better." The amount of people affected by this are going to work together to create something new, and it's going to be great. That's the optimistic thing to think about it.
How has the Ghost Ship tragedy affected you as a band, particularly as one that's played a lot of DIY spaces? Also, what do you see happening with these shows and spaces now and in the future?
Funston: We love playing and seeing shows at DIY venues. We've definitely become a little more aware of safety at these shows. We recently played in Tijuana and Staz's brother, Misha, was sort of pushing back at the venue because they only had one entrance and exit, which was this slippery spiral staircase. But I don't see these venues going away—they're too important—and there will always be a need for these spaces.
How do you feel about Trump actually winning the election? How has the response been in the scene in terms of action? What, if any, do you think is the role of young bands in such events?Lindes: We are extremely fortunate to have our music community here. Basically, everyone has either had a benefit show or is in the process of doing one. The majority of us are working super hard for good causes in the ways we know how to. People come to the shows, they buy tickets, drinks, etc., and we use that money to go towards the people that are hurting the most right now. Our shows are safe places and everyone is very supportive and kind.
What was it like touring with DIIV?
Lindes: If you ever had a fantasy as a kid, like "I'm going to be a rock star, and I'm going to go on tour with my best friends," that's exactly what it was. We just experienced full art support on every end. And it was just flawless and amazing.
Finally, tell us about these disposable camera shots.
Funston: These disposable shots mostly cover two events. The first was our co-release show at the Blindspot Project with Fernando and the Teenage Narcs. We painted our faces green and about two songs in, it started like…sweating off (more like, disintegrating into our skin) and then we just looked weirdly pale. The second was our show at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs for What Youth magazine. We were stoked to be in the magazine—it's a super cool surf magazine—and this particular issue that we were featured in also had a huge spread and interview with photography legend Brad Elterman. The next day we just hung out poolside and drank way too many piña coladas for 120 degrees' weather.
Check out the Paranoyds on Bandcamp.
Frank Mojica is paranoyd, not an androyd. Follow him on Twitter.