Basement Life recording new album, will play GSOFest
Not bragging, it was pure happenstance that I found myself covering the emerging downtown Los Angeles punk scene just as Social Distortion, Los Lobos, Perry Farrell, Red Hot Chili Peppers and a whole host of bands no one had heard of then, but are legendary today, were thrashing their way through clubs no bigger than New York Pizza. Flea and Anthony still owe me $5.
What made those performers so remarkable and transcendent, was an unmistakable authenticity.
Basement Life ignites a joy of rediscovery in those who believe punk should remain preserved in amethyst, surrendered to another time and temperament. How is anyone going to improve upon, build on, what came before given the inherent limitations? A conundrum for sure, until a rare combo like Basement Life sonically boom tubes into our atmosphere.
On the bill with Bit Brigade at The Blind Tiger this month, Basement Life drew a large and attentive crowd for an opening act, practically everyone in the place facing the stage from the opening cords on.
Lead singer Gavan Holden’s volcanic vocals and atramentous lyrics fuse mercilessly, resulting in a mesmerizing stage presence, an inexplicably attractive ferociousness rooted in vulnerability and conflicted emotions. A musical force unreckoned-with for a decade, Gavan is one of those committed young rock warriors brave enough to tour the East Coast with bare pockets in tattered chariots when he was fronting the band Funny Like A Funeral some years back.
It was a raw, eviscerating performance. Basement Life guitarist Eric Mann weaves and wails with an uplifting swagger while drummer Caleb Gross’ rat-a-tat-tat beats, sticks for Tommy guns, hammers it all home. Caleb’s banging on a custom-made, solid maple drum kit with 1960’s hi-hats that he claims, “Sound better because of the weights and the shakes of the cones.”
I caught up with Gavan at Legitimate Business studio in Glenwood where Basement Life has been recording their second album, DEVOUR, over the course of eight consecutive eight-hour days. “It’s going really great,” he confided. “Kris [Hilbert] is an amazing producer; I don’t think we could have made a better decision.”
As for the tone of this new album Gavan reveals, “It’s a little darker. Lyrically it’s more introspective than the first one. Musically, we wrote it more like jam sessions rather than anybody just bringing stuff in.” For someone so nakedly agro onstage, this singer/bassist is disarmingly low-key off. “It just kinda came together with us in a room playing. I think that adds a much different vibe to the songs and the structure.”
Everyone involved is pleased with the results as recording wraps up. “I enjoy the creative process,” Gavan said. “I feel like everybody contributes a lot. One thing I like about writing with Eric, our taste in music is very similar, but our influences are way different. It took a little time for us to mesh but I think it sounds cool the way he plays guitar, it’s different from what I’m used to.”
DEVOUR will be released digitally, on CD and vinyl this summer while Basement Life’s revelatory first album from 2017, Love Is Not Real, drops as an LP in May. Audiophiles agree with Gavan that, “Vinyl is the best way to listen to music. It’s more interactive; you have to stick the needle on, flip the sides, it’s not something you can throw on and forget about. You’ve got artwork to look at; you can read the liner notes. It’s more of an experience.”
Basement Life has no plans for touring but, “We’re playing a lot this summer across North Carolina, around the release of the new album. And maybe a little further out.”
Gavan said he is drawn to local bands such as, “Hammer No More the Fingers, they’re from Durham. I really like Night Sweats and Totally Slow. Instant Regrets, love that Greensboro band.”
Basement Life will be performing Sunday afternoon, April 29 at Westerwood Tavern with Instant Regrets and Echo Courts, capping off GSOFest, a not-to-be-missed weekend-long roster of superior local talent spread out across different venues.
Artistic member of ‘The New York Yankees of Motion Picture Advertising,’ Billy Ingram is the author of PUNK, a memoir of his time chronicling the 1980-1983 East LA punk scene for a sleazy gay magazine.