Guest Mixtape + Interview / So Many Wizards: Songs That Make You Wanna Stay In

By Amanda DK

Photo Credit: David Uzzardi

Nima Kazerouni might be the busiest person in East LA.  Echo Park, Silverlake, Eagle Rock.  Actually, throw Long Beach in there too.  And San Diego.  At the core of a slew of local bands including Pulse Out, Snaggletooth, and most recognizably the frontman of So Many Wizards, Kazerouni plays in venues all across SoCal on an almost monthly basis.

So Many Wizards’ unique brand of hazy, bedroom pop with a quirky edge has taken hold of the local music scene – never more so than over the course of 2011.  They stole the show from Puro Instinct at one of the last Brand X LA Unheard concerts in April, and released a brand new 7”, a follow up to the band’s 2010 EP, Love Songs For When You Leave Me.  There have been line-up changes and additions the result of which is a new lush, bigger sound, and one that Kazerouni is particularly excited about.  Most recently, So Many Wizards has shared stages with a slew of other buzz bands, including Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Lord Huron, Real Estate and more.  It’s only a matter of time before audiences across the country are just as familiar with Kazerouni’s playful falsetto, bouncy melodies and the name “So Many Wizards.”


In the middle of a busy autumn, Kazerouni, Erik Felix, and new members Frank Maston and Geoff Geis took some time to share some tunes that make them want to stay in.  And though the weather is cooling and even LA residents are pulling out cozy sweaters – the band must not be listening to any of the tracks they chose below, as they’ll be out again this Friday evening at the Echo with The Soft Pack, Abe Vigoda, Slang Chickens and Devon Williams.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t kick back and soak in the music though.

Songs That Make You Wanna Stay In

Erik:
Felt “Something Sends Me to Sleep”
Minor Threat “Stumped”
Asura “Silver Trees”
Nicole Kidman “Thirst For God”

Nima:
Francis Lai “The Solitude”
Joy Division “The Eternal”
Vincent Gallo “Apple Girl”
The Walkmen “Hang On, Siobhan”

Geoff:
Erik Satie “Gymnopedie #1″
Julia Holter “In the Same Room”
Mitch Miller and The Gang “Silent Night”
Antonin Dvorak “Symphony #9 (“New World”), Movement 2: Largo”

Frank:
Afterglow “Afternoon”
Burt Bacharach “Nikki”
Joe Meek and The Blue Men “Valley of No Return”
The Beach Boys “In The Back of My Mind”

TA: What are some defining characteristics of songs that make you want to stay in?  Lo-fi production?  Slower tempo?

Nima: There’s no real set criteria, but slower tempo songs have that effect on me.
Frank: Usually it tends to be really lush production and a relaxing vibe that makes me want to stay in. The uptempo rockers are good for a night on the town.
Erik:  There are always different reasons to stay in. Some times it’s a song that gets you so excited you don’t want to leave the house, because all you want to do is listen to it. Other times it could be the tone or tempo of a song that makes you want to stay in and avoid the traffic, crowds, and everything that comes with going out.
Geoff:  These are songs and pieces that make me thoughtful. I normally like to sing along and dance when I listen to music, but this theme got me thinking about songs that inspire me to be quiet and reverent.

TA: Do the songs thematically cover things that will make you stay in?  A lover, cold weather, etc…

Nima: Definitely yes. The lyrics are key, but only if they are supported by complimentary arrangements and dynamics within the song.
Frank: I listen to a lot of instrumental music, so it’s usually the overall feeling. But introspection is a theme I associate with staying in.
Erik:  Typically no, but oddly enough I did notice there was a sort of a haze over a few of these songs.

TA: In your opinion, how many of the songs were chosen for this theme because of the lyrics, as opposed to the general tone and feel?  Which ones?

Nima:  “Hang On Sioban” and “Apple Girl” were definitely chosen for the lyrics, but also because the tones from the arrangements nicely enhance what’s being sung.
Geoff:  Two of the songs I chose don’t have lyrics, so I guess I definitely went with feeling more than lyrics. But the lyrical songs I chose definitely continue the theme of thoughtfulness in the form of Julia’s haunting remembrance and the hymn’s expansive, metaphysical implications.
Erik: None were actually chosen for lyrical reasons, though, the vocal delivery and tone of the vocals did have an influence on me.

TA: Often times So Many Wizards have been categorized as “bedroom pop” – are there any specific qualities that you feel your music shares with any of the songs on the mix?

Nima: There is a dreamlike hazy quality that I think So Many Wizards definitely shares with these songs.
Frank: They are all very beautiful and melodic which I think are two major cornerstones of So Many Wizards.
Geoff: I guess that “bedroom pop” is a way to say that Nima’s songs have an intimate, immediate quality to them. For me, very little is more intimate and immediate than “Gymnopedie.”
Erik:  The songs we write are pretty manic. Some are upbeat like the Minor Threat song, others are calm like the Felt song or have a lot of textures like the Asura or Joy Division track.

TA: Would you say the mix is geared to a specific season or temperature?  Or do you touch on a few different seasons and temperature throughout the mix?

Nima:  These songs have the same effect on me year round no matter what the season is.
Frank: I think my overall taste gravitates toward autumnal/winter vibes all year round.
Geoff: With the exception of Dvorak’s folksy and warm “Largo,” all of my choices are frosty. This time of year, I tend to stay inside more often than not.

TA: What are your favorite “staying in” activities?

Nima:  Rumble with the pup. Write or record new ideas. Self help books.
Frank: Playing music. And listening to music.
Geoff: Outside of So Many Wizards, I’m a solo musician. Wintertime is my creative time – I stay inside storing up ideas and songs for performance and release over the upcoming year. I’m like a squirrel, but my nuts are my jams.
Erik: I snack pretty hard when I’m in. I usually listen to music, have friends over or catch up on TV.

TA: Conversely, what motivates you to go out?  Name one song that gets you out of the house.

Nima: Nirvana “All Apologies.”  After it rains and the air is fresh and crisp. Best time to go out.
Frank:  Wanting to see specific people always brings me out. I can name two songs: Nilsson “There Will Never  Be” and Burt Bacharach “Promises, Promises”  I think a lot of brass makes me feel like I’m on the town.
Geoff: “Summer Night City” by ABBA — “When the night comes with the action, I just know it’s time to go.”

Nirvana “All Apologies”

TA: There’s a big difference between staying inside because you’re cozy and comfortable, versus staying inside because you’re scared to go outside.  What songs (on the mix or not) would you choose to best exemplify each feeling?

Nima: “Isolation” gives me the scary feeling. All the other ones give the cozy feel. Sad but cozy.
Frank: I think the Afterglow song “Afternoon” has a bad trip/paranoia feeling.  And “The Valley of No Return” is a song that makes me feel comfortable and content.
Erik: The Asura song is definitely one that exemplifies that comfortable feeling. It’s also so damn good that it just makes you want stay in and try to write some stuff.
Geoff: Franklin Roosevelt said, “the only thing to fear is fear itself.” If you’re afraid, go outside!

TA: All of the songs in Frank’s mix very much have the sound of the past (because they are all at least a few decades old).  Do you think there is something about staying inside that takes you back in time?  Whether to past time periods or just to your own childhood?

Frank: My tastes have always gravitated towards older sounds. But there is a timeless quality to being at home in your own world. When you take a break from everything outside and sort of isolate yourself at home you can be wherever you want.
Nima: Music itself is a powerful tool that alone has that effect on people. Staying inside and listening to music intensifies that effect very much. While I reflect on my life, my childhood is a place I like to visit quite often. It was a very intense time for me.
Erik: Sort of – when you were young you stayed in because you had to, because you’re weren’t allowed to go out without permission. It forced you to preoccupy yourself in new and creative ways. You get a a sense of that now sometimes, but not necessarily anything in particular.
Geoff: No, Frank is just an “old soul.”

TA: So how does the new EP compare to your last, both in sound and in the process?

Nima: A lot more time has gone into arranging each song. More experimental sounds. I feel like I have become much better at arranging and finding what each song needs.  Getting Erik’s feedback on such arrangements has been great too.
Erik: Nima wrote the first EP by himself, whereas the latest EP has the first songs he had ever written with me. I think the newest EP is a lot looser, has more layers. Some of the songs were written really fast, like in a day, so they seem to make a more immediate impression.

TA: As mainstays on the local music scene, what are some other local bands you admire?

Nima: Off the top of my head…Jon Barba, Body Parts, Moses Campbell, Halloween Swim Team, Voice on Tape, Batwings CatWings. There are a lot more bands I admire.  The list goes on.
Geoff: Moses Campbell, Kid Infinity, Peter Pants, Julia Holter, Abe Vigoda, Kyle Mabson’s various incarnations, VerBS and Swim Team, Halloween Swim Team, Devon Williams, Jeremy Jay, Bodies of Water, The Monolators… I probably admire Jon Barba the most, but he moved to Oakland.
Erik:  There are a lot of awesome bands around the LA. I really love watching KIT live. Peter Pants is always stuck in my head. Kevin Greenspon and Anenon are amazing.

TA:  Having played in venues all over Los Angeles (and Long Beach, and San Diego) is there one in particular that feels like “home?”  One that you have yet to play at yet and really want to?

Erik:  We’ve been really lucky to have been able to play at a lot of different venues, galleries and spaces. The ones I love playing would have to be Pehrspace and The Smell. They’re all ages and it’s always a great line-up. There’s a great space in San Diego called Tin Can Ale House that I really like too. The owners are awesome and they really care about the shows they put on. Che Cafe is really cool too.
Nima: They are all so great and unique in there own way. It would be crazy to play at The Music Box sometime soon.
Geoff: Pehrspace and the Smell don’t even feel like venues anymore.

TA: Of the cities that you’ve toured around to, which has been your favorite?

Nima: We have been getting some great opportunities in San Diego which I have come to really like. Playing with Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr at the Casbah was really cool. Sharing the bill with Crystal Antlers, Davila 666, White Fence and Tropical Popsicle at Bar Pink was also pretty amazing. North Park/South Park are cool areas to hang out too.
Erik: San Francisco was really rad last time we were there. We played with these great bands, Boyz IV Men and Reporter, in this basement. The crowd was really nice and the owners of the space were super accomodating.

TA: Are all of you SoCal natives?

Nima: I grew up living in Lawndale, Torrance, Redondo, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach. SoCal to the max for better or for worse.
Geoff: I’m from Alabama.
Erik: Most of us are. I grew up in Wilmington which is next to Long Beach and San Pedro. Nima coincidentally grew up just north of me in Redondo Beach.  Frank’s from the Agoura Hills area and Geoff grew up in Alabama, but he’s been here for ten years so he’s more or less from Los Angeles.

TA: Then where did you meet?

Nima: At shows. Friends houses? I don’t even remember now.
Erik:  Nima and I met each other at a BlackBlack show while we were still in college. We were some of the only few people there so we just started talking to each other. Eventually we found out that we both went to UCLA and had a really good mutual friend in common. I met Frank through my girlfriend’s roommate. Her roommate is cousins with Frank and she introduced him to Nima and they eventually became friends. Geoff we became close with after playing a bunch of shows while he was with Big Whup and Pizza!
Geoff: I met So Many Wizards at the Smell. I’d heard their song “Fly a Kite” on the radio and liked it enough that I asked them if I could put it on a “friends only” compilation that I was making with my Big Whup bandmate, Drew Denny, even though we hadn’t met the Wizards before. We booked them to play the release party for that compilation, and that was the first time we met in person. Two years later, Nima and Erik told me that the band was going through a member transition and I decided to work my way into the group, even if it meant learning a new instrument.

TA: Where is your favorite spot to grab a pre or post show drink?

Nima: I don’t really go to bars.  Mainly we just get to whatever venue we are playing early and stay after. Regardless of the place, I love a good bloody mary after every show.
Erik:  I don’t really go out to bars. Whenever I have a drink it’s usually at my house. It’s just way more comfortable – you get to play whatever you want and can have all your friends over.
Geoff: Everyone in So Many Wizards is Puritanical and immune to the temptations of drink.

TA: Erik and Nima, you’re in another band called Pulse Out as well.  It seems like so many local musicians are involved with 2+ different bands.  Why do you think that is?

Nima: Mainly because we can. There’s no shortage of friends wanting to play and create with each other. In addition to Pulse Out, I’m pretty stoked on some other side projects we’re working on that you’ll hear about soon!
Erik:  There’s so much music going on in LA. You start to meet different people and seeing different bands and you become motivated to try something new.
Geoff: Cross-pollination is historically a part of DIY movements. Palmolive drummed for both the Raincoats and the Slits. In the Lower East Side in the late 70s, all of the bands were made up of each other’s members – the Contortions, 8-eyed Spy, the Raybeats, etc. In the 90s and ‘aughts, a lot of musicians started packaging themselves as being parts of “collectives” rather than bands. Today’s climate might be extra conducive for this type of collaboration, because there’s no money in music anymore. When there was, maybe it made sense to focus all of your energy on the band that’s going to “make it” and pay your bills. That’s not going to happen now, so why not indulge your creative impulses? Once you’ve been in one band for a while and learned how to do it, you get hungry to be in more.

TA: So what’s next for So Many Wizards?  A full length?

Nima: Definitely working on a full length. Want to tour extensively in the next year. Currently a string of shows in the UK and surrounding are in the works.
Geoff:  I consider myself to be at the mercy of these guys’ whims, but I sure hope it’s a full length. I’d love to go on tour as well. I’ve never done that!
Erik:  We’re going to record the last few songs for our full-length which should come out early next year. We have a few shows left this year. The first is with Abe Vigoda and The Soft Pack at The Echo and the second is at FMLY Fest with a bunch of awesome bands.

FREE DOWNLOADS!  Snag the below right here…

So Many Wizards “Night Terrors” (as heard in the web series, Suicide By Side)

So Many Wizards “Inner City” (of the band’s most recent EP)

And check out their newest track, “Moon Glow” which was featured on Aquarium Drunkard yesterday.

You can purchase both Love Songs for When You Leave Me and their Inner City/Best Friends 7″on their website.

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