In the world of followers and internet influence, what does it really mean to think individually? The new single, “Too Much Too Soon,” brought to us by punk-pair, Dancing Tongues, challenges the societal norm that is the influx of invasive information that subsidizes anything outstanding.
Alex Lavayen and Kevin Modry are the core of Dancing Tongues, proving to be the pinnacle of punk pride. Drawing inspiration from ‘70’s and ‘80’s punk prodigies, as well as from the California Coast, and from their shared dissatisfactions, the duo has created a sound that is as equally fresh as it is antiquated (in the way that punk should be, of course). As the electric guitar has seemingly been obliterated in relevance by the electronic mixing board, Dancing Tongues goes against the grain to make music for those who miss what music used to be. Since joining forces in 2016 and releasing their first album that same year, Lavayen and Modry make no time for the mainstream, and their latest release, “Too Much Too Soon,” was meant to take them out of the pit that media has placed them in.
Next time you unlock your iPhone, press play on “Too Much Too Soon,” before you read the next news story or trust the first tweet you see. With an upcoming album, Hypnotic Tales of Sex and Distress, Dancing Tongues are using their lyrical loudness to not only spark change in a seemingly universal mindset, but to also comfort those under the same spell that they have written songs to get out of.
Read our interview below to get all the facts on “Too Much Too Soon” and on how to let the non conforming punk inside of us live on in everyday life.
Too Much Too Soon is about the excess of invasive information in today’s society, which I find so relatable (as well as overwhelming). Can you elaborate on why it was important for you to put this idea in a song?
I have a tendency to get very obsessed with things – to the point where certain things consume my mental space and bandwidth all day and all night. When I get like that, it’s almost like I get addicted to my own ideas, thoughts or feelings. I need to either think or feel out whatever the hell it is I am stuck on and try to understand it – or if it is something that is incomprehensible, I need to identify it as such. The information overload of today is something that is constant, and virtually unavoidable for everyone. We can all relate to it, and I feel like anyone I have talked to that pays attention to anything feels overwhelmed as well.
It was important for me to write Too Much Too Soon because I was hung up on and obsessed with not only the excess and abundance of information being distributed, but how the conflicting stories, narratives, rhetoric and sales pitches were starting to literally promote themselves by attacking others. By watching, listening to, or reading these ideas we are literally inviting information warfare into our daily life and building battlefields out of our attention and time for them to fight on. The only way I could start to get over thinking about all of this, was to just give my obsessions a space outside of my head where they could spin around and fight in – and the only space I knew how to create for them was a song. If these thoughts and feelings weren’t a problem for everyone else already, I guess they are now.
Your music is like a punk purist’s dream. Do you think that kind of music is becoming harder to find in the modern world as many artists are now in the electronic scene?
It is so appropriate that this question follows the previous question about the excess of information. Punk leaning music is harder to find today because it is so easy to put out music that everyone is doing it. Furthermore, it seems to me like the electronic scene dominates the scene now because the paradigm has shifted from favoring artists who are writing records and started to favor people who just release a bunch of singles. I mean, the grass is always greener from the other side, but it definitely seems to me like today’s model is much more suited for a producer who samples a super hook and writes some mid-tempo banger that’s gonna fill the air in a stadium. They’re not even making dance music anymore. These producers are just writing soundtracks for horny teens to fist pump and dry hump to. There’s no authenticity, no soul, no happiness, no anger, no heartbreak and definitely no love. If these are the songs that people are starting to associate and relate to, then it’s time to sound the alarms because we have lost our human identity. We’re devolving into something else. However, with all that being said, punk music or music like punk music has never really been the mainstream thing, so I guess tit has always has been harder to find. The cool thing about the digital release of music and everything is that if you can “tailor your algorithms” or know what blogs and magazines to read, you can find music easier than going to Warehouse Records looking for CDs or your local record shop hoping that they got some new release from Sacred Bones you haven’t heard yet. You have to be willing to be a little bit of a scientist and a super nerd to find the bands you like – which is cool. You just can’t be a soulless robot, or else you’re gonna wind up alone and unrelatable with nothing but a terminal case of tennis elbow and a rash in your pants after EDC comes to town.
You spoke to the fact that the world needs more realness. In what ways does Too Much Too Soon promote that?
When things get too big and become the norm, people don’t question them. They accept them because it is what everyone else is doing — so in a weird way, these things feel natural when we are looking at them through our worldview. Too Much Too Soon doesn’t so much promotes
the idea that our world needs more realness – rather that it needs more authenticity. Unfortunately, all of this information that is spread around today is very real – and all has real consequences. Whether the information is authentic, verified, truthful or not is what we need to determine. We are turning into a headline generation that will read once sentence or one tweet and declare it true if it is convenient. All of the information we receive is real – and that is what the problem is. It is real the second that it is created and distributed because it has a real impact on the way we live our lives. What we need today is authenticity, and people certainly aren’t going to give it to us. We have to look for it. This idea in Too Much Too Soon is pretty much all summed up in one line in the chorus: “information rules over an informed age.” Whatever you choose to believe will dictate your life.
Do you guys have personal tools on how to feel less trapped within our socially saturated/informationally invasive world?
Writing helps. I feel that as you are writing about something, you really have to internalize whatever it is that you are writing about first. Sometimes this helps you understand things, and when something is incomprehensible, sometimes writing helps you feel things. The writing process helps me feel less trapped, because as you internalize different ideas and translate them, or criticize them and pick them apart, or agree with them, you ultimately become for lack of a better term “the trap” that holds the information for a while. It doesn’t always work, but when I am overwhelmed it is usually the only thing that helps me feel in control. Whether it is just writing an essay about it, a song, stream of consciousness or a reflection, there is something about taking in the information via reading, listening, watching, etc… Then translating and writing it. You ultimately wind up putting your own mark on these ideas — then when you go back and read or listen to your own take, you are able to really see how you feel about it or how you may or may not be able to articulate your thoughts on whatever it is you are overwhelmed by. It’s not always “liberating” but can definitely help with feeling less trapped.
You have built a community of fans throughout California. Does California’s environment act as inspiration for your music/ the band’s style?
California’s environment is undoubtedly an inspiration for our music and style. I write what I know – and growing up in Southern California on a heavy diet of LA band’s from the 60s – 80s like The Doors, Gun Club, X, The Seeds, Plimsouls, The Nerves, The Blasters, Herb Alpert, Wall of Voodoo etc… what I know lifestyle-wise, music-wise and style-wise is California. In terms of the types of songs that we write, both sonically and lyrically and how we go about playing them is very inspired by the late 70s and 80s LA punk scene. Throughout history, everyone has ventured west in search of something — whether it be land, love, gold, freedom, stardom or just to get away from the eastern blue blood oligarchy — all greatness happens when people ventured further and further west. In the 60s there was a wonderful art movement happening with the Light and Space artists and things were great and wildly creative. As time went on, more workers, artists, families and individuals pushed west and all stopped in LA. The pacific ocean is the end of the western world. There’s nowhere else to go, but people kept coming. The irony is, is that something that is so “pacific” or placid and calm – is the thing that stopped everyone and started to make them go crazy. The LA punks were a bunch of romantics who seemed to understand this. They knew there was nowhere else to go, but there was still something to do. They ran as far west as they could, and when they could run no more, they held their ground, turned around, and started to push back against everything coming their way with loudness and literacy. To me, that is what being a punk in LA is about. It’s not just about wearing leather and screaming your head off – look at Mike Watt. Arguably one of the most punk men alive. Last time I saw him he was late to a gig at a pizza store in Long Beach, parked in a red zone with his kayak sticking out of his car and ripped the fuck out of a set in sandals and
socks. He is playing music because he believes in what he is doing and will stand for it – literally declaring in his lyrics “Mike Watt takes a stand.” I’ll never forget it. That is him. It is his California punk style. It is inspiring – wildly inspiring and that moment is so profound to me. I try to take that energy with me when I perform – even though I’d never be caught on stage in sandals and socks – that is one example of a California moment that is wildly inspiring to see as an artist.
When you guys are together and not making/ performing music, what are you guys normally doing?
We laugh. A lot. The three of us are always having fun, and a lot of times when we are not making or playing together, we’re out a shows together. Lately we’ve been getting into some late night mischief together, which really just leads to a hell of a lot more laughs. We love being in a band together. Even with the expansion of our sound on the new record, it would be really difficult to bring in someone to play with us because we have finally found the perfect balance with the addition of Luke a year or two ago. I don’t even remember when he joined cause it feels like he’s been in the band the whole fucking time. It’s awesome.
Do you feel that punk music is more honest than other genres of music? Why is it that style that has become the channel for you both to express your thoughts?
I don’t know if it is more honest. Like, when you hear a song like La Vie en Rose – both the original Edith Plaith version and the english version by Louis Armstrong – neither of which is remotely punk – I don’t know how you could find songs more honest. I don’t think that a genre could be more honest necessarily, but what punk has as an entire genre is this feeling of liberation and no censorship is regards to artistic expression. It’s like jazz in that sense, but is more relatable because so much of punk is so lyrically driven. The up front and romantic lyrics of a lot of the punk genre combined with the often whimsical and reckless expression is what makes it feel so honest – but in my eyes, it really just touches back on authenticity. Unfortunately today, everyone is sitting there trying to claim that punk is dead. Punk is only dead if people let it die. I know that philosophically artists today are doomed because we are creating in the post- modern era and that everything has been done and all that bullshit – and truthfully, I love hearing it. I love being told that, because it is just one more wall for me to bounce off or one more ledge for me to dive from. I am here. I wasn’t there. So no matter what the fuck I am creating, or what “genre” or “vein” or “tradition” it comes from or is inspired by – it is authentic because I choose to make it. I am doing it. I am not trying to do anything. I just am. For the upcoming record, Hypnotic Tales of Sex and Distress, Kevin and I challenged ourselves to write a few songs that we considered to just be sort of “pop” songs if you will – or something that wasn’t trying to be so consciously unorthodox. Once we started doing this, our individuality and differences were so apparent in the music. It allowed for us to just write whatever the hell kind of song we wanted to write. That’s the key to writing music or creating art in the punk/post-punk umbrella of post- modernism. Everyone has supposedly done everything – but I am not everyone. I am me. Trying to be original is exhausting and impossible. Just be yourself – and be authentic. Today punk music and honesty is all about authenticity. That is what we need today.
Are there any other artists out there today that you feel are wholly vulnerable and raw as well?
I feel like there are a bunch of artists who are blowing my mind. Most of our favorites are very different than us, but just to name a few that we can’t get enough of: Viagra Boys, Parquet Courts, A. Savage, TrapsPs, IDLES, Fontaines D.C., Public Practice, Drahla, Crack Cloud, Snapped Ankles, Marching Church, Iceage, Black Lips, Timber Timbre and probably like twelve thousand more.
What can you tell us about your upcoming album?
I can tell you that it is called Hypnotic Tales of Sex and Distress, and I can tell you that the title descriptive of the record. The songs are like chapters written that tell a story about my life. At the time the record was recorded, I was experiencing so many different things. More than half the songs that were written got cut from the record – and the remainder oddly enough became a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. If anyone who has been around me for about the last 8-10 months listened to the record, they would most likely assume that it is autobiographical. I am ready to put it out in the world and move on to the next. Life is crazy.
CONNECT WITH DANCING TONGUES:
Photos / Brandon Kapelow / @bkapelow
Story / Paulette Ely / @paulettely