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The Best Band You Don’t Know

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It's close to midnight, and I’m driving through a deserted commerce park in Jupiter. I’m trying to follow sketchy directions that were left on my phone’s voicemail that ended with the phrase,“Call me when you’re lost.” Not an issue: the wall of sound coming from a unit way in back tips me off: I’ve found Lavola’s practice space.

Singer and guitarist Julian Cires lets me in and bassist Matt Hanser immediately offers me ear protection. "Am I that old?" I think, then see Julian’s Orange head (amp head, not cabesa), and Matt’s Ampeg bass rig. I accept, hoping to keep my eardrums from being pushed into my brain.

I sit on an unused amp in the corner, the band starts to play, and the room transforms. The music isn’t 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 (I was stone sober, I swear), which is fun for a while unless the music sucks. But it doesn’t: it’s really, really good.

LavolaLavola formed when Cires sent Hanser an email that read, “Hey, I got a Vox, wanna play together this summer?” He was about to return from school in Tallahassee where he’d studied creative writing. “It was a compromise,” he says of his major. But it was at college that Cires realized 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 recorded a four song EP last summer, 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,” Hanser told me. “And he rocked,” added 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 said after one particularly talentless douche departed. But the process was a positive one. It pushed the core three together, crystallized who Lavola were, and built real 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.

During that first practice, I wrote the following notes: “British Sea Power, J. Mascis, Peter Gabriel, Jeff Mangum, Pixies,” and also “fucking cool.” Of course, I also wrote: “Rhythm section needs to lock up better. Focus on listening to each other.” But when I stopped by a practice a couple of nights ago, things had changed. Those 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.

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About Bradford Schmidt