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Escape Velocity

The Heart Of The Narcissus Myth: Sun Araw Interviewed
The Quietus , August 19th, 2010 05:50

Richard MacFarlane talks to Sun Araw's Cameron Stallone about new album On Patrol, shamanistic art-making and sludge

Deep in the scuffed up and colour-drenched lineage of Californian pop experimenters, Cameron Stallones and his Sun Araw project are instilling the distinct, cosmic revisionism pioneered by peers like Pocahaunted, Inca Ore or Robedoor with a new and substantial relevance. Where Stallones' beached-out and acid-drenched neo-mystical aesthetics were the main focus of previous records like Beach Head and the ultra-swampy soul revisions of Heavy Deeds often got sucked under, On Patrol taps into something terrifically "real". That previous sludge felt more like a sonic device, but across these new and grittily anthemic jams it's "total reality"; chain link fences, greasy sidewalks, LA Lakers, New Age weirdness and fast food. It's not a dark outlook. Even if life sometimes gets all Inland Empire on your ass, Sun Araw's outlook is bright and realist - or just aware enough to see the Lynchian or generally ominious sides of modernity as well as the triangles and chopped-off pyramids. The bulk of On Patrol's 6 or 8 minute brooders positively ooze a murky Americanism via lost funk, soul and blues heartbreak and skewed Fela Kuti tones. David Keenan was right in placing these loop-centric tropics on the fringes of "hypnogogic pop"; these hypnotics edge pretty close to a bad trip, backed by fuzzy synth drones and the occasional jungle/field recording.

The Quietus talked to Stallones about the depths of this new record, the mythos its wrapped in and the semi-conscious zones surrounding it all.

You've mentioned a few times that On Patrol is a particularly significant record. Can you expand on that a bit?

Cameron Stallones: Yeah - this record is still moving, still being processed. I'm never sure how interesting this sort of thing is for people, but it's how I process the zones, so partly talking about it is just a spin into the process. But On Patrol emerged as an involuntary application of a great deal of reading and thinking that inspired Heavy Deeds. Heavy Deeds was a point of total ascension, but at the close of the Deeds Tour almost everything had physically transformed. Very deep friendships changed. I moved from Long Beach to LA - it was a total blossoming, I can see that now, but it didn't feel like it at the time. It was shaky. I had to suit up, and when I looked back at the jams for the first time, it became clear what was going on.

What comes with the name On Patrol? Does it have any linear sort of meaning or is it a homage to something?

CS: It's a plan of action through non-action. It's an observational/lenticular move, and it's the right move. It's what I'm supposed to be doing. It's an intended obfuscation; I think the implicit vibe that comes with something law enforcement related is aggression, control, all the dominant archetypes we can watch failing catastrophically at the moment. On Patrol is about flipping that vision: enforcement through perceptual strategies. On Patrol is a statement of place, a statement of being. It's not about patrolling. It's about getting On Patrol.

'Deep Control' has a particularly retro vibe that, to me, comes on really strong; as a piece of "new music", it's loaded with similar heavies to the stuff you put in the couple of mixes you made recently and has this very antiquated vibe. It kind of sticks out in my iTunes, which is mostly new "blog" stuff. Were you trying to instill it with this kind of quality or is it just how your listening habits manifested themselves?

CS: I think it was pretty unconscious. The guitars were definitely a result of the fact that I don't have anything in my car but a radio, so all I listen to is Hot 92.3 and KDay 93.5, really dope LA stations for old school hip-hop and R&B. I've always been a fan of that stuff, but it definitely did some deep tunneling during the summer as I was recording, just pushing further and further.

Those real sludgey sonics hint at something kind of uneasy and deep seated. Where do you think this comes from? I've got some imagined ideas of LA and Hollywood (having never been there); is it anything to do with that setting?

CS: On Patrol definitely has a much darker vibe than anything since The Phynx. The sludge is a total reality, and it's a question. I'm talking about how these energies manifest, not about conscious action. It completely moves in and you decide what to do with it. But I can see now that I was definitely setting up the sludge alongside the proper moves. To me, it's about navigation without aggression or conflict - the opposite of a "culture war."

In terms of you and your musical peer group, do you find yourself increasingly encouraged to respond to more mainstream culture? And if you feel it's important, what difference do you think it has to that mainstream culture to which you respond?

CS: I can't speak for anyone else, but I find myself tunneling further and further from that stuff. I dunno man, but I'm really entranced by the shamanistic concept of art-making. I definitely find myself cruising the goings-on, but I'm always trying to steer deeper into uncharted zones. We're in full "dawn of man" mode right now, everyone picking up various objects, cultural detritus, poking at various monoliths. The mirror went live and we're staring it deep in the face. The heart of the Narcissus myth that a lot of people forget is that Narcissus didn't realize it was himself he was looking at. It wasn't vanity, it was lack of awareness. The trick is to be alert.

Do you think about the hypnogogic idea that much? I can't remember if David Keenan referenced you in that article a while back as being on the fringe of James Ferraro and the more plastic/tack culture surfaces, but I feel like many of the songs from On Patrol slip into that hypnotic and semi-conscious mode.

CS: I'm definitely into hypnotic and semi-conscious. That's a zone I work in. But I've never considered anything I do "hypnagogic." My understanding of that term is that it relates more directly to specific tones that are purportedly from childhood memories of cultural kitsch and whatnot. My tone inspiration is always streaming way more directly from 70's classy: free jazz, krautrock, African music, etc. But yeah dog. Semi-conscious! I'm into that.

What were you going for with the art work?

CS: Maps, visual clues.

Your coming back to Europe/UK in October. I was wondering about how you found the audiences over here? It's funny because I think lots of British people here presume that Americans get more wild and involved at shows (especially for weirder or more DIY acts) but I remember someone saying that LA crowds or other US crowds are pretty much as arms-folded as they are here?

CS: Yeah man, last time we were there audiences in Europe were amazing. LA can be a party if people are in the right mood, but there's a lot of stand-offs too. I'm really looking forward to bringing the new Sun Araw setup to the UK and Europe. It's a way heavier sound now, and our crowds in the UK last time were pretty ready to have a good time, you know? That's what makes the difference, people expecting to have a good time.

What new stuff are you working on now? I feel like maybe you'll be dragged in some different directions? Well, not dragged; taken, perhaps, but the only reason I think that is looking from an internet perspective and the ultra engaged lineage of musicians around you and how fast it seems to be progressing.

CS: There's a follow up EP coming out on Woodsist called Off Duty. It's sort of the wild and wooly end of the patrol, and the stairway to the stars. Total ascension back to the zones. There's also a tape coming out on Hustle Muscle called Major Grotto, it's like some experiments in more directly mantric spiritual compositions. Also a 7" of psychedelic power-pop jams, including a cover of a Teenage Fanclub song coming out on PPM. But right now I'm working on the new album. I'm slowly slowly making my way into the zone, ingesting the info, but the vibe is already sorting itself. It's definitely a fresh vision for me.