The Bootleg Theater. With a name like that, you’d expect the place to be little more than a hole in the wall with maybe a boombox plugged into the wall and a bar that serves moonshine. That’s not too far off. It is a small venue, but that smallness makes it great for two reasons: the sound is excellent, and whoever’s on stage is basically in the crowd.
Well, that would be the case if the crowd would actually belly up to the stage. However, like most small shows populated by young Angelenos, the one I attended at the venue last Tuesday was badly affected by “hipsteritis.” It’s a crippling affliction where folks are bound by too-tight skinny jeans and leather jackets, restricting their movement to head nods and shuffling. Truly, the scourge of our time.
I came out to see Misun, a four-piece hailing from Washington DC that likes to describe themselves as “aquawave.” Listening to their last EP, The Sea, it’s easy to see how they came to call their music that. Their sound is almost tropical. It’s like a soundtrack for sipping coconut water on a Caribbean day. Truth is that a lot of bands/producers/whatever have done the whole ____wave thing. What makes Misun interesting is the breadth of their sound. Sure, you can listen to one of their songs and tell that it’s them, but they careen from one genre to another with a gleeful recklessness.
To get to the bottom of what makes Misun, Misun, I spoke with their drummer John about a lot of things, like the transition to Los Angeles, their new track “Sleep,” and their sources of inspiration.
Where are you guys right now?
We’re in LA. Actually, I’m in a Home Depot, trying to get out the front door.
You guys were based in DC, but have you moved out here permanently to record?
Yeah. Well, the whole band is from the DC area. I’ve been living out here myself off and on for a little while now in LA. The whole band made it out here, so now we’re based here in LA.
How is it adjusting to LA?
I think the adjustment’s been kinda tough on some of the band because this is their first time being on the West Coast, and there aren’t a lot of people out here that they know, but then we’re finding out that a lot of the DC music scene has migrated out here. I think it’s kinda cool. Three of us live in one house together, and I live separately. We’ve got a nice thing going out here.
You guys have played here previously, yeah?
Since the band has been located here in LA, we’ve played at Bardot for KCRW’s School Night. We headlined one of those shows almost immediately when the band came out here, and then the Bootleg was a couple weeks later, I think with Lovelife. We’re fans of the place. We got to choose where we wanted to do the release show, and we did it there. It’s a cool place. Great beer, too!
Misun is interesting because you guys have a lot of different sounds. It’s hard to pigeonhole you to one genre. How would you describe Misun to someone who hasn’t heard of it before?
Well, it could fall into so many different genres because we have kind of an electronic influence, we have this throwback classic rock influence, even a little bit of a western sound every now and then. I guess we’re just one of those bands that doesn’t have a defined genres, but we’ve stuck to this aquawave term just because we felt like everything was really tropical and everything was like colors. We always use the word “color” when we talk about our music. Yeah, I dunno! Every time I think about this, I come up with a different version of what we sound like.
You guys just dropped a new single, “Sleep.” Tell me about it.
“Sleep” is another A-side off that release we’re doing with blahblahblahscience. Talking to Misun herself, she said when she was writing the words to that song, it was really about waking up from a dream and realizing what you’re supposed to do with your life, what you’re driven to do. She’s got a lot of really cool influences and life experiences she draws from when she’s writing lyrics. Going back to genre, that’s kinda like a house-sounding song, you know, with all the colors and everything. We usually close shows with that one.
What’re you listening to right now?
Well, I’m the drummer, so I’m always driven and pulled towards percussion-heavy music. I go between a lot of punk rock and a lot of what’s new and what I’m reading about on blogs, trying to be a sponge. I’d say on the more rock side, I’ve gone back a little bit into my old iPod, like my original iPod. I got all these old bands on there from my pop-punk days.
I’ve been listening to a band called Autopilot Off, who had a really awesome but short career. On the other side, I’ve been listening to a band called Brett. I’ve been listening to GEMS, which is another DC band that I’ve been really into. They’ve been making a lot of noise, and we’ve hung with them at CMJ. I’ve been listening to Holy Child, which is another band that’s out here in LA that we’ve been making friends with. That’s a lot of what I’m listening to right now. Depends on if I’m at the gym or in the car.
You guys definitely create a lot of different types of sounds, but do you cite any one group or any one thing as a particular influence?
You know, that definitely depends on who you’re talking to. It’s funny. We were talking with someone the other day, and they asked Misun what the first record she bought was, and it was a Hanson record. I laughed because that’s so far from what I would’ve had in my record collection, but it’s all these different influences coming together. I know Misun loves Billy Joel. We actually have a cover of a Billy Joel song that we’ll be releasing as a teaser. It’s hard to say if there’s one particular influence.
Are you guys working on an EP or maybe an album?
We’ve got tons and tons of material to the point where we know that we have a catalog of stuff that we feel great about. It’s been so awesome organically releasing songs on Soundcloud and social media. Tthe response has been great, and I think at this point, we’ve got this release with blahblahblahscience that’s given us legs and a little bit of buzz around it. I think we’re just going to continue writing. We’ve got a great practice space that we utilize all the time. I feel like we’re really creative. We don’t really have any set plans for if we want to do a full album or put out an EP or, you know, get chased down by a label. Just feeling good right now about doing things our way.
So how was the concert? Well, it turns out that the immediate cure for hipsteritis is funky tunes (and beer). Misun is every bit as enjoyable live as they are on their many singles. Check out the set list below for a computer-friendly version of their live show.
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