CMON: Getting to Know Confusing Mix of Nations
Confusing Mix of Nations - also known as CMON - has swiftly become one of our favorite live acts here at WMF in recent months. We’ve had the pleasure of catching fun and engaging sets from the duo when they performed for crowds strong in both size and enthusiasm, opening for the likes of Molly Nilsson and Kirin J Callinan among others. CMON has steadily refined their compelling combination of real-time looping with instrumental and vocal performance — a formidable challenge to be sure, but one which the project has not only dared to embrace, but also navigated with with remarkable skill and success.
On the heels of their excellent eponymous 2018 EP, and in anticipation of their March 2019 residency at L.A. mainstay Zebulon, we happily linked up with Josh da Costa and Jamen Whitelock to speak at length about a number of topics, including: recordings, live looping logistics, their connections to some of our favorite artists, and what the future holds in store for CMON.
Bobby Weirdo: Josh, Regarding the name Confusing Mix of Nations, you’ve recently explained a bit about your own background as well as that of the project, so I think at this point I understand how the name applies to both your story and that of CMON…
Josh da Costa: So just to refresh, I was born in New York. My family moved to Belgium when I was ten, and I lived there until I was eighteen. Then I moved back to New York, and ever since then I’ve gone back and forth a lot, but have lived in the States for over ten years. My whole family’s story is pretty long, and it is confusing.
BW: I did want to ask about one detail about your family’s story, and that’s the Caribbean part. I’m especially curious if that played any part in the music you may have heard growing up. Where specifically in the Caribbean are you parents from?
JDC: The island that my family is from is called Curacao. There’s a liqueur called Curacao, too, and if you’ve worked at a bar or been to bars, you’ve encountered it. The most famous Curacao is blue Curacao, which is used in tons of cocktails.
It’s definitely a weird island. The extent of my experiences on Curacao is pretty family vacation time – nothing I would call a day-to-day life experience. My mom grew up there and my dad was born there, but they just missed each other in a weird stroke of timing. I don’t know if it was good luck or bad luck, but eventually it all worked out. They found themselves there again as adults and met each other after tons of missed connections -- almost meeting each other but not quite. They got married after five months, and have a lot of shared history and family friends. It was romantic fate.
Their days in Curacao were certainly more interesting [than mine]. It’s like Twin Peaks in the Caribbean – this tiny island that was a weird gateway from the Caribbean to Miami. As far as music and that kind of culture, I wouldn’t know how music affected my family, though there are musicians in my family.
BW: Is the name da Costa from Italy?
JDC: da Costa is a Portuguese name, but I think our Portuguese roots are Sephardic Jewish. My whole family is Jewish way back for many generations. My mom’s side is Eastern European, and my dad’s is Italian Jewish.
My dad’s mom was born on the island. Her mom was an islander, and her dad was from an Italian Jewish family that settled in the Caribbean. But the da Costa name came from Portugal via Holland via Suriname, which is in South America, near the Caribbean. It’s so weird.
BW: You mention Miami -- Jamen, you’re from Miami, right?
Jamen Whitlock: Yeah, born and raised.
BW: You moved to New York from Miami?
JW: We moved there a year apart from each other. I moved in 2008, and Josh moved in 2007.
BW: And Regal Degal – along with Josiah, came out of you meeting in New York?
JW: We both went for the same reason; we just wanted to play music. We didn’t go to college; we just went straight for the music. I knew [Josh’s] old band, Dinowalrus. He was drumming for them, and he’s an amazing drummer. I’m a drummer too, and I used to love watching him play. Our friend Willie suggested we set up a jam session [with each other], so we did, and we’ve been playing together ever since. We started Regal then and there.
JDC: Yeah, I had an idea for a band called Regal Degal, but it wasn’t a band [yet]. When I moved to New York, in less than a week joined a band through Craigslist. There were certain keywords in the post that stuck out: Ariel [Pink], Chrome, Can, and Neu!. I was like, “Sounds good to me!”
So I dove right in, but it was funny. The first show I ever went to in New York -- on the third or fourth day living there -- was at The Knitting Factory. It was this band Circle from Finland, and the band who opened for them was this band Oneida, who are the OG Brooklyn noise/psych/freakout band. Their drummer Kid Millions is crazy.
I didn’t know anything about them, and so the first band I ever saw was insane, with an insane drummer, and I thought, “I’m fucked! If everyone in New York is as good at drumming as this, it’s pointless.” So I just joined a band and had to go crazy to ensure my survival, but I guess that’s how we found each other – through drumming.
BW: Josh, you’ve described Jamen’s drumming as “punkier” than your style. Jamen, do you have a punk background, or is it a vibe?
JW: Yeah, I played in punk bands in Miami growing up, but it wasn’t like the coolest punk – it was more like Nirvana.
JDC: Jamen’s story is crazier than you could ever imagine though – it goes way beyond punk.
JW: I have a really deep Miami connection with KC and the Sunshine Band. But that’s another story…
JDC: You should give them a little bit.
JW: Right out of high school I was in a band with my two best friends, and within a few months of playing, we ran into a producer in front of Guitar Center. He asked if we were a band, and said his name was Rick Finch. He wanted to hear us play, so we invited him to our practice space. He told us he loved it and wanted to help us, and it turns out he was the bassist for KC and the Sunshine Band. He and KC co-wrote every hit they had like “Please Don’t Go”, “Shake Your Booty”, “That’s the Way I Like It”, “Boogie Shoes”, “Boogie Man”…
BW: And Blowfly was involved with those too, right?
JDC: He produced Blowfly!
JW: Yeah, he produced Blowfly, and his first number one hit was [with] George McCrae. It was classic Miami funk, and he took us under his wing. He would buy us clothes, instruments, and just take care of us. He showed us the ropes – like he taught me how to hit the snare with a rimshot…the funk basics.
JDC: The funkdamentals.
JW: It was really just a wonderful time. He was this angel that gave us all this information and money. He got us a crazy record deal, which was a quarter of a million dollars from someone in the metal industry – not the music, but actual metal. We blocked out two months at a studio with an engineer, and started recording.
But at that time we were eighteen, and not really professionals. It’s harder than you think to get it down in the studio. We started well, but then it moved into us just having fun, hanging out, eating food, and just being kids.
Rick started going into the tape room, and we’d wonder what he was doing in there. He would come out blowing smoke out of his mouth, and it turns out he was doing crack. Within a month, we’d spent the whole budget on his crack and our junk food, and didn’t record anything. He disappeared when the money ran out, because he was worried [about what was going to happen to him].
So we went off, did our own thing, and became a pretty successful local band that toured. Rick showed back up in the news, and he got arrested in Ohio for statutory rape. He had lost all his millions of dollars in the 80s by signing away his publishing. He had no idea his music was going to be used in every 1970s period piece and tons of commercials.
JDC: He went for the short-term money up front, because he had the debaucherous lifestyle, instead of making the long-term investment. He didn’t have any money even though KC and Sunshine Band became the preeminent disco licensing music.
It’s crazy, because when we started CMON, we were a punk psychedelic band, but now we’re way more conscious of disco and house and new wave. Even still, I’m only just now starting to appreciate KC and the Sunshine Band. I thought it was novelty disco up until recently, but when you listen back to those productions and those bass lines, they’re insane – he’s a genius. I’m not trying to trivialize Jamen’s experience, because it was formative.
JW: And for the record, he never came onto us – it was purely driven by friendship, knowledge, and mentorship. He had families where he was like the surrogate father, and helped single mothers by taking them to eat, buying them clothes, and being generous.
But I guess there was an insidious thing, too. He just got out of prison, and he contacted me. He still wants to make music and build a purely analog studio.
BW: Was Regalize It one of the first things Regal Degal did?
JDC: No, it was one of the last things we did. It was cool, because it was a bookend. Our first release was a tape, Format Worth, and it’s almost like a diary. It documented our formation, our practice space jams, sound experiments, and stuff that I had started by myself before the band existed that was just supposed to be an index or weird vision board for what I wanted it to be.
The next step was jamming and starting the band. They’re sketches of songs that [later] became fully formed songs that were released or played live, but are really crude versions. That’s the first tape.
And then the last tape – Regalize It – was like the same thing, checking in a few years later [with] more experiments and more fun. It’s a fun tape. The first one is noisy and murky, but the last one is more weird, schizo, and kind of dark, but also sweet and funny.
The first tape was New York for us, and Regalize It was L.A. It was about how we moved into a house together here, got a four track Tascam Portastudio, and would set up and mess around in the living room and have headphone jams in the middle of the night. We had a proper rehearsal space/band room where we’d demo stuff -- and some of that ended up on tape -- but mostly we just wanted to hang with our friends.
That year was really special because we definitely incorporated Jimi Hey into our unit as much as we possible could, and I think a lot of these late night jams were a result of that. Also, we had friends come in from out of town…
JW: And Franco, too.
JDC: Franco Falsini is in the mix, and that a really special element of the whole experience. And there are some precious recordings of us jamming with our friend Sam Mehran who came to the house. That was 2012 and 2013, and right after that we moved back to New York. We put that tape together in New York, and it was a reflection of that year in L.A.
BW: Is Sam Mehran the Sam from the CMON track “Sam”?
BW: And will that track be coming out officially?
JDC: I’ve thought about it, and there’s a part of me that feels conflicted about it. Aside from certain production stuff that I’m not crazy about, there’s the emotional connection with that song, and it feels strange because our friend is dead. A part of me would consider that disrespectful to put a song out there just for everyday consumption. But the fact of the matter is that we wrote that song before he died.
JW: It was an ode to him.
JDC: It was an ode to him – even in life. It has nothing to do in my mind with exploiting his death. It was a total honest expression about how we felt about this person. It’s like writing a breakup song or a love song – people write songs about that stuff all the time, and I think it’s pure and real.
The fact that he died is eerie, considering we wrote that song before that happened, but that’s just more proof to me that sometimes life is nonlinear. Sometimes it feels like you’re moving in reverse, and you write songs before things happen, so it’s kind of a psychic thing. I think that song is important no matter what, and would like to put it out because it’s special.
BW: There are a lot of dots to connect here. Sam had also worked with Ariel Pink and Piper of Maraschino, among others. Just a bit ago you were mentioning Franco Falsini -- you introduced Piper to Franco, right?
JDC: We introduced Franco to a lot of people. Technically, we introduced Franco to Ariel, and to Jimi. But I wouldn’t take responsibility or claim that – it just happened. It probably would’ve happened eventually, with or without us – destiny.
It’s so connected -- it’s crazy. When I was living in New York I worked at my friend Matt Werth’s label RVNG Intl. He was always listening to Sensations’ Fix, and I fell in love with it. He planted a seed, and I felt a deep connection with Franco’s music. There was a little gathering at my apartment in Williamsburg: Puro [Instinct] was in town and Piper brought a bunch of people. We were jamming some mix I made in the background, and there was a Sensations’ Fix song. Our friend Clint Krute said he knew a guy who knows Franco’s son, who lived in Virginia. He said that Franco’s son had old Sensations’ Fix tapes that he didn’t know what to do with.
We knew what to do with them, so I reached out to someone who reached out to Franco’s son, who put us in touch with Franco. After a year of us corresponding with him, Franco came to see his son get married, and the two of them took a father/son trip from Virginia to New York to meet my boss and me.
The timing was crazy. I had just played with Holy Shit, which is whole different experience that changed my life. Right after that, Franco came through, and we hit it off with him right away. Then right after that, Puro came back to New York with Geneva [Jacuzzi] and John Maus on a tour they did together. We told them that they had to meet Franco, who was the craziest, coolest person. And we’d also just discovered The Antennas right after Franco left – he didn’t tell us about them. We were just on one from having spent time with him – we wanted to know more and hear more. I have such fond memories of dancing around that apartment with Puro and Geneva, having a great time listening to Just Your Love.
A year later, right when we moved to L.A., Franco came to stay with us. We barely knew anyone except the Puro crew, Ariel, Geneva, Jimi, and Cole MGN and Ramona (Nite Jewel) a little bit too. I really wanted to jam with Jimi, and I think we baited Jimi a bit, saying, “You should come over – Franco Falsini’s here.” He had to see it to believe it.
Franco came back a couple times, and Piper was a part of that experience. She was our contact here, and was my first friend in L.A. Without Piper, I wouldn’t have had any sort of roadmap to living here, so she was a huge part of this whole experience.
A ton of people in L.A. and New York enjoyed Franco just being around. He went back to New York a bunch of times, and was living at a place called Body Actualized Center, which was a pretty significant community center. It was a zone that our friends ran, and Franco would stay and play there. His legacy is insane, and involves so many more people than people realize. We’re the tiniest footnote in the whole thing.
BW: And that’s why you’re credited as a producer on Music is Like Painting in the Air?
JDC: Yeah, I sequenced it. I put the track list together and I also wrote liner notes. Interestingly enough, two people wrote me separately this week, saying they connected those dots and read my liner notes. Every once in a while, people hit me up about that.
BW: Was there a particular moment that Regal Degal turned into CMON?
JDC: The true origins of CMON aren’t that spectacular, but they’re telling. When we lived here in L.A. the first time, we moved out here as a band, and were like an organism. Even the house we lived in – which is the house I still live in – was our headquarters. A lot of stuff that happened that year was very communal, and I feel like I was hard-pressed for private time and having my own space.
The actual origins of CMON were in my bedroom, because I was just alone by myself in the dark, trying to make something more pulsey, electronic, and more in touch with the hypnotic dance music that we were getting into. The way some of the earlier CMON tracks came together like the ones on the EP -- and hopefully on the full-length-- are these little experiences that I made when I moved back here. I moved back in a staggered way, and I would make the most out of what I had, borrowing friends gear and basically enjoying having time and space to myself. Having played in a band for several years, I just wanted to produce music that was unlimited and not necessarily written for live [situations], but expanding on my skills as a producer.
Regal Degal was our band, but CMON is my life. Regal Degal is part of CMON; I would never say it’s just an off-shoot. But I don’t know that CMON is part of Regal Degal, because Regal Degal was its own thing, and is almost a myth now. Jamen’s a huge part of my life, and obviously he’s a part of CMON because we’ve spent a lot of time working on music together. He knows things about these songs that nobody could possibly know but myself because he’s been around for such a long time and heard versions of these songs that have morphed, mutated, and were never going to be part of Regal Degal. But Regal Degal is definitely part of CMON – it’s such a weird, interesting thing.
BW: Speaking of CMON’s songs, one of the most compelling aspects of the live shows is the live looping, which has gotten smoother and smoother over time. And despite the complexities of that, I’ve heard how you have the confidence to loop and improvise a bit at each show if someone from the crowd yells something out, for instance. When did you decide looping would be part of your shows? Were you writing and recording the songs knowing you would be performing them live with real-time loops?
JW: No way.
JDC: We had no idea.
BW: You just decided that in order to do those songs long, you wanted to make it happen onstage, rather than using backing tracks?
JW: It was a big process to figure out what two people could do, and which gear could do what we needed.
JDC: Surprisingly – with the exception of one piece of gear, which is a loop pedal I have – we already were making the most of what we had.
JW: It all just fit together.
JDC: We had to devise a way to perform these songs, because there had never been any consideration to how they were going to be played live. For me, that was the only way I could write these songs because I needed to be able to follow any idea, and not be concerned with how we’d recreate them.
Then – inevitably – we came to the point where we had to ask ourselves how we were going to do it [live]. We definitely didn’t want to play to backing tracks, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
JW: We always say, once you press play, the train is off. What happens if you miss a cue, and it all falls apart? We didn’t ever want to be in that situation.
JDC: We’ve created other pitfalls, though! So our situation isn’t perfect, but that was definitely one of the main attitudes that we took toward the whole thing – creating the experience to live in it so it’s not just a mimed thing that we have to pretend to keep up with.
I bought a new pedal, which was interesting because when we started Regal Degal I really didn’t want a loop pedal, a sampler, a computer, or synth in sight. It was a reactionary thing, because when we moved to New York it seemed like everybody was Animal Collective-damaged. Nothing against them or anything but [there were] so many samplers and dudes screaming into mics, looping it over and over again. I didn’t want to have anything to do with that. Not that I hated it, but I didn’t want it to be part of the culture of what we were making.
But now, there are just two of us, and it’s something we needed to incorporate. And a lot of the production that I’m doing with this project is loop-based. So I got this loop pedal that has MIDI. Our whole thing is MIDI-synced, which is why we can loop stuff and it stays on track. People have asked me after shows how we loop so tightly, and it’s all MIDI.
Suzy Weirdo: Which loop pedal do you use?
JDC: It’s called the Ditto. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think some people just overlook the MIDI aspect of it, which is a huge deal.
JW: Not all looping pedals have MIDI, and the Ditto has it. I just run my MIDI through my drum machine, which is like the controller. So he can loop on any beat that I play. And I already had a vocal effects looping pedal.
JDC: It’s a box that’s close to the mic and it has MIDI, so I have the MIDI through my loop pedal, it goes to the vocal box, and then I can make vocal loops as well.
I’m enjoying this configuration now, because to me it’s important to feel like it’s a playful experiment. I never want to feel too married to it, because the end goal is to have a full band, but I also really like this. It would be cool to take elements from this and incorporate it into a bigger band.
BW: As far as synthesizing what is informing your music and finding a common thread, there are some disparate elements found throughout the EP: “Celluloid” has a more organic shuffle to it, “Mindboggling” definitely channels elements of Ariel, and “Coo” is almost…I don’t know if it’s going into some Miami territory, maybe…
JDC: There’s some Miami there for sure. Oh yeah! When I was working on “Mindboggling” I went over to Ariel’s place and was playing him a couple things. I almost didn’t want to play him “Mindboggling” because I didn’t know if I really liked it, and also I felt it was maybe an Ariel rip. He said, “Pff! You weren’t going to play me this song?” He liked that one the most. I was definitely happy that he liked it, because a lot of this music is a huge thank you to the music we love.
BW: Despite those different elements that make up the EP, it feels pretty cohesive. Is that where the album is going?
JDC: Yeah. The album we’re putting together now is the EP -- so all those songs you just mentioned -- plus a couple others. It’s more like a compilation of the work that’s been done thus far, and not a grand concept. It’s just a collection of catchy songs, which is great because I feel like [when I was] working on albums in the past, there had to be an arc and they had to have a lot of depth, and that sometimes makes it a trudge for listeners. Especially nowadays, who even listens to albums? I mean, people do, but I don’t know who and I don’t know why. People are probably going to jump around from track to track, and I just want them to feel like it’s fun, catchy, memorable music.
That said, every song in itself is its own universe, and they’re like genre experiments. Each of the tracks – especially those that you just mentioned –is an exploration of different production techniques, aesthetics, genres, and weird fusions of ideas and songs.
We’re also putting together another record in tandem with this. A lot of the EP tracks are Frankensteins – one limb is disco, another is Miami bass, the head is Italo, the foot is Manchester post-punk or something. The EP is more like a sampler of what we like, what we can do, and establishing that there is no one way to do anything.
[But] I hope that the next record is more its own entity and says, “This is what we are.” I hope that people will listen to it and hear that there are tons of influences, but know that it’s not because we have an identity crisis – it’s more just because we love everything, we’re obsessed with music, and there’s no right way to do anything.
BW: In a great way, “Good to Know” has that Frankenstein feel to it, and I know you’ve said the Regal Degal song “Pyramid Bricks” is a Frankenstein song that was something like three songs put together…
JDC: Yeah, a lot of songs end up that way – especially considering that time is a non-linear thing. Some ideas are immediate, and some have been brewing forever. I get especially excited when I can find a marriage of something new and something old that’s been sitting there, waiting to be put to use.
BW: The CMON EP doesn’t exist physically, right?
JDC: Only on cassette in an extremely limited quantity, which is why we’re in the process of consolidating the EP with a few other songs. We put out the EP to give people a taste – our friend Juan was our publicist/de facto manager at that time, and told us we should just put something out. We didn’t want to drop a huge album on anyone, so a five-song EP was cool for us. Luckily our friends Jacob and Reed at Always Lovers / Danger Collective offered to do a small run of tapes but I love those songs and I also want them to live on vinyl and CD in an expanded LP form.
That LP will be a sampler – party jams and fun songs that represent the initial burst of CMON energy. The second record will be just as fun, but I also want people to feel the whole thing is an experience, and not just a collection of songs.
BW: Josh, is your cymbal crash in the new Drugdealer video real?
JDC: It was just the video, but yes -- I did it. If you want to know the story, it was a tip of the hat to our friend Johan Stuckey, who’s a skater. It was brought to my attention that every time Johan air drums, for some reason he likes to hit the crash cymbals behind his back. So when we filmed the video, I thought I’d do that as a laugh and tip of the hat. Surprisingly, it’s gotten a very positive response from a lot of people. I’m getting much respect, even though it’s not even real.
Drugdealer is going to Europe and we’re doing some U.S. touring this summer. I’m curious when we go out onto the next leg of tour if people are going to be expecting me to bust that out. That will be the true test of just how many people need that as part of the experience. Let’s put it this way: If they need it, I can do it.
BW: Regarding the month-long Zebulon residency, will you be doing the same set four times?
JW: No way.
JDC: I don’t think so. There was a part of me that really wanted to change it up, but I think this residency is going to be more about a celebration of how we’ve crafted this live set-up to this point. I think it’s cool that you appreciate how we’ve honed the two-person set-up with the loops, because we devised that from scratch. There was no manual; we just came up with it.
With Regal Degal, every set was different, and I think sometimes that was to our detriment. We wanted to keep a certain level of integrity by never playing the same set twice and always trying new songs, but we may have lost people’s attention, because there was never the same experience to latch onto.
It’s almost inherent in the music -- Regal Degal was a more off-the-grid, freeform band. And this whole production experience, experiment, and concept of CMON is so much more about the grid, being tight, looped, hypnotic, and more psychedelic. The live experience is a more repetitive thing, and dialing into something. I think people will enjoy it even if it is the same thing four weeks in a row, however, I think we are going to incorporate at least a few new songs, and maybe even a guest member or two.
BW: Eddie Ruscha will be playing one of the shows during the residency, and Scott Gilmore – with whom Eddie has collaborated – will also be playing the residency on a different night than Eddie.
JDC: I curated the residency, and for whatever reason, it didn’t occur to me to book Scott and Eddie together. I think I was hoping that Tim Koh was going to be able to come to town, and I wanted to book Tim and Eddie together because they go way, way back.
But it ended up working out well, because I was able to round out the whole thing by asking SFV Acid to play the same night as Scott for the first one on March 4. There’s a huge connection; those guys grew up together. Zane is one of my favorite freaks, and I’ve loved that guy’s music for years. He put out one of the first Scott Gilmore tapes, so it’s a total Valley Boy night.
And our friend Kathleen Kim is DJing, and she’s insane. She’s a crazy DJ and talented musician, as well as being a law professor and former police commissioner. She’s fascinating.
BW: On the topic of DJing, you DJ quite a bit, Josh.
JDC: I love DJing, and I feel like I’ve helped people who were skeptical about DJing to understand its value and place. Some people think it’s an elevated hobby, but I also know that aside from getting caught up in the obsession of pursuing physical artifacts, it really comes down to what we’ve been talking about – connecting dots and making connections that people didn’t think were possible. My mind has been blown by mixes, and that’s why CMON exists.
There was a Jimi Hey mix that changed my life, and because of it I tuned into a blog called Lovefingers.It was a very important blog by Andrew Hogge, who went to CalAarts with Ariel, Tim, John Wiese, and John Maus. Lovefingers would post an MP3 every day and mixes that his friends made.
BW: Are you still doing your NTS show?
JDC: Yeah – I have to shout out to Geneva for that, since she gave me her show. I make it from home and it’s called Confusing Mix.
BW: On the topic of connecting the dots, what is the Eddie Ruscha/Secret Circuit connection to the residency and CMON/Regal Degal?
JDC: Regal Degal and Secret Circuit played a show together five or six years ago at the Satellite, which is when we first met him. I’ve always known about him as a benevolent, generous entity – he’s very welcoming. Friends of ours go to his studio and jam, and he’s just a super cool guy. Not to mention that having been a member of Medicine, he is one of the few – if not only – people we know in the movie The Crow. I confirmed that with him the other day. You can see him [in the movie], but it’s quick.
BW: Speaking of The Satellite, didn’t you play there as a member of Holy Shit?
JDC: Definitely – that was around 2012. I don’t remember much about that show except Aaron Sperske was supposed to play drums. He was there, and then he wasn’t. I think something happened.
JW: What did you guys do?
JDC: Played without him.
JW: No drums?
JDC: No drums.
BW: If it’s OK, I wanted to mention that you are personally and professionally connected to Geneva Jacuzzi…
JDC: She’s a part of our lives.
JW: She directed the “Celluloid” video, too.
JDC: Geneva’s a genius, and plays a huge part in all this. When Jamen and I first moved here together, we moved for a number of reasons, but we were definitely drawn to L.A. because of people like Ariel, Jimi, Piper, and all these people we wanted to get to know better and have more of their influence on our music.
The reason I moved back to L.A. was to be around Geneva. It’s perfect the way it worked out, because when I was listening to Ariel’s music a lot, I was so taken with how he was this gatekeeper to all this different music. He just tore the rulebook up, and it was really exciting for someone [like me] who was making music alone. When I started making music, I started alone in my basement. I played everything alone, and I was amazed that someone [like Ariel] could do that with such limited resources but make it sound infinite. It was a huge influence on me as a younger person.
But by the time I started falling in with Geneva, I was way more into body music and dancing, and her music is super sensual, visceral, and really works in a club setting. She gets so much respect from producers and music lovers alike. That really had an effect on CMON. The first CMON song is “Dreamfucking”, and I started that out here just as an exercise. Geneva and I were having lunch, and she said she needed to go home and work on a song. We had a friendly competition to see who could finish a song first – I won. But that song was the result of me making something really quick, inspired by the moment. She had a huge influence on that.
BW: Continuing to connect some dots, we were talking about Geneva, and her sister Courtney will be performing as Toucan on one of the residency nights, right?
JDC: Yes — I love Toucan and Courtney, and it’s been inspiring to see Toucan evlve over the last year.
SW: Another influence I hear in CMON and Regal Degal is the Chills, and you like other weird and interesting bands like Abecedarians and Trisomie 21, that don’t come up that much in conversation.
JDC: We could talk about it for hours, but I hope that when people listen to CMON they still hear things like The Chills, and even stuff like Abecedarians. And with a band like Regal Degal, it was definitely a “you are what you eat” situation. I was on a steady diet of bands that some people love but most people have never heard of. -- having those precious, cult-y obsessions with obscure things that are ripe for rediscovery years later. I think secretly, that was the agenda in Regal Degal.
Hopefully you hear those influences on CMON too, but that’s not all that’s there. I want totally happy, fun-loving people that don’t care about all that to be able to listen to CMON and not have to think about what it sounds like or why. I want people to get the sense that they’re on the precipice of discovering a lot of stuff, but I don’t want to be in the way of that. I don’t want it to be all about our personality – I want it to feel like a place more than a person, where there’s room for listeners to beam themselves into the music and meet us there. Who knows, maybe they’ll even encounter a side of their own personality that they’d be surprised to discover in listening to our music. That’d be nice.
CMON is live at Zebulon every Monday in March:
March 4: CMON featuring Scott Gilmore, SFV Acid, DJ Kathleen Kim
March 11: CMON featuring Family Tang, French Kettle Station, DJ Jesspeleta
March 18: CMON featuring Toucan, Nour Mobarek, DJ Nite Jewel
March 25: CMON featuring Secret Circuit, John Carroll Kirby, DJ Jimi Hey