The Mystic Braves, a set of Los Angeles dreamers who craft catchy, song-centric psych rock, feel that the future is retro. Consisting of Julian Ducatenzeiler (guitar, vox), Tony Malacara (bass, vox) Shane Stotsenberg (guitar, vox), Ignacio Gonzalez (keys, percussion) and Cameron Gartung (drums), the Mystic Braves build snappy beats with memorable melodies. A Love That’s Sound spoke with Julian and Shane about their songwriting, the band’s origins, recent music festivals and other assorted bravery, mysticism and noise.
David Lacroix: Julian, how did the Mystic Braves originally get together?
Julian Ducatenzeiler : I was playing with another band at the time and we had a practice space down in San Diego. I reconnected with a friend in San Marcos. We saw a show in LA and invited people to jam at our lock out space. That’s pretty much when I met Tony (Malacara) and two other guys who are no longer in the band. We started playing music and it all clicked from there.
DL: There are many song writers in the Mystic Braves. Do band members write songs individually or do you write them together?
Shane Stotsenberg: It’s funny. Julian and Tony have always been the core songwriters of the Mystic Braves. Julian comes from a different background than the rest of us; it’s a blessing to know such a musician. Me and Cameron grew up together from elementary school and we were never able to find anybody who liked the same music as us. We were the only two guys at the time that actually liked bands with instruments. When the Mystic Braves finally took off, musically it was a magical moment.
DL: What was the first song you wrote with the Mystic Braves? On the first record, is there a song on there that you are particularly proud of?
Julian Ducatenzeiler : It was “Bright Blue Day Haze” and “Cayote Blood” and they actually ended up on the second one, not the first album. I’ve always liked “Tripin’ Like I Do” and “Oh So Fine,” those are two of my favourites. People seem to want to hear those often even though we don’t always play them.
Shane Stotsenberg: We made music all of the time. There is so much inspiration from each and every one of us. It takes a little while for a band to find their sound, where everyone agrees on it and is on the same page. Everybody supports everybody, that’s how it is supposed to be, at least. It’s been a really crazy train ride playing music with those guys; it’s a lot of fun.
DL: Are there any songs from Days of Yesteryear that you are particularly proud of?
Shane Stotsenberg: Yeah, I wrote only two songs on the record. I’m really proud of “No Trash” which has been getting a great response, so I’ve heard, which is a lot of fun to play. We were all trying to work together on the record. I wrote another song called “Down on Me” which we haven’t played live yet. That’s a really special song to me, it’s more of a ‘60s pop song; it strays away from the minor chord Mystic Brave standard. It’s more of a “happy” song. I love all of the songs, they are all so diverse from each other. Tony’s songs are great, Julian’s songs are great. I’m always pushing those guys to start working on new stuff, no matter what, and recording it so that you always have it forever. We’re going to try and start working on another record pretty soon. It never hurts to keep writing, it’s better to have more songs than not enough.
Julian Ducatenzeiler: “Great Company” is probably my favourite song that I wrote off of the new record. It’s got that great guitar lick, Rob Campanella really liked that as well. It always feels good playing it.
DL: Rob Campanella (of the Brian Jonestown Massacre) mentioned how pleased he was with the results of Days of Yesteryear. Can you tell us a little bit about making that album?
Julian Ducatenzeiler: We just hit up Rob, went over to see his studio and fell in love with the place. It’s all in his house, very homey and rad. We paid the money for it, because Rob is a really good producer. We went over there and spent a month going there everyday and hashing it out, adding other instruments and making more arrangements than our previous two records where we just played the songs live and overdubbed vocals and that was it. It was just a more expansive, well thought out project. Rob worked in the direction we wanted to go. It was a good collaborative effort.
Shane Stotsenberg: That was the whole learning experience – that was the best part about it. He has done so many psychdelic records with so many bands because they like the way he works. Working with him was such an amazing experience just because of how patient he is and how much he wants to get it done. It’s definitely nice to have a push over the mountain because the Mystic Braves have always just rushed every album.
Rob is one of my favourite people ever, you could put it that way. He’s a great producer, easy going and wants to get it done as much as you do. He transformed the basement of his house into an entire studio, the Committee To Keep Music Evil; the BJM actually practices there when they are in L.A. He’s got all kinds of cool toys to play and record with. He’s such a great guy, you learn so much from him. Rob always takes care of us whenever we need him and he plays with us and it’s nice that he hops on board when he can. He’s a wizard with vintage equipment.
With Lolipop Records we have Ignacio, who is a gear nerd as well, so we’ve done it ourselves. When it comes down to it, it’s the best way to do it anyways – self promotion, having Rob there was a total advancement for us. You can hear it in the music too. We wanted to get more far out with trying new things and stepping outside of the normal box that we stay in. But we are always still true to hearing the natural sound of an instrument with less amount of guitar pedals and things like that. Rob is so good at what he does; he is a legend.
DL: The Mystic Braves, like the Allah-lahs are very accessible compared to much of psychedelia.
Julian Ducatenzeiler: At a practice during the early days of the Mystic Braves, one of our old members was joking around and sticking his finger up our butts just to be funny. He put his finger up the butt of our drummer’s girlfriend’s butt, which didn’t go down to well with the drummer. He wanted to fight him that night and ended up quitting the band the night before our biggest gig to come which was a show in LA with the Allah-Lahs the next day. So we had to cancel our gig with the Allah-Lahs because of that instance…. That’s when the Braves called up Cameron. After that, Shane joined the band on tambourine, he eventually slid in on guitar.
DL: Do you feel that the Mystic Braves are a pop band?
Julian Ducatenzeiler: Yeah, I do think that the Mystic Braves are a pop band. We aren’t mainstream top ‘40s pop but we do believe in the classic sense of pop structures. We do like to add psychedelic textures and some trip out parts but a lot of our songwriting comes down to writing some good melodies and keeping it catchy. Ultimately, that is what is going to hit home more than just psychedelic “far out” crazy shit.
DL: Besides the Creation Factory, do either of you have any other projects on the go?
Julian Ducatenzeiler: I’m working on some solo stuff myself. I’m just going with the flow. I wouldn’t really know how to explain it because it is still up and coming but I would say it’s on the post-punk side of things. I only have a couple songs finished and out right now. A little more drive-y and bouncy. I want to say more “modern” relative sounding, like a lot of bands right now.
Shane Stotsenberg: Three of the Mystic Braves play in a project called L’Aura Moiré which is an optical illusional pattern, black and white op-art. It’s also in reference to love in French. A friend of mine David Jasso and his wife Adeline, who also plays with Cat Power sometimes, they started the group a few years ago. Ignacio was the first Brave to be in the band and he brought me and Cameron into it. We never really play that much and it’s always a random happening. Playing with that band is a lot of fun, although they are off the radar a little bit. We’re definitely trying to include L’Aura Moiré into Lolipop Records so the younger generations can learn about ‘60s French music. There’s covers and original material, everything is in French and it’s all in a ‘60s garage style. It’s really cool to be able to have one standard group and have another project that you don’t have to take the reigns for, you can just ride the wave. It’s not our band, it’s more fun that way sometimes.
DL: Any preferance between writing and studio versus playing live?
Julian Ducatenzeiler : Not exactly. They are kind of two and the same. Recording is really fun because you can get lost in what you are doing and you can make something that you are going to live with forever. That thing in their live in just a one in a million experience each time. You are then and there. both are great, I don’t prefer one or the other. I love ’em both!
DL: What was it like to play the Levitation Barracuda showcases at the Levitation Pre-parties?
Julian Ducatenzeiler : It was really rad. We headlined the pre-party and we were lucky enough to pick up another gig on sunday because of the cancelation of the fest. After watching King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard we were intimidated because they were fucking epic. Yeah, it was cool. We did our thing and it worked out. We were honored to play another show.
DL: What are your thoughts on the effects of Levitation 2016’s cancellation down in Austin Texas?
Julian Ducatenzeiler : It is almost a blessing in disguise because it got to show us what we are made of as a community of bands and fellow artists. Everyone coming together and putting on random shows at venues in town… it seems like everyone has had a good time. It would have been cool to have gone to the fest but sometimes you have to roll with the punches. I feel bad for the people who came from all over the world and were camping, maybe left stranded without a place to stay but it seems like everything worked out for the best.
DL: Are you working on a follow up? Any new compositions on the way? Can you comment on the Echo Park scene and Lollipop records?
Julian Ducatenzeiler : Yeah, we are always writing, I mean there is no rush but the fourth record will come as soon as it’s made. Echo Park is always a growing community of bands. Lollipop is always looking to put out the best bands in the area. Henry, our manager just bought a compound in boyle heights and he’s going to be turning that into a Lollipop mecca. We are going to host shows there, we are going to put up bands there when they tour. We will be able to do whatever we want whenever we want. I’m looking forward to it.
Shane Stotsenberg: There’s been a lot of changes in the Lolipop world over in Echo Park. It’s a very family type of thing and it’s always been that way. There’s always been evolving change in that scene but Lolipop Records will always be in our hearts forever. It’s always gotten better; it’s another learning experience and Ignacio has full dedication in doing it. It’s nice to have as a home for us, it’s always growing. being one of the first bands to record and put out a record there, it’s kind of special because they are putting out up and coming bands and young bands out.
DL: Is there a noticeable pscyhdelic vibe on the west coast?
Julian Ducatenzeiler : It seems like everyone is about the same things. Community and art and music and respect for one another. When we played Vancouver, it felt like we were playing another show in LA. Really good people who are down for the cause and who are there for a good time. It seems like it’s almost the same anywhere you go but some places it is more popular than others. The west coast has a good little thing going on.
Shane Stotsenberg: It’s all about making the young generation in tune with what’s actually, you know, cool. It gets your heart beating and you feel it.
It’s all about the love and the connection with the whole re-revolution of the ‘60s movement and psychedelic music. Being such a sacred word, “psychedelic” is used by a lot of different people in different terms, which is okay, but it’s a very spiritual existence right now. The vibrations, the way you feel with everything, music is my life. It will always be my life and it was always be enhanced by something. It’s always a learning experience. The Mystic Braves have been a stepping stone for me in a lot of great ways and i’ve always been there for them. We have always been a natural happening and gone along with the flow, just going down the river and making things naturally. The outcome is always good and stable. Now that we have set sail after all of these years, after playing small shows, shitty shows, great shows and more shitty shows – you go through it all before you realize you are in a good spot, that you are around good people and that everyone is in it together.
Artwork: Marie Ingouf. Photo: Ben Berkiw. Photo/Interview: David Lacroix.