Sunday, May 22, 2011

She Wants Revenge crafts musical ode to their Valley roots

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The band She Wants Revenge does wonders with the youthful influences of core duo Adam Bravin and Justin Warfield. They marry haunting poetry and modern sonic flair with the sound of '80s dance and New Romantic music to create new rock.

Their third album, "Valleyheart," which will be released Tuesday, emphasizes another major formative factor: growing up in the San Fernando Valley.

"Musically, the culture of the San Fernando Valley 100 percent has to do with who we are," Warfield, 38, says. "The Valley, historically, has been home to all of these below-the-line film industry families that sort of kept the town alive, and had a distinct culture.

"In the 1970s that converged with Chicano street culture and that Dogtown, Venice skateboard/surfer thing. This joined a traditional suburban, Middle American, Spielbergian ride-your-bicycle-through- the- foothills `E.T.' sort of thing. You didn't get that if you lived at Melrose and Fairfax."

"We had a lot of friends from Toluca Lake and further west to Encino and Tarzana who went to middle-class, upper-middle-class schools," Bravin, 41, adds. "Then if you headed north, to Panorama City and such, it got a little worse, economically. We had so many friends from so many different areas, growing up we just experienced interpersonal relationships with people from a lot of different cultures within the San Fernando Valley. I think that gave us a unique perspective, and listening to KROQ - which gave

us access to bands like the Cure, Depeche Mode, the Smiths and the Psychedelic Furs - added to the equation."

North Hollywood native Warfield attended several Valley schools but mostly studied at the arts-focused Oakwood private school near his home. Bravin grew up in Sherman Oaks and was in the Individual Honors Program at North Hollywood High.

They met as teens, when Warfield attended a party Bravin was deejaying. Though they'd bump into each other at parties and clubs for a decade and a half, the guys didn't hang out regularly until 2003, after Warfield had recorded discs in several genres and Bravin, who continued to deejay under the name Adam 12, had studied music producing. Their eponymous first album came out in 2006, followed by "This Is Forever" the next year, and there have been several EPs.

Warfield sings, plays guitar and programs. Bravin plays bass and keyboards and contributes sounds and tones.

Both are multi-instrumentalists and singers. Thomas Froggatt provides guitar and Scott Ellis plays drums.

The Valley focus of "Valleyheart" crystallizes on the third cut, "Up in Flames," an apocalyptic but resilient ode to canyons, freeways and the pursuit of Valley girls.

"It really wasn't a concept record until `Up in Flames,"' Warfield explains. "We listened to it and said this really sounds like driving over the hill from Laurel Canyon to the Valley. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the Santa Ana winds, everything. I think that it really has that feel, and not a lot of records have that.

"I think X did that, the Doors did that, Jane's Addiction did that ..."

Some of the greatest L.A. bands.

"But we're a Valley band," Warfield instantly points out.

To get a better idea of where the guys come from, we asked to see some of their favorite old haunts. We met Bravin and Warfield at Henry's Tacos at Moorpark Street and Tujunga Avenue.

"I've been coming to Henry's since 1983," Bravin says. "The menu's exactly the same. The only thing that's changed is they sell T-shirts now and it's a little more expensive, but not much.

"I can never really figure out if it's as amazing as I think it is," Bravin adds. "Some people I bring here go, `Oh my God, it's the best taco ever!' and some people come and say, `I don't get it.' There are some restaurants that are just amazing because you grew up eating there."

"Henry's was the place I'd meet my friends, have a couple of tacos and then go skateboarding," Warfield says. "Like Adam, I always bring people here. But I've never brought anybody here who didn't fall in love with it. You would have to be, like, a taco-truck snob or out for something incredibly authentic not to. But if you're looking for a ground beef, hardshell taco or a bean burrito, this is ground zero for that. It's the best."

Next stop was the Foxfire Room, about two miles away. Featured in Paul Thomas Anderson's epic film about Valley angst, "Magnolia," the dark, hole-in-the-wall bar was pretty packed on a weekday afternoon.

When the boys were old enough to make the Hollywood scene, this was one of several friendly dives that had the desired effect on ladies from the other side of the hills.

"When I moved out of the Valley, I lived in Laurel Canyon," Warfield explains. "It was kind of a thing where, if you were in your early 20s and on a date with a girl, you'd go `Hey, you want to check something out?' You'd bring 'em to the Foxfire or some other Valley place and get a really stiff glass of Seven and Seven for, like, four dollars, and all this ambience. They'd think it was so novel and cool because it was a real bar rather than a hipster place. It wasn't flashy, and they'd feel so authentic."

While neither of the guys lives in the Valley now, both say that when they buy houses, they'll be back.

A short distance from the Foxfire is Val Surf, the nearly half-century-old board sports store that brought surfing, skate- and snowboarding equipment to the area. For dedicated skater Warfield, this was a holy place. Bravin came here, too, even though an accident knocked him off of skateboarding at a young age.

"If you wanted to hang out with your skater/surfing friends, you had to wear Jimmy'Z or OP or something like that, and this was really the only place you could get the authentic skate or surf gear," Bravin recalls. "Plus, all the cute girls would hang out here."

"I got my first skateboard when I was 2 years old from here," Warfield says. "Everybody here is a friend. I'm a terrible surfer and not a very good skateboarder, either, but I still do it. My kid's 3 1/2, I've brought him here since he was in a stroller."

Our last stop was at Castle Park on Sepulveda Boulevard, right next to where the 101 and 405 freeways intersect. The miniature golf and arcade complex was a special childhood hangout, and remains so to this day.

"So many film and TV things were shot in the Valley," Warfield notes. "His deejay name, Adam 12, comes from the TV show, which they constantly filmed in our neighborhood. `The Brady Bunch' was filmed in our neighborhood, all those '70s shows, `CHiPs,' were filmed around the corner from my house with regularity. But whenever these shows were at a miniature golf place, it was never at the one right here."

Warfield likes the place so much, he threw one of his wife's birthday parties at Castle Park.

As for the future, "Valleyheart" may mark the pinnacle of the area's influence on She Wants Revenge, but Bravin wishes that the "heart" part of the project will continue to inspire.

"Hopefully it will let people know that it's OK to embrace where you're from," he says. "As much as people have come down on the San Fernando Valley over the years, we never paid any attention to it and we still don't. Now, we've written a love letter to the San Fernando Valley by making an album about it."

Source: http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_18111484?source=rss

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