The Southland leave home
WEST VAIL – “George Bush would win it, but it might have been fixed beforehand. I don’t think anyone has a chance against George Bush. His family probably manufactured the cage,” said Jed Whedon from the Californian band The Southland. Vocalist, rhythm guitarist and joint songwriter, Whedon and his fellow musicians have an appreciation and understanding for music as deep as their streak for mischief and fun. Their Web site is at once informative and downright irreverent. Weaving white lies with simple facts to build a biography that is both alluring and informative. Its tongue-in-cheek-style led me to ask Whedon many trivial questions, the first of which was: “Who would win a cage match between George W. Bush and an orangutan?” As you can see, he didn’t hesitate with his answer.I spoke to the band via the medium of mobile telecommunications as they sat in a van, journeying between venues in Colorado and passing the time playing big stakes poker. $5 big stakes to be precise. My next question is to push Whedon on whether he believes in past lives and what they would all have been.
“No, I don’t believe in that. But we would have been all great athletes on a great team. A fabulous team. Our drummer was probably an old time ’30s gangster because his nickname is Big Flick. He’s very old-timey and he loves poker,” he said.The Southland is a five-piece band all born and bred in Los Angeles. The members drifted from one sonic outfit to the beach, the basketball courts and back again before finally uniting under one musical banner of happiness and unfettered creativity. Styles come and go and with every band keen to promote a unique sound and original genre Whedon is refreshingly candid on people trying to stand out from the crowd and the joint role of the band in such aspects of self-promotion.”We write from a lot of different genres and meet in the middle. If we’re successful, then we’ll be called pop and if we don’t, it’ll be indie rock. It doesn’t bother us if people call us a pop band or a rock band. I don’t think people would call it unique. Everything has been done. Everything has been ripped from somewhere. Nothing is original. Einstein said, ‘good artists borrow and great artists steal.’ (Note: this quote is actually attributed to Picasso.) Calling your band entirely unique; I don’t think it’s possible.”To listen to The Southland is to hear many influences processed through five individual minds and packed together in their own imprint. There is Steely Dan stripped down, there is The Postal Service boosted up. One song will drift from the conscious to subconscious and through the dark recesses in between, while another builds and builds like a breeze crossing featureless plains, growing to a destructive gale. The Southland doesn’t switch from quiet to loud as such, rather their music is an extended emotional journey. It’s a hug and a bit of rough and tumble, a loving smile and painful slap on the back, a cheeky wink and savage kick to the balls. Music has never been more accessible than it is today with the wide variety of mass media available to all and sundry. I put it to Whedon that this has led to an inundation of poor music and a degradation of the music scene in general, quoting “Pop Idol” and “American Idol” as a particular example. The vocalist was quick to disagree.
“No. There’s always bullshit. Every good idea that’s ever been gets turned to crap. It has this pure start and gets changed. The more people that do it (make music) the better it will get. The pop thing doesn’t bother me. It’s the product. It has more to do with some company sitting down with numbers and that has nothing to do with art. If someone wants to write down how they feel and express that, it’s cool. It’s like saying porn is going to ruin photography and it’s not even related,” he said.The Southland as a musical entity is only a few years old, mere whippersnappers in a scene that has witnessed the comings and goings of super groups and icons both living and dead. I asked Whedon what band, now no longer together for whatever reason, he would have loved to have played with.”Pink Floyd definitely. In their heyday when they were playing all these shows. Their music was epic and flawless. With all the lights and the shows and everything. That would have been fun. It would have been cool to be a jazz player when it all started out. Not that I think I could play jazz, but playing with all those old cats and hanging out with Miles (Davis). On a nonmusic note, I would have loved to hang out with Chris Farley because he was hilarious.”Playing in a band and playing live you run the gauntlet and the promise of celebrity. An experience guaranteed to bring the crazies out of the woodwork. I ask Whedon what his experiences of the more unstable members of The Southland’s fanbase have been.”We haven’t experienced any real crazies yet. We’re hoping to get some by the end of this tour. You know: “Can you sign my first born,” or, “Can I take you home and cook you some food.” We’d be happy to have a stalker at this point. We’d take a stalker. In fact we’re sending out an invitation for people to stalk us,” Whedon said.
My final inquiry is pure fantasy, but who doesn’t fantasize, constantly. Every hour or every day? If The Southland were to find one million dollars in a bag in a hedge in a brown paper bag, would they keep it and what would they do with it. “If you kept a million dollars you’d probably get in trouble. We’d keep it and to stop getting in trouble we’d give it to a good cause. After spending about $60,000. We’d get some gear and an X-Box maybe. No. We’d get a bus and then give the rest to charity. But we haven’t so far, hence the van,” he said.I don’t believe them, but you can ask them yourself tonight at The Sandbar in West Vail.Vail, Colorado