Costa Mesa garage rockers Japanese Motors shocked the local scene when they informed OC Weekly last Tuesdaythat they were ditching their Jan. 20 gig with Vice label mates the Black Lips at Detroit Bar, canceling all upcoming shows including SXSW dates and going on "indefinite hiatus."
Alex Knost (left) and Christina Kee of Tomorrows Tulips
After playing a bit of phone tag, I got a hold of front man Alex Knost (he's also a pro surfer) this morning at his Costa Mesa home to discuss Tomorrows Tulips, the new duo he formed with girlfriend Christina Kee. I also asked him why Japanese Motors came to a screeching halt and if the band had a future. Knost offered fresh news concerning both projects.
OC Weekly (Wade Tatangelo): So, what prompted the formation of Tomorrows Tulips?
Alex Knost: Well, I really don't remember, exactly. I think Christina said something about hating to go to Paul Mitchell hair school and I asked her what she always wanted to do. She said she wanted to learn drums but thought that was ridiculous. We have similar taste in music and I showed her great songs that don't have complex drumming. I played her "Son of a Gun" by the Vaselines, one of our favorite groups ... As soon a she put her ear to it and just concentrated on the beat, one hand on the snare drum, it gave her the confidence to just start whacking stuff.
How long between when Christina started "whacking" the drums and the formation of Tomorrows Tulips?
By the next day we had three or four ideas for songs. Obviously, practice makes things a little perfect. I'd say maybe two or three months later we started playing around.
What's the story behind the name, Tomorrows Tulips?
It's kind of an inside joke. That's something for ourselves. We don't want to give it all away, y'know?
Fair enough. The sound of Tomorrows Tulips is a lot dreamier and experimental leaning than Japanese Motors's. What led you down this new musical path?
I still consider myself juvenile. I can barely play compared to most bands. You listen to 1960s music, it's not complicated, it's rock & roll. When you don't know how to do something very well it forces you to be creative and use trickery. The best thing about Christina being new on drums is she stumbles on all this creative stuff because it's first instinct. We're really trying to embody the DIY aesthetic.
Japanese Motors toured nationally and were signed to Vice. How serious are you about Tomorrows Tulips?
We're just gonna take it day by day. Obviously, we're passionate about it. We have this feeling of absolute fearlessness. We just recorded eight songs over at the Distillery [studio] on analog tape just like bands did in the 1960s and 70s. The [as-yet-untitled] EP will come out on the Papermade label that did the Dirt Dress series.
Do you have a release date?
It will take a little bit of time. We're only putting it out on cassette and vinyl. CDs are great to burn for friends but the lifespan is short. Tapes and vinyl last for a long time. We're doing that and writing new songs and talking to labels about a full-length we want to get done by the summer so we can hit the road and start touring.
Sound like between Tomorrows Tulips and surfing you have your hands full. Is Japanese Motors done?
Yeah, for the time being we all have decided to put in on the shelf. We have a full-length we never put out who knows what will happen in future. I talked to [guitarist/bassist Nolan Hall] and hes' going to focus on photography. [Drummer Andrew Atkinson] went back to his job. Nolan is working closely with Vans shoes and several magazines and looking to do showings of photographs and I'm excited for him. [Putting Japanese Motors on hiatus] was a mutual thing ... I'm really looking forward to Tomorrows Tulips. When you watch someone like Christina make a song it really lights a fire in me creatively. It's been just the two of us but we have been having people playing bass like Nolan and Matt McCluer of the Sweet Sweet Things. He's a very inspiring person to be around very with a profound work ethic.
Do you plan to eventually grow Tomorrows Tulips from a twosome to a band?
We'll keep it as a two-piece as far as writing but it would be great to also play with talented musicians.
Not to belabor this but Japanese Motors had a bunch of high profile dates coming up, opening for Black Lips playing SXSW, etc. Why stop now?
I think when you're passionate about something, obviously we worked hard to get where we were at, you don't want to sacrifice emotions. Having to keep playing due to pressure [to fulfill commitments] feels like a gimmick. We don't wanna do something we don't feel passionate about. We feel bad to the venues we left dry and fans but don't want to be somewhere if our head is somewhere else. The future is unwritten, but as of right now, all feel strongly [about going on hiatus].
Tomorrows Tulips performs with the Growlers (there will also be screenings of Jack Coleman-made videos of each band) at the Boat Haus, 1640 Pomona Ave., Costa Mesa, Thurs., Jan. 21. Cover charge not yet determined. All Ages.