Ike’s Favorite Albums of 2016: #4 Kari Faux — Lost En Los Angeles
This one is going to be a little bias, because Kari Faux and I share a hometown: Little Rock, AR. And because of that, I was able to listen to her debut album with a slightly different foundation of knowledge than most people. Anyway, this “review” starts with a band called The Coasts.
The Coasts are me and my best friend, Eric Mount. But let’s go before The Coasts and talk about me. Fun, right? Anyway, I’ve always wanted to be a rock star. But not because of sex and drugs and popularity (those would have been nice). All of my artistic endeavors started with a foundation of “this is going to get noticed, and you will be respected and seen as unique and people will pay you to keep doing whatever it is you decide to do next forever.”
In high school, people thought I was cool cause I could play guitar, but I wasn’t good enough to sustain that sort of cred. In college, I tried to be involved with our college’s tiny little music community, but for some reason or another, I wasn’t included as much as I’d wanted. I had my own songs and I even performed them at little coffeehouse gigs, but when I didn’t receive that immediate “Ike, you’re amazing! Tell me every detail and nuance of your songs!” I would become disheartened and question my creative abilities.
During college, someone once anonymously said about me that I had “more ambition than talent.” That phrase has stuck with me throughout everything and serves as fuel for when I’m down, but also as my imaginary nemesis when working towards something.
So, back to The Coasts. Fast forward from 1997 (when I learned to play guitar) to 2011. Before then I had been writing and sometimes recording songs. They were ok and had good intentions, but I just didn’t (and still don’t) have the technical knowledge to pull off what I envision. So, 2011: I become good friends with Isaac Alexander, a respected local musician in Little Rock who heard something in my music. What he heard, I don’t know, but bottom line, he thought it’d be fun to record some music. I’m just a guitarist and singer, so I needed some drums. Thankfully, my best friend from college (Eric) played drums and jived with me musically, so he came down to Little Rock one weekend and helped me record what was to become our debut album.
Long story short, the album got more attention than I had anticipated. I knew it was good and it was so close to what I was wanting to make, but I constantly reminded myself that an album from some up-and-coming band was coming out every day.
Somehow the album got into the right hands. We were put on many Best Of 2011 lists from music blogs I had read for years, our music was placed on a few TV shows, we got to record a song in Adrien Grenier’s basement in NYC, and we even received interest from Warner Bros. Records.
This is all relatively small to the universe that is the music business and I’m sure most people wouldn’t let it get to their heads. But I did.
Thankfully, it didn’t necessarily turn into an ego; it was more like I got a tiny taste of a drug and couldn’t stop searching for it. It affected how I wrote music, it affected how I marketed ourselves as a band, and it affected my relationship with music itself. No longer could I listen to an album or song and not think about the logistics that went into it and sometimes, in my darker days, I would silently compare the attention they were getting to The Coasts.
We went on to record a rushed EP (Santa Fe), a semi-concept album (Racilia), and this year we released what will be our last release for a while (Weekend). None of these came close to the amount of positive attention and praise we received for our first album, and it still bothers me. And the fact that it bothers me still bothers me.
Then I heard Kari Faux’s song, “Supplier.”
I first heard this on Arkansas Times’ blog. Every month or so, they would feature a bunch of Arkansas bands that had put out new music. I was already familiar with Blackparty, another Little Rock native who produced and co-wrote much of Lost En Los Angeles, and was a big fan. So when I saw he was involved, I was in.
“Supplier” perfectly encapsulates who I’ve come to believe Kari is as a person and artist: an endless source of positive and creative energy. It makes sense that Childish Gambino would seek her out and collaborate (and even let her contribute to his standout 2016 album, “Awaken, My Love!”). It makes sense that her music would be the backdrop to many scenes of the HBO series, Insecure.
After I heard “Supplier”, I bought the whole Lost En Los Angeles album and listened through. After the third or fourth listen, I concluded it was great music with loads of promise, even outside of Little Rock. And I was impressed with Kari’s honesty, positivity, confidence, and, of course, introducing me to the term “headass.”
But what Kari’s album represented and still represents to me is an acknowledgement that the world is big and mysterious and the only sane and healthy way to approach it is to say “I’m not supposed to be here, but I am” as she says at the top of the entire album. It’s a bold level of honesty that truly convicted me while simultaneously inspiring me to admit my shortcomings and push on.
So what if 20 people didn’t love our album? So what if only 6 people show up at our show? So what if some UK synth-pop band with our same name gets all the glory? If I’m being true to myself, then nothing else matters when it comes to my music or whatever I’m trying to put out. Even this long ass album review that’s 1/4 about the actual album.
I can’t help but think of the Mad Men scene where Don fires Lane. He naturally becomes discouraged and asks Don how he’s supposed to go back home and admit he failed. Don says “You’ll tell them that it didn’t work out, because it didn’t. You’ll tell them the next thing will be better, because it always is.”
Lost En Los Angeles is the Don to my Lane aka my creative ambition. And hopefully, my creative ambition doesn’t hang itself someday.