What’s My Scene: Julia Holter’s Los Angeles

Ahead of an appearance at Laneway, Los Angeles native JULIA HOLTER presents a guide to her hometown.

“One of the things I love about LA is its mysteriousness,” Julia Holter recently told Pitchfork. “Someone might be doing something great next door to you, but you have no idea because it’s full of all these enclaves.” That’s not to say the Los Angeles-born singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist works entirely in a vacuum. Born in LA and part of a tight-knit experimental scene that includes Ramona Gonzalez of Nite Jewel and members of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, the CalArts graduate has nonetheless carved a niche of her own in the composer-pop realm (think: Laurie Anderson and Arthur Russell). Her second album Ekstasis featured in many end-of-year polls for 2012, and she’s about to visit Australia for the first time for Laneway Festival and sideshows in Melbourne and Sydney.

Nite Jewel

Of course we are friends and started making music in a similar group of people but the truth is it’s just great music, with a solid and honest foundation I don’t really hear in a lot of other songwriting these days. Also, I don’t think Ramona [Gonzalez] and I were even real friends until I heard her music one night at [LA venue] The Smell and was blown away. She is always changing it up, trying new things, and has a voice that is completely her own.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

Again, similar circle of friends, but I knew Ariel’s music before I knew Ariel, and I loved it so much. I don’t even know if he knows that. There isn’t much other music I’ve listened to this much. It’s the most intimate rock’n’roll ever created; rock’n’roll that feels like it’s just for you. There are always a million things going on in each song, but the way that it blends magically, that’s because he has a true sense of voice. I never feel like “there’s so much going on, this just doesn’t work”. It all blends. I remember walking around in the freezing cold winter climate I used to live in before I moved back to LA, listening on headphones to ‘House Arrest’ just to keep alive.

Mark So

I perform Mark So’s music a lot. He is a composer friend of mine, who makes a variety of music that is endlessly captivating to me. He’s been making a lot of field recordings on tape recently, but the other night we performed at a bar an older piece of his on synths and harmonium and vocals called ‘Mahler’ that is a bunch of melodies from Mahler songs, all on top of each other in particular ways. A lot of his work is inspired or makes use of the text of poet John Ashbery, which is fitting because both of them make stuff that comes off as effortless and in-the-moment, despite the fact it is very firmly constructed.

Linda Perhacs

Linda had that famous underground classic out in 1970 ‘Parallelograms’, but, on the one day or two a week she has outside of her dental hygienist career, she spends her time writing down and recording new songs. She is a classic visionary, and the way she sees music is more akin to a lot of the music “composers” I know than the typical folk or rock musician – her sensitivity to each sound and the detail she hears, etc. She is really fun to work with, and I’m excited to work on the new songs with her.

Laneway Festival 2013 dates and venues:

Friday, February 1 – Alexandria Street, Brisbane

Saturday, February 2 – Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney

Sunday, February 3 – Footscray Community Arts Centre, Melbourne

Friday, February 8 – Fowler’s Live and UniSA West Courtyards, Adelaid

Saturday, February 9 – Perth Cultural Centre, WA

Julia Holter sideshows:

Wednesday, February 6 – The Toff, Melbourne

Thursday, February 7 – York Street Anglican Church, Sydney