Package tours might seem like a thing of the chintzy, Vegas-inspired past. But the good-times garage-rock kingpins at California’s Lolipop Records have, with big-brother label Burger Records, recently perfected the four-bands-in-one-van all-star caravan. When you’re 25 years old, what better existence is there than traipsing across the American landscape spreading a groovy gospel of communal DIY ethics, psych-rock revivalism and sunny, surfy indie-pop injected with a bit of streetwise scuzz?
Three (Wyatt Blair, Mr. Elevator & The Brain Hotel and Froth) of the four bands (Corners is the other) of the Lolipop Adventure Tour contain members who co-founded the cassette-focused Lolipop Records in Laguna Beach in 2010. Since then, the label has grown into a new brick-and-mortar retail space and recording studio/practice spot in LA, right next to legendary local venue The Echo (proceeds from the business venture funded the two vans currently carrying the 10-12 musicians around the country).
Together and separately (Blair performs solo and in Mr. Elevator), each outfit packs a walloping wall of sound, encompassing everything from trippy classic rock to jangly psych-folk to sun-kissed beach pop to spiky post-punk to lo-fi garage slop. Intrigued? You should be. Read on for more detailed descriptions of each of the LA-based bands.
The Dana Point native isn’t just the leader of the Lolipop tribe — he’s also a devout foot-soldier member. Sure, he released his effervescent 2013 solo full-length, Banana Cream Dream, on Burger Records. But Blair’s the main driving force behind Lolipop’s rose-colored ethos, which is all about giving bands affordable means of producing music — and fans affordable ways to buy it. “I started it as a funny thing, hand-dubbing tapes by myself in my kitchen,” he told Folio Weekly in 2013. “[Now] that’s just sprawled and kept rolling like a snowball.”
MR. ELEVATOR & THE BRAIN HOTEL
Though Blair plays drums for Mr. Elevator & The Brain Hotel, the spotlight here rightfully shines on frontman/keyboardist Tomas Dolas, who pounds his Hammond organ into submission with skittering, Manzarek-inspired fury. Listening to last year’s zonked-out Nico & Her Psychedelic Subconscious demonstrates how far this band has come from its early bedroom beginnings — and how successful a rock band can be without a single guitar in sight. Mr. Elevator also shows the most mainstream promise of any Adventure Tour bands. They recently had a song used in a Yves St. Laurent campaign, and Vice’s music blog Noisey raved thusly back in March: “Watching musicians stop drinking beer in order to listen to someone else’s band paying in a van backstage says a hell of a lot about how good these guys [are].”
JooJoo Ashworth, Jeff Fribourg, Jeremy Katz and Cameron Allen inject more ominous psychedelia into their music than any other Lolipop Adventure Tour band, thanks to Fribourg’s omnichord, a keytar-shaped quasi-futuristic instrument manufactured by Suzuki in the 1980s. The four-piece pulls heavily from California influences like Brian Jonestown Massacre and Entrance Band but doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as Anton Newcombe or Guy Blakeslee, insisting in interviews that Froth started as a fake band just to look cool, only actually picking up their instruments when their friends begged them to make music. Since then, Froth has been insanely productive, releasing a debut full-length, a cassette and a 7-inch — and embarking on two national tours spanning major festivals like Lollapalooza and Austin Psych Fest in the last 12 months alone. They’re also the most recent Lolipop Adventure Tour act to visit St. Augustine, back in May.
Tracy Bryant, Billy Changer, Rick Mabery and Jeff Ramuno have LA’s fertile garage rock soil under their fingernails, but they also stand on their own strengths: a New Wave/post-punk influence, three recording or sound engineers in the band, and an intriguing mix of “primal rock ‘n’ roll with a surfy style,” as Mabery has described Corners. In July, the quartet completed a residency at The Echo, considered a rite of passage in the LA rock scene, and its heavily synthesized and bass-heavy full-length debut, Maxed Out on Distraction, drops on Oct. 23.