Interview: Diamond Lakes

Diamond Lakes
Photo credit: Kyle Baudour

If you like your music they way you like your craft drinks, Diamond Lakes make for a pretty tasty power-pop cocktail. Take equal parts garage, psych, grunge, and metal, stir in a little shoegazing, add splashes of fuzz and distortion — the result is served up loud, taken fast, and gets you ready to party.

Diamond Lakes’ debut EP Modern Horrors, released in November, delivers rhythm that is hard to sit still to and conjures up memories of all those times you rocked out on your air guitar as you jumped off your bed wearing nothing but some socks, your skivvies, and a cape; all while your mom yelled at you to “Turn it down!”

Oftentimes with power pop, the crowds are easily engaged through predictable song structures, singalong-ready choruses, and a focus on vocals. But Diamond Lakes aren’t into following the rules. By keeping the instrumentation at the forefront, the sole lo-fi vocals almost play backup. Yet, this isn’t to say that frontman Matt Bradley holds anything back. On the contrary, he can be found hollering and jiving onstage, projecting the infectious energy of the band as a whole.

Originally formed by Bradley and lead guitarist David MacAdam after a not-so-successful attempt to create a metal band over french toast, Diamond Lakes shared a practice space with local band Boy King. When it was announced one night that it might be their last show since Diamond Lakes’ drummer and bassist were moving on, Boy King members Dustin Lothspeich and Adam Eidson approached Bradley after the show and said, “We’re your new rhythm section!”

We caught up with guitarist/vocalist Matt Bradley and bassist Dustin Lothspeich to give us a few more particulars about this project.

Owl and Bear: FAQ number one: Does your band name have a backstory? (Does it involve magic shrooms and an inflatable swimming pool?)

Bradley: Diamond Lakes is a nickname for the area in Arkansas where I grew up. A cluster of lakes, small mountain ranges, and one of the largest deposits of quartz crystal in the world. Some say it’s the home of hidden Atlantean crystal. It’s some real hippy shit. I’m super in love with my home town/state.

Owl and Bear: Describe the songwriting process for those of us not gifted with that type of creativity. Who does the bulk of the writing?

Bradley: So far I’ve written the skeletons of the songs at home. I bring those to the band and we jam on the structure while everyone writes their own parts. Then I write the vocal melody/cadence and fit lyrics into that. We’re working on several new songs that David has put together and we’re starting to write more collaboratively in practice, which is awesome.

Lothspeich: Yeah, that’s something I’m more excited about too. When Adam and I started with them, it was all about basically learning their old songs and playing them the way the other guys played them. Which is fine, but at some point, you want to have your own creative contributions to the writing part. I don’t want to be just some guy covering bass lines that the original guy came up with, you know? And lately, we’ve been jamming on a lot of rough, random ideas and seeing what we can make of them. Sometimes it’s just junk, but other times it’s magical and it turns into an actual legit tune. That’s fun.

Owl and Bear: Sounds like you’re working on a lot of new material, does that mean an LP is due out soon?

Bradley: We’re always trying to work on new stuff, but we’re playing a lot and just trying to see if anyone digs what we’re doing. I would love to put a full album together. It feels like we’re just getting our feet under us. I’m stoked to see what we come up with moving forward.

Lothspeich: Yea, it seems like we got a pretty good response from Modern Horrors, so that’s encouraging. We’re writing more and more these days and I think that’ll translate into another EP at the least, or hopefully a full-length as Matt mentioned within the next year.

Owl and Bear: Band aspirations?

Bradley: Have a good time, all the time.

Lothspeich: Never wear sleeves.

Owl and Bear: I feel like asking about your musical inspirations might be too cliché (like the rest of my questions thus far), so what kind of music were you exposed to growing up? Or in other words did you too have a father who went from playing Led Zeppelin to Enya before crossing the line when he purchased a Celine Dion album? (True story. Those were dark times.)

Bradley: I grew up on Top 40 in the ‘80s. My dad was a Southern Baptist music minister so music was always a part of our lives, but my folks never really listened to music at home. I listened to the radio for hours every night. I loved mainstream pop and pop-metal. Poison and Stryper have always been two of my favorites. I started to get introduced to punk and (real) metal in about ’87 through the skate scene. I think I spent 1987-1989 listening to nothing but the first four Metallica albums. Then in 1991, I discovered Teenage Fanclub, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Blur, Dinosaur Jr, Lemonheads, and of course Nirvana. This is when I decided I wanted to play/write music. Then I got way into the ’90s DIY/hardcore scene: Drive Like Jehu, Los Crudos, Antischism, Copout and the proto-indie stuff like Superchunk, Velocity Girl, and Archers of Loaf. Diamond Lakes is basically the music I’ve been trying to write since 1991, pulled through all the baggage of everything since.

Lothspeich: Matt’s story is a lot more romantic and nostalgic, but for me, I’ve always loved guitar-led rock n’ roll. Whether that was Hendrix and Zeppelin or The Replacements and Big Star to The Smashing Pumpkins or Nirvana. I listen to a ton of different genres now but it started out with guitar rock for me. I’m not ashamed to admit I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s and still love those eras’ ballads/pop music. I can belt out a Boyz II Men jam like no other. Doesn’t really come into play with Diamond Lakes, but hey, you never know…

Owl and Bear: If you could cover/tribute one song/band, what/who would it be and why?

Bradley: Teenage Fanclub. They’re the reason I play music. I’ve tried a few covers over the years, but I’ve yet to get it right.

Lothspeich: The obvious choice is: “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men.

Owl and Bear: And because inquiring minds want to know: The Simpsons or South Park?

Bradley: The Simpsons.

Lothspeich: I’m gonna get shit for this but…South Park. Screw you guys, I’m goin’ home.

Diamond Lakes’ upcoming shows (that we guarantee won’t suck):
May 2: The Balboa with The Dabbers
May 15: The Casbah with Palace Ballroom, Grizzly Business, and Birdy Bardot
May 30: The Ken Club with Behind the Wagon, Santa Ana Knights
June 19: Gallagher’s Irish Pub with Hills Like Elephants, The Verigolds

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