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Doombird frontman Kris Anaya stomps onto the Golden Bear patio on a sunny September day in his signature Doc Martins and dingy, yet stylish, tee shirt.
The singer/songwriter is the only band member in town at the moment, and he’s got his plate full with preparing for a performance at TBD Fest and releasing “Overflowing,” the first single from Doombird’s third album “Past Lives”.
We both order taco salads and he pulls out his phone.
“We’re taking over the TBD Snapchat this weekend,” he says, laughing as he shares that he had to watch a YouTube tutorial from a 14-year-old to get up to speed on the app.If you followed along this past weekend, you caught glimpses of Kris’ goofy dogs, a refreshment at Tank House and a ‘Kenny the Dancing Man’ cameo at THIS Midtown. Sandwiched between snaps from Atlanta’s The Coathangers and San Francisco’s Cathedral, Doombird gave TBD attendees a welcome Sacramento spin.
One year ago Anaya performed a daytime set at TBD with his indie rock band, Contra. Since then, he’s written Doombird’s synth-pop record with songwriting partner and Tycho touring member Joe Davancens.
“Past Lives” was recorded with the full band at John Baccigaluppi’s Stinson Beach studio last fall. The outcome is a cerebral synth party, high-minded yet danceable jams fit for a party or, paradoxically, somewhere you can recline and let the cool, psychedelic sound wash over you like the fog that envelops the coastal studio.
As a friend of Anaya’s, I’ve heard the record in full at a private listening party he hosted, where he joke-shouted, “Listen to my music! It sounds nothing like those dicks from Tycho!”
Of course, the two bands are close friends. While it’s true that their sounds are very distinctive, they do share a similar dreamy aesthetic.
I’m meeting Anaya during his short summer break from UC Davis, where he’s studying Math, so he’s more relaxed than usual. Still, you get the feeling that all the work that Doombird has been doing over the last year is all leading up to this record.All three Doombird records are radically different. Do you anticipate this will always be the case or have you arrived at a Doombird sound with “Past Lives”?
Yeah, I think it’s like our debut sound. I think we’re gonna stick with this flavor of it. We might incorporate more orchestration for the next one, maybe. But I finally feel comfortable.
You nailed it finally?
Yeah, cause the second album is mainly electronic and it sounded too electronic. And the first one was great because it was composition and chamber. But it was just so hard to capture live. And this one feels more organic with the band, and it’s a lot more fun.
Speaking of live…Hearing you guys perform, you can tell there’s a lot of talent in the group. How did you all come together?
Joe and I used to play in another band, and he had just moved back from New York. He moved back about five years ago and he lived in Queens. He lived there for about five or six years because he went to the Manhattan School of Music there. He came back and I met him through a guy, Nick Swimly, who plays in this band called Golden Cadillacs. I really wanted a pedal steel player and Joe plays pedal steel.
Are those hard to come by?
Oh yeah. He’s really good at pedal steel. I met him and I thought he was such a cool guy because he likes so much cool music. And it turns out he’s not cool. [Laughs]. Total dork.
Just like you.
Yeah. And we just hit it off. And then we broke up the band[An Angle]and started writing our own stuff.[As for the other guys], Mike Sparks and I have been playing music for ten years. He played in the band, Mister Metaphor, a huge local band. Bob[Cheek]is an engineer. He engineers all kinds of bands like Chelsea Wolfe and Deftones and Tera Melos and Band of Horses. He’s been my friend for ten years and he engineered our record and he wanted to play in the band because he liked the record so much. So he’s in the band now too. Scott [Mercado] is in the band through Mike and Bob and I don’t really know him that well. He’s just the drummer though, so who cares. [Laughs].
Do you find it natural to grow together as a band even though you’re in different physical places?
We’ve been best friends for years. These guys I trust musically. I’ve been recording with Bob and Mike for so long and with Joe for so long, so it’s natural. There’s no arguing or growing, we just kind of feed off each other. We’re friends. And I think that’s the most important part is to play music with people who are your close friends. Because when you’re in a room recording and there are egos involved… You want to have people you can actually listen to and be like ‘yeah that wasn’t cool’ or ‘that was cool.’ Or ‘you’re lame,’ you know, ‘shut up.’ And everybody’s cool about it.
Yeah, you want to be able to cut down the people you work with.
Yeah, yeah. You know, when you cut down someone and you make fun of them, that’s true friendship. [Laughs].
Much like Dan Snathe of Caribou, you’re a huge math nerd. Does math influence your music or songwriting process at all?
I think the only [thing] math has helped me do with songwriting is to be more focused, to be patient. And allow the songs to build, and not just sit there for two hours and then be like ‘oh, I’ll get back to it.’
I know you recorded in Stinson Beach, where a lot of other huge acts have recorded. But what about when you wrote it? What mind frame were you in?
It was actually really hard. I was in school and I had like four math classes. And we had to go into the studio in September, so I needed to write all the songs [before then].I remember it being really stressful because I was doing work for math and I was writing the songs at the same time. I can’t believe I got through it. I remember having a lot of anxiety about it. That’s why the record is like very – if you read the lyrics – it’s about anxiety, the whole entire record. [Laughs].Even “Overflowing”? What is “Overflowing” about?
It’s just about having anxiety and being in a relationship with somebody. Trying to express your personal emotions. Because I can sometimes have a hard time expressing how I feel.
It doesn’t show in this record at all.
Well, it’s easy to write about it. In a lot of those songs, I’m expressing how I feel.
What inspired the album title and how is it relative to the music?
It’s not relative to the music. I think people try to say it’s relative. But there’s this Thai movie I was watching, this weird, eerie sci-fi movie. It’s totally weird, and the title has ‘Past Lives’ in it. I always thought that was kind of cool, so I just used it. [Laughs]. Well, I guess it’s kind of like –
No, that’s okay. You don’t have to make something up.
Ha, well I’m into weird sci-fi movies and I’m trying to find more and more. I’ve seen so many of them that I have to go deep, so I went to Thailand for this one. It’s really good.
Although the album is synth-pop and super danceable, it’s also dreamy, moody and foggy. Does this record have a season to it? What season would you say Doombird is in right now?
That’s a hard question.
It’s a deep one.
Well I recorded it in Stinson, so the whole element and the sound happened there. I think it has that vibe, like Monterey, the 101. Just like the 101 to Portland, or from San Francisco all the way to L.A. [The way] you just take that and you see the side of the beach and you stop by and it’s windy. That’s what it feels like to me. The record should be put on in coastal settings. Cold, but not too cold. I’m from Monterey so that’s my favorite weather. It makes me feel like I’m at home.
So what season would you say Doombird is in?
Late fall? [Laughs].
Not literally! You said you were coming into your own…
Ooh, then I’d say October. It feels like October 26th. [Laughs].Um I don’t know what season we’re in! I mean, we’re all old, so senior citizens’ season? [Laughs]. My back hurts a lot. Don’t miss Doombird at TBD Fest this Sunday, September 20 at 1:30 p.m.