On his forthcoming EP You Are Here, Los Angeles-based composer and songwriter Andrew Carroll offers up a cinematic set of psychedelic pop songs—think Pet Sounds re-envisioned as a soundtrack to a lost noir gem, its character lurking in shadows cast against golden California light. Featuring contributions by saxophonist Sam Gendel, drummer Luke Adams, and Dave Farina on vibraphones, the collection feels evocative without ever slipping into pastiche.
Known for his work with the Lonely Wild and his music for AMC’s Pynchonian and esoteric surf comedy Lodge 49, Carroll joined Jason P. Woodbury on Range and Basin, part of the monthly Radio Free Aquarium Drunkard broadcast on Dublab, to discuss Lodge 49 and share an advance listen of his new songs, which are presented here for advance listening ahead of their release October 30th.
Aquarium Drunkard: Lodge 49 is a show about alchemy, mysticism, donuts, burritos, lunatics, and secret societies, but at the core it’s about how magic can be found anywhere, especially in community, if you go looking for it. What first turned you on about the show?
Andrew Carroll: I read the pilot and I just kind of fell in love with these characters immediately. I think initially, it was just Dud’s blind optimism, in the face of everything he’d gone through in the last year or so of his life, he was still just upbeat and looking for something positive in the world, looking for human connection. That’s something definitely all of us are feeling right now. It’s hard to find that optimism. That was the first thing that turned me onto the show, and as I got more into it, the whole ensemble, the cast, the writing, there was something magical about it and it was really fun to be a part of it.
AD: The show is very unique in that—and your music is a big part of this—it never really tells the audience what to feel. It let’s things be in a unique way.
Andrew Carroll: It never gets schmaltzy or winky at the audience. I think [creator] Jim Gavin and [showrunner] Peter Ocko were really careful about that. And musically as well, they never wanted to lean into the drama too much. They wanted to let the actors do their thing. There were a lot of dry spots were we just let the actors tell their story, but I got to have a lot of fun doing the more magical and surreal elements of the show. That’s where I got to play around a little bit more, the sound of the lodge itself as almost a character.
AD: Thomas Patterson did music supervision for Lodge 49, and he brought in some incredible tunes—including stuff by Broadcast, The Superimposers, Fairport Convention—did he surprise you with some sounds that were new to you?
Andrew Carroll: Oh definitely. Tom was involved with the show before I was. So when I came on, he had written his manifesto of what he thought the show should sound like. Especially in the first season, a lot of my job was trying to really embrace that psychedelic world that he had created and really try to make it seamless, so it felt like the score was one piece with all the needle drops. I felt like if I did my job, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell if it was score or a band playing. He definitely turned me onto a ton of music I had never come across before. It was an ear-opening moment for me.
AD: Did the creation of the songs on your new EP You Are Here overlap with your work on the show?
Andrew Carroll: I first started writing them between the first two seasons of Lodge 49, so that would have been 2018 I think. I didn’t have a real endgame in mind initially. I had a little bit of free time. I started working on ideas I thought maybe could even have been incorporated into the show. The more I fleshed them out, they turned into full songs that could really stand on their own.
AD: “Here Now” from the new EP feels like it’s a little bit about acknowledging that yes, the weirdness you are feeling is real. Our surreal reality is real, and is nuts. Was that song born out of the strangeness of this year, or has your mind been there for a bit?
Andrew Carroll: When I first started writing “Here Now,” it was right around the time Trump and Kim Jong Un were having their nuclear pissing contest and we had that Hawaii missile scare happen. It felt like we were in the Cold War again, but all the sudden there’s this two kids with their fingers on the button, calling each other names. It was just like “Is this real? Is this the world we live in now?” Now it’s only gotten worse. Everyday, it’s bizarre. We live in upside down land. I think the whole first half of the song you’re kind of walking through ha dream state, and by the end of it it’s almost like I’m trying to snap myself out of it. The Trump presidency, he’s been successful in numbing us. You’re bombarded with so much every day and it’s like “Oh well, what’s the next thing that’s going to happen.” You can’t even be shocked anymore, and [the song is saying] “Don’t sleepwalk through this. We have to acknowledge what’s going on around us.” At the time, [I was thinking] about the lyric in that Radiohead song [“How to Disappear Completely”], “I’m not here, this isn’t happening.” It was almost a response to that, someone who’s trying to get through a situation by detaching themselves. And in this situation it’s like no, to get through this, we have to be here.
AD: “Vitamin C” is about cynicism and but also resisting cynicism. It made me think of Dud from Lodge 49, and Liz, who’s a bit more cynical, and about the overlap there. Do you, personally, lean more toward the cynical?
Andrew Carroll: I think what I liked about Dud was his blind optimism, but I definitely fall more into the cynical category.
AD: Sam Gendel plays sax on the EP and his playing is really inspired, especially on “Hackers in Love.” What was collaborating with him like?
Andrew Carroll: Oh it was a trip. I initially wanted some saxophone on “Here Now,” and he’s on there—he’s actually on the whole EP. So I reached out to a buddy of mine who had a little jazz scene going in a club in Highland Park called ETA. I said “Hey, I’m looking for a saxophone player” and he has some great players going through there and gave me a short list. I recognized Sam’s name on there…he put us in touch.
I sent him some tracks and he said, “Yeah, I’m into it, cool.” We went to my buddy’s studio and I would love to say it all happened like we were just a band all jamming together, but he played to half-written tracks I’ve done and I put it together after the fact. That song was written almost like a woodwind ensemble but when I had Sam in everything was sounding so cool I said, “Alright, let’s make it for five saxophones now.” The whole back half of the song, there were initially lyrics, synths, guitar parts, then he came in and I said “just solo on the end of this, and I’ll pick and choose parts,” but he just blew me away and I got rid of everything else in the song and made it the Sam showcase there.
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