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Downstairs, All Ages
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Thursday February 6, 2020
Consider Natural Facts by Garcia Peoples to be your heady, friendly reminder that it’s alright to let the sunshine in. The second album in less than a year from those lovable New Jersey moptops with the sweet twin guitars, Natural Facts provides a portal to the carefree place that both indie rock and jam bands forgot, and a handy alternative to whatever you may need an alternative from. Bolstering the summer glow of 2018’s Cosmic Cash with flashes of fuzz, teeth, and power, Natural Facts is a natural progression for Garcia Peoples.
The more driving counterpart to its rural predecessor, Danny Arakaki and Tom Malach’s guitars remain at centerstage on machine gun shreds like the album-opening “Feel So Great” and the rolling grooves like “High Noon Violence” (which would fit right in with one of David Crosby’s early ‘70s studio supergroups). Playing cleanly articulated lines that perhaps recall any number of other guitar tandems–Allman/Betts, Verlaine/Lloyd, Jansch/Renbourn–Garcia Peoples’ guitars are most influenced by the sound of two guys hanging out, figuring out how to play guitar together.
With Derek Spaldo (bass) and Cesar Arakaki (drums), the quartet is joined on roughly half the tracks by keyboardist Pat Gubler (PG6, Wet Tuna, Tower Recordings), who–since contributing to Natural Facts–has become a frequent auxiliary Garcia. On the quieter passages of “Patient World,” Gubler’s zones set Tom and Danny’s entwinements into an atmosphere that suggests what the briefly-lived never-recorded Barrett/Gilmour Pink Floyd lineup might have done, given another few years.
Discovering the secret and perhaps even endangered language of riffs, Danny and Tom formed Garcia Peoples in Rutherford, New Jersey in 2011 or 2012, depending when you ask). And over the past year and change, Garcia Peoples have hit launching speed, writing albums’ worth of material too fast to release. While Natural Facts is the perfect introduction to the band’s light-footed cosmic Americana, it’s only one piece of an emerging picture that perhaps Garcia Peoples don’t even quite see yet. The tapers have started showing up for Garcia Peoples, too, keeping track of the evolving song suites. Despite only having one official full-length under their belt, the band barely repeated a song over their four shows during their weekly residency at Brooklyn’s Wonders of Nature. Depending on when you’re reading this, the next Garcia Peoples show will almost certainly contain pieces of album #3 and quite probably #4, too.
It’s been a small, happy wonder to watch Garcia Peoples transmit themselves to the outside world. From up close, they’re almost too omnipresent to keep track of, playing frequently, and out watching shows around Brooklyn on nearly any other given night. Honing their chops first at their respective parents’ places, playing until they had to unplug for the night, Arakaki and Malach would inevitably retire to the 7-11 parking lot. There, they pieced together the emerging jams, fragments, verses, and other stray ideas they had yet to write, until–at least in the Garciaverse–they coalesced into distinct albums. Then they just had to record them. As of this writing, they’re only one album behind. Like a road map with constantly changing coordinates, the Garcias’ master plan is only barely that, but they plunge into the next territory with an infectious enthusiasm.
Indian-American multi-instrumentalist Nikhil Rao started experimenting with his pop/rock mutations in 2012 on his Tascam 8-track. Influenced by artists like R. Stevie Moore, Prince, Talking Heads, and Ariel Pink, he gravitated towards pushing songwriting and arrangements to their outer limits. His murky experimental pop/new-wave tracks continued to evolve as a solo-artist in Oakland, CA and Los Angeles, while attending college in Silicon Valley for Sound Design and Scoring for Film & Video Games.
After moving to D.C., Nikhil formed the group with Colin Kelly. As chief songwriters, and coming from different backgrounds (Nikhil from the frenetic DIY scene of Oakland, and Colin from the more experimental/avant-garde D.C.), the kaleidoscopic tape meditations transformed into something more polished, clear, while retaining the mercurial nature of Nikhil’s analog heritage. The band was then joined by Michael Mastrangelo & Beth Cannon on lead guitars, thickening and expanding sonic diversity, as well as Nikhil’s younger brother Rohit Rao on drums who glides between visceral punk and acid-jazz rhythms.