The city of Los Angeles is known for its diversity, and few bands represent the city’s blending of cultures better than Salt Petal, a group whose musical influences range from Argentinian folk to Brazilian tropicalia to Cumbia and up-tempo indie rock. The band’s sound is fresh and unique, showcasing deep South American rhythms with vibrant pop harmonies and textures.
Founded by Autumn Harrison and Rodrigo Gonzalez when they realized that the music they were looking for wasn’t available in Los Angeles, Salt Petal started playing in small cafes, with the positive response prompting Harrison and Gonzalez to invite talented musician friends to join the group and tour with them. The band now has a rotating roster of five to ten performers and has performed at festivals including SXSW, Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books and Make Music Pasadena.
Salt Petal released their debut album, Say-So, in 2009, and followed it up with Sea Monster in March of 2013. Produced by indie mastermind Raymond Richards (Local Natives, Henry Clay People) and mastered by Mark Chalecki (Los Abandoned, Le Butcherettes), the album has been met with glowing reviews.
To learn more about Salt Petal, visit www.saltpetal.com.
What was your childhood like, and how did you initially become interested in music?
Rodrigo: My childhood was really cool; our entire family would get together every Sunday. The neighborhood was full of kids of my age, so every day I used to play outside all day and come home just to eat and sleep. My dad bought me a Spanish guitar when I was thirteen and I started trying to play what I heard on Stones records.
Autumn: My parents always had music on, whether it was the radio or MTV or vinyl records. There was always a lot of energy in the music, my mom would put on ’50s doowop while we were doing stuff around the house, my Dad would turn on New Order or Led Zepellin… music was behind everything we did.
Who are your biggest creative influences?
Rodrigo: The Rolling Stones, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Nueva Luna, Jimi Hendrix, Autenticos Decadentes, Arctic Monkeys, Of Montreal.
Autumn: There are new ones all the time; the list keeps growing and growing. Musically, I’ve definitely been influenced by Brazil’s Tropicalia movement for a long time and ’80s New Wave was a really big part of my childhood. Visually, I’m influenced by color and I’ve always loved the color work done by Mark Rothko and the Fauve painters and I love the soundsuits made by visual artist Nick Cave.
How has Salt Petal’s sound evolved since the early days of the band?
Rodrigo: Each group of songs is different, but our drive is always the same, we have energy and emotions that we want to package in something we make musically. We still love the analog feel of instruments and hearing what each person is doing on those instruments, which is different from some of the trends right now.
What is your songwriting process?
Autumn: Rodrigo is always on the guitar and we’ll be doing anything and stop if he stumbles on a chord progression or melody that suddenly grabs our attention… I’ll start singing and, if we like where it’s going, we’ll grab whatever we can to record it – the phone, a video camera, the computer… and then we go back and listen to them and see if we still like them the next day. If they last a few days, we keep working on them.
What did you enjoy most about working with Raymond Richards and Mark Chalecki?
Autumn: Everything! Raymond is very intuitive with our sound and we feel super relaxed when we go to his place. He has amazing instruments and as we work with him we get more ideas, Ro creates some super solos in the studio. Both Raymond and Mark have great ears for our sound and can hear really detailed things that totally enhance the songs.
What has been your most memorable live performance?
Rodrigo: Ahh, there have been some really awesome ones… it’s really great when people tell you things you’ve never heard and they are sincerely affected by the performance…. One night, we played a second show after a super hot hot performance in the afternoon. We weren’t sure how much energy we’d have but we went up there and the whole place just filled up. You could see people pouring in from the different doors, it was a big restaurant open for the festival, with different entrances. Hundreds of people were suddenly in front of us, and they started dancing right away and kept going through every song… we had to play three encores because they didn’t want to stop dancing. At the end, a young guy looked up at us with his eyes really wide and sweat all over his face and he said, almost in shock, “I’ve never danced like that before…” and kept repeating it like he wanted us to understand how epic it was. It was epic for us too. That’s when we get really excited, when people dance like they’ve never danced before. ;)
What the best meal you’ve had recently?
Rodrigo: I’m on a Rock and Roll diet, so I had two hamburgers with coffee and donuts this morning.
Autumn: I got really excited about making vegetarian chili the other night when it rained.
If you could take a few weeks and go on vacation anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Rodrigo: On tour with the band! Anywhere and everywhere. We’d also especially like to go to the Cataratas/Foz de Igaucu. Beautiful waterfalls between Argentina and Brazil.
What’s the best advice – musical of otherwise – that you’ve received?
Rodrigo: Never give up and trust your instincts, keep moving forward.
What’s next for Salt Petal?
Rodrigo: We’re planning a tour around the west coast up to Seattle and we’re working on new songs!