Los Angeles based music group, The Ivy Walls, released their most recent music video for their single “White Ocean,” from their fourth full-length album, Pheremones. “White Ocean” features popular actor and the group’s friend, Chris Pine. Inspired by the new wave sounds of the 80s, the band’s music is ethereal, sometimes melancholy, yet pristine.
We chatted with Jeff Yanero (J), who provides vocals, guitar and piano about their friendship with Chris Pine, and what it was like filming the video for “White Ocean,” the making of their new album, his music and band favorites, and much more.
How did you guys get connected with Chris Pine for your new video and single, “White Ocean”?
Jeff Yanero: We met Chris years ago while we were a young band playing around Hollywood before our first tour. He and some of our mutual friends would be at our shows as far back as the Indie 103 days all they way into the Silverlake and Spaceland scenes.
It was after making the video for getaway driver with Will Joines that we really embraced the idea of our music being cinematic and that really influenced the way we approached recording our next album Dirty Passionate Daydreaming.
So when it came time to shoot the video for “All I want” who better to play a Godard inspired character than our friend who is one of the most talented actors on the planet? So we were lucky enough to have this amazing experience of making a beautiful music video with all of our actor/artist friends (including Will Joines again, Robert Baker, and Seth Ayott) who had been supporting us for years on the music scene. That’s really how it all started.
As for “White Ocean,” early on in the making of Pheromones I would sometimes send rough mixes to a trusted few people and Chris was on that list. We had bounced around the idea of making another video several times throughout the process and as often happens right when we started to think our schedules wouldn’t line up things came together and we made it happen again.
Who’s idea was it for the theme of the video for “White Ocean”?
Jeff: I had been a fan of New York photographer Michael Donovan for years and as he and I were having phone conversations and being conceptual there was a perfect storm brewing between us. This record started with The Count and I recording a Cold Wave inspired 90’s/New York themed song called “We Were Beautiful” and that was supposed to spearhead a group of songs in that same vein. But instead what it became was a record riddled with dark LA undertones. So I think in Michael I was still chasing that dose of New York that had eluded me early on and on the other hand maybe Michael was ready for a taste of California. I believe ultimately the first idea he and I settled on was “Detox LA”. Just the process of shedding something. From there it naturally evolved into a more layered idea.
We didn’t want to compete with the “All I Want” video so from the start our focus was going to be on intimacy.
Once Chris and Ema got on set and filled the space there was this ethereal element that crept in as well that we all just sort’ve naturally embraced.
We were also very lucky to have our editor Kevin Napier who did such a wonderful job of bringing these elements together in a manner that suited the dreaminess of the music.
Why did you guys release “White Ocean” as the first single?
Jeff: “White Ocean” was actually the second single. The first was “Kiss or Kill.” We held back White Ocean for the purposes of the video. We knew the way schedules were lining up that the video would come after the release of the record.
You guys recently released your fourth full-length album, Pheromones. Tell us about the production and making of it…
Jeff: We’ve been around through several evolutions of alternative music and I think the main difference between this one and our records from the past is that most of these songs were born in apartments to computers. So many of our songs before this were a result of working out ideas together in the rehearsal room but some of the core songs on this record started with Rodrigo and I or RV sending reverb drenched tracks back and forth and working on them separately until they started to resemble a song. From there we went straight to the studio with them rather than playing them live.
I really dig your ethereal sound…where do you mainly draw your inspiration from?
Jeff: Thank you. I think a lot of bands we came up with site a lot of the same influences. And I’m happy to be a part of the generation that re-discovered Slowdive and put them back on tour where they belong. All of those great bands like Ride, Slowdive, MBV, JMC, The Stone Roses, Echo and the Bunnymen, etc. I also love Elizabeth Frasier and listening to her sing words I can feel but can’t understand. She and Robin Guthrie both will always be two of my favorite musicians.
Being drawn to artists like that I’m sure contributes to an etherealism in our sound but at the same time Ryan consumes a lot of different music and is very prolific. One of my favorite things about him is that you never know what’s going to come flying out. Rodrigo and I tend to be a little more calculated in our intentions so there’s a balance there.
Aside from the instruments each of you play, are there any other ones you play?
Jeff: We’ve been a creative family for so long that we don’t have any hang ups about who does what in that regard. Ryan writes a lot on bass these days and The Count played a ton of guitar for this record. In fact a lot of the core songs on this record started with The Count on guitar and he and I trading sessions back and forth. So there is a lot of trading duties. But I think the real answer to the question is that I love when Adam plays trumpet. We had a song from The Elegant Universe that we used to play live called “Soon” and he would come from behind the kit and stand next to me. He also played on “She was European” I’ve always found his playing so elegant and charming.
What’s next for you guys; a tour to promote the album perhaps?
Jeff: The first thing we did once this record was finished was get together and play our old songs (laughs). Hopefully that’s not a bad sign but I think we just needed to reconnect on that level before we turned these songs into their live versions.
So we’ve been working on that for a fall west coast tour, have broken ground on some new material, and working on some smaller video and moving collage projects.
Five Fun Facts
Who was your first concert?
Jeff: Cyndi Lauper with The Bangles opening!
Your favorite modern band?
Jeff: The Daysleepers
Your favorite female musician?
Jeff: If I had to choose just one it would be Siouxsie but that’s crazy. The list is so long from Elizabeth Frazier to PJ Harvey to Bjork.
What are five albums that changed your life?
Jeff: I know it’s 6 but…
Cocteau Twins – Treasure
The Cure – Disintegration
Slowdive – Souvlaki
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
Siouxsie and the Banshees – Superstition
Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People
Guilty entertainment pleasure?
Jeff: The Dodo or any video where people are helping animals. I can’t get enough. I watch so much of that stuff that I get all conspiratorial about whether some of them are staged.
The Ivy Walls are:
Jeff – Vocals/Guitar/Piano
R.V. – Lead Guitar/Synth
Adam – Drums
The Count – Bass