The L.A. dream pop trio talk about playing the record at the show and having fun.
"The medium is so different,” says Cameron Parkins says. Parkins is one-third of Los Angeles-based dream pop band Superhumanoids, and he's talking about the difference between the live show and recordings.
“We're looking at an experience, not a recording that needs to be immaculate," he says. "We're painfully precise, but at the same time, with a live show there are things you can't recreate exactly, so you try to recreate the emotion you want to elicit, and in a different way." The difference is on their minds because the band cut the album Exhibitionists in the fall of 2011, but due to a number of postponements, it won't be released until August 6. Nonetheless, they're on tour now and play The Circle Bar Friday night with Aerial Attack.
That delay creates a tension many bands face. “These are songs that we've known forever, and as such, they don't feel as new and as fresh to us," Parkins says. "But they're songs that most people haven't heard yet, so you have to put that out of your mind and recognize that you're playing for people who are just discovering your music."
The delay means the band is new to many people, but it's not new. Parkins, Max St. John, and Sarah Chernoff are the collaborative voices, writers, keys, knob-twisters, producers, and live instrumentation (guitars, bass, keys) of the band. On tour, they're joined by drummer Brian Henspeter. They've released two EPs thus far, Urgency (2010), and Parasite Paradise (2011), and toured quite a bit, opening for fellow Silver Lake band Local Natives, and the Cold War Kids earlier this year. They're “stockpiling music, writing pretty consistently, and touring to keep ourselves busy.”
Much of the band's sound is electric and synth-oriented, but Parkins says all of the live sound is generated on stage. “We don't run any computers or play any tracks, which limits what we can do,” he says, “because there's only four people playing live. The way we have to approach it is basically: what's the essence of this song? What's the essence that we're trying to bring now? Is it supposed to be upbeat? Introspective? Dreamy? Harsh? Fun? Sad? Once we've got on the same page about what we're supposed to be accomplishing, we go and accomplish that. And aren't so constrained by playing it exactly how it sounds on the record. Which is something we'd do anyway, it's just in our nature, and it's fun.”
What's most impressive about their outlook is that their music is anything but constrained. Even a casual listen to their EPs reveals a knack for emotional fluidity, an ability to inhabit depths of feeling that is sometimes lacking in dream pop's icy airiness. It's not a heavy-handed (or lidded) ode to one feeling, but a composite of many. It's music that stays connected to the making of it.
“Recorded music is so different, especially for a band like us," Parkins says. "If we were trying to recreate every little nuance live, I think we would end up losing sight of the actual show, which is to engage with people and have fun.”