Sonoda Build Their Secret Shows DIY-Style

Lisa Sonoda and Adrian Garcia — Photo by Paul Duron

I first met Lisa Sonoda standing at the door of her two story pink apartment building in West Adams, Los Angeles. As she fidgets with her white steel door, she laughs and tells me doorknob is a little tricky. I then walk upstairs and meet Sonoda’s synth/guitar player Adrian Garcia.

“It’s similar, but they sound very different,” says Sonoda, talking about the differences between her solo show and performing with her grandiose 7-piece band. “Now we are trying to go bog down because seven people is a lot.” 

Lisa Sonoda began as solo artist building soundscapes and loops influenced by Beach House, Angel Olsen, and Broadcast. Her music is reminiscent of all those artists with a tinge of Hope Sandoval. At first, Sonoda released music under her full name, but then dropped it to only Sonoda when the project developed into a seven-piece band.

Her band slowly began to take form when she and Adrian Garcia became friends. They met by happenstance through the internet over three years ago. When Garcia saw a video of Sonoda covering a Broadcast song, he reached out on social media and asked if she needed a keyboard player. They began writing music together soon after. “I didn’t really even know how to play keyboards.” Garcia says with a laugh.“I just had a keyboard.”

When she met Garcia, Sonoda turned into a duo. As time went on, they began to add more and more people. She added a bass player and so forth, slowly snowballing from then on. Eventually the two had a full-fledged band made up of a bunch of their musician friends. Even though she performs with a seven-piece band now, she still occasionally does her own solo shows.

Sonoda met the rest of her band, who are part of the Young Lovers, at a Filipino festival in Long Beach. She kept in touch and saw them again at Pehrspace — a non-profit art space in L.A that hosted a lot of DIY shows. “I ended up singing with them at acoustic show,” says Sonoda. They kept in touch after that and eventually joined forces.

“We admired our friends and we wanted them in our band,” says Garcia. “We started asking our friends who are in other bands.” It also made it easier for them to create their own shows. Since a lot of Sonoda’s members play in different bands such as the Young Lovers and Memory Den, it made sense to perform together, share equipment, venues, and also members.

They’ve done many shows in many different spaces together so far, some more legal than others. I’m talking of course about the secretive Tone Death shows in DTLA. These semi-legal shows are only semi-legal because the fire marshal wouldn’t too happy with the crowds. Other than that, they’re just like any other venue. To prevent these shows from getting shut down, they put up a phone number for people to call-in. They then call for the address to begin their sojourn for live music. “It’s to hide the address from being saved online,” says Sonada.

“You can see what happens with places like Non Plus Ultra,” says Garcia. “When a huge show is going on and someone announces it on the radio, the fire marshal will shut it down.”

Run by their friend Ryan, Tone Death organizes these secretive concerts monthly. They became friends with him when they kept running into each other around town. He eventually asked Sonoda to play a show at Tone Death. “You see each other around and eventually you end at diner together at 2am,” laughs Garcia.  The other reason they created a secretive process was for the mystique of it. It also helps differentiates Tone Death from other events by having a unique process. On the last show Tone Death did, they ended up projecting the address of the venue onto a billboard in the middle of downtown. “There’s something special about it. You get directions and there’s a password,’ says Sonoda.

“There is something cool about having control of your own show and your sound, too,”says Garcia.

They recently re-recorded Sonoda’s EP with a full 7-piece band to capture the essence their new live show. They plan to release it sometime in July to kick off their first west coast tour.

Sonoda is playing at the Echoplex on May 6. For tickets and full details, click here

I like to stare at my computer. Occasionally I type words to pass the time. Those words are usually about music.

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