The recline of Southwestern civilization
Corazón’s (401 S. Guadalupe St., 983-4559) first-ever SXSF Transit Music Festival continues through Monday March 15 and the roster of participating local and touring bands is amazing. Aside from a Friday March 12 set by electro soulster Daedelus (see story, Page 22) and Saturday March 13 sets by L.A. alt-rockers Abe Vigoda and UK postpunk outfit Lovvers, I’m also thrilled about a performance at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 14, by newly local noiserock/post-punk duo Low on High. The band’s show at Corazón is its first Southwest gig ever, and LOH spoke to Sound Waves by phone recently about the band’s history and its self-titled album, which was self-released in Santa Fe earlier this year.
“I discovered in the ’80s that music was a good antidote to making movies,” said Jon Moritsugu (www.jonmoritsugu.com), an acclaimed underground filmmaker ( Scumrock, Fame Whore) and vocalist/drummer/guitarist for LOH. “Unlike filmmaking, you can fashion a song that has kick-ass punk attitude in 20 seconds and then immediately lay it down. When I started making films,” he continued, “there wasn’t really a grassroots way to distribute them the same way that punk music was being disseminated.” Inspired by films like 1981’s punk-doc masterpiece The Decline of Western Civilization and Derek Jarman’s Jubilee, Moritsugu molded his film production company to operate by punk’s DIY standards, and Moritsugu — along with his wife, frequent film collaborator and LOH band mate, writer, and accomplished illustrator Amy Davis — still work and live the DIY way.
Moritsugu and Davis moved here last year. (He had traveled to Santa Fe in the ’80s, and they came as a couple again in the ’90s.) The pair had been exposed to tight-knit punk-rock communities in places like Seattle and San Francisco, and Moritsugu fondly remembers the punk scene in Honolulu, where “there’s like a small group of really tight-knit punks — and the skinhead contingent is a pathetic army of one.”
Davis, who serves as LOH’s bassist, percussionist, and vocalist, comes from a musical family. Her father — jazz musician Mel Davis — recorded with Billie Holiday, played lead trumpet for Benny Goodman’s band in the ’50s, and sat in television orchestras including those led by Perry Como and Doc Severinsen.
Davis’ musical path was a little different from her father’s, but back in her early teens, she wasn’t quite a punk-rock girl yet. “When I was like 14 or 15,” she said, “I was a Long Island über nerd. Neil Sedaka? Yeah, he had it goin’ on! He was my boy!” Amy’s father wasn’t exactly thrilled with her subsequent choices in musical performance, but before he passed away in 2005, he told her, “I’m not going to say I like what you do, but I will definitely say you have a unique sound.”
I’m just going to put it out there: dad didn’t lie about the band’s signature sound. And I love it. Blending the crunchy-scratchy guitar atmosphere of a good Bikini Kill vinyl album with elements of ’80s hardcore punk, New Wave (Amy loves OMD and Depeche Mode; Moritsugu said he has learned to live with it and even likes some of it), Siouxsie Sioux, Cibo Matto, Joy Division, and The Breeders, LOH is the musical equivalent of a hyperactive child born to postmodernist author Kathy Acker and filmmaker Gregg Araki ( Doom Generation, Smiley Face) — but raised in the Hotel Chelsea by Romeo Void and The Melvins.
Moritsugu is currently working on a new punk-horror film project in Santa Fe, which Davis will, of course, appear in. Although the project has no definite title, “Pig Death Machine” has been kicked around. Davis continues to write and illustrate (www.amydavis.com), and the couple have more than enough material to possibly put out another album within the next year or so. Check out their gig at Corazón, where LOH shares a bill with local no-wave post-punkers Venus Bogardus; ethereal rockers Broken Water from Olympia, Washingon; and California psycho-electro-world duo Rainbow Arabia. Cover is a measly $5.