Lucky Dragons. 25 SEPTEMBER 2008

Interview with Richard Richard MacFarlane:

Lucky Dragons’ custom Mac Book Pro is made out of wood, a light Californian oak which possibly stood for generations, or was possibly raised in a plot of thousands of others for the specific purpose of making things, which would tie in nicely with the owners of the said Mac Book, Los Angeles musicians Luke Fischbeck and Sarah Rara, who, as Lucky Dragons, gather a further ensemble of headbanded youths and armed with recorders and pea pods and massive heart they make music that you could say is based in the genre of electronica. Most recently, their record Dream Island Laughing Language fractures light through some strange New Age glass device and pushes it out the other side, psychedelic and warm. There are beats, lots of rhythms, percussion sounds of woodland origin and melodies of other colourful dimensions all shots through with fragments of harmonius delight. Based in Los Angeles, Lucky Dragon’s shows branch into both the art world and the music world, but mostly the human world, where they run free and hold hands sans hackney and plus total realist euphoria. Anyway, they make their music on this computer, but it also has email, which was nice, because it meant I could ask them a few questions and they could respond to them. There’s a big sense of naturalism on yr electronics; an earthy sort of human touch that comes with music that often seems to be quite computerized.

Luke: My hope is that computers will act more natural soon.

Sarah: I think this comes from the looseness of our recording style, letting the tape roll and catching all the extraneous murmurs, accidents, and clutter in the room.

Colour and light both seem to come into Dream Island Laughing Language a lot; is this something you tried to infuse into the short songs?

Luke: We record a lot... around the house, out on walks, visiting with friends... then we edit the recordings down into songs, its the least we can do to let the original light and color be as they were... it’s the most we can do to somehow amplify them.

Sarah: It's impossible to ignore the incredible sunlight in Southern California, and it definitely infuses the songs somehow. Sometimes the sun hits you in a violent clashing way like a cymbal other times the light is gentle and enveloping, like a chord or certain drones. Not sure if these are simply metaphors, or if the sounds and the light really do create a response that overlaps - probably to varying degrees for each of us.

With group participation at your shows, is that a way of expressing togetherness for you? Or more a performance art style thing?

Luke: I guess it could be both? Or at least we don't make a distinction; we keep it pretty humble. Everyone is free to participate directly or indirectly or do their own thing. Togetherness itself is always a new thing, sometimes you are together with some very shy people, and it's nice, even then, to be reminded of who you're with and where you are. "Expressing" sounds like we have something we want to say, but the whole point of the group participation at our shows is to go outside of "saying" anything.

Sarah: Definitely both.

Yr music itself seems to give off a vibe of friendship and togetherness or joy or wonderment; my guess would be that you try and put this across in everyday life, too; do you?

Sarah: Often in the middle of a show, I'm holding my drum or my kalimba and having a conversation with someone in the audience at the same time. Sometimes our concerts approximate the form of a discussion group or hanging out pretty closely, and there is a lot of implicit optimism about the potential of this togetherness.

Luke: All joking aside, our music is our everyday life. Or, our everyday life is our music. it goes both ways.

What sort of tools do you use to make yr recordings?

Luke: Microphones, software, rubber bands, rocks, miniature bongos, flutes. We make a lot of this stuff ourselves very crudely. Ideally we would just walk outside and find a recording on the ground, bring it inside and dust it off and release it into the world.

Sarah: Rocks, cardboard, kalimbas, marimbas, whistles, jaw harps, jars, seed pods, and a mini-disc recorder.

I noticed a picture of you performing with a massive projection of a bunch of cactus behind you and that seems to make a lot of sense in terms of the textures somehow. A nice sort of cactus, I mean, kind of like the hand touching the lichens on yr website.

Luke: we have a lot to work with here in the American Southwest.

In terms of this togetherness or need for it, what are you thinking about Obama and America at the moment?

Luke: At the moment, and Sarah just opened my eyes to this, I am thinking that the strength of Obama rests on the attitude of his supporters. I had been so upset about the opposition, and how divided our country is, that I had forgotten how extremely positive I felt about him in the first place. So yes! Positive!

Sarah: I hope everyone who can vote will vote. And beyond that I support Obama and hope that he will become President of the United States. I don't want to be caught in a tide of fear and anger, thinking about what will happen if McCain is elected. I just want to focus on what seems like a more positive future, a better direction.

Has playing at The Smell (all ages venue in Los Angeles) been a launching pad for you at all? Or are you more based in art galleries?

Luke: The Smell is a gift. I hope one day every city has one. There are so many bands (ourselves included) that wouldn't exist as we do without The Smell. It just totally turns the whole assumed system of music-making and audience and money and survival and the reasons for doing all this on its head and reminds us that music is essentially about building and sustaining a community.

Sarah: The Smell is an incredible model and deep inspiration for everything we do. It's all-ages and pretty much all-inclusive, and beyond that it's an amazing example of how spaces and musicians should mutually support each other. I think Jim Smith is one of my major heroes, and the existence of the Smell has made possible so many amazing collaborations I think it has had a deep impact on everyone who has ever been there.

How do you find you fit in there in Los Angeles? It seems that there’s a massive range of stuff happening, and even if a lot of it is pretty scruffy or punky, there’s always this big sense of euphoria or colour to it.

Luke: I think the thing about LA, and this goes for the art as well as the music stuff, is that style, or genre, isn't really that important. There's such an extreme range between rich and poor, but you can't tell just by looking at people. People are wild here. There's also this tremendous loneliness that is just kind of normal. I think a lot of the euphoria you mention comes from the amazing feeling of being in a crowd here - every time this simple thing happens its cause for a celebration! But yes, I totally and completely love living here.

Why do you think music is important?

Luke: It's fun to do, and it helps us declare who we are.

Sarah: Music is a way of bringing people together and it channels everything human, every part of life and every way of life. Music is a great connector, and beyond that (especially playing the drums) music reminds me that time is passing and cannot be stopped.

I interviewed Juan from Abe Vigoda the other day and he was talking about this new interest in tropical sounds that seems to be coming out in a lot of music. I’ve noticed this too in a bunch of stuff that still retains some sort of gritty euphoria to the positive sounds. Do have a particular interest in tropical sort of music, or ‘world’ music?

Luke: Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez both kicked the American ambassadors out of their countries (Bolivia and Venezuela) yesterday. Say what you will about these bold moves, but they do represent for me something about what else is possible in the world... positive multiplicity, positive alternatives, positive answers. Without politicizing music I could say there is something tropical in all of us!

Sarah: World music pervades a lot of the sounds I make, and the instruments I choose to play--I'm still unpacking what this means and what it is that attracts me so much to the sound of "world" music and how this fits in with our California style. I think of Lucky Dragons music as being in the world, and could foresee some tropical projects in the future.

Do you ever think about a wider Californian canon of pop?

Luke: I think about a wider Californian everything. History is different here, it seems to move backwards and forwards, vibrating. There's also a lot of secrets, things to find out. Hmm... Charles Mingus, The Mamas and the Papas, The Screamers, John Cage, The Germs, Ornette Coleman, NWA, Paul McCarthy, Black Flag, Dr Dre, Chris Burden, Bertold Brecht, Douglas Sirk, Flipside zine, Joan Didion, Kenneth Anger, Charles and Ray Eames, The Urinals, oh I don't know, how do you ever tie a list like this together?

What can people expect from yr performance at SOFA Gallery in Christchurch?

Luke: Music made by touching one another on the skin and also made in other ways.

Do you have any particular ideas for the next album you’ll do?

Luke: we've already recorded almost all of it, and so far it is pretty funky.

Puzzling the silly division between Art and Music, Lucky Dragons are Luke Fischbeck and array of chameleon collaborators, including joyfully unwitting audience members who collectively create vibrant genre-crushing-and-cruising music through electronic and acoustic interrogation – All digital flutters, polyphonic choral rounds, precise photosynthesized beats and multi-instrumental plunderphonics. It’s chamber music but of an eclectically, willfully exuberant kind. Someone once called their songs ‘shameless ADD nuggets’. Hailing from Los Angeles and sharing their infectious anti-melodies since the year two-thousand, Lucky Dragons have recorded and performed prolifically, releasing 18 artefacts under their cheeky moniker, while appearing alongside acts like John Wiese, Kemialliset Ystävät, Lullatone, High Places, Dirty Projectors, Mt. Eerie, Black Pus, usaisamonster and Skaters in various contexts such as NY’s PS1, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Whitney Biennale and the Boredoms’ sublime poly-rhythmic 88BOADRUM open-air spectacle. They also established the Sumi Ink Club drawing collective in 2005 ( Lucky Dragons are a sinuous vessel for an array of interdisciplinary artistic endeavours and for their maiden New Zealand voyage promise to bring a literal tapestry of sound that they call "MAKE A BABY", where homemade hardware and software is playfully deployed to initiate, monitor, and meaningfully interpret the transfer of data through skin contact between multiple people. ‘Participants pick up a carrier signal--line level audio at set frequencies in a series of digital feedback loops--through contact with conductive fabric sensors’ ( It’ll be fun.