By Rick Perez
Inspired by the human need for personal connections, electro pop’s pride and joy Late Cambrian have mastered the art of setting meaningful lyrics to danceable tunes. With successful record sales in Japan and a European tour with Wheatus under their belt, members John Wlaysewski and O have already made a name for themselves in the international music scene. The duo recently released their latest single and video “Dark Heart (Where Can We Go Now?)” and are currently hard at work creating their next EP, Dark Heart.
Check out BoC’s interview with Late Cambrian, where they talked about making of their video for ‘Dark Heart’, touring in Europe, and their love for Keanu Reeves.
Who is Late Cambrian and what is your music all about?
John: Late Cambrian is an electropop band from Brooklyn consisting of myself John Wlaysewski and O, and there’s a rotating list of musicians, like our drummer Alex Cohen. I try to sing about the confusion of the night life: feeling good while you’re here, also feeling out of place, and how you put those things together. It’s about relationships between people, things that people leave unsaid that should be said.
For each member, which celebrity would you want to be paired up with on ‘Dancing with the Stars’?
John: We just finished Jessica Jones, so I’m gonna say Krysten Ritter.
O: A classic Keanu Reeves. He’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come to the United States (from Hong Kong). I remember him from Point Break.
John: I was just on set with him. He’s 51 but he still looks like he’s 30. He looks exactly the same.
O: Did you see that video of him on the subway when he gave up his seat for that woman? John:He got up and late an older woman sit down. He didn’t know anyone was filming. He’s super down to earth. He’s just Keanu.
Late Cambrian just released a new single and music video ‘Dark Heart’. What kind of inspirations did you have for this track?
John: You can’t really tell from the lyrics per se, but I was kinda thinking about 9/11 when I was writing it. There’s a dark side to the lyrics, about how big traumatic experiences can end relationships. The song is about how if your relationship was bad, something huge like that can destroy it. If your relationship was really good it might make it stronger.
O: We also don’t have to think about it as 9/11. If you look at the video it’s completely different. It can take people to where it’s dark for them.
John: We have a lot of references to walls and other things falling down, and being curled up on the street. That’s what relationships cans feel like when they’re ending. When the walls fall down you think “That’s it! It’s over!” I took something really traumatic that I went through and turned it into the end of a relationship.
What was the process behind creating the music video for ‘Dark Heart’? Was it difficult to make a visual representation for the song?
John: We filmed it during a halloween party. It was O’s idea. We were filming stuff at home and we were going to a Halloween party, and she was like “it’s a good idea to bring the masks and stuff to the halloween party” and I was like “Oh my gosh we are going to have a cast that’s already dressed up in unusual outfits and in party mode! What a perfect idea!” Thank you O.
O: It wasn’t even planned. We just showed up with the camera and masks and it turned out everyone was into it. They all gave something special.
John: There was no one who was stand offish or didn’t wanna be on camera. Everyone was willing to play like two or three parts
O: There were all kinds of people: yoga instructor, teacher, students, writers, the editor of Bushwick Daily, the founder of Bushwick Film Festival..
John: It was cool because one scene inspired the other. We came in with nothing and a young comedian who was dressed as an old lady inspired one scene, and that inspired another, and then another. It was so organic.
Where was your favorite place to tour?
O: Exactly a year ago we toured Europe. I would say London and Amsterdam were my favorite. I really loved the UK, we spent almost a month there. When we play shows, we make a lot of friends. I think people in the UK are less ADD, less distracted. I love have conversations with them, they really listen. We don’t need anything from each other, we were just exchanging energy.
John: Amsterdam was definitely a good time. We were there for 4 days, but only played on the 4th day. After playing a 26 days out of 30, we only had these 4 days off in a month. Amsterdam was special. I think my favorite was a week in Ireland. I have cousins there, and those Irish, they know how to party, man! You know how here in New York you go to a club or show, if people haven’t had a drink yet they aren’t loose yet. They look around to see if it’s cool to like a band. In Ireland they go “OH MAN ARE YOU GUYS PLAYING!!? WOOO!” There’s no inhibitions, what beautiful people. I love them.
If Late Cambrian could make music in any decade, which decade would it be and why?
O: Can I pick the future? Right now I feel like we are losing a lot of old things, which our generation is very nostalgic about like games we played as kids and basic human connection. Kids now are always on their computers and cell phones, and everything is online like dating and even tellers are being replaced by machines. So I think in the future if we play an acoustic show, for example, it’s going to be really amazing. Maybe that will bring humans closer. I’m going to say the 2050’s.
John: I like where we are now. I think Asian is on the come up. With shows like Master of None and even Fresh off the Boat, which isn’t a great show, but it shows the Asian experience. We are more racially aware. It’s not just all white people, and then black people playing sports, and that’s it. More people are being represented now. But we are still almost like a music fetish, “Hey look at those two Asian people making music” so we are at this place where it’s cool to like us. Maybe 20 years ago it wasn’t cool to like us. I’m feeling good about where we are.
Did either of you grow up in a musical household?
O: My mom plays the piano and sings. She has a very beautiful voice. She has never sang professionally, though. And I just found out two weeks ago that my grandmother, whom I never met (she died before I was born), sang in the YMCA choir. The choir eventually went professional and they invited her to join. But my grandfather said “You are a girl you are not going to perform”. It’s exciting to know that she wanted to do this, and now we have a chance so we have to embrace it.
John: There’s no musical people in my family. My mom has a good voice but she only sings in church. I feel like church helps all moms learn how to sing. I only got into music because they got my sister an acoustic guitar. She didn’t want it so I bought it off of her for $20.
What sort of extra curricular activities did you participate in in high school?
O: I was on the volleyball team, debate team, and competed in folk dancing.
John: Wow you did a lot ahha, I just went home after school. I did long distance track for the first two years but I quit. I guess long distance track prepares you for completing long tasks. It teaches you to keep yourself busy, makes you tenacious and makes you find a way to get through that thing. Writing a song is like long distance track. Sometimes I think ‘Man this is too hard, these chords aren’t coming together” but I keep going. A lot of people want instant gratification, and they miss out on the joys of completing something that took a while.
How has New York City influenced Late Cambrian?
O: We walk a lot and talk a lot. We have meetings while we walk, often over the Williamsburg Bridge.
John: New York is like 28 million people who aren’t talking to each other. The idea of detachment, the idea of being alone in a crowded room it’s definitely present in the lyrics. A lot of our music is about partying, but not about the party being great. It’s about, for example, being at this club and looking to make a connection with someone and missing the connection because it’s too crowded. We are inspired by the little connections you make in this crowded city. As New Yorkers, it’s not that we are unfriendly, it’s that personal space is so important. We are so crushed and we don’t need to talk to every single person.
What’s next for Late Cambrian?
John: We gotta finish this EP. ‘Dark Heart’ has about 4 more songs joining it. The music is done, the lyrics aren’t. I think we may go to Japan this year. We have a record label there and our music sells really well.
O: But it’s like we don’t even know what’s going to happen yet. Like the EP might not even have 4 songs, by the end it might be an album. Everything is constantly growing and changing.