Here at Costa Mesa's hyper-trendy hub of hipness, the Lab (or the Anti-Mall, or whatever they're calling it these days), a sea of brightly colored cargo pants and glittery halter tops prance back and forth through the courtyard of the open-air mall. Happy shiny co-eds clad in tomorrow's fashion bound about with microscopic cell phones in one hand and candy-colored laptops in the other. I there weren't so many visible tattoos and body piercings, this could be the setting for a modern-day Norman Rockwell painting.
That's why when Matt Brown and Anna-Lynne Williams, guitarist and vocalist, respectively, for trepassers william hurry through that very same courtyard en route to the Lab's Gypsy Den where their bassist, Josh Gordon is already on his first cappuccino, they stick out refreshingly like to young mod European models fresh from a photo shoot, circa 1965.
Actually that isn't too far from reality. Brown explains as he finally settles into one of the faux antique chairs in the cafe, "We just came from a photo shoot for the new album campaign," he says half apologetically, "that's the explanation for all the makeup caked on our faces - - we normally don't look like this."
If you get the feeling that the three members of trespassers william are spreading themselves a bit thin lately, you'd probably be right. In the past month, the band finally finished their debut release, Anchor, a collection of new material coupled with two earlier EP's released in 1998. They've been in high demand with the music press and they've played more than their fair share of promotional, in-studio performances on the college radio circuit. They've also been asked to open for two of their heroes, Aimee Mann and Ron Sexsmith, at venues such as Santa Ana's Galaxy Theater and San Juan Capistrano's Coach House. And on top of all that, they're currently putting all the finishing touches on the itinerary for a West Coast summer tour.
Not too bad for three local kids from the coastal towns of Orange County. But you'd think now that they're on a bona fide record label, Sonikwire Records, they'd employ hired lackeys or at least an intern or two from their record company to take over some of their more menial duties.
"Actually, Josh and I are Sonikwire Records," Brown admits. "We do just about everything that one does to keep a record label afloat - - it's not a hobby, it's literally a nonstop 24-hour job."
Sonikwire records, the indie label Brown and Gordon created about nine months ago (when they realized it's much more lucrative to own a label rather than being owned by one), already has a stable of four bands and a contracts are being drawn up for a couple of East Coast musicians as well. "Our goal is to create a label that's synonymous with a certain type of sound - - kind of like the reputation (London's) 4AD Records got in the late '80's. You just knew everything that 4AD put out was worth listening to."
If Anchor is anything of a measuring stick for Sonikwire's own impending sound, they could easily secure the reputation as being the American version of 4AD themselves. Just about every song on their debut album captures the haunting, airy, despondent vocals of Williams, which has made her a minor celebrity in Orange County. Her voice although entirely unmatched, oscillates between Sarah McLachlan, Susanne Vega, and Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval. Brown's guitar, combined with Gordon's bass are simply hypnotic. The layers upon layers of their guitars, along with the numerous other unusual instruments they play on the album are so full and ethereal, you'd think they had access to a 40-piece orchestra.
It's nothing like the kind of music Brown was creating before he met Williams in 1996. "At the time, I was really into synthesizer bands, you know, New Order, Depeche Mode, that kind of cold keyboard sound," Brown confides. Luckily, as Brown's fascination for Euro-disco was winding down, Williams was looking to find a new band herself, having just quit her previous group.
Brown already had quite a few four-track instrumental demos recorded and he was looking for a lush, warm female voice to play off his new musical direction. The pair meshed instantly and from their earliest days performing as a duo at coffeehouses and cafes like Orange's Ugly Mug Cafe and various Borders bookstores, they knew they were already out growing their surroundings. "We kind of stopped playing the local coffeehouse circuit a year ago when we realized we were being stereotyped as a coffeehouse band," Williams says.
It was also about this time that Brown realized that if he wanted to break away from the small confines of coffeehouses, he'd need to expand his live sound. "I knew Josh for quite some time before I even thought of asking him to join the band." Brown recalls. "I also knew he could play quite a few instruments incredibly well. It simply made sense to ask him to join as full-time member."
Which is one of the reasons why the group is anxious to tour up and down the coast in a stuffy rental van this summer. "We just want to get out and tour different venues," Gordon adds. "We have a fuller sound now - - we were able to get away with minimal sounds at the venues we had been playing, but we're ready to perform to receptive audiences in proper venues that really want to hear great music as opposed to people who want to drink coffee."
So with only a month to go before their big attack on the West Coast, the band must be beside themselves with anticipation, right?
"Well, we did just recently find a permanent drummer who is incredible and the feedback from the markets of the cities that we're going to tour has been positive" Brown says wryly smiling. "But I'm still not sure how much all of us are up to spending three weeks in the same vehicle with each other - - this is usually how bands split up."