An in-depth look at The Weather Underground.
Photos by Daniel Belis / Words by Nathan Solis
Somewhere in Los Angeles at the Silverlake Lounge, on a rectangular stage that shares its space with the bar, the word ‘Salvation’ hangs over the heads of the members of the band – four figures, washed in a glowing light. Lead singer Harley Prechtel-Cortez chants the words “They’ve got the money, We’ve got the soul” from the song Leap into the Void. Ryan Kirkpatrick chants too, while he juggles his bass and maraca. Guitarist Shoichi Bagley does the same and at the back of the stage drummer Diego Guerrero bangs away on a drum skin with another maraca. This is The Weather Underground, the Los Angeles soul-infused, indie quartet who multi-task on and off stage.
They each move with the ferocity of a Gumbi character. They move in frames, careful not to knock each other out, but they bend so people know that they are alive. During a few other songs the harmonica becomes the fifth member of the band and they collide with each other. Careful not to break anything, The Weather Underground shake with a somewhat timed rhythm of all their own. Cheers from the audience are interrupted with Harley addressing them in Spanish, even though the band only has one Spanish speaking song. “We don’t have a name for it yet,” said Harley, who is drenching with sweat during their show. Writing, rehearsing, performing, but with no name for their song, The Weather Underground do things differently than other bands.
Their sound is soul-infused with a surfer beat that catches one’s attention. You could say folk, you could throw around the word indie, but it’s a traveling ballad that could be compared to that of folk and music in the 80s. It’s what Lou Reed would sound like if Nina Simone played him in an art film or what The Pretenders would sound like if they jammed with The Libertines and The Walkmen.
They were multi-tasking on stage, blending 70s punk with 50s style rock and roll. And they do the same off stage, having day jobs and promoting their band whenever they have a free chance. Unsigned, unrepresented, the band puts themselves out their with no help, except from close friends and word of mouth. Their live show at the Silverlake Lounge is followed by guitar legend Carlos Guitarlos, who is collaborating with The Weather Underground on their new LP Psalms and Shanties. The band has been recording on and off while darting here and there, all throughout California. They snagged a spot at this year’s Treasure Chest Festival in San Francisco and are continually rehearsing between day jobs and touring.
Taking their name from a radical movement from the 1970s, the band’s Myspace is comprised of friends like Albert Camus and Miles Davis. They name authors like Franz Kafka and George Orwell as musical influences, but confess to growing up with classic Motown and name just about everyone under the sun as an inspiration. So, with the words 'Salvation' hanging over their heads, they seem like the answer to all of our musical problems. But just who are The Weather Underground?