The Laurel Canyon's Shawn Kyle (guitar and vocals) and Max Norton (drums) come from the remains of the highly popular local act the Beauvilles, but don't be fooled — this isn't a rehash of past glories, or the same product presented under a different name. The Laurel Canyon is a beast unique unto itself.
Their sound is steeped in heavy hooks and thick riffs: think a mixture of Blue Cheer and Cream soaked in Southern Gospel and coated in slick Stax precision.
Kyle was kind enough to bring us up to speed on his musical goings-on.
Your name has an obvious association with the '60s. What does that connection mean to you?
That name, for people that know about that era, conjures up a lot of visions of fearlessness and a lot of people getting together and having a good time and everything emanating from that area. There was a sense of camaraderie and experimentation. In the end, it was American music, that's the kind of thing we were setting out to make: American music with experimentation and other elements thrown into it.
Being a two-piece group, you must often be compared to the White Stripes and the Black Keys. What's your take on that?
First of all, we're Southern, and the music that we play I feel we have a license to play. I'm not saying that other bands don't deserve to play Southern rock. Some of the greatest bands of all time were British guys playing black American music. But there's a difference, you know? I think that a lot of the best bands just do what comes naturally, and then that becomes what they're known for. I don't think that we're dedicated to being a two-piece forever. Like I said, you just do what's inherent to your nature.
Do you personally feel a lot of pressure of being the only pitched instrument?
Definitely. On one side of it, I'm not ever gonna be out of key unless I'm out of key with myself. The flip side of it is you really have to have something to play and sing, because there's nobody there to cover for you.
What was the path that took you from the Beauvilles to The Laurel Canyon?
I just needed some time off. Every time I tried to get away from it (the Beauvilles), something would happen. We got offered a headlining spot at SXSW and then one at CMJ. Then people started offering the band money to tour and it kept dragging me back in. A month turned into another month, and another month… The end result was I felt nothing about music and I was so burnt-out, tired and exhausted from doing it for six years nonstop. It was to the point where we could just go out on the road and earn a living and not do anything else: All the things I ever dreamed of had happened, and yet my heart was no longer into it. For somebody that has lived music for good or bad, that's a really strange place to be. I never felt like that before. At that point the only thing I could do was walk away.
What was it that brought you back to music?
It became apparent that it wasn't music's fault that I was having problems; it was the fact that I wasn't sure of what I should believe in musically. The projects should be fun to begin with, otherwise what's the point in doing it? The conundrum I had was I wasn't sure how to have fun. Ambition's a horrible thing sometimes because it ruins art. You start thinking about what you should be doing with something before you have anything to begin with and basically I wanted to not do that anymore. So Max and I started jamming together doing this. I basically tried to remember why music was something I really enjoyed.
Did you remember?
Yes, and it took a lot longer than I thought it would. If it weren't for the other musicians, bands and people that I knew and I play with, I would not be playing music again. And I can't stress that enough. A lot of the credit of me wanting to be in a band again and travel again goes out to the support of the other great bands. It made me believe in music again.
You tour and travel the country often. With all you've seen and experienced, what is it that keeps you in Tampa?
I like it here.