Taking their name from the ancient god of sacrifice – and villain of Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’, The Molochs are singer/songwriter Lucas Fitzsimons and guitarist/organist Ryan Foster. As the LA-based band release their second album, ‘America’s Velvet Glory’, Fitzsimons tells us about overcoming shyness, his Argentinian heritage, and why Bob Dylan is just the man.
What do Ginsberg and the beat poets mean to you?
Their work is very alive and they’re just a good symbol of the hungry human spirit. I look at them as leading a kind of underground renaissance during their time. I’m sure I’ve been inspired in my writing, by their directness and their plain language. I’m thinking mainly Ginsberg/Kerouac/Cassady. Their work is very timeless because they’re dedicated to expressing their own personal truths and nothing else. No bullshit. Also, their dedication to living their lives furiously and adventurously is very infectious – there are a lot of people who live life bored.
You’re shy and introverted, so singing publicly seemed like a nightmare at first. How did you overcome that fear?
I guess I overcame it when it became more enjoyable than it was scary. And, also, when you’re singing and performing, the song acts like a shield or something. It’s not the same as speaking publicly or something like that.
As you became more comfortable on stage, did that confidence bleed into the rest of your life?
Mmm, it could in a way have bled into my life. Performing teaches you something about self-belief: if you don’t have it, the crowd can sense it, you can sense it, your bandmates can sense it, and your heart’s just not in it.
How do you think growing up in Los Angeles influenced your music?
It’s hard to say, but probably getting to experience different scenes of music and having a more expansive view of it all. Just the aesthetic environment of it probably influenced me more – everywhere you go there’s just more city and more city, concrete and filth and noise. One tends to absorb that over time.
Do you think your Argentinian heritage played a role in the musician you’ve become?
Mmm, probably in ways that I can’t even perceive. I think it probably gave me a worldview that is different from what it would be if I was born and raised in a single country. Growing up with sort of two cultures definitely affects the way you see the world and think about life.
You also happened to learn guitar during one of your childhood family trips back to Argentina. What was the first song you learned to play?
Ah, I definitely don’t remember. When I started learning guitar on that first trip back to Argentina, a cousin of mine taught me some Argentinian folk-style playing and an uncle taught me how to finger-pick the Beatles song ‘Blackbird’.
What was the first album you bought?
I don’t remember this either, unfortunately. I remember for a while as a kid I wouldn’t buy any CDs because I’d just listen to my dad’s stuff. I got into John Lennon and Supertramp, ha.
And what’s the most recent album you’ve bought, listened to, or loved?
‘What is there to Smile About?’ EP by Close Lobsters – great Scottish band. Also, this record by Booker Ervin, although I can’t remember the name – it’s on Blue Note.
What one song by The Molochs best sums up what the band are all about?
That’s a tough one. I think the strongest thing about the band is the wide range of sounds across all songs. I’m pretty happy with ‘Ten Thousand’ on the new record. It’s short, but it’s a good showcase of lyrics, melodies, and instrumentation. I really think a person could sit down with this record and get lost.
You write the songs and then bring them to Ryan who helps you flesh them out. How did you first meet?
I first met Ryan when we only had ‘Forgetter Blues’ out as a homemade CD. We had mutual friends and ended up hearing the album. At the time he was working a lot and had money saved up. He decided he wanted to put out our CD on actual LP. He approached me about it at a show he was playing with an old band at the Redwood Bar in Downtown LA. Funny enough we were still all in Long Beach.
Over the time spent getting everything done for the record, we ended up needing a new guitarist and the members at the time suggested Ryan.
Sounds like that was a good suggestion.
He learned the songs very fast and was just right there. Very musically in tune with me, it was like he knew what the songs were all about and he could represent them well. He always has good ideas for leads or for different kinds of overdubs to add to the songs.
As a person, he brings a lot of organisation to band matters and is good about being like: ‘Hey, should we probably be figuring this out for this upcoming thing?’ and I go: ‘Oh, yeah, I didn’t think about that at all. Yes. let’s.’ I am extremely forgetful at times so it’s good to have a balancing force in the group.
What are your hopes for ‘America’s Velvet Glory’?
That it sells, ha! And that it excites people and that they get lost in it and inspired to do something of their own. I hope that it could give a spark to people. And, if not that, just that it provides a nice period of time where they’re either just enjoying listening to the songs or they’re being totally wrapped up in it like a good art-thing should cause in someone.
Lucas Fitzsimons on some of his biggest influences
The Jacobites. Romantics to the fullest in their art and in their lives. The real deal gypsy songwriters who wore their influences on their sleeves and were proud of it. They show what true originality is – a lot deeper than just what chords you choose for your song.
Jonathan Richman. Again with him, a great master of reinterpretation. The first Modern Lovers stuff is an homage to everything he loved and in doing so he created something wholly original.
Syd Barrett. Gives a good boost of confidence to be your truest, weirdest self. But aside from all that he is a great lyricist, wrote great vocal melodies. The production on his first couple albums I always really really loved.
Bob Dylan. He’s just the man. His story shows you what you’re capable of when you realise who you are and exploit your own personal power. Another good example of an artist, influenced by the Beats and other poets like Guthrie, who carried the torch from one generation to the other. I feel like in a lot of ways we’re in a cultural moment where our generation needs to pick up the torch again. And I mean really pick it up and carry it -none of this watered-down shit.