Bootlegs of the Untitled Band is a four-piece, ‘90s-styled indie rock outfit led by “Moon Jelly” Kevin, self-proclaimed “mediocre genius” and all-around amicable guy. I sat down with Kevin and bassist George “St. George” at the Coffee Cup Cafe in Long Beach, a local treasure nestled on the outskirts of Retro Row on 4th Street, to talk about the release of the band’s first studio EP, PUBLIC NUISANCES, and Kevin’s creative journey.
PUBLIC NUISANCES almost feels like a Bootlegs greatest hits album, born from your open mic experience. What impact did the circuit have on you?
K: It’s all about the friendships you make. That’s how I met Tiff (Foxes Vs. Scorpions) and Vaughan Risher, a photographer who documents the local music scene, and a bunch of other people. It’s never like you’re going up some sort of imaginary ladder with the music scene. You’re just making buddies and getting better. Open mics are where you can just experiment and go wild. There’s actually a video up of the very first performance of “I Can’t Buy Your Love, but I Can Buy Happy Meals.” It was the day that I wrote it, and I played it that night, and it’s absolutely atrocious, but that gave me the practice and structure, and it wouldn’t have evolved if I didn’t have those hiccups.
G: Open mics are great for that. They put you in front of people, and teach you how to, if nothing else, just get through it. Once you get through it, you’re just kinda like, “Oh, it’s not even a thing.” Nobody really cares. I mean, they care, but they’re not gonna hate you because you fucked up on a song, you know? When did you start jamming with Mike and Joe, anyway? Hey look, I’m doing your job right now! Let’s interview you!
Whoa, you flipped the script on me. Now I’m all embarrassed! How about it, though?
K: Mike Lozany and I have been jamming since early college. I’ve known him since high school and he’s always been really talented. But he’s a good brother, and he’s very loyal, and he’s a hell of a drummer. As for Joe, I remember when I met him. We met at a show his band, District Verdant, was playing in Pasadena. And we played a bunch of shows together when I was in Oak Street Blues and Sad Comedian. He just volunteered and stepped up himself, much like George did. Joe famously went to Vegas with us in a van, played a show, and flew back home that exact same night. If that isn’t loyalty, I don’t know what is.
The song that sticks out the most on PUBLIC NUISANCES was “I Only Hate You,” and that’s Bootlegs’ “big single.” Where did that song come from?
K: Back when I was posting shitty demos on Myspace, every song would have 10, 30 plays, but “I Only Hate You” was in like, the thousands? It just kept going up, and it wasn’t even this polished thing, it was my first demo where half the words are still flubbed up, you know? But it was the one.
It has an undeniable charm to it, for sure.
G: Yeah, it’s got like, Beatles-like music with a punk attitude, but also kinda sad. I think any dude can relate to the whole, “on one hand, I really care about you, but on the other hand, go fuck yourself” honest edge to the song.
K: (laughs) Yeah, I like to keep it as honest, and, well, vague as possible.
How did that take shape in studio for PUBLIC NUISANCES?
K: Working in the studio was weird. I was in a band before that called Oak Street Blues, and there was a bunch of albums that they put out while I was in the band, but [the frontman] just kinda decided to record them himself, with a bass machine, so I wasn’t actually on the album. So when I got to Marker, and they went, “we’re gonna put Kevin on the album,” that helped translate over to Bootlegs later. In the studio, I saw Mark [Marker’s frontman] be very articulate about beats and notes and he knew what he wanted to say, but for me, I’d tell George, “Hey, can you tell [producer Brian Frederick] to make it more scary?” and George would explain it way better than I could.
What did it feel like to finally release the EP?
K: I was just gonna sit on my butt and not record, but I can’t stress enough that George really pushed me to do it. On top of that, there was the untimely passing of two of my buddies, Greg Almodovar and Davey Izaguirre, who were in the band. In some way, shape, or form, I feel like putting out this EP was preserving their memory.
The release show at the Prospector was unlike anything I’d ever seen from Bootlegs.
K: I’m happy! I was running on like four hours of sleep, so I just powered through. I don’t even really remember what I said or did. People kept giving me beers. I remember feeling sad for big parts of it, ‘cause I was thinking about Greg and Davey, and how much they meant, but once the tears were gone, I figured I had to man the fuck up and just play the show. I’m sure it’s more respectful to their memory if I just played a solid show than if I had just broken down on stage and called it quits.
Photo: Angelo Rivera
Your work extends past music, too. You have Dissect My Brain, and you print your own zine. Did you go to the Long Beach Zine Fest a couple weeks ago?
K: Yeah, I went! I’d done the LA one before, but I actually had a table there, so people would come up and talk and see what I was all about. At the Long Beach one, I didn’t have a table, so I was the one going to everyone and chatting them up, asking for trades, that kind of thing. Some people bought CDs because they saw it went hand in hand with the zine. It was pretty cool.
G: That was the other big thing that really stuck out to me about Public Nuisances as a project. There’s the music aspect, the stuff I know, but then there’s the artistic aspect, like the cover, and all the different songs have their own “single art.” All the little nuances really show off Kevin’s personality.
“L’espirit D’escalier” cover artwork by Kaetlyn Hyatt, courtesy of “Moon Jelly” Kevin
It’s cool to see how comprehensively planned out it was.
K: Yeah, it’s something I’m extremely proud of. I feel like it’s kind of a dying art. I’ve seen too many CDs where the packaging is just kind of dying off. People don’t care about doing the whole, you know, eight-page booklet anymore. For me, I always think of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and looking at those weird pictures of people on the moon, or like this cat and dog getting married. I remember all that shit. I wanted to bring that feeling back. Everybody that did a piece for it is a close personal friend. I was worried I would have to hire someone I didn’t know, but they all came through to do something for me, which I’m so grateful for.
What’s coming up next for you guys?
K: Our next upcoming show is gonna be at the Bridgetown DIY in La Puente, on the first of September. It’s one of the very few DIY spots I know that’s still up and running. I don’t really know what’s going on with the smell, though.
Are you guys playing with anybody else at Bridgetown?
K: We’re playing with Silversword, who’s having his very first show. His name’s Armando, and he’s only 18. I met him randomly at an open mic in Upland. It’s fun to talk to someone who’s still so young, not jaded, super excited, who just wants to play some music. I want the show to be a big one, not just for my sake, but for his too, you know? I wanna give him something to remember and cherish.
Thank you guys so much! Can’t wait for the show in a couple weeks!
K: Yeah, of course!
G: Thanks for having us!