Interview with Major Powers & the LoFi Symphony

A chat with The Deli SF's 2013 Reader's Poll Winners

By: Ethan Varian

February 21, 2014

We laugh so that we do not cry.

We’re sincerely pleased to congratulate Major Powers and the Lo-Fi Symphony for winning The Deli MagazinSan Francisco Best of 2013 Readers' Poll (for emerging artists). This hard working band was able to beat out 50 of the Bay Area's best and brightest emerging bands for the coveted title of our Year End Poll’s top artist. This self-proclaimed “Adventure Rock” ensemble creates large overtures of sound that resemble bands like Weezer, and a more lyric and melody driven Andrew W.K.. We wish them the best of luck, and are always proud to see emerging bands succeed in the Bay Area.


You describe yourselves as an Adventure Rock band. Just what is Adventure Rock?

You forgot the trademark: Adventure Rock™. You know, ultimately: nothing. I'd argue that all music and art is adventurous in its own little way. What are we all doing but hustling our shit and trying to make something meaningful before we die hella soon? We have huge respect for anybody that's going out of their way to create something and put it out there, and I think that alone is pretty adventurous. Now that I'm done being a hippie, Adventure Rock™ is rock music that moves around, lots of notes, Salieri can suck it, annoyed with the trappings of 1-4-5 since time immemorial, we make cartoony changes, like we're on a Disney quest with ADHD, we're listening to Danny Elfman make out with Indiana Jones while they play Dungeons & Dragons. The Jets from West Side Story attacking the set of Sesame Street. Not that we don't play 1-4-5. But we like to move around your face with the music, the sum of the scattered parts making sense after you get a minute or so into it. Shit I'm still being a hippie. You know we get a lot of comparisons to Queen, which is a flat-out astounding compliment, but none of us have really listened to them that much. I like to think we're just basically fusing a drum set and an electric guitar with songs from Mary Poppins, and Queen was sort of doing that too.

How did the band get started?

We grew up in a dying factory town called Crockett, CA (where Billy Joe from Green Day went to highschool, so you could basically say we're lost members of Green Day, just ask Billy). We literally learned to play in basements on broken equipment. Dylan and Kevin, who are brothers, are dual French citizens, so they aren't as big of a small town rube as I am. But we're all reclusive stoners in our own ways. We were in different bands growing up, and it all just worked out this way. You know, where we're from probably has a lot to do with the sound, tons of metal comes from small towns, where everyone's pissed off and bored as fuck - it's the smooth city bands who come kicking down your door with smooth, cool tunes. Cause shit, you're already cool, you know? There's this band I love called French Cassettes, kids from Modesto. Their music is nothing like ours, but it's fucking frenetic, you know? All kinds of shit is going on in these tight hot little packages of pop. Modesto. Right? They're probably like FUCK MODESTO AND HERE'S ALL THE NOTES TO THAT. To me, and they'd laugh at me for saying this, but to me they're metal as fuck. Obviously this isn't a universal truth, but maybe a generality that plays out if you think about it.

Your songs can be pretty complex and musically far-reaching. What is some of the music that has influenced your sound?

Oops, I sort of already answered this. We grew up listening to metal, hip hop, punk, grunge and then let's say Beethoven and Coltrane. I loved musicals and Disney soundtracks and shit, too. Hans Zimmer and John Williams and those superhero movie soundtracks are good. Basically whatever was on the radio, whatever was in our parent's record collections, and whatever was playing when you got lost in dreamworlds of magic.

You have a pretty unique instrumentation with just drums, guitar and piano. What do you like about playing as a trio?

Logistical stuff for one. A bigger cut of the payout. Less people to argue with. A sensibly-sized tour van. But it also challenges us artistically: when a song "goes big" we have to figure out ways to make it "seem" bigger, whereas if we had bass and another guitar everyone would just kick on their fuzz pedals and start headbanging. We have to pay careful attention to the dynamics in the arrangements; if we're reaching a high point in a song too early, and we want to top it later, we have to dial down the first high point. And that presents challenges in the way we phrase everything on our instruments. And there's a cascade effect: that in turn forces us to tinker around with the stripped down parts. Ultimately I love it to death. It gives us a unique-ish sound and presents challenges that we've never had in other bands, so basically every rehearsal we're taking ourselves to school.

Do you feel like your music stands out from a lot of the other indie music in the Bay Area?

We certainly do. That is, until the inevitable tidal wave of Adventure Rock™ bands start coming out of the woodwork.

There is a very dry sense of humor informing many of your songs. What is that inspired by?

We laugh so that we do not cry.

What’s next for the band? Do you have plans for an upcoming album?

We're playing shows everywhere! We're touring the north and southwest extensively throughout spring and summer, and are working on much longer tours to far away places. We're also (finally) writing a second album, right this very instant, which so far is blowing our own minds (and hopefully a couple other people's too) and will be trying to crowdfund part of it with a kickstarter in the not too distant future. Also: win a Grammy.