Manufactured Connections.

There’s a lot of weirdness around people in the industry. I don’t know…

& then there’s bands like Zulu: even though they have a following or whatever, they were super open & willing to chat. No problem talking to some DIY mag. I literally went up to the merch booth at The Observatory like: “Yo. I run this music mag and we’re Native-owned. So we feel like someone of this caliber with this message would go crazy & coincide with what we’re presenting. And they said: “Yo, you’re right. Let me text the group chat & see who I can gather.” They helped me out big time, just because I was genuine & honest & forward.

Then there’s other bands, even small bands, with agendas. ‘Who do you know?’ type of deal. Which I can understand for reputation’s sake – you don’t want to give away info to someone you don’t know at all.

But it feels like a lot of musicians I’ve interacted with have their own support from some outside source that isn’t the people that go to their shows.

You know what though? I’ve done some investigative research:

USC is behind a lot of it.

Will Jones: Hold up, hold up, hear me out. I’ve caught onto this. I’ve seen people change after USC; all these connections pop up & the only thing that’s changed is where they’re going to school. Some still have their values in place but I’ve had people I used to smash beers with at high school house shows act like they don’t know anyone anymore. Not to take away from someone’s success, but it’s so interconnected, it’s kinda weird. It’s cliquey. USC kids are cliquey.

Hector Zaldivar: Hard agree. Somebody emailed the magazine like a year ago, and, um, like… No one emails the magazine <collective laughter>. It’s always been people we meet in person or that we reach out to, or even people who are straightforward & conversational in our DM’s. The email’s for organizations & contributors, whatnot. Anyways, it was some press release thing & they were plugging this band from a USC email. The band didn’t really catch my attention, the genre was sort of saturated, & they only had a single out, you know what I mean? So I couldn’t even cover anything in the first place. I’d never even met the person so I wasn’t gonna mess with it, but it was all love.

Dead Relatives Studio. Egypt Pannell.

Then like six months later, the writer followed me on Instagram, so I was like okay, I followed them back & said ‘Hey I saw your email like six months ago, sorry!’ But I also wasn’t doing the mag at that time.

I took a break for a year after Cancer Christ; had to live out of my car for a couple months, moved into a new place, had school going on, got wrapped up with a girl. It was a lot. We didn’t even print then so we had no way of raising funds, it was all out of my own pocket & I just didn’t have it. I got a couple of guestlists once. But at most for payment, I got offered a record if I interviewed some band that I did not want to interview. & I said no.

Hector Zaldivar by Cole Beldyn Larsen.

WJ: That’s really cool. I mean, that’s why things were slow. Cause you had integrity.

Willie Gates: Yeah, you had your virtue with you.

Z: Thanks, yeah. At that time I used the Instagram as sort of a personal page. I’d post videos of me drumming & playing bass, & a couple blew up. Like, ‘What the hell? Reels, I guess.’ I forgot people were watching. It was whatever, like one was some My Bloody Valentine song, you know? I was just testing some features out. It wasn’t anything cool in my opinion. Sort of dismissable, because clearly when you play a popular song, people are gonna pay more attention than some deep cut. Or an original. But honestly, doing that kind of weeded everybody out, because I’d go back to the people I thought I knew & there was a different energy from before. Like posting unaesthetically for a second was some crash & burn that removed all the other applaudable shit I did. Ooo, aaa, big deal.

Dead Relatives Studio. Egypt Pannell.

I’d cruise their shows with some prints & those people would ask ‘You did this?’ Like they didn’t believe me. We’re not some corporation. It’s me & a laptop. Out of a fucking garage. Yes, I did this.

Dead Relatives Studio. Egypt Pannell.

Not to say I would refuse to work with someone based on an interaction. I’m just saying it’s been weird.

WJ: It’s super comforting that you brought up the USC thing. I feel like… I mean, I took a step out of the scene, & bands. Then covid happened. The breakup of Hexed was… I would say, straight up emotionally traumatic. I’m still struggling with it. I’m still friends with everyone, but it was a whole mental health thing. But since then, crawling back into the scene with Smother is like, what the fuck is going on? Especially because we’re adamant about being from the Inland Empire.

WG: You don’t really see that unless it’s hardcore bands, and it’s repped hard. There’s a really good beatdown scene out here; like Smoked909, it’s in the name dude. I just wish alternative IE bands were proud of their roots like HxC IE bands.

From our July 2023 Issue Release Show @ The Smell DTLA.
By Cole Beldyn Larsen.

WJ: Cause what I hate is when bands lie and say they’re from LA, or they say they’re a ‘socal’ band. Like, what does that even mean?

Z: …& they’re from Westminister <laughter>.

WG: Or Pomona. Love Pomona, but…

WJ: Yeah, we’re thinking more Pomona. Riverside especially, any of those cities. It’s like the IE has been excluded from conversations in LA. If I say I’m from Riverside, I’ll get asked ‘Where is that?’ or ‘Oh, I know someone out there…’ & then they act weird, or leave the conversation. I’ve been to shows run by USC people & met people from Riverside; no one else gives us the time of day so we end up being best friends for the night. That’s common.

L2R: Rodrigo Morales, Willie Gates, Will Jones, Sam Chavarin, Mikel James. Taken by Whitehawk from RADPro Studios.

WG: I feel like the IE scene can build itself. I mean we have a history of really OG spots like The Showroom in Corona or Belmont Park hosting OG punk bands in the 90’s, there’s a rich history. But we can feel the exclusion.

WJ: There are people outside of that mindset though. Sometime like 2021, I got stupid into They’re Gutting a Body Of Water: I flew out to Philly & hung out with Doug, the main dude. Super love Doug. He’s the nicest person ever. Pretty much told me I could do anything. He put me onto this whole American shoegaze revival scene; Hotline TNT, Toner, Blue Smiley… That’s what I’ve been into since then. August 2022, grabbed Willie & Sam, started writing. Meeting Doug was how this band came to be.

Z: Oh! Back to USC, I didn’t get to finish that. Um, anyways, so that person that emailed and I stayed connected & chatting. A while later I saw that something they were connected to was hosting a rave… & like, we’ve been working with Strictly Hardcore, we’re around the rave scene. I saw the venue, & it was at… Junior High? That’s not a rave venue. It didn’t go past midnight either, but I guess that’s not criteria as to what’s a rave or not. Regardless, I thought to myself, how the fuck did you get a connection to Junior High? Who co-signed this?

I went to investigate & it turned out it was a school project; USC gave them the venue. Straight up based on private tuition.

WG: That’s funny… Yeah, I mean when you’re that kind of business & see USC hit you up, you’d be like ‘Yeah, use our spot!’ Some warehouse in the Fashion district? Maybe not as much. Nepo babies go to school, right? <laughter> Is that what art school is supposed to be about? The connections that you get or whatever?

Manufactured connections?

Cover by kromosome3.
Spread by crythengrind.
Spread by .
Fracture excerpts.
Back cover by .
previous arrow
next arrow

Dead Relatives July 2023 Issue with this story featured is available now!


By Hector Zaldivar

Professional magician. @hexzald