The music of SadGirl is an encapsulation of the city of Los Angeles: the promise of endless possibilities, the not quite attainable past, and the gentrification and the Cafe Gratitudes. This is music drenched in an imagined nostalgia, bleached by too many days in the sun and poisoned by celebrity. But it’s also mesmerizingly sweet. The trio of Misha Lindes (vocals/guitar), Dakota Peterson (bass), and David Ruiz (drums) have been concocting this West Coast gold as a trio for a little over a year, but these songs have been ruminating in longtime LA resident Lindes’ head since elementary school.
After a handful of EPs and 7”s, though, Water—out this Friday, June 14—feels and sounds like something new. “My goal was to paint a picture of what LA is in my head, rather than the reality of it,” he explains. “The reality is an amalgamation of the awesome shit that’s happening now, and the horrible shit happening, too. I’ve always yearned for the beauty in my writing of LA. I’ve always tried to achieve that and find that with my music,” he adds. So you get hyper-stylized doo-wop on “The Ocean,” almost parodic in its play with the genre’s tropes. “Breakfast” sounds like a barbershop quartet performed by fans of Panda Bear and really good weed. But there’s an earnestness and honesty to the music that only comes about through Lindes’ undying obsession with his hometown.
Even though the record was assembled over multiple years and went through multiple iterations of SadGirl, it’s still hyper-focused on a specific style. “Because the album was all coming from the same place—my stupid, weird brain—it wound up sounding cohesive. Part of making it feel that way was arranging the track order in a way that narratively made sense in my head,” he explains. “As I was compiling songs, I began to realize that there were themes that were unintentionally or intentionally revealing themselves in those tracks.”
Lindes comes from a city of storytellers, and has made an album of stories. “I’m terribly nostalgic and pretty romantic,” he says. “Living here enhances my experience when I read a book about Los Angeles or see a movie about it. It turns a regular city into a really magical place. If you’re reading Joan Didion or some pulp novel, you feel that world when you’re driving down Wilshire Boulevard.”
Water is a heartbroken record, but it doesn’t linger on heartbreak. It’s emotionally available, which is where a name like SadGirl matches the music made by three dudes. This is something Lindes has thought about endlessly and something he still struggles with. “When I started the group I was trying to challenge the like macho punk mentally shit that I knew coming out of Venice growing up as a kid, and having a group that didn’t have some violent machismo name was my way of challenging that headspace,” he says. It’s less ironic than a direct confrontation of a hyper-masculinity that still pervades Los Angeles and the music scene, although in a different way than it did when Lindes was growing up.
Water is a story from Lindes stretched out over the PCH. “This album is just my attempt to share my experience of Los Angeles,” he explains. Because the city and its sounds are endless and often unexplainable, Lindes is only hoping to relate. “If there’s even one person that has a portion of that experience, I feel like it’s a successful record,” he explains. This is his goal for the album, to make something people can imagine when they visit Los Angeles, the same way Babitz’s Chateau Marmont or Paul Thomas Anderson’s valley are so readily available when driving the city streets.