Eclectic Westside quartet Little Galaxies sits down with us at the equally eclectic Alanna’s Coffee in Mar Vista, CA to discuss their return after a three-year hiatus, the importance of supporting your local music scene, and the struggle to balance work and play.
Little Galaxies is comprised of:
Jeanna Fournier – Lead Vocals/Guitar
Amir Eshraghi – Guitars/Theremin
Andreas Kvinge Sandnes – Bass
Christian Johnson – Drums
So you guys have announced that you’re releasing new music after a little bit of a hiatus. Would you care to give us a sneak preview of what we get to look forward to?
Jeanna Fournier: Yes, we have a new song that’s called “Out In Control” and it’s the first song off our upcoming album which is the second record that we will release. And the first time we’re releasing music in about five years.
Amir Eshraghi: Yeah. We’re really excited. I think it’s somewhat of a new direction, but still, kind of keeps our sound.
And Andreas is doing a bunch of stuff on the new album production-wise.
Jeanna: Yes, Andreas has been helping mix this record. He’s also an engineer at Fourth Street Recording where we did our first album, and we’re doing our second one there too.
Amir: Yeah, Sejo Navajas is the lead engineer and a co-producer. He’s like a brother to us. He worked with us on the first record and we’ve felt a close friendship with him since then, so he’s friend first and an engineer second. It just makes the experience better.
Andreas Sandes: And that’s also actually how we met, through him, because I work a lot with Sejo on a daily basis. It was just a natural part of things that I would get into the whole engineering side of this recording.
Jeanna: *turns to Andres*And you also have a masters in music technology. That’s definitely helpful to have in the band.
Christian Johnson: He tunes my drums better than me, which is awesome.
Andreas: I don’t know about that. *all laugh*
And how was this recording process different than that of your past work?
Amir: I feel like we’re just a little more prepared on the pre-production side just collectively with the four of us fine tuning the songs, and arranging them to make them the best that they can be.
Jeanna: And we’re also recording one song at a time for the most part. We started with bass and drums, and instead of doing all the vocals at once, and all the guitars at once, we’re trying to finish each song at a time. Give it some more love and attention.
You definitely can’t rush great music! What does your typical songwriting and recording process tend to be like?
Jeanna: Usually, Amir or I will bring in a song idea, or we’ll improv in the room, and then I’ll put lyrics, the vocal melody, and any additional guitar parts before we bring it to the band to finish it.
Amir: Yeah, we play in the room basically record what we’re doing. It’s not really sitting down with a pen and paper, so it ends up being a very natural process. Sometimes it may take a little longer, but we feel like in the long run it’ll be worth it. And then once we bring in the idea at this point, Andreas and Christian add so much more to it and make it complete. They take it another level, and we’re looking forward having more opportunities to write with all four of us on the room together going forward.
Glad to hear that! So like Jeanna had mentioned, you guys were kind of on a hiatus for a while. What have you guys learned about yourselves in terms of being an artist and what you want to accomplish musically?
Jeanna: Well, I think we’ve grown a lot personally and also musically over the past few years. We took a hiatus because I was in a car accident and I had to take time to deal with my health, especially because it also affected my ability to sing and play. I think with being away from it for a long time, we realized not to take anything for granted and how much we really loved playing music and just need it in our lives. Now we can go back on stage and focus on putting on a really great live show with more refined songs. Kind of comeback with a bang! We do this because we love it and because we love having a connection with people when we’re onstage.
Amir: Yes, there were moments during that hiatus, because it was a long hiatus, that we weren’t sure if the band would continue on as Little Galaxies. We were sure that we would play music of course, but you know, Jeanna showed a lot of resilience through physical therapy and such. We thought, ‘Well, let’s just get back to where she should be as far as performing.’ and then, honestly, Andreas and Christian played huge parts in bringing this band back as far as the motivation and the energy. We just knew that we had something special with them so we’re glad that we kept it going.
Christian: It kind of worked out for me as well in a weird way. When I found them on Craigslist, it had only been maybe two or three months coming out of my own personal hiatus. I had a lot of family issues going on, and I hadn’t played drums in almost four years. Yeah, I did it here and there for fun in my garage, but I wasn’t playing in any bands. I had completely cut it off, sold my drums, sold a lot of equipment, pretty much hung it all up and said, “That’s it, I guess I’m not ever gonna do it ever again.” I just didn’t have it in me. for awhile, but then I started feeling like, “Yeah, you know I should get out there and play again.” And then I met them, and they were in the same headspace as I was, like, just starting over again, not from nothing, but kind of starting from scratch and trying to build something new from it. So it was cool being in the same mindset when we started working. Of course when Andreas came in, that was the thing we needed to kick it into the next level, because within the first week of him coming in I changed all my parts. The whole thing started changing and it was so cool. The timing was interesting where we all wanted to come together in that moment.
Yeah, the universe works in mysterious ways. And sometimes it brings you the right people at the exact right time.
Amir: Yeah, we’re grateful for that.
So Jeanna and Amir, you two are in a long-term relationship and working on this band together. What are some of the pros and cons that you guys have had in terms of your shared experiences being in the band?
Jeanna: It’s definitely amazing being able to create with someone that you love, or have that special connection with. I feel like it shows through the music too. But with both of us being artists, we tend to be passionate people and do butt heads sometimes because of it. But over the years we really learned how to work well and efficiently together. Defining roles is definitely helpful too. We’re always encouraging each other and we’re each other’s biggest fans, so that’s a positive as well.
Amir: Yes. Sometimes lines are blurred because we obviously spend a lot of time together, and so sometimes we want to separate the band life from our ‘life’ life. But we find that it’s not always possible, so we kind of let go of that feeling and just accept that. It doesn’t always feel like work necessarily if we’re talking about band stuff because we love it so much, and I think it helps because we get to stay on track. Instead of meeting a couple of times a week, or however how many times other bands do, we’re always in constant communication. So I think that it keeps things flowing and allows us to modify things along the way. We also keep in constant communication with the guys too so we can all be on the same page.
And speaking of your guys, care to give us a little introduction and why you guys ended up going with them to be a part of the Little Galaxies family?
Amir: *turns to Andres* This is Andreas, he’s originally from Norway and he plays bass in the band. He also has a masters in music technology. He’s also an engineer, he mixes well, he’s extremely talented. He’s a man of many talents, and the ladies love him. *all laugh*
Andreas: Thank you Christian.
Jeanna: Over here we’ve got Christian Johnson on the drums all the way from New Jersey. He also went to music school, and he worked at Capital Records for twelve years.
Amir: Yeah, in the A&R Department. He wore a few hats there. He is a huge asset to the band in many ways.
Jeanna: He’s our backbone.
Amir: Yes, and the ladies love him too, but don’t tell his girlfriend. *all laugh*
Your secret is safe with us. *laughs* So being an artist in L.A., or being a band in L.A., means that there’s an overabundance of music. Do you feel like there’s kind of like an unofficial competition between the artists here trying to fight for the audience’s attention?
Jeanna: Occasionally we’ll play with a band that’s a little bit standoffish, but for the most part, since we’ve come back to performing live again, I feel like there’s some great camaraderie between bands, and bands are realizing that it works in everyone’s benefits to support and help each other. We’ve definitely been seeing that a lot with the Westside Revival guys who’ve been putting out some awesome shows out here to try to revive the music scene on the Westside. All of those guys are really supportive of each other, we come out to each other’s shows.
Amir: It’s spearheaded by Aaron Mendoza. He’s amazing, and he’s done a lot for the Westside music scene. His motivation is real, it’s pure. He’s done an amazing job of bringing people together. The East Side is primarily where the music scene is in L.A., and that’s a great thing also, because we play there as well, but just bringing a scene back to the Westside is important.
Jeanna: There’s also, a lot of women who are now teaming up, and now there’s a little less competition there now. Women are coming together to try to help each other and co-promote, and bring more women into music, especially in the rock music scene. I know when we started playing, there weren’t as many female-fronted rock bands, and now, there’s promoters like Play Like A Girl and Softer Sex Productions who are trying to bring everyone together and unify everyone. So I definitely feel like there’s less competition than maybe there might seem. At least from our experience.
Amir: Yes, definitely.
Now you all pretty much play with other bands apart from Little Galaxies and you were already going into the fact that the scene has been a little bit more supportive than it has been in the past. How important do you think it is for local artists to support each other and also with local events and local companies as well?
Jeanna: I think it’s really important to support other artists, and not just musicians, but also filmmakers, photographers. We love collaborating with others, whether it’s bands we’re playing with or doing a music video with someone, just supporting the arts in general. There have been so many of the music venues have shut down, especially on the Westside, so I think it’s really important to support your local venues. It also helps when everyone is co-promoting, sharing fans, and helping support each other’s businesses.
Amir: It’s definitely huge to be able to support bands in the scene.
Jeanna: There’s also a lot of bands that we love, and we love discovering new music. So it’s fun for us to go out to our friends’ shows.
Cool! And you were going into the fact that when you guys started there weren’t a whole lot of female fronted rock bands. Unfortunately, it’s still a little rare to see it. Do you think there’s a specific reason why women don’t want to front bands? Like, do they want to lean more towards all-female bands or even to just be a solo act?
Jeanna: I think there’s definitely benefits to being a solo act, in general. You’re not coordinating with four people, sometimes you can get more things done by yourself, but I also think there’s a lot more women maybe being exposed to rock music so we’re starting to see more female fronted bands. About five years ago, usually when we saw female fronted bands, a lot of the times they were alternative bands, but now we’re seeing more eclectic styles of music with female fronts. I think that’s maybe in part with social media, with people being exposed to more female musicians that are badasses. I hope to see even more in the future.
Do you feel that women in music need to portray themselves in certain ways in order to be successful? This is a question for the guys as well.
Jeanna: I think it’s very important to embrace yourself and use music as a form of self expression and art. I think the MTV music video era that we grew up with where you had to sexify yourself is over, and people are really embracing individuality now. Different shapes and sizes, different styles of music, diversity. That’s a great thing and a huge step in the right direction.
Amir: Yeah, I agree. I feel like it’s kind of come back around where it’s kind of like the pre-MTV music video days. There wasn’t as much concern with image, and that did not affect a lot of the artists in the late 70s. When MTV had come around, you had to have the whole visual element beyond just an album cover. But I feel like the decline of that video era has actually been a good thing in a way for a lot of artists to be able to break through and break the mold of any sort of stereotype, and really highlight the music and the individual.
Jeanna: And also with social media, people can market themselves now and not be dependent on who the labels are choosing. So we’re seeing more different types of artists right now.
Amir: Yeah. The people are really able to decide as opposed to the suits.
And going into that social media aspect, do you think the rise of it has made it easier or harder for local artists to promote themselves?
Jeanna: I think that there are pros and cons to it. We’ve definitely been able to connect with a lot of other bands and venues, music industry professionals, and other types of artists through social media. I think it’s amazing that you’re able to connect to all different types of people, and be exposed to new bands. But the downs of it is also balancing the time to do that with making music and art.
Amir: It’s hard not to be disillusioned by your social media following, because it’s a great thing to get support on social media, but we don’t want to be content with that. We want to continue to reach out beyond that and to have real world experiences connecting with people through playing shows. We feel like it;s best, in our experiences, to have someone who follows you on social media to have initially have met you at a show or something like that, where there’s actually a true connection. You’re more likely to engage with a more genuine engagement on social media.
Jeanna: And some of my best friends are just people we met at shows. So for me it’s important to connect in that way, in addition to the social media. Or at least stay connected through the social media.
Amir: Everyone gets to be their own PR person. It definitely helps as long as you don’t become disillusioned.
Do you feel like there’s kind of a struggle between managing the band account and your personal accounts?
Jeanna: Definitely. It’s really time consuming.
Christian: It’s a job in itself for sure. Just dealing with band stuff. If you’re going online, you’re like, ‘Alright, how am I gonna do this the best way?’ or ‘You should be on Twitter eight times a day, Facebook is like four posts a day, plus a live post every two weeks.’ Once you start trying to figure that out, it’s insane and it’s impossible to operate without a department doing it for you.
That’s why now a social media department now exists.
Christian: Yeah, exactly! It’s so much! Maybe in a way you can incorporate it as a representation of your art instead of work. Like, a post where we show the art or we’re showing the behind the scenes makes it a little easier. But it still ends up being time-consuming. Very, very, time consuming. And like Amir said, it’s hard to not make it a focus. You make a post and you’re like, ‘How many likes did I get? Did people check?’ It can become an obsession.
Amir: It can become toxic.
Jeanna: And we’re trying to just focus on putting out good content and letting that speak for itself. And we’re really lucky to have met some rad people.
Christian: It always works if you’re genuine about it, you know? That’s the thing, people can tell if you’re faking it. And even through social media is great for the cause, they can see if you’re not being genuine. It can be a really big help because people want to see you and they want to engage because you’re a genuine person.
And how do you balance your professional lives with your personal lives?
Christian: Balance? Is that possible? *all laugh*
Amir: Our musical lives, it’s 24 hours a day because it’s also my day job. If I’m not working with a client directly I’m thinking about the band, whether I’m listening to a rehearsal or a mix on something I’m waiting to get mastered. But when I’m driving from client to client, I’m literally making a social media post at a red light, and then by the tenth red light I’m ready and I post it.
Christian: I do not recommend that. *laughs*
Amir: It’s a red light! It’s ok! *laughs* But it’s a lot of time management, so of course, ‘me time’ is important too, even if ‘me time’ includes both Jeanna and I together going to the beach you know? It’s important to just bring balance and it’s natural because that’s just who we are.
Christian: There’s just something to be said, at least when it comes to real professional levels when you start separating it. Like Lebron James for example, he’s got a basketball life and a home life. If you’re turning off that basketball life, or music life in this case, there’s something about it that totally doesn’t become second nature. Whereas if you’re living your whole life as a whole, where it includes music and time for friends and whatever, it meshes better. And you’re incorporating it in different ways. You’re still making music, enjoying music, even if you’re not sitting at a studio. You’re not switching on and off. And there’s benefits to that. If you’re not in a place where your life is not always music, there’s gonna be a time when you’re not gonna be able to turn it on. With a more even life, you don’t have to turn it on, it’s there. There’s nothing you have to worry about. So I think that’s where you start to get in that mindset where it’s like, I’m sitting on a red light drumming on the steering wheels. That’s what I do, but that’s dangerous. *all laugh*east
So everybody is from different parts of the world. Jeanna’s from San Diego, Andres is from Norway and Christian is from the East Coast. What differences have you seen in terms of the music scene between all of the areas that you’ve lived in or visited?
Andreas: Well, people don’t go to fucking shows here. Like, when I first arrived here, and we’d play a show, and there’d be like thirty people. This was a different band, but the guys in the band would be like, “Oh you know, it was a pretty good turnout!” and I’m like, “Fuck you dude.” *laughs* I mean, with smaller towns, more people come to shows. When I used to play back home where I’m from, which is a town of 500,000, there’d be 200 people at indie shows.
Amir: I think that’s a product of over-saturation combined with people just becoming jaded. I mean, ever since, gosh and I cringe to even say it, but ever since Myspace days, people have just been inundated, because everyone has a friend that has a band. So it’s just “Come see my band, come see my band, come see my band!” and then people are just sick of it so they don’t go to as many shows. And also, as we get older, I mean, we’re not in our twenties anymore, people tend to have lives and kids and it’s harder for people to come out to shows.
Jeanna: We’re also in a city where a lot of people move here for their careers, so they’re focused and they’re very busy. They spend all their days working, and it’s hard to get out to a show, especially if you have to deal with an hour traffic, finding parking, and paying to get in the venue. That’s why we really appreciate it when any of our fans make it out to a show because we know how difficult it could be to make it out.
Amir: Yeah exactly, because we experience it ourselves. At the end of a long day, there’s that choice of, ‘Are we just going to stay home or in our studio, or go out and show support?’ Sometimes it takes a bit of jumpstart to do that, but once we do, we’re always happy that we did.
Jeanna: And with so many music venues on the Westside shutting down too, sometimes we have to trek out to other side of town to go see a band.
Andreas: It’s far for all your friends to come out.
Amir: It requires effort, so it just makes it even more, meaningful when people show support. We don’t expect everyone to make it to every show, but it means a lot, that we can have that actual interaction.
So a fun question for you guys, if you could choose three artists to go on a world tour with, who would they be and what would you name your tour? This could be a collective answer or it could be all separate answers. *laughs*
Amir: Ah, I could throw out a few names and others can as well. In my mind, what pops as far currently touring artists, I would say Bjork, Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Peter Gabriel. I personally feel like those artists create music that comes from a deep place and they really have devoted fans. They don’t necessarily create musichat are necessarily driving songs that you just put on in the car, even though they have songs that are like that. They’re really more like, deep, sit down listen to it on a Saturday morning songs. I feel like we would connect with their fans, so you know, that’s like a dream situation to tour with bands like that. As far as the name of it…I don’t know. *turns to the other band members* Did you guys want to talk about other artists? *laughs*
Andreas: Maybe ‘There Goes The Galaxy’ for a tour name?’
Amir: There goes the galaxy? That’s pretty funny. *laughs*
Christian: I’d be really into artists like Tycho. I’ve just been into a slightly different space, like a medium space. And you know, we’ve had people dance at our shows. I’m in another band and people don’t dance at those shows, but they’ll dance at our shows and that’s so much fun. And I think that a tour for me right now would be where no one’s afraid to dance, everyone’s dancing and just loving the energy that comes with that. Plus, getting to a scene like that could be really fun, especially with what we’ve got going on with our sound. It is all organic, live, there are no tracks, we don’t play with a computer on stage, or any of that. A lot of the sounds are very similar, but I think those crowds will really love us and I think that could a lot of fun. There’d be so much energy and excitement, that’d be so amazing! And of course, no disrespect to Peter Gabriel, because I’d love to watch that guy play every night. Personally, I would like to be in the mix and have it just be in a big party.
Andreas: I like that idea. I think I’d want someone who draws a big party crowd, and then some stupid punk rock band, because they’re always fun to hang out with. *laughs* And how many bands were you thinking? Three other ones? I don’t know what the last one would be, something completely out of context, like, maybe really weird contemporary art shit.
Christian: Yoko Ono.
Andreas: Yes. We’d make the EDM crowd listen to contemporary art shit. Punk rock crowd that dances to house.
Amir: I’d go to that show!
Christian: Sounds like Burning Man. *laughs*
Andreas: We’d just call it the ‘Fuck You Tour.’ *laughs*
Christian: You’d get like, Smash Mouth to open.
Amir: No. Gotta draw the line somewhere. *laughs*
And what do you hope your that audience will take away from your music?
Jeanna: We mainly want people to have a good time if they’re at a show listening or connecting with the music in some way. Whether it’s to come out dancing for a night or listening in your car going home, you know? Connecting with the music or the lyrics or anything is very important to us. We just want to people to feel something.
Amir: Yeah, I agree. It may be cliche, but the goal is for us to hit them on a deep level, but then to also hit them on the surface depending on how they choose to listen to it, like Jeanna said. Just feeling the beat, and maybe the bass line, and moving during the show or going a little deeper and really diving in Jeanna’s lyrics. I think they’re so introspective and thought-provoking, and I feel personally that I’m a big fan of her lyrics. I feel like when people really start to take everything deeper and take everything as a whole then that’s a complete experience. But there are many different ways that you can experience it.
And to end us off, apart from new music coming up, what other exciting things should we be looking forward to from you?
Jeanna: We’re definitely planning to play shows in other cities. Before we took our break we did a West Coast tour and went out to Austin, Texas. We’d love to get back on the road again, plan more shows.
Amir: Yeah! And we’re going to be making music videos. For this current single we’re working on the video, and then we plan to release an additional three singles before our album is released next year, so we’ll have a video paired with those as well that we’re excited to be able to introduce. For people to just to hear it as just the audio, I feel like that’s important, so they’re not distracted by images. It goes in one sense and it’s just heard that way before they get to hear it with the video. So they’ll get to experience it in a couple of different ways. So excited for that too, because our music lends itself nicely to a visual element. Excited to see how those turn out!
About Alana’s Coffee Roasters:
With how compact Los Angeles and its neighborhood pockets are, it’s not surprising that it’s a task to find a coffeeshop that has outdoor seating that consists of more than a few small bistro tables. Well, Westsiders are in luck because Alana’s Coffee Roasters in Mar Vista goes above and beyond to offer their customers everything they could possibly need to keep them wanting to come back. First off, they have parking! I know, such a small detail that Angelenos tend to not really care about when looking for a go-to place. Second, their staff, including owners Eric Stogsdill and Erin Ward, are so incredibly welcoming that you automatically feel like you’re a part of the shop’s little community even if you haven’t been before. Third, Alana’s utilizes its space to perfection from small tables in the storefront entrance to cushioned indoor wall seating to a spacious outdoor patio complete with long picnic style tables, a mini stage, and a quirky camper as the star attraction. Its clear personal touch that is put into every aspect of the shop ultimately showcases its goal to provide a comfortable atmosphere for anyone the walks in. I mean, what more could you want?
Ah ha! You thought I was going to forget about their coffee menu didn’t ya? Alana’s roasts on site so you are always getting the freshest roast, and they make it a point to roast beans that are in season from a variety of different farming areas around the world. Choose from a classic espresso infused latte or Cold Brew, or maybe walk on the adventurous side and opt for one of their specialty drinks like the Pirates Chai, the Big Time! (a drip coffee with grass-fed butter and coconut oil), or my absolute favorite – the Chipotle Mocha! And if for some reason you still can’t figure out what to order, the baristas will go out of their way to make you’re a custom beverage for you to enjoy. Pair your beverage of choice with a delicious muffin, crepe roll, croissant or cookie for the optimum experience as you find a place to perch yourself for a catch-up with friends, a group study sesh, or maybe even to meet someone new.