Culture / Music

LA rock trio Automatic on their new record, love of Karen O, Swedish sci-fi, and playing Splendour in the Grass

There is something really cool about a three-piece band, one that works within the tension of minimalism and doesn’t need to hide concept and song writing behind excessive instrumentation and production. A trio is even cooler if they happen to be intellectual, interesting, and beautiful young women, cue Automatic. The LA-based band consisting of Izzy Glaudini (synths, lead vocals), Lola Dompé (drums, vocals) and Halle Saxon (bass, vocals) are the kind of women you want to know with chic and very real anti-capitalism, a love of Swedish sci-fi and second hand Margiela.

Following a sold-out tour in early 2023 touring their record Excess, Automatic are here playing Splendour in the Grass, side shows for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and their own headline shows. Their controlled, yet powerful, brand of post-punk has gathered Automatic some incredible accolades, allowing them to tour with Tame Impala, and goth icons Bauhaus. They have also won over the fashion world, supplying their songs to the likes of Céline, Givenchy, Miu Miu and Hermes. RUSSH spoke to the band (who may or not be a little dusty) about corporate excess, Jung, psychic connections, and their raison d’etre.

Izzy is ‘loosey goosey’ and promises little filter when we speak the morning after the night before. After asking my advice on what to wear weather-wise, we discuss their love of Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Having just seen her at a festival, they reassure anyone who is in doubt that Karen is “an amazing performer”. Automatic feel great about the way their second record, Excess, has been received, noting that people appreciate that it's more “intentional and conceptual.” A cerebral trio, the band tell me the record was conceived during COVID-19, “where there was nothing else to do but sit and think and think and think.”

With a heavy synth presence, Automatic like to sit in the sweet spot between the late 70s and early 80s, before synths became a vehicle for pop music. Automatic tell me that Suicide and Patrick Cowley, both of whom were huge influences on the most recent record. In the tradition of girl punk bands I suggest there are elements of The Slits in what they do, even though they diverge from sonically from them, there is still a similar attitude and ethos. Automatic tell me that “[they] are psychically drawing inspiration from them all of the time.” Automatic are so psychically connected with Viv Albertine that when Halle was reading Albertine’s book on tour in Switzerland, the location in the book mirrored Automatic’s current location. Evidently, this is a band blessed by goddesses of female punk.

Fans of John Waters and Jung, I probe deeper into the band’s love of Jung and Izzy tells me that she is drawn to his magical thinking, “he’s very fascinating.” Automatic, whilst occasionally presenting more obtuse lyrics, are into psychology, relationships, and archetypes of human behaviour, letting these things influence their art. Izzy explains that “Jung likes stories and allegories – and that influences us lyrically. It’s also a great tool for understanding why people feel the way they feel.” When Jung isn’t enough, Automatic turn to Louis MacNeice, Dylan Thomas and of course, Leonard Cohen.

Both Automatic’s record – Signal, which came out in 2019, and Excess which came out last year – have been recorded to tape. Though the production on Excess could be called more sophisticated, or fuller, Automatic attribute this to their producer and themselves having found their chops, rather than a change in the process of recording. Automatic reassure their audience that “We are always going to keep an element of tape in our recordings, because the process is nice and is meaningful to us. You can’t put on unending tracks, so it keeps us naturally limited.” The restraint of tape gives the individual parts more meaning, and the songs more space for the listener to fill in their own interpretation.

Automatic have incredibly consistent visuals throughout their videos that channel Swedish sci-fi and a world that is just removed enough from our own to discuss ideas in their purest form, “it goes along with the record’s theme of 'the end of the world' and provides different ways of picturing society.” The band cite Tarkovsky as a reference for the video for New Beginning, Metropolis, silent cinema, “and just, like, you know, the classics.”

New Beginning also takes inspiration from the Swedish sci-fi film Aniara; Automatic reject the false hope of leaving behind a scorched planet and searching for 'a better place', at a moment when the ultra-rich are eyeing manned space travel, “In the service of desire / We will travel far away". The song and accompanying video imagine the “nihilism and loneliness” of attempting to escape the planet once unchecked consumerism has reached its logical outcome.

Returning back from the necessary theoretical, to the reality of what it is to be a touring band, I’m curious to know how they survive such busy and impressive schedules. The consensus seems to be that as long as Halle sleeps next to the air conditioning, there are occasional smatterings of hotel television, noise-cancelling headphones, mushroom supplements and clean laundry, the band continues to thrive. When asked what makes up their dirty laundry, Automatic profess they are thrift shoppers, which plays into their band’s ideology as much as their aesthetic.

Automatic will be playing shows across Australia from 19 July 2023. For more information on tour dates and tickets, visit Automatic's website.

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Image courtesy of Automatic.