June 7 2016 04:43 PM

Trio pursues conceptually haunting sounds

From left: Joshua Quon, Carlos Arteaga and Erika Marie
Photo by Kal Barre

    On a warm, breezy Memorial Day afternoon, the three members of San Diego darkwave trio Nylon Apartments are drinking beers in the shade in North Park. Under a canopy set up between the neighboring apartments where bassist Joshua Quon and vocalist Carlos Arteaga live—a makeshift outdoor living room of sorts—they appear a little at odds with their darker, more emotional stage presence, save for the fact that Quon, Arteaga and keyboardist Erika Marie are all dressed entirely in black. They're casual and comfortable in this setting. They're a band, but right now, they're just a group of friends taking advantage of a day off.

    That's more or less how the story of Nylon Apartments began, not with a clearly outlined vision, but with a series of chaotic, free-form jam sessions fueled by chintzy Casio keyboards and alcohol. By happenstance, Quon and Arteaga ended up as next-door neighbors six years ago, and shortly afterward came a revolving door of musicians joining in on the improvisation, eventually including Marie, which naturally evolved into a band dynamic.

    "There were some random jam sessions that would happen drunkenly," Quon says. "I used to have an upright bass so, I'd play that and guitar and...like a keyboard, but not a great one. There were times when there was a fair amount of people in there.

    "But there was one night when the keyboard was on, and Carlos was playing acoustic guitar. I was improvising a bassline, just figuring out what the scale was," he continues. "Then Erika came over and was like 'what chords are you playing?' And then she starts playing, and I was like 'holy shit you play keyboards!'"

    The band that was born of those early rehearsals and songwriting sessions began performing in 2014 as Nylon Apartments, embodying a dreamy and haunting gothic sound. To date, they haven't released an official album—they're heading into the studio this summer—but their Soundcloud page features a handful of tracks they've recorded, all of which comprise a cohesive aesthetic. "To Copy the Inscription" echoes early Cure at their most gloomy, while the sexier post-punk sound of "Trials" evokes Joy Division circa Unknown Pleasures. And within each of these songs, the band uses a minimal approach to their advantage, creating a rich atmosphere with gauzy synthesizers, wiry basslines and stark guitar riffs.

    It might come as a surprise to hear that Nylon Apartments, a band with such a distinctive sound and unified aesthetic, was born of something so unstructured and open-ended. But there was never an agenda to engineer the band to any particular style or genre. They did, however, share some similar emotional wounds and end-of-relationship malaise. Naturally, when they plugged in, something eerie and melancholy came out.

    "Each of us were going through breakups in long-term relationships. But...we didn't go in thinking let's do something post-punk or be this or that," Marie says. "Just emotionally, we were all in the same depressive space. So I think that's how it started to evolve into what became Nylon Apartments. It took a while."

    Despite the chemistry that arose from playing music together, the individual members of Nylon Apartments share as many differences in opinion as they do common interests. Quon, for instance, is the only one of the three with an affinity for free jazz. Likewise, they all come from different backgrounds—Quon is a West Coast native, while Arteaga grew up on the East Coast, and Marie is from the Midwest. What Nylon Apartments represents is where their identities and interests intersect: "The three of us all own The Cure's Faith on vinyl," Quon says.

    They do share an end goal, however: Making something honest.

    "Whether it's film or literature or music, those things that deal with more intense moods and emotions—I tend to be more interested and geek out than something that's just aesthetically beautiful," Arteaga says. "It's pretty, nice, versus something that's the full range of human nature or the underside of that. And I think that there's some catharsis there. We put emotion into what we're playing."

    Honesty, in their case, doesn't necessarily mean expressing something autobiographical. Arteaga emphasizes that even if their lyrics take the form of a character sketch or a metaphor, there's still a kernel of something honest and genuine at the center of it. In fact, even their name, which sounds, on the surface level, like a surrealist concept, actually reveals something much deeper. While they stumbled upon the combination of words by way of a cut-up technique used by David Bowie and William S. Burroughs, they soon came to realize that it served as a figurative representation of the close-quarters origin of the band itself.

    "When you live in an urban setting, you're kind of living on top of each other," Arteaga says. "Sometimes the walls are so thin you hear people fucking or like, yelling at each other. Just having their own stories. And it's interesting that there's not much dividing us, literally. Sharing that space you have, it really is sort of like nylon between us."

    Nylon Apartments play June 16 at Whistle Stop


    See all events on Wednesday, Dec 7