Sharky Laguana is the only remaining original member of the San Francisco-based pop band, Creeper Lagoon. After years as a college radio staple led to one major label flop, Laguana has new recruits: Jason Bassler, Rachel Lastimosa, Walt Szalva, Miles Tuffli and Greg Wells. Really, they are friendly cohorts pulled aboard to flesh out the creations of Laguana, who wrote all of the songs on the band's upcoming EP on Arena Rock Records, Remember the Future.
The EP is Laguana's best work to date and it signifies a downward shift in tempo, falling into the ambient drone that's popular among alternative rock outfits these days. After their over-produced debut on Dreamworks Records last year, Remember comes as a reflective moment, the songs of a lifelong musician deep in contemplation after his shot at the “big time” wasn't the commercial boon it ought to be (it rarely is).
I caught up with Laguana after a Creeper Lagoon rehearsal in San Francisco as he was entering a Burger King in search of a veggie burger. “I don't consider myself a vegetarian,” he says. “If there is a vegetarian dish in the restaurant I'll usually order it.” Laguana would like to be more of a vegetarian, he says, but the discipline he shows in his music far surpasses his dietary drive.
Laguana was born in Allegheny County, New York. He says he can't remember which city because his birth certificate was incinerated in 1998 after his flat on Haight Ashbury caught fire. That presents a problem for a touring musician. When Creeper Lagoon prepared to tour Europe, Laguana tried to attain a copy of his birth certificate so he could gain a passport, but he had a “devil of a time” because the hospital where he thought he was born was not where he remembered it.
Forgetting where one is born is quite peculiar, unless, of course, you're Keith Richards and the ability to retain information was fried in one incendiary night of rock excess, along with a large parcel of brain cells. As I press Laguana for the real deal surrounding his birth-and whether “Sharky” was his real name or a seedy stage moniker, he refuses to divulge much, accusing the line of questioning as “FBI-ish.”
So we return to the only thing that matters, both in Laguana's life and in the life of Creeper Lagoon: the present, and how rent in San Francisco is kicking both his and his band's ass.
Laguana describes S.F.'s high rents as “capitalism run amuck” and posits the micro-level problems of S.F.'s pricey real estate as the macro problem of America by citing the skewed distribution of wealth (90% of the wealth lies within less than 10% of the population). The frontman grows extraordionarily excited during this part of the interview, jumping to parenthetical examples that were loosely historical metaphors (“we're running on two hundred year old software”) as he tries to make sense of the post-9/11 chaos.
Then the anxiety in his voice wanes as he says, quite brightly: “We live under the best system, but this is a symptom of the system we live under. The very essence of capitalism is based on the exploitation of something. Something has to be exploited for someone to make money.”
Laguana isn't a passive observer using his interview time to espouse half-baked politics. When he's not working on Creeper, he donates time to Common Assets Defense Fund--an organization working to take common assets (water, land, air and radio waves) back from companies and distribute them to the people. He asserts, however, that he's no communist. Just a socialist counterbalance to a hyper-capitalist society; glad to be living in a free market, but wanting to make sure big business isn't the only one with a shopping cart and limitless credit.
Though fans might expect Laguana to use his music for these socialist ideas, Creeper Lagoon's lyrics have never preached the geo-political. In his off time he's an activist for the people; in his art, he's actively exploring more intimate matters.
“Most of the time when I write it comes from some kind of subconscious place and there is no agenda,” he says. “If I perceive myself having an agenda I pretty much kill that as soon as I can because I don't know that I have been able to do something that I was happy with where I had an agenda. That's not to say that I don't have an interest in being political; I just haven't as an artist found a way to merge my feelings about society or what's happening on our planet.
“It's kind of Zen in a sense,” he explains of his writing process. “If you try and apply any kind of logic to it, it kind of evaporates in your hand. The minute you try and grasp onto it, it will wiggle free.”