Los Coast has already developed a reputation as one of Austin’s best rousing, live bands and now deliver their long-awaited debut, Samsara, on the prestigious New West label. Their sound is an intoxicating mix of a whole slew of genres, (too many to include in the headline) that includes R&B, blues, indie rock, new wave, funk, and world music, with psychedelia mixed in. Frontman Trey Privott handles the lyrics and lead vocals with multi-instrumentalist, backing vocalist John Courtney at his side. The co-ed core five-piece unit also features bassist Megan Hartman, drummer Damian Llanes and keyboardist Natalie Wright. Various guests contribute mostly on horns and background vocals to produce one of the most dynamic sounds heard in some time. In unpredictable fashion tempos, themes, rhythms, and instrumentation constantly change throughout the generous 14 tracks.
The energy and the seamless fusing of these genres create remarkable, infectious, foot-stomping grooves that rarely relent. Instead, they threaten to explode at times. It’s Los Coast’s facility to mix the familiar with the unexpected that makes it so appealing. Privott says, “We started with a blank canvas, and we built a diverse color palette around the album that we wanted to create. It felt like everything was fair game, from psychedelic funk to the blues to acoustic singer-songwriter pop.” The funky, groove-laden tracks “Simplify,” “Monsters,” “Graves,” and the frenetic “Everything But) The Kitchen Sink” are clear standouts. Toward the end of the album we get experimentation with Courtney alone on synthesizers for “Cymatics,” “Freedumb” has Privott alone on vocals, and Privott alone on piano, guitar, and vocals for the closing “Chesapeake.”
Some of the wordplay is oddly curious too, none a better example than “(Everything But) The Kitchen Sink” with this first verse “Momma’s in the kitchen doing all the dishes./Poppa goes to church and says it makes a difference./I close my eyes and dream that I was swimming./But a man like me needs superstition./I’m out here trying to make a living./My baby’s at homeworking on her fitness./Momma’s in the kitchen doing all the dishes while I’m out here screaming.? ”Can I get a witness?”
Privott is Georgia-born and first fell in love with jazz, influenced by his uncle, jazz guitarist Hiram Bullock. His family’s Southern Baptist faith led him to embrace gospel and soul before he discovered punk rock, folk and hip-hop. Courtney is a Texan who plays a variety of instruments, studied at Boston’s Berklee School of Music, but sticks mostly to lead guitar in the band. Privott nods to the influences of Georgia legends Otis Redding and Little Richard while Courtney’s jazz training and love of guitarists like Jerry Garcia brings the psychedelic aspects to the band’s sound. Even though the band is well-oiled machine live, crafted by their long-running residency at Austin’s C-Boys club, they took a perfectionist approach to making the album. They reworked the album multiple times, going moment by moment, instrument by instrument to get it right.
Their diligent work has paid off immensely. This is more than an auspicious debut. It’s a monster.