Child Actor popped up on my radar in 2012 with a trio of releases. Two quick EPs (Window and Partner) released for free on the band’s Bandcamp and a full-length (Victory) distributed through their label Fake Four. The 22 songs Max Heath and Sedgie Ogilvy dropped last year were overwhelming, a beautiful combination of layered synth-pop, shoegaze, R&B, and hip-hop. Throw their tracks in your car and drive around when the moon is full. Dance with a friend and tell them you love them. Eat a burrito in slow motion. Kick back and vibe to Child Actor, I know I am. In December, Ogilvy took an “indefinite hiatus” and now the band consists of Max and Natalie Plaza, who are cooking up some brilliance, hopefully for the summer. I talked to Max recently about his tour stories, writing music for the piano at the age of twelve, and reading Kurt Vonnegut. Be sure to check out Child Actor’s live show on April 13th at Pianos in NYC. They played the same venue on November 23rd last year and tore the roof off. Expect the same this time around. Get familiar.
neonpajamas: How’s it going? How has 2013 been treating you?
Max Heath: 2013 has been great so far. The best thing has been focusing on improving our live show and I think it’s been paying off.
neonpajamas: How was SXSW?
Max: This was our first time so it was pretty overwhelming. The best part by far was the Fake Four showcase. It was so much fun to play and watch sets by other FF artists. It’s a pretty rare label where almost all of us are friends and enjoy each other’s music.
neonpajamas: Did you speak to/link up with any artists?
Max: Not really aside from friends I already knew. I’m pretty bad about networking in general.
neonpajamas: What do you have planned for 2013?
Max: Trying to put together our next releases. I’m hoping on having enough music recorded to fill out an LP by the end of the summer. I’ve also done a few remixes and collaborations with Busdriver, Sadistik, and Ceschi that should be out this year.
neonpajamas: How long have you been creating music?
Max: I started writing music for the piano when I was around twelve, and proper songs when I was fourteen. Started doing (extremely low-tech) production around that time too.
neonpajamas: With two EPs and a full-length in 2012, do you see yourself maintaining this output/consistency?
Max: I don’t know if I want to do that many releases every year. I like the idea of having attention focused on one particular work every year or so. That said, I have a goal of starting and mostly finishing one song a week and it’s been mostly successful since the start of 2013.
neonpajamas: How do you approach your live shows?
Max: Each song is a different challenge. Since this material was originally recorded with no thought of live performance, we’ve done our best to use as little prerecorded material as possible. Some of these songs we play pretty much all everything in the arrangement on our keyboards and some we’ve decided a better approach is just focusing on singing and drumming. We’ve also worked hard on having a unique visual experience and started using projection recently.
neonpajamas: You have a tour with Blue Sky Black Death in March. How did you two link up?
Max: I met Ian way back in 2007 on a tour with a band I used to be in called Toca and I’ve been aware of their music since even earlier than that. When Victory came out I approached them about a remix since I knew they’d be a good fit and they were down. At around the same time they happened to be working on the Cliff Of Death EP with Deniro Farrar and they ended up using the remix as the beat for one of the tracks and hit us up to do a hook on another one. Talk about doing this tour came pretty naturally after that. Those guys are dope and hopefully about to get a lot more widely known. The new stuff they’ve been playing from their upcoming album is amazing.
neonpajamas: Any wild tour stories?
Max: There were far more wild moments than I had expected, but unfortunately one of the wildest was having our car broken into in broad daylight while we picked up some groceries for the road. We lost some important gear so that was kind of heartbreaking at the time. Plus, the windows got smashed and we had a long, cold, rainy drive to our next show. I believe the last thing the security guard said to me before we drove off was, “All right, pimpin’.”
Also, at SXSW, my friend Cody (aka Sadistik) parked the car for me and when we returned at around 2:30 a.m. it was in the process of getting cranked up on a tow truck. Luckily, there was this rapper hanging out there with his crew and they were all harassing the driver to slow him down and yelling at me to get in the car. The guy actually let us have the car back. The rapper told me his name is Rup Dog so you should go follow him on Twitter or something. I guess I do network after all.
neonpajamas: Do you see yourself doing bigger tours throughout the U.S. later?
Max: Yeah, absolutely. It’s all about opportunities and logistics.
neonpajamas: What was the last thing you read?
Max: Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s actually the first edition and the glue is old and dried out so every time I turned a page it would fall off making it a one-time disposable read. I felt kind of bad since I had borrowed it from my dad but it was better than not reading it at all.
neonpajamas: When you first began with music, did you ever envision working with hip-hop? Is that something you plan on pursuing in the future?
Max: No, I never saw it coming. As a teenager, I used to think rock was somehow superior to other forms of music. There was some moment where I “got” it, though, and after that I made hundreds of beats. It will probably always be pretty strongly ingrained in the DNA of Child Actor.
neonpajamas: You have an awesome name. Any story behind it?
Max: When I was thinking of names for the band I happened to watch There Will Be Blood and remarked to myself that the kid playing the character H.W. was a good child actor and then the phrase exploded in my head.
neonpajamas: Dream collaboration?
Max: D’Angelo comes to mind.
neonpajamas: When you create music, what does the atmosphere look like?
Max: Is this a question about synesthesia? I am actually synesthetic but I cannot see the atmosphere. I do see colors and textures in the music I make.
neonpajamas: What have you been listening to recently?
Max: I’ve been listening to almost nothing but Burial for some reason.
neonpajamas: Any final words of wisdom/shout-outs?
Max: I’m afraid of leaving anyone out so I’ll leave everyone out.