Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sound and Vision: My Interview with Harley Prechtel-Cortez of The Weather Underground

(Photo by Andy Tennille)

The Weather Underground is a great 4-piece band out of the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles. When I saw them for the first time here in DC back in June, I described them as follows:

The Weather Underground plays rock music that is tinged with the influences of folk, soul, punk, gospel, and Latin, the latter making sense as lead singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist Harley Prechtel-Cortez is very tied to his Guatemalan heritage (more on that later). But I'm not talking Gipsy Kings imitators here, I'm talking “the Strokes meet a mariachi band meet Otis Redding,” or “The Cribs meet Hank Williams meet Bono, with some Sandinista-era Clash" thrown in for good measure. The neat thing about listening to this band is that each musician's piece is really interesting and creative separately, so that when they pull it all together it becomes one amazing sound. (full DC review, NYC review)

I had the great pleasure of conducting two interviews with The Weather Underground, one with the group as a whole and one with Prechtel-Cortez alone. The full band one, which posts tomorrow, was conducted after their DC show, and can be summed up in one word: hilarious. It's definitely a funny interview, but it also shows just how charming and comical these guys are as individuals, as well as how close they are as friends.

As one would imagine, we missed some things or wound up on tangents so late in the evening, so Prechtel-Cortez and I sat down a short time later to recap, which is what you'll see below. Not only did we tie up some loose ends from the previous interview, but I think we also captured some interesting insights about this enigmatic and whipsmart frontman (he was a budding rapper as a little kid! He lived in the same neighborhood as the Ramones!), the ways that he and the band approach their beautifully crafted songs, and the influences that permeate both. Prechtel-Cortez is a gentleman's old soul in a 20-something's body whose writing and intellect bridge the two realms perfectly in a very unique way.

Part 1

Part 2

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