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Most of the material you write is very introspective and comes across as being very personal. When you're onstage playing do you find it unnerving at all to be singing about things that are so close to the heart?

Samezvous: So much of it depends on the audience. If you're playing in front of a receptive crowd it feels like you can give all that you have because they're giving back -- the energy is exchanged and you're not losing it. But if you're playing in front of a really hostile audience it's really tough. I've played some acoustic shows in front of audiences that were not pleased that I was playing for them. And that's the risk.

My songs aren't necessarily confessional songs, but they are personal songs. If people aren't responding to it and people don't like it, it's tough to get through a set. But if people are digging it, it's beautiful; you can just give and give and give.

Do you ever have anyone come up and say that they claim to know what a particular song is about, or try to claim it as their own?

Samezvous: I've had a couple of people ask me about the same song, interestingly enough. Two different people have written me e-mails about "The Fisherman's King," the first track off For Ramona. One is our biggest fan, a really sweet girl who lives in Seattle named Rebecca. She was listening to it in her office and started discussing the song with her colleagues and finally asked me what it meant. I don't really know how to respond to that because I only know what that song means for me, and that doesn't necessarily mean that even I know what the song means. I get as specific as I can, and beyond that is a mystery even to me. So whatever you hear in the song... if it works for you, it's probably about that then.

[ photo by justin renney ]
photo by justin renney
[ give a listen! ] "The Fisherman's King" MP3
96kbs/32sec/391kb

A lot of your lyrics are more like little prayers or meditations. It seems that it's not so much what you're trying to spell out specifically through them, but more of evoking a feeling.

Samezvous: Less is more. Like I said, all the ideas that have ever come to me have been luck, including the words. Most of the time when I'm singing I just start singing whatever comes out. When I write a song I start singing and playing chords, and whatever words come out of my mouth at that moment is usually what gets recorded in the end. I don't have any time to think with it, I just go with whatever comes off the top of my head.

I've always liked artists that gave you the room to reinterpret their songs, that weren't so specific that you couldn't find your own life within them. That's just always what I gravitated towards. In the end I only know what a song means to me.

What do you think the biggest mischaracterization is about you or your music?

Samezvous: That Los Halos is a "shoegazer" band.

Really?

Samezvous: Yeah, because I just don't see it. I guess I can kind of understand it a little bit with our first album. To me, I tend to think of myself as a songwriter more than anything else. As much as I love bands like Spiritualized and that, with shoegazer bands like Spiritualized I always felt like you could take any line out of any song and put it into a completely different song and it wouldn't make any difference. There are a bunch of lines, but there's no story there. Know what I mean? The lyrics are almost beside the point, and half of the time you can't even understand them.

Which is beautiful, it's fine. There's a purpose to it, a definite purpose, and I can appreciate that. There is that mystery -- that total ethereal kind of oblivion that doesn't need words, only sounds. But lyrics are, quite honestly, the focal point of what I do. So to me there's not a single line in any one of the songs that I've written that's not absolutely necessary for that song and can be omitted. Every time I see us labeled as shoegazer I just think that someone isn't listening to us close enough -- but that's just me being a prick. [Laughs] Everyone hears it differently.

Everyone looks for a common language to describe things to each other. It's human nature to make comparisons, even if they are not totally on mark.

Samezvous: Exactly. That is human nature, and I do the same thing. But the shoegazer thing leads into the whole "indie" thing, and I don't even consider what I do as indie.

How would you define that term?

Samezvous: I don't know. It's like a clique, and I don't like being part of any one clique. As much as I can consciously avoid it, I do, but we're all guilty of it. When I was younger and started listening to "alternative" music, what I liked about is was that there was so much going on and I thought it was so cool that you could do anything. When I hear people not like something just because it's not in "this" or "that" group it frustrates me, because I think that there's so many different types of cool music that if people would just listen to it with an open mind they'd like it.

It's a hierarchy issue. Are you a Star-Belly Sneetch or a Plain-Belly Sneetch? It's not so much what it's about, but having a label to name yourself by.

Samezvous: Exactly! To me, "indie" just sounds very one-dimensional. It's not, but a lot of the bands that rally around the flag think it is, and a lot of people who listen to it seem to limit themselves based on rather narrow minded reasons.

That's too bad. And it's their loss, ultimately.

Samezvous: Yeah, it is, because there's some cool stuff out there.

What about referring to your music as "naval gazer"?

Samezvous: [Laughs] "Naval gazer"? I'll take that, what the hell.

[ los halos ]

You have some fantastic artwork on your first two albums. Who's responsible for that?

Samezvous: Our first album is a painting of mine. For Ramona is a painting by Xpreston, who was in the band at the time. And the most recent cover is a photograph that I took.

You said that you have several albums in the works. What's down the road for you in regards to those?

Samezvous: Right now I'm taking a break because I was recently diagnosed as having degenerative disks in my spine.

Ouch!

Samezvous: Yeah. And I've been in substantial amounts of pain each and every day for the past few months.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Samezvous: I've been taking a bunch of pain killers and I'm also on steroids right now, and I'm starting two months of pretty intensive physical therapy to try and alleviate some of the pain. But right now I can't do anything.

What happened?

Samezvous: Basically, between the vertebrae of your spine there are these disks that are almost like a circular pencil eraser, and in the center there's jelly. All that is what cushions the vertebrae. The pads, those cushions, between my vertebrae are wearing down, so my spinal chord and my nerves are becoming pinched. It feels like someone is pinching my spinal chord at all times. [Laughs]

I'm amazed that you can laugh about it with that kind of gorilla sitting on your back.

Samezvous: A gorilla... exactly! That's what it feels like. It's rough! But it could be a lot worse. It could be my lower back, in which case I wouldn't even be able to work; so I should count my blessings. But still, it's painful.

So right now I'm not doing much of anything. When I'm not working, I'm laying down, and that's about it. I take my pain killers, go to work, come home and rest.

[ photo by justin renney ]
photo by justin renney

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