La Sera Lets the Light In

Published May 13, 2014

ABOVE: LA SERA’S KATY GOODMAN (LEFT) AND TODD WISENBAKER. PHOTO COURTESY OF JAKE MICHAELS

Katy Goodman’s music has focused on darker times over the last few years. This time around, Goodman is ready to bring back the light to La Sera, with music that’s both energetic and hardcore. Goodman—who spent the past several years as one-third of Vivian Girls—began La Sera to do something different. Her latest record comes following the end of Vivian Girls: the band just played their final show in Brooklyn back in March.

La Sera’s third LP Hour Of The Dawn brings new sounds to the surface: ’80s punk and pop dominate the tracks of this record, as opposed to the ’60s girl groups that heavily influenced Goodman’s previous albums. It could be a change of musical direction or her relocation from busy New York to sunny Los Angeles.

Following two U.S. performances, La Sera is about to embark upon a European tour that culminates at Primavera Sound Festival. Goodman is bringing along her friends in Springtime Carnivores, who have also been playing with her during performances. We spoke with Katy Goodman about the New Brunswick music scene, physics, and getting aggressive (with her music) again.

ILANA KAPLAN: How does your upcoming record differ from your past two?

KATY GOODMAN: It’s the first time I’ve fully collaborated with band members. Like fully. On the previous two records, I would write songs and then the producers would play on them and make them sound awesome. This time I brought on my band members earlier on in the songwriting process, so the songs were shaped by the people in the band, especially Todd, the new guitar player.

KAPLAN: Very cool. How was the last show with Vivian Girls?

GOODMAN: Yeah, we played March 2 or March 3. It feels pretty emotional, but it feels good to kind of put it to bed.

KAPLAN: I can understand that. Did you go to Rutgers too?

GOODMAN: I did!

KAPLAN: Me too!

GOODMAN: I graduated in 2007. I did the Masters of Education program.

KAPLAN: Cool. I graduated in 2011 and was originally in that program to be an English teacher. Where did you live in New Brunswick?

GOODMAN: I lived all over. At one point I lived on Commercial Ave. by Douglass. I lived in a bunch of different places on Louis Street. The last place I lived was a punk house on Hamilton Street, a place called Fuck Mountain. That was 2007 and 2008. That house was a thing: we used to do shows in the garage out back.

KAPLAN: I lived on Hamilton Street too. I went to a bunch of those basement shows over the years. Did Screaming Females used to play there?

GOODMAN: I think they definitely played there. We were across the street from the other punk house on Hamilton that threw shows. I’m not sure that it had a name.

KAPLAN: It might have been Meat Town. I lived in that area. I miss the New Brunswick music scene sometimes!

GOODMAN: Oh, I know. It shaped my whole existence.

KAPLAN: Your music from La Sera is quite different than the music from Vivian Girls. What inspired you to do this project?

GOODMAN: At the beginning, I think it was because it was so different. I was playing very loud, aggressive music in Vivian Girls, so when I sat down to make my own songs; all of them are coming out slow and soft. I thought, “This is crazy! This is not what I expected!” I went with it though, and I was like, “I guess that’s what I want to write right now.” As Vivian Girls became more inactive, I think my songs have become more aggressive because it’s more fun to play those songs.

KAPLAN: I can see that. How did you come up with the name “La Sera?”

GOODMAN: Well, I was on tour with Vivian Girls in Italy, and we were playing this show on the beach. It was really beautiful. This waiter walked by with a tray of drinks and one of the drinks on it was so cool; it was pink with fruit in it. I asked the waiter what it was called and he said it was called “la rosa de la sera.” It means “the rose of the evening.” I thought: it’s like me, I have red hair and it’s nighttime. I just shortened it to “La Sera” for ” the evening.”

KAPLAN: Awesome! It’s so beautiful. I feel like I would have chosen a cocktail with that name as a band name. What musicians and sounds have influenced La Sera the most?

GOODMAN: In the past it would have been ’60s girl groups, Roy Orbison and classic ’60s songwriters. For this record, it’s definitely The Smiths, The Pretenders, and The Cars. It’s more ’80s punk and pop. Punk-pop, if that’s a thing.

KAPLAN: Nice. Did you collaborate with the other Vivian Girls members on this record?

GOODMAN: No. It’s completely separate. On this record, I really collaborated with Todd Wisenbaker. He was the one who said, “Let’s make it sound like an early ’80s punk record.” My friend Rob once told me that songs can wear a lot of different clothes. You can have a song, but then you can dress it up in a lot of different ways. So, Todd was the one who said, “Let’s make these songs sound this way.” I love how it came out, and I think it was a great idea.

KAPLAN: That’s a good point. How did you go from physics to music?

GOODMAN: Well, there’s a lot of physics in music, first of all. For me, it was celestial spheres. It’s a beautiful thing: the relationship between music, physics, and science. When I was doing my student-teaching in high school, I did a whole lab on guitars. It’s a good tool to use when you’re studying tension, frequency and wavelengths. What happened was, I went to college and I was going to be a high school physics teacher, but throughout college I was also playing in basement punk bands with my friends and one of those bands just happened to do well. I was playing in a New Brunswick basement band, and my friend from high school, Cassie, would come and hang out in New Brunswick all the time. She was staring a band that was going to be based in Brooklyn, and she asked me to play bass in her band. That was Vivian Girls. It was kind of a fluke, but I’m just going with it. Why wouldn’t you? It’s kind of awesome that people want to listen to music I make. It’s really amazing. I feel super lucky that my physics degree turned into a music career.

LA SERA’S THIRD RECORD, HOUR OF THE DAWN, IS OUT TODAY ON HARDLY ART. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, PLEASE VISIT ITS FACEBOOK PAGE.