After dropping out of college, going through a handful of jobs, losing his girlfriend, and going to jail, Julian Porte’s mother pushed him to take his guitar and make a living. The only song he knew was “Trouble Man Blues” by Woody Guthrie. Despite that, he managed to make over $200 his first day playing the streets of Whittier, and he has continued making a living as a street musician to this day. Julian claims that the working-class, struggling people are the most supportive of him. In the more upscale neighborhoods, “people hold on to their money”, and he doesn’t do nearly as well.
A few years ago, Julian met drummer Jonathan Martin at a party. He borrowed his harmonica and showed off a bit. Later, Martin approached Julian about forming a band. Julian was interested and asked an old friend Gabriel Fernandez to join him on guitar. He previously played harmonica in a band with Gabriel called The Hitz. They shared a previous common interest in punk, and current interest in psychedelic rock. Later, they thought it was a joke when they received a phone call with a bass player with the exact same name as their drummer! Sure enough, this John Martin solidified the rhythm in the band, and brought them to another level musically with his tasteful and melodic bass playing. The band knew it had to get serious about writing songs, and they didn’t have anything finished, nor did anyone want to be the lead vocalist. Feeling a push to come up with a song, Julian turned to the heartbreak from a girl as the inspiration. This first song “Dorian Blu” appeared on their March 2013 demo. Here, Julian also decided he would step out as the lead singer.
A psychedelic experience which led to a jam session produced what Julian described as a feeling of levitation. After expressing that, they felt it was a great idea for a band name. Research on what names were already taken, and further discussion led to the decision to name the band Levitation Room. In January 2015 they released an EP “Minds of Our Own” on Burger Records, which was printed only on cassette, in addition to digital media. Their debut full-length album “Ethos” finds Levitation Room refining their sound, and exploring deeper themes with ten tightly arranged, compact psychedelic rock tunes, which are adventurous, though not excessive. The songs are rather concise, and with a good amount of contrasting sections to keep things interesting, yet still focused and purposeful.
“Ethos” contains some material from “Minds of Our Own”, as well as one song from their 2013 demo titled “Til You Reach Your Last Breath”. This, like the other previously released tracks have improved upon performances from the band, as well as a better mix and sound quality. This song alternates a mother’s advice (first verse) with the father’s advice (second verse), and features counterpoint vocal harmonies on the chorus. This is an example of Levitation Room doing what they do best – creating a song at or under three minutes that has a relaxed vibe, lyrics with a message, interesting instrumental colors, and heart-felt vocals.
“Ethos” opens with the upbeat clear guitar chord strumming over a fuzzy surf-guitar lead of “Strangers of Our Time”. The catchy chorus, reverb-laden vocals, and rhythmic stops pull the listener into the vibe. Next, their ode to marijuana, “Cosmic Flowers” continues the upbeat vibe with some tasty lead guitar. “Loved”, an earlier release, features high falsetto vocals on the chorus, catchy stops, and nice fuzz lead guitar lines. The centerpiece, or side one closer “Reasons Why” is one of their strongest songs. The band released a video for this song from “Minds of Our Own”. This improved recording features a better mix of the fuzz guitar that sounds like a saxophone blowing on the chorus, and dual guitar leads to close the track. This track and “Standing in the Rain” begin to feature keyboards from the latest member to join the band, Glenn Brigman, who came on board about a year ago. Glenn, along with Josh Menashe (guitarist from their band The Triptides), handled the production engineering on “Ethos” with a vintage reel-to-reel tape recorder at the heart of their setup.
“There’s so much to be said and young people aren’t involved. We need a revolution in music!”, Julian says.
“There’s plenty of music to dance to, but not enough music to listen to…to provoke thought.”. Julian and Levitation Room feel a responsibility to implore ideas, and set the tone.
“Everyone’s asleep! Let’s wake ‘em up!”
Julian feels kids are currently conditioned to being socially awkward. There are so many technological devices that are becoming distractions from actual human interaction. Also, while Julian can talk at length about magical, inspirational, and healing experiences with psychedelics, he also understands the inherit danger with abuse of any substance. Perhaps the peak performance from the band on “Ethos” is the album closer, and first single (and video) “Crystal Ball”. This showcases the full band, with each part contributing equally, and a definite psychedelic-like vibe. The lyrics on the chorus, however caution the casual party-seeking individual who may not properly prepare, or come upon danger. “Sometimes when you trip you fall…”, Julian cautions.
“Ethos” will be released March 19th on Burger Records. In addition to being available digitally online, it will be printed on vinyl, cassette, and CD. The band has immediate plans for another video as well as release shows in Los Angeles, and Orange County.