Permanent Ability is a funk rock band from Los Angeles, headed up by frontman Brian Lanese. With most new bands seemingly leaning towards the folk-rock, roots, indie type of sound, it’s refreshing to hear a band trying to forge it’s own identity. Permanent Ability harks back to the alternative sounds of the early 90s, where bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Incubus were meshing together hard rock and funk. However, they manage to do so with a modern twist and a slightly more aggressive attitude.
The band’s first EP, “From The Womb To Hollywood,” was released in 2008 and featured Lige Curry, the bassist from Parliament Funkadelic. For their second effort, “Bring It On!,” Permanent Ability teamed up with notable producer Jim Wirt (Incubus, No Doubt, Jack’s Mannequinn) to create their defining EP that led to an impressive 5, 1st round Grammy Nominations.
Now, Brian and his band are working on their first full length album, “Love You To Death.” Hoping to release the new album sometime later this year, the band has 2 of the new songs up on SoundCloud for you to feast your ears. Check them out below.
We recently got a chance to chat with lead singer/songwriter Brian Lanese about the history of Permanent Ability and the upcoming album.
How did you get your start in music?
I remember it was back in 2003 in Connecticut before I came to LA. I came up with the name Permanent Ability and how profound of a statement those two words alone made. I decided one day that I was tired of waiting for my favorite bands to create new music, and simply started writing. From there, I wrote a shitload of music, and found I could not only write with immense creative passion, but I also found that the funk rock genre was motivating with all the energy I wanted to creatively portray. Luckily, music has been a part of my life since preschool, and since I was in mostly public schools up until high school, music education was apart of our daily curriculum and I am very thankful and fortunate for that.
Tell us about all the band members and how you guys all get together.
Since I write all of the music, including the instrumental parts, once I moved to LA it wasn’t too hard to find great musicians to circle myself with, who believed enough in the project to get it off the ground and start making some noise together. My friends have dubbed me with the nickname “The Trent Reznor of Funk Rock” due to the many musical hats I wear. But I’ve been down the band member road and tried to make it an equal partnership but it never was that way. In this city there is a lot of leeches and people who want you to get them there without putting in the effort. I’m a “give credit where credit is due” kind of guy so that shit don’t fly with me. So I am the lone, steady band member and use hired guns for studio and live performances. For my band it works out great this way and I know I’m always working with professional people with excellent creative ideas to help me achieve an amazing end product.
You worked with the infamous producer Jim Wirt on your EP “Bring It On.” How did you guys hook up and are you working with him for your forthcoming full length?
Unfortunately, with no bad blood we parted ways with Jim this time around. Jim brought tons to the table back in 2010, but it was already set, so to speak. He simply helped define the sound, and captured it with “Bring It On!”
With “Bring It On!” we worked and worked the songs before recording and had already developed the sound. So when Jim Wirt stepped in, it was easy for him to refine it if needed, and then implemented his producing style to it. I was with him daily for twelve hours, twelve days straight just soaking up all the knowledge like a sponge, asking questions, making mental notes, etc. The final outcome was priceless, and the knowledge he shared, along with resources I now have moving forward to create music, it’s finally becoming second nature. Using what I learned by working under and studying Jim, I now have the ability to produce my records the same way, using the same methods and team, minus Jim.
Fortunately, I had a great teacher and the new record, “Love You to Death” will be produced by yours truly, using the exact same team we used for “Bring It On!” minus Jim due to funding. It’s all second nature at this point to me.
How’s the experience been writing and recording “Love You To Death” so far?
Excellent! This is the best music I have ever written. I’d say much of it is recorded already, the songs just need some polishing up, but along the way I came up with more tunes that I intend to put on the album, so those new tracks will be recorded soon too. I can’t speak of a definitive timeline though. The cool thing about doing this ourselves is we not only save money but there’s no heavy-handed pressure from a label to hurry up and force a product out there. But we are trying to get it out as soon as we can so we don’t lose any momentum. We’ve been releasing new songs as singles to hold fans over. I’ve also ran into a bout of lyrical writers block currently and I have four more songs to finish and sing. Our goal is to release it by the fall or sooner if possible. We are behind schedule a few months is all and hopefully will make that fall deadline.
Some interesting facts regarding the recording of “Love You to Death,” we were able to use tier vintage equipment on this record. I had access to a 1964 Gretch drum kit owned by Chad Smith of the Chili Peppers. The kick drum alone is 28 inches and it sounds MASSIVE! Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters also lent my drum tech 4 to 5 different snares for us to try too. The bass is done by my good friend Mario Pagliarulo who is the bassist for Serj Tankian’s band The F.C.C. and is featured as well on the record.
What is most important for me this time around is that I wanted this record to have a less is more approach. I felt with “Bring It On!” a lot of the music was too, too busy, as if we were playing live. I felt it had a dated drum sound and there were tons of mistakes for the amount of money I paid for it. This time around, I have more control and get to explore the concept of having each musician play what is right for each song. When I write the songs, I know the musicians well enough and write the parts with them in mind and also aware of how we can pull it off live. Although, the bass and drums on my records are always cut together live to keep that feel just a bit.
This record I feel will be my greatest one to date. The slow song “Only Rain” ventures out into using different layers including pianos and violins. I also wrote a song called “Punch A Bitch.” Despite its title its about an argument I got into with Chelsea Handler at a grocery store in Los Angeles. She put me on blast on her show too, so this is my creative rebuttal. It’s tastefully done too and I’m proud of the outcome.
“Just Another Day” is my lyrical unveiling, aimed directly at the phoniness of Hollywood and the music industry. I hate it! I wanted it to be an assault and expose it for what it truly is, so it had to hit hard for me. I needed the motivation to fuel my anger to deliver an intense performance. This record is more mature with solidified concepts and lyrically well written, I feel.
A lot of the songs on “Bring It On!” I wrote in my late teens and early twenties, and that album does have its immature moments, but that’s where I was at the moment. Their are some solid songs on that record that kind of peak into “Love You to Death’s” writing style, though. I felt “Love You to Death” had the ability for me to prove evolution has begun within me as a writer both lyrically and compositionally. I now arrange the songs without insecurity and staying true to my creed of saying what I want and doing what I say. “Good At Losing” was actually supposed to make the record “Bring It On!” but I felt it didn’t fit collectively with the rest and I’m glad I waited to release it too. It was recored even too, but I decided to redo it. The final song exceeded my expectations and Orlando Mestre’s solo is killer in it too!
Are there any tour plans in support of the new album?
Of course. Starting here in the US to Europe, and we are also throwing in some dates for Japan.
I hear influences of early RHCP and Incubus in your music. Are those bands influential to you?
Yes. Those bands have a big influence on us. But I do feel Permanent Ability has its own fresh original sound that defines us. Just because we have those influences doesn’t necessarily mean that they are all embedded within the music of Permanent Ability. I’ll listen to LL Cool J when I want to deliver a rap melody for a rock song to be inspired, or Pink Floyd to inspire a clever composition and/or arrangement, and Metallica at times when that craving comes for a beefier sounding Permanent Ability song. I mean, we listen to everything, and listening to everything gives the creative ammunition needed to compete within the music industry, and keeps our ears diverse too.
L.A. has so many bands and so many people looking to make it in the music business. Is it hard to rise above the noise?
Permanent Ability has been rather fortunate. The music scene here thrives with a lot of decent bands, and is of course saturated with tons of shitty ones, too. LA was the unofficial mecca of the music business. But since a lot of major labels went under, the industry is in shambles. Now there really is no formula any more as to where or how success can be attained. I think every good band has a love/hate relationship with the LA music scene, and it is definitely a grind at times too. But on the plus side, it’s a hell of a lot easier to gain exposure here, and to work with real professional talented people from musicians to engineers to producers.
Basically, like every goal anyone sets for themselves, it’s a fight, but as long as you stick it out and keep moving, talent will rise and always get you further than who you know. Plus we stick out like sore thumbs because in the age of this indie, hipster music you actually need talent to play and perform the funk rock genre of music, making it easier to make more noise than some because we are going against the grain of what’s “in” today.
If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 3 records to listen to, what would they be?
LL Cool J’s “Mr. Smith,” “BloodSugarSexMagik,” and any Led Zeppelin album.
What band would be like your dream come true to tour with?
For me it would be the Red Hot Chili Peppers with John Frusciante in the lineup.