Proud/Father and Dolce are the solo noise projects of Sebastian Figueroa and myself, respectively. Sebastian has been recording and performing under the name “Proud/Father” since 2009, both as a booker and performer in the glorious conglomerate that is the New Orleans experimental music scene. Though a Proud/Father set can take various forms, Sebastian most often performs pieces that move through tape loops and synth tones guided by lush melodizing on electric guitar. I created the alias “Dolce” in 2015 a few months before moving to New Orleans from Minneapolis. Dolce is a harsh noise project, meaning it could be (and has been) mistaken for a broken speaker. In this project, I layer mixer feedback over and over again, making the boards into brute synths. This dreamy West Coast tour was the fruit of many months of planning. The tour lasted a little over three weeks in January of 2018, where we traveled from Louisiana through Texas, the Southwest, Tijuana, California, the Northwest, and back again. This diary entails some of the best nights of what ended up being an incredible tour.
The day after New Year’s was cold as hell, but as often happens, we got held up checking over every last detail of our cargo. Stuffing inserts into newly-dubbed tapes, trying not to yell at any tourists holding up the car rental line, and making sure we didn’t forget most of our socks (we did) set us back a bit. We ended up arriving at Beerland on infamous Sixth Street just in time to catch Hi, Gene! closing out their set. For how rushed we felt, it was a relief to have our friend Max running sound on the recently upgraded sound system. This show ended up having one of the funkier bills of our tour, meaning we were the weird dark noise acts at a rock show, but a few crowd members got really into it and made it worth it. A homie from Miami, Street Rat, was in town and was super supportive, eagerly trading tapes with us and swapping tour stories. We ended up staying the night with my oldest childhood friend and spent the morning cruising the streets for Super 8 film (no luck) and geeking out at Austin’s amazing synth shop, Switched On.
After a day’s drive through West Texas into New Mexico, we arrived in Santa Fe and went straight to Meow Wolf, an interactive art project resembling a mix of sci-fi movies and the Abita Mystery House. We spent a whole afternoon climbing through the neon, spacey, Miyazakian funhouse that is the House of Eternal Return. Meow Wolf was a full cognitive makeover; getting lost and finding your way in that place over and over again leaves your brain feeling refreshed in a way that doesn’t happen often to a tired, overworked adult brain. After, we drove further west to yet another mystical house in the valley town of Abiquiu. Following our friend’s Jeep, we slinked along a winding path into an arroyo to the most magical venue we played all tour. The house was built by friends Amanda and Dain over eight years, with walls made of old tires and cans coated in adobe, kept warm and powered by the sun. We weren’t sure if anyone would venture out, but about ten local weirdos braved the winding arroyo to the noise show. After we played, Amanda and Dain played a mixture of live and recorded acid well into the morning. Nestled in the red mountains, you could see every star outside at night when you stepped out to pee by a cactus. We definitely could have spent a few more days at this place. And we couldn’t have asked for a better setting to celebrate Sebastian’s birthday.
After some deliberation, we decided it would be easiest to leave our car stateside and cross the US-Mexico border on foot. We packed our gear and rode the train from San Diego to the San Ysidro entry, where we walked from the wrong border entry (which was actually right) to another one with all our gear in tow. The actual border process was quick and easy, and on the other side we met our wonderful host and promoter Haydée Jimenez. Haydée drove us to a space called Out Here, run by a local artist collective. It was just a few blocks from the border crossing. Slightly weary from our border journey, we jumped right into an incredibly energetic party called Ruidosón Zone, with glitchy, noisy, son-affected beats blasting to a packed audience a block from the barbed wire fences of the border. We talked with all types of artists and activists, including a group that was selling pamphlets in support of Marichu (Maria de Jesus Patricio Martinez), an indigenous woman who is running for president of Mexico in the coming elections. As the party wound down, Haydée whisked us over to a nearby bar for the Official Afterparty, pointing out revolutionary landmarks and former clubs along the way. Although we were stoked about the DJs from the previous event, such as 7-14, the enthusiasm wasn’t returned. Each of us played rushed sets as the DJs set up their blinking gear. But luckily, being noise musicians, we were able to channel the tension into particularly brutal, harsh sets. It really wasn’t that negative; there was a group that was super into our sets. Afterwards, we were treated to the most amazing asado tacos near the beach and spent the next morning exploring the beautiful Playas neighborhood.
Like true rock stars, we got to the venue in San Diego just before we were supposed to play, plugged in, and jumped right into our sets. The gallery space was packed with people intently listening. Sam Lopez, who booked our show through his collective Stay Strange, decided to host an entire festival around our visit. This included sets from amazing metal and noise acts like White Eyes and Monochromacy, along with an experimental puppet piece by Nao Kobayashi. It was really inspiring to play a noise festival with almost exclusively Latinx performers and very attentive and supportive crowds. This was a far cry from the cliche of shirtless angry white aggression screamed into a mixer. Harsh, loud, and unapologetic as all the acts were, the fest ended promptly at 8 p.m. so Sam could get home in time to tuck his son into bed. The sincerity and kindness of everyone involved in this event was really moving and really affirmed things that we value about our scene in New Orleans: you can be thoughtful, kind, inclusive, and freaky all at once without compromise.
Lucky for us, we were in L.A. for the two days a year when it’s like New Orleans—pouring rain! Our first show in Los Angeles was at the Rec Center, a combination venue/recording studio tucked away at the edge of the fashion district. My friend from Minneapolis, Sophie Weil, a.k.a. Syko Friend, booked this perfectly rad event. After wandering around Chinatown looking for good ramen, we made our way to the show. Though this sound system was sick, the auto shop across the street blasting reggaeton had decidedly better speakers. We played with D’wirez, an angular synth pop project from San Diego, and Cut Stem, a glistening dark synth duo with a large assortment of gear and flowers. For an early weekday, we had a large and supportive crowd that loved hearing our sets through the incredibly loud sound system.
The next day we dropped off merch to Vacation Vinyl. This is a record store unlike any record store you’ve ever been to before—the guy working there persistently reminded us at least 50 times while playfully critiquing the noise tapes we sold him. Afterward we split up. Sebastian visited Rozz Williams’ grave and I got chased by a Hollywood raccoon. That night we played Coaxial Center for the Arts with Legg Lake and Vortal Curb. Coaxial is a visual art space run in part by Jonathan Borges of the legendary noise act Pedestrian Deposit. We were surprised to see a lot of the same faces from the night before and felt comfortable enough to stretch our sets out longer than usual. Sebastian noted that at this point in the tour, the average Dolce set ran for 4 to 6 minutes, whereas the Coaxial set was closer to 11. Even though the rain sucked, our L.A. shows left us feeling stoked to head up north.
Due to the devastating wildfires that plagued California shortly before our tour, the rain caused deadly landslides that shut down the 101, our fastest route to Humboldt County. We had no choice but to take the scenic Highway 5 and then cut through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The forest supposedly has breathtaking landscapes in the daylight, which we most unfortunately completely missed out on. We naively raced down a rainy, winding mountain road in the pitch-black darkness, with no cell service or gas station for nearly 80 miles. Nail-biting would be a way to describe it, but the leftover New Mexico magic got us through it without breaking down. With good luck and sheer focus, I did my best to navigate the steep, twisty roads on an empty tank for almost two hours, until we rolled safely into our location, a house venue named The Batcave. We arrived just in time to catch the last few moments of a dreamy set by Medicine Baul, and a glitched-out super collider set by Devin Nolan before decompressing, setting up, and playing. A huge wall of TVs behind us served as the visual accompaniment to our music, the loop of a beaver documentary being the crowd favorite. Afterwards, a lovely group of local weirdos took us to Don’s Donuts for late night banh mis.
Our drive north took us through the Redwoods and Pacific Coast Highway, with breathtaking views of the forests and ocean. At one point we came around a sharp turn into a valley to be greeted by the sight of 30 grazing elks treading majestically through the landscape. Portland was something of a return to reality, and we spent our time before the show visiting Powell’s City of Books, perusing Mississippi Avenue, and eating Thai food. The show was at the House of Good Spirits, set up by our longtime friend Open Marriage. The show took place in a lowered section of the house, almost like a converted billiard room but with electronic equipment instead of a pool table. Open Marriage played his blistering loud guitar and sample noise first, followed by Erin Cooper, who performed on a rare and elusive Buchla Easel through a multitude of guitar pedals. There was live VHS mixing from one of the residents and both our sets received a good reaction. Antlr’d, formerly of Birmingham, closed out the night with samples triggered from his snare drum layered into a soundscape. We shared stories about friends in New Orleans until passing out on the same sofa that Wolf Eyes passed out on long ago.
Nathan (from Casual Burn) hooked us up with a Seattle show at a venue called Substation. To our surprise, the show wasn’t in the main room with a stage, but in one of the smaller lockout rooms used for practicing bands, and we had to wait for a DJ to use up their allotted time before we could load in. Nathan recommended noise artist Pink Void share the bill with us, and she did not disappoint with her mixture of noisy guitar loops and field recordings. Lots of different Seattle weirdos trickled in to catch our sets, and the back room ended up feeling like an oasis from the Ben Folds Five cover band that was taking up the main stage across the hall. We met lots of cool locals, including guitarist Myla from the transfemme punk band Mud on the Bra. The merch table ended up being sandwiched between the two shows, and much to our delight, a drunken audience member of the main room confusedly yet zealously bought a Dolce shirt. We’re pretty sure his name was Trevor. Yeah, definitely a Trevor.
Matt Carney, also known as Silo Homes, was able to set us up a last minute show at E.M. Wolfman, a radical bookshop in Downtown Oakland. When we arrived, a queer skateboard crew was exiting their weekly meetup and we chatted with them and the staff about the space. This place was paradise. Each section of the shop was beautifully curated, with everything from modern fiction to zines to radical lit filling up the walls of the snug hole-in-the-wall. As most of our shows had been in houses and venues up to this point, we were both intrigued at the change in dynamic to a seated audience in a bookstore. Although we played a bit quieter than usual, both of us were feeling especially in tune with our sets and equipment at this point, and the blasts of mixer feedback and cassette loops were just a bit more in sync and expressive than our first show. The staff at E.M. Wolfman were especially hospitable and genuinely interested in our tour and music, which was flattering coming from such a unique and radical space. We performed with Bay Area ambient artist r. Beny, who Sebastian first encountered while making mixes for his show “Night Gallery” on WTUL. His drony soundscapes were a perfect close to the night. This stop also reunited us with the beloved Rotten Milk of New Orleans! He brought us to a mixtape party where we shared fun tapes with each other and then crashed at a huge warehouse.
Being noise musicians, we were able to channel the tension into particularly brutal, harsh sets.
As we made our way back through the Southwest a second time, Louisiana-bound, we stopped at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff before our show. This was where Pluto was first spotted. The air was fresh and clear in a pine forest on a hill overlooking the desert, but it got cold. Sebastian expertly navigated the icy hilly roads as if he’d been doing it his whole life. The show that night was at a space called Kickstand as a part of the Interference Noise Series. The tone was different than your average noise show. The room was packed, and before our sets, we were interviewed about our artistic practices by booker Owen Davis. Owen unfolded our music practice in an academic manner to the crowd, describing noise’s emergence out of Dada, influential Japanese artists who pioneered the style, and the political significance of noise as a defiant art practice. We were interviewed about our styles, our backgrounds, and how our work is influenced by New Orleans. It was so validating to have one of the last shows of tour allow us to articulate stuff that you so often blow over or ignore as an underground artist. Usually at a show you’re just trying to play louder than the wasted Trevors shouting in the corner. Here, we were able to play our sets with a more focused and careful energy than normal, and it was very well-received by a diverse crowd. It could be that our playing was more focused, but maybe it was our listening as well. We fell asleep satisfied with how this tour had shaped up to be, and woke up to snow. Sebastian lost his glasses while scraping snow off the car, but our dear host Chancy found them a few hours later while shoveling. We had run over them, but they were still salvageable—Seb had a stroke of good luck.
We braved the snow and crossed the red desert back in New Mexico once again. On our way, we pulled off the highway to stop at Homolovi State Park and explore the remains of centuries-old pueblos. We then arrived at a house named The Void in Albuquerque, which was packed with all types of freaks. There to greet us in all their beautiful warmth was the lovely Vasillus, an amazing performer who Sebastian had shared a bill with in the past. Though their set was decidedly more danceable and melodic than Proud/Father or Dolce, Vasillus insisted we were all playing the same queer melancholic jams. The house party got pretty crazy, and the night closed out with some young kids rapping over syrupy Soundcloud beats. After the show, we wanted to get a head start on our overly-long drive to East Texas. But the weather would not have it. We got stranded in some of the thickest, iciest snow either of us had ever seen in our young lives. We ended up getting a motel outside of Albuquerque and consoling ourselves with some 2 a.m. Waffle House.
Our last show of the tour did not disappoint. The show was put together by Sarah Ruth, who is a member of Asukubus, which has members in Texas and Louisiana. The crowd was great, the sound system was great, and the other acts were all so good. Prisons opened the show with dredgy, glitchy goodness, followed by some metal from Vaults of Zin, which featured Texas noise phenom Filth. Sebastian closed out his last set of tour with a Dead Can Dance cover, as per a request by Sarah Ruth. (A)sex ended the night with their visceral pedal noise. Everyone absolutely slayed. It was sick to end tour with such an all-around solid show, but bittersweet to know that tour was over. After chilling with Sarah Ruth’s sweet cat and drinking smoothies, we bumped Longmont Potion Castle (DUGAN NASH) and drove back to home sweet reality, New Orleans, USA.
Dolce and Proud/Father will be at the Mudlark Public Theatre on Saturday, April 14 with Verhalten; and Saturday, April 28 as part of the Asukubus + Hairface Tour Kickoff. For more info on Dolce (including a special tape package), email email@example.com. For more info on Proud/Father, check out proudfather1.bandcamp.com.
photos MARY SCOTT