Story By Jonathan D’Auria

Photos by Jon Mancuso

The Grim Reaper Blues-Video

Live @ Sunset Junction 2008

Top to Bottom: Paz Lenchantin, Guy Blakeslee, Derek James

Do you guys feel there’s an unfair stereotype that goes with being classified as “psychedelic” music?

Guy: I’ve wanted to stop calling our music “psychedelic,” although I guess it depends who asks. Sometimes I give that as a generic answer. My personal philosophy is that any music done right is psychedelic, because that is the purpose of music—to transcend the listener.

I could definitely see how the term “psychedelic” could be misleading with some negative connotations. 

Guy: Definitely. Too many people use that term too freely. We were playing a “psychedelic” festival recently and it was just a bunch of people dropping acid, but there was nothing else that was psychedelic about it. It was almost funny. 

So how would you classify your music?

Guy: At this point I would definitely say we’re a power trio, which extends way past our format. Even if we have different styles, it’s all about the interplay of the three of us as components. I guess our music is rock & roll when it comes down to it.

Paz: People could say that our music sounds inspired by bands from the past, but to me it sounds a lot more current. I think that the similarity to those groups comes from the fact that a lot of them were power trios, and that’s as far as the comparisons go.

Derek: Yeah, it’s definitely the trio format that brings on those parallels. I think we have a really modern sound, especially on our new material.

What is your ultimate goal in making music?

Derek: To reach as many different people as possible of all walks of life. We really want to transcend musical niches and stereotypes, making everything accessible to everyone.

Paz: To keep making music—I definitely don’t want to stop anytime soon.

Guy: Yeah, because creating new music is the best way for there to be good music out there—period.

Paz: Yeah, hearing people talk about how there’s no good music and how the music industry is going down is like hearing people talking about gas prices. It’s so stupid and repetitive. There’s an alternative fuel (laughing) and we’re that fuel.

How different were your previous bands from Entrance?

Guy: I used to play bass in a Baltimore band called The Convocation of… and I feel like this band is a direct evolution of that project.

Derek: I was only in metal bands before this, but the way I play in this band isn’t that much of a stretch from that style of drumming.

Paz: The bands I was in, like A Perfect Circle and Zwan, were a lot different than this one, but I don’t think people change the way they play—I think it’s only the setting that changes. 

Have you found that to be true in most all of the projects you guys have worked on?

Paz: I think so. Well, actually, some studio-trained musicians are like prostitutes—“What do you want me to be? I’ll be whatever you want” (laughing).

What are you guys listening to right now?

Paz: Alicia Keys and a lot of other R&B and soul.

Guy: I’ve been listening to a lot of African music. A lot of African guitarists are amazing to me.

Derek: I listen to a ton of new stuff. I’ve really been digging Lil’ Wayne lately.

Wow, that’s about the last thing I would ever expected to hear come out of your mouth.

Derek: Well, I stay really current, so I can’t rule anything out.

What bands do you like to tour with when you can?

Paz: We did a whole tour with Stephen Malkmus—that was a lot of fun.

Guy: And I toured for a long time through Europe opening up for Cat Power. That was pretty amazing.

And Paz, your custom bass is soon to be released by Luna Guitars. Congrats! Tell us a bit about that.

Paz: Thank you. I’m really excited about it. Lots of custom instruments aren’t made to the caliber or specifications of the musician they’re for, but Luna did everything exactly how I wanted it. They should be available for sale around wintertime.

How do they sound?

Paz: Amazing. I actually think I’m going to tour with it instead of my vintage Fender—they sound that good!

And finally, are there any tours lined up right now?

Guy: No tours yet. Our only focus for the time being is getting this album completed. It will probably be a quick process because we usually work fast, but we don’t want to skip over anything with this album. We’ll be posting any plans for release or tour on our webpage, though, at                                 -GX-

And how far along are you guys in the recording process?

Guy: We’re just coming out of pre-production. We’ve demoed all these songs to get a feel for them, and now we’re capping them off before we head into the studio.

Paz: We’ve played most of the new material live, so that has given us a great idea of how people will react to it.

How different is your live show from your playing in the studio?

Paz:  All our live performances are different, and I think that’s what brings people back to see us. Even if we play the same songs, it’s an entirely different set every night.

Derek: Right now, it’s important that we test the different places we can take these songs, so that the record is the best representation of the songs themselves.

Paz: Yeah. So many times, you make a record, you go out to tour it, and you make certain changes to songs along the way. Then you wish you had recorded those versions rather than the first ones. That gets frustrating, so we’re trying to work those out before we track anything.

Does it intensify the recording process to put so much scrutiny into these songs?

Paz: We’ve definitely gone through some transformation by testing these songs, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s been stressful. I mean, you can write all you want in your head, but at the end of the day you have to give it life. You gotta play it or it stays in your head and drives you crazy. So I guess it’s not about being picky—it’s about being natural with it.

Do you all write the music, or is it an individual effort?

Guy: I wrote all the songs for Prayer of Death and everything before, but this time it was a total collaborative effort. I didn’t want anything to sound like it was a songwriter and a backup band.

Guy, how do you write your lyrics?

Guy: I pretty much just download the lyrics from my brain when I need them. They usually come in finished form, so I edit them to fit the song. When I first moved here,  I used to walk a ton. I’ve never known how to drive a car, so I would just walk all over this place and that’s when they would come to me.

Paz: Yeah, we’ve got to get you some sneakers (laughing). Actually, I’ve been jogging a ton lately and it gets me in this really clairvoyant state of mind where all my brain focuses on in the rhythm of my breath. It’s really therapeutic, but more so, it’s an amazing way to write from the cadence and rhythm of running.

How do you guys decide which parts are going to be improvised, and how do you stay on track with each other through your jams?

Paz: We always have a place to start and a place to stop, and it’s kinda a free-for-all in-between. We always link up, though. We’re all very good listeners.

So you guys must be intensely honed in during your performances, right?

Guy: I pretty much black out when I’m playing. I get pretty nervous in front of people, so I just close my eyes and go into an alternate reality. I let the music take me to another place and I don’t come back until we finish. I am definitely always listening to what the other two are doing, but I never can remember what I do at a show. I’ll listen back to a tape and freak out because I won’t recall most of it.

So how did you guys meet and form a band together?

Guy: I was recording and touring by myself under the name Entrance and one of my records, Wandering Strangers (Fat Possum, 2004), featured Paz on violin. I really liked playing with her.

Paz: Yeah, we all met in Chicago because I was out there playing with Zwan at the time. Somehow we all ended up living in the same house at different times and didn’t even know it. It was pretty freaky.

Guy: I lived in Derek’s basement for a little while, and when I moved out, Paz moved in.

Derek: And it was crazy because I met Paz independently of Guy, so it was all fate. I had just met Paz, and all of a sudden she was my roommate for a short period.

Paz: I didn’t even know he was a drummer, but we quickly figured out that we had both played with Guy before.

Guy: And one day, randomly, my girlfriend, who was living in Chicago, called me and said, “I think I’m going to sublet this place from an awesome guy I met named Derek.” I was like, Holy shit—Derek! It was so connected.

Wow, so The Entrance Band was destined to form.

Guy: I knew I wanted two other people in my band for this music, and I kinda selected these two in my head before they knew it (laughing).

Paz: Actually, we selected you (laughing).

And did you all immediately click together? What was your first show like?

Derek: Oh, man! Our first show was totally impromptu. It was the last day of tracking for our album, in Chicago, and on a whim, we decided to play a club nearby. I don’t even think we had played multiple songs together yet at that point.

Paz: We all had to take cabs to the place, and we just walked in with our instruments and plugged in. I don’t even think I had a case for my bass—I just carried it inside through the snow and Derek clicked us off.

And how did the show go?

Guy: It went well, but only because we had been tracking that entire week, otherwise it could’ve been a disaster. That was when we realized that we could all improv with each other, because a lot of the parts weren’t even solidified yet. But we pulled it off, and after the show we went back to the studio and mixed the record until about six in the morning.

You’ve been writing material for a new album—what can we expect, and how will the new songs differ from Prayer of Death?

Guy: Prayer of Death was very specific in subject matter and theme. The new record is a lot more positive. These songs make you want to move around more than just bobbing your head.

        riving through the hills of Laurel Canyon, California, you can quickly lose count of the Beemers and Benzes parked outside the million-dollar homes. We swerve in and out of loops and turns, navigating past famous spots in Hollywood history, and shortly, we arrive in front of a cabin-esque home that looks like it was built long ago. It’s the one unpretentious building on the block. This must be the house of Entrance.

We’re greeted at the door by the tall, skinny silhouette of singer/guitarist Guy Blakeslee, who welcomes us into the open entry of the house and up the narrow wooden stairs. His eyes shift behind his glasses as he speaks, while he plays with the lining of the vest he’s sporting.

“You guys don’t have any herb, do you?” he asks, as routinely as one would ask for a tissue or a glass of water. His words linger until the farouche singer decides to perch himself on a pillow to play with his stomach. Drummer Derek James enters the room and happily greets us, his shy smile indicating a youthfulness contradicted by his sometimes-serious demeanor.

Just as we finish taking a tour of the house and are getting schooled in its history, a petite Jack Russell terrier bursts through the door, breaking Blakeslee’s train of thought. It sprints towards our legs, followed a second later by acclaimed bassist Paz Lenchantin.  Her sweater and jeans seem a far cry from the sharp black dresses and stiletto heels she used to wear onstage, but her days of playing stadiums with Maynard James Keenan in A Perfect Circle and Billy Corgan in Zwan seem like mere footnotes compared to the bliss she exudes while holding her frantic dog. “Sorry I’m late—Lefty demanded to come,” she says, beaming.

The trio seems slightly out of place in the trendy hills of Los Angeles, but they are a unit unto themselves, their identities blending together as they interact with one another, joking and chatting as the camera clicks away. If it wasn’t already clear from their records or their intensely free-form live shows, seeing them bond with one another is the clearest indication of their relationship. They’re certainly not a typical band by L.A. standards, but as you’ll see, there is nothing typical about The Entrance Band at all.

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