Ken Leighton 12:30 p.m., Feb. 21
Sound description: Psychotic garage beat.
RIYL: Pretty Things, the Yardbirds, the 13th Floor Elevators
- "Thanks for the Grys-Grys, Loons" · Aug. 23, 2017
- "Loons Get Loose" · March 14, 2015
- "Loony in La Mesa" · March 11, 2015
- "Loons Don't Mind Being Misunderstood" · Feb. 5, 2015
- "Kick Out the Jams" · Dec. 31, 2013
- "Ugly at Thirty" · May 17, 2013
- Concert Review: "Interstellar Overdrive" · Dec. 2, 2009
- Blurt: "Raw, Dirty Records" · April 1, 2009
- Musician Interviews: "Gone Underground" · Nov. 1, 2007
Inception: La Mesa, 1995
Ex-Band Members: Mike Kamoo, Drums
Influences: Pretty Things, the Seeds, the Yardbirds, the Monks, the 13th Floor Elevators, MC5, the Misunderstood, the Outsiders
“We play psychotic beat music, tapping into the most exciting elements of mid-to-late ’60s rock and roll and channel it into new, intense, original songs of our own,” says bassist/singer Anja Diabolik, who cofounded the band with hubby Mike Stax (the Crawdaddys) in the mid-1990s. “We find it a lot more interesting than opting to be a mere ’60s garage-band jukebox.”
The Loons' 2004 album Paraphernalia introduces the full scope of their sound: Beatlesque vibes reincarnated in the form of post-punk fervency.
With hard rockers, alternative folk ballads, and retro pop hooks, the disc is reminiscent of Kinks rock operas of the late '60s. "Turned to Stone" and "Sweet Turns to Sour" capture the same kind of force, with the emphasis on the innovative use of feedback and vintage instrumentation. The lyricism does fall short due to simplicity and repetition. Take these lines from "Falsehood": "Watch what they say/ They're standin' in your way/ They're gonna make you pay/ Make the change today/ Pick the locks on your chosen cage/ Ain't it time to change." The biggest downfall is a lack of complexity. Still, the band pulls it off well, with each cut crafted into a well-performed singalong.
The voice of front man Mike Stax is indistinguishable from other indie vocalists, but he does hit a groove as he shuffles over the album's most memorable line, "Exploding jasmine seeds become our fantasy." The ballad "Follow the Rain" includes a background melody line that suggests a facet of complexity to the Loons' sound.
The band's most striking aspect is the excellent fusion of psychedelic rock with pop. They never abandons the New Wave and British Invasion influences sharpened with ambitious melodies and indie attitude.
"We are just getting back and have been doing a lot of new writing and practising, after taking almost two years off after having a baby," said Anja Diabolik in early 2010. "We also did some recordings and had Glen Campbell from the Misunderstood play slide on two songs (he overdubbed it in New Zealand) and the stuff sounds great. Way out psychedlic. That’s going to be on a future release for sure."
The resulting album Red Dissolving Rays of Light was released in June 2010. Soon after, they released a split single with Clinic: Loons “If You Could Read Your Mind” b/w Clinic “I’m Wanna Get You,” as well as a split single with the Sadies, covering each others’ songs.
In late 2011, the Loons recorded the Pretty Things’ “Loneliest Person” for a SF Sorrow covers album from UK label Fruits de Mer. In addition, Mike Stax says “We’ve completed about half a dozen tracks for the next Loons album, but looks like that won’t be finished until early next year now.”
When Stax's garage band 'zine Ugly Things celebrated its 30th anniversary in May 2013 at the Casbah, San Diego native Glenn Ross Campbell (of the Misunderstood) performed with the Loons on a three-day bill that also included Ebbot Lundberg (Soundtrack of Our Lives), Cyril Jordan (Flamin’ Groovies), the Neumans, Lundberg singing with a reunited version of Love called Love Revisited, a Sloths reunion, the Rosalyns (local ladies from the Loons, Schitzophonics, New Kinetics, and Chinese Rocks), Benedict Arnold & the Traitors (tributing Paul Revere & the Raiders), the Rising Ramrods (members of Nashville Ramblers), and original “I’m A No-Count” singer Ty Wagner, in his first performance since the ’60s.
Diabolik (who did special-effects makeup for a couple of English B-movies and calls herself a “book and history nerd and know more about the Tudor and Victorian era London than Henry VIII or Charles Dickens”) says “The late Rob Tyner of the MC5 said it best when he sang ‘Kick Out the Jams.’ Words still worth living and playing by.”
The band is featured in a 2014 book, Knights of Fuzz, detailing sixties-inspired bands including other locals like Shake Before Us, the Gravedigger V, the Morlocks, the Event, Tell-Tale Hearts, Manual Scan, and the Crawdaddys.
Their fourth album Inside Out Your Mind was recorded with vintage gear at Earthling Studio in El Cajon and released in March 2015. “Some songs were laid down live in just a few takes, others were built up layer by layer,” says Stax. “So it’s an album of contrasts this time, much more so than our previous three records.” The March 28 release party at the Casbah featured Glenn Campbell and a full Misunderstood set, which was reprised in London on April 3 at the Beat Bespoke festival, where the Loons played their own set and a second headlining set as Glenn Campbell’s Misunderstood.
On their return to the States, the Loons released a new 45 with two new tracks not on any album, on Dirty Water Records out of London.
Diamonds, Garbage and Gold - The Best of The Loons was released on cassette via Burger Records in November 2017. "We took the album title from one of our song titles, which seems fitting for a Best Of collection," says Stax. "There are a few diamonds, some garbage and a little gold. The cover art was a thought we had after Holger Czukay of the German band Can passed away. Rather than using a can, though, I got inspired by things which were around our kitchen, and also reflected the band's international background as well as a nod to '60s op-art. It's kind of crazy looking, but we're pleased how it came out."
In early 2019, after over a dozen years drumming for the Loons, Mike Kamoo was replaced by Chris Cancelliere (Jason Hanna & the Bullfighters), though Kamoo continued to write and produce for the Loons.