Countless aspiring actors, models and musicians have packed up everything they own, kissed the folks goodbye, and made the trek to Southern California in the hopes of finding fame and fortune among the suntanned masses.
For some, that voyage involves nothing more than a change of zip code, while others journey across state lines. But when Anna Karakalou and Panos Scourtis left home, with their suitcases full of aspirations and their sights set on Ventura, Calif., their exodus was more the stuff of rock legend than Hollywood cliché.
With a music legacy that had already seen them sharing the stage with the likes of Sonic Youth, Nick Cave and Moby, the Greece natives left more than continent, country and culture behind as they crossed the Atlantic in 2008 to pursue their dream.
Upon arrival, and under the new moniker We Govern We, the pair immediately set to work. With Karakalou holding down vocal duties and Scourtis on guitar, they began navigating their way through a handful of hopeful sonic soul mates, eventually rounding out the new lineup with drummer John Boutin and bassist Adrian Burke.
Although a three-song demo for booking purposes quickly surfaced, and one for fan consumption shortly after that, the growing legion of We Govern We faithful were left with little in the way of recorded material to hold them over from one live show to the next.
So when the band announced, earlier this year, that their first full-length effort, Reznor’s Orchid, was set for a summer release, the response was overwhelming. When they divulged that they had solicited the talents of Daniel Ash (Bauhaus/Love and Rockets) to pull it all together, We Govern We fans realized that this was not so much a CD release as a countdown-to-launch for one of the areas best-loved acts.
While the title of the disk is derived from an unfinished novel by Anna Karakalou herself, the writing and recording process was much more collaborative, a fact that kept the tight-knit band focused as they found themselves in a myriad of studios before finally reaching completion. “We recorded all over the place,” says Karakalou. “We even used some studio time we had won in a battle of the bands last year.”
While this mélange of recording experiences may have influenced the writing of the album, the 12-song disc keeps the secret of its diverse origins, standing as a cohesive collection from start to finish.
In its signature fearless fashion, We Govern We rejects the industry standard of cuing the chorus within the first 20 seconds of the opening tune, opting instead for an entrancing and emotional build that draws the listener in for more than a full minute and a half before Karakalou adds her haunting voice to the mix. That first song, “Come Atlantis,” in all its dissonant glory, soon gives way to the much more upbeat and pop-sensible “Annabel Lee,” showcasing both the range and diversity of the band.
This back-and-forth, ebb and flow of emotion continues throughout all 12 tracks on Reznor’s Orchid, and the skill with which Karakalou delivers on those emotions leaves listeners with the sense that their favorite tune on the disc is whichever one they happen to be listening to at the time.
Though many great bands have found their inception in bedrooms, garages and practice studios across the country, there is often an extra depth to those that have had to overcome more — a depth that can only be reached by the greatest level of abandon and sacrifice. Reznor’s Orchid serves as evidence that We Govern We is one of those rare bands.