“L.A.” by The Bergamot is a nostalgic Indie-Pop song written with a perspective that is not always advertised about Los Angeles, which is how many people feel when they are ready to move on and out of the city. From its echoey bass drums and delicately blended harmonies, to its haunting “oohs” along the main music riff, the whole song feels like looking back on a memory. The acoustic guitars give it a certain natural beauty, tying it all together to sound as if it’s all in a dream. At the very end, distant chanting comes in closer - “I Want To Believe In You, Goodbye L.A.”, so perfectly placed like a heartbeat to a soul. The whole track is done beautifully and the melodies, music and production are finely crafted to the utmost degree. Being a Los Angeles entrepreneur myself, I fell in love with this song on a personal levels as it rings true in a way that the song paints perfectly. The Bergamot have been earning quite the cred in their live performances and press, as they were recently scheduled to open for OneRepublic (unfortunately this show had to be cancelled due to COVID). They are also rated “the hottest emerging music talent” by People Magazine and currently hold the #1 single on SubmitHub All Time (All Genres). Atwood Magazine has deemed them, “a sound the indie world has been waiting for".
I had the pleasure of interviewing The Bergamot, and here is what they had to say:
I absolutely love “L.A.” and it resonates with myself personally being in L.A. Can you share with us the inspiration behind this song?
“By the time I write this song, She’ll be gone”. So many great songs have been written about heading out west, not so many about leaving. This song is the story of a fictional character “Elle” as she embarks on her journey to depart the City of Angels. I remember having a discussion with a fellow musician in Los Angeles a few years back. At the time, Jillian and I were touring and playing a lot of shows living out of our car. We had made some advancements in our careers and had learned a lot. My friend said that she was very envious of our lifestyles and was thinking about how in some ways L.A. was holding her back. That she needed to leave to be free to pursue her dreams. That concept hit me - rather hard. Being from Indiana, Los Angeles was always the place to pursue your dreams. So to see it from that perspective moved me enough to want to pen a song about it years later.
The layers of vocals are pristine, and the production full yet clean. What was your writing and recording process for this song?
The writing process was quite express process really. A pencil and my favorite notebook at the kitchen table in Brooklyn, NY. I think we were sharing 550 sq. ft. with 4 roommates (6 total people) at the time. So I had to be brief - 30-40 minutes tops! Then one of my roommates came in to make food. I didn’t feel compelled to record the song until we arrived back from London and had completed our work with Matt Wiggins for our new album “Mayflies”. Working alongside one of the most prolific engineers/producers of our generation Matt, I couldn’t help but want to try out some new ideas. In London, I was just in awe of the whole creative process of recording. So when I arrived back into Indiana to take a few days off and recover from our rigorous travel schedule I decided to give it a go. Why that song I don’t know. I just detuned my guitar and tried an old travis picking pattern on it with the chords and it was just magical. So I spent the next 3 days in the closet of about 25 sq. ft. recording this song. I used some old bedsheets for sound isolation and a 50 year old lamp. I just remember being really inspired and the atmosphere in that compact space is really reflected in the song and recording. I just kept layering vocals to get the right tone. I love the Beach Boys but wanted to imagine a bit of a darker themed version of a Brian Wilson song. Showing the underbelly of the glitz and glam of L.A. I kept pushing my vocals further and further. If you listen in on the track you can hear me screaming at the top of my lungs - and I even howled. So there is some really heavy stuff in those vocal mixes. But I still love the way it somehow feels one. It’s a very eerie and haunting sound that finally made it on the recording. I love how the vocals come in on that track. We overdubbed the lead vox and harmonies at my good friend Jeff Miller’s studio ‘Resonant Sounds’. Matt was stoked about the track so he mixed it back in London. The rest is history. It was a whirlwind, really.
Your music video is very cinematic. If you don’t mind sharing behind-the-scenes, what was the timeline for the video production of “L.A.”?
Very few things that I have created go on to be pleasing well beyond the release. The “L.A.” music video and composition is something that I am still very proud of artistically. I had just joined a website called “Film Supply” and they were giving out 3 free clips if you joined. Because I was so broke I joined, Jillian joined, my parents, and my brothers so we could collectively get about 12 pieces to start. I combined a bunch of them together and really started to feel something amazing coming together. I just had to go in and direct and film a few shots to fill the storyline gaps. In addition to that, we had filmed a ‘one take’ of Jillian and I performing next to a pool in L.A. at a friends house that we did to kill some time during a photoshoot. We didn’t know what we were going to do with it. It ended up being a huge part of that video. It was all pretty piecemeal. The last few shots of the video were taken in Three Oaks, MI where she [Jillian] grabs the keys and leaves the apartment. Those key shots brought the whole video together. It was filmed over about a week in a few different locations in between a pretty hectic summer tour schedule. I did all of the editing on my laptop and Film Supply gave us the go ahead on the clips we used for the video. We couldn’t have done it without them for sure.
Do you usually perform acoustically or with a band?
That is a great question. Lately it seems to all be acoustic. But normally perform with a percussionist. We are at a time in our careers where we can’t really sustain a full band on the road. So most nights we have to be creative in the way we present the music. With the success of “Mayflies” we were getting ready to open for OneRepublic and had begun touring with a bit more extensive live show bringing in a more full production and a laptop. But that all came to a grinding halt when COVID hit. Even when we play with a band, we always weave our acoustic roots throughout the show. To me there is something magical about hearing a full band execute a great live show, but I love acoustic shows as well. I grew up listening to both Nirvana and Nirvana Unplugged. I loved both ways of showcasing the music. So we try to recreate that at times as well.
How has your music life been affected by current times we live in?
We were early in the album cycle of “Mayflies” the album of our lives when COVID struck. We were getting ready to open for OneRepublic and just starting to see the financial success of the record begin to materialize. It was brutal. At the beginning of the COVID lockdown in March I realized one thing. This moment will define my career. It will either be the end or the beginning. All of our gigs were cancelled for the foreseeable future with no real light in the near future - our OneRepublic show was gone. Everything gone in a matter of a few days. Literally everything we had worked so hard for ended up collapsing in early March. Months of planning falling apart, I think we were losing 5k-10k a day in bookings, for a whole week straight. Our agents were completely upended. It was terrifying. So I locked myself in a room and started writing, writing, and more writing. I think I have written some of my best music of my lifetime during the last few months. So I chose this moment as one that can define the work I am creating. I am so excited about the work that we are going to be releasing in the next year. Who knows when we will be back on the road. Will we ever open for OneRepublic? But rather than focus on the pain of the loss I redirected my energy towards something I could do (writing) instead of something I couldn’t do (touring). By focusing on what I could control I wrote over 30 songs in a period of 4 months. I think the songs that I wrote during that time, when we do open for OneRepublic, are the songs that I would want to be playing on that stage. Now I am just working day and night in the studio getting all these tracks up to a certain level, then I will really dig in on the ones that can go the extra mile. It will take some time.
What would you like to say to all your fans out there?
We love you all. You have lifted us up through some of the most difficult times in our lives - and continue to lift us up daily. But truly, this is our moment. Right now. I am tired of hearing “I feel bad for your generation” or “What a tough hand you have been dealt.” Where I grow up there is a saying that goes ‘The tougher the challenge the greater the champion’. We can overcome the problems we are facing, as challenging as they are, but we will have to do it together. Just like the Mayfly - who lives and dies in 24 hours - you don’t always get to choose what day you are born on. If it’s rainy and cold - it is what it is. People won’t remember you for the excuses you make - they will remember you for constraints you break. It’s tough out there, no doubt, but as Millennials, we will rise up. We are entering the most important years of our lives. We faced the Great Recession coming out of college and we face COVID during the most vital part of our careers. We have no other choice but to rise up and solve problems we have inherited. We can’t run away or hide - it’s time to do the work and create a better future. On a final note: we will be releasing a new single called “Make It Last” in a few weeks and a new record sometime next year. We also are in the final stages of our documentary that we filmed in all 50 States in 2016 called “State of the Unity” which is really a journey to unite a dividing country. I think this film is more relevant now than ever before. We hope to finish that this fall.