Eat Your Fill On Gothic Tropic’s Debut LP, Fast or Feast
Cecilia Della Peruti has more in common with Father John Misty than meets the eye. It may have only dawned on her while we lounged at Echo Park Lake, as the Santa Ana winds ruined a family picnic nearby. After shamefully admitting I hadn’t heard Pure Comedy yet, she gushed, “the opening lyrics made me cry.” She began counting off reasons for its greatness on her fingers, and eventually scowled at the inherent irony of life. Della Peruti knows something about irony; after all, her band is called Gothic Tropic. She began the project more than a couple years ago, needing a place to work out some of her own ideas as she played in other groups, including BØRNS and Night Terrors of 1927. Now she’s got a few years of gigs under her belt performing her solo material, a full length record coming out soon, and she’s finally ready to take on the world.
The introduction to “Teenage Behavior,” track three on Gothic Tropic’s new album, Fast or Feast, is a clip from an unidentified film where characters see a young man off to college. “He has all kinds of aspirations,” one distorted voice says, while another chimes in, “What a creative guy!” Della Peruti laughs when I bring it up, explaining that her producer found it and threw it in to see if she’d like it. The character is no reflection of herself–she dropped out of high school. But that wasn’t quite as rock ‘n’ roll as it may seem. A serious illness had her bedridden for months, and the fatigue persisted even when she finally did return to school. Other students found it unfair that she got extra attention and could doze off in class, and one classmate began to retaliate, physically attacking her on a regular basis. Police intervened, and the aggressor had to attend anger management courses as a result; it became a modest scandal in Northridge. Della Peruti hasn’t explicitly forgiven the bully, but she certainly has put the ordeal behind her; years later she put him on the guest list at one of her shows as a gesture of goodwill. She shakes her head as she recalls how he complained to her about the court-ordered therapy he was forced to go to, as if she would sympathize. She sighs and then quickly reminds me that she did enjoy her teenage years, the impetus for the song. She has a nostalgia for that time of her life, fondly remembering the punk shows in Hollywood she would sneak into and the start of her love for live music, planting the seeds for what would eventually become Gothic Tropic.
Gothic Tropic began as a rough-around-the-edges, garage rock outfit featuring a couple semi-permanent band members that did eventually leave to pursue their own projects. (You may know former drummer Liv Marsico, who now helms Liphemra.) They put out a blissful proto-punk EP called Awesome Problems back in 2011, then a few follow up singles, but Gothic Tropic has always taken a backseat to the other groups that Della Peruti was involved with. It finally comes to the forefront with Fast or Feast.
Della Peruti has been talked about in indie music circles for some time, with most of her press capitalizing on her interests in fashion. The single artwork and promo shots leading up to the new album all feature her in boldly colored ensembles, where she never quite poses for the camera. She somberly throws her hands in the air for the Fast or Feast album art, while in another shot, she inexplicably holds two mugs. She earned income through retail jobs for a while, with her love for fashion the only motivator she had to stick with it. At the peak of this phase, she owned a shop on Larchmont which she personally stocked with affordable pieces from local artists, an experience she misses dearly. She hopes to incorporate fashion into her life again soon, having abandoned this dream due to unsavory circumstances involving alleged harassment. Once again, outside forces compelled her to remove herself from a shitty situation without receiving the closure that she deserved.
On Fast or Feast, she is frank. Della Peruti is not a resentful person, but rather, she has an emotional awareness, singing on “Stronger,” “It’s alright to feel, I get angry still.” The record is organized as a journey, she tells me; it all begins with “Stronger,” which encourages unabashed self-worth. The path that follows is riddled with insecurities and doubt, but never feels less than a celebration of life. Compressed synths make “Chemical Trail” an instant classic, and very nearly a promotional single. The album wraps with the doo-wop-inspired rhythm of “Feed You To The Sharks,” a song so self-assured, the sass is in the title. Though it seems like a departure from her early work, the new album is really a step toward maturity; the fuzzy sound predominant on Awesome Problems can be heard in the new album’s makeshift interlude, “If It Had a Body,” as well as in the subsequent noisy track, “Major,” but the rest is more polished, something Della Peruti has actively worked toward.
Gothic Tropic’s sound was never meant to be monolithic, a fact that harkens back to the reason behind such a moniker in the first place. The inherent dichotomy of the dark yet tropical name allows her the flexibility to grow in the project, and gives her the freedom to do whatever she wants with it. ‘Fast or Feast’ addresses the fleeting nature of fame, but as the title to her debut record, it’s a battle cry.
Music may be second nature for Della Peruti at this point, but she still feels creative constipation from time to time. She recounted a drunken conversation she once had with James Mercer about lyricism, one of her least favorite parts of songwriting; apparently, he hates lyrics just as much as she. Perhaps she could simply write instrumental songs? She scoffs. Sure, she tells me, if she wanted to thrive in obscurity for the rest of her life. Her rise to prominence may have been unconventional, but with that attitude Cecilia Della Peruti is very much a rock star.
Words: Zoë Elaine
Gothic Tropic have a Los Angeles show coming up on June 6 at Resident. Supporting the band will be Madame Gandhi and Kid Bloom. Get your tickets here. This will be the release party for Gothic Tropic’s new album Fast or Feast out May 19 via Old Flame Records.
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