The Airborne Toxic Event may be an LA band, but they haven’t spent much time here in the seven years they’ve been together. They’re road warriors and have played something like 800 shows that have taken them around the world.
It was very clear that they relished the opportunity to play for a small crowd as part of KCRW’s Berkeley Street Sessions last night, with frontman Mikel Jollett cracking jokes (many about NPR and Ira Glass), telling stories behind the songs and singling out members of the audience.
The band combines a stadium rock sound with an indie rock emotional expression on many of their songs, including two new ones – “The Storm”, about missing loved ones on the road, and “Timeless”, a song Jollett wrote after losing some family members. It’s about both appreciating the short lives we have while we can and knowing we live on in other people’s minds. They followed those with a cover of the Magnetic Fields’ “Book of Love”.
While their songs might traverse heavy territory like love and death, they’re a lighthearted group of friends, as evidenced by the interview with Anne Litt.
They talked about recording in Nashville’s famed Blackbird Studio and feeling the responsibility of creating something great in that space. They lived in a house together for a month and worked with producer Jacquire King (Modest Moust/Kings of Leon). What they came up with is an EP called “The Secret” that will be out March 11, followed by the full length “Such Hot Blood” later in Spring.
They played a track from the LP, “True Love”, that was my favorite of the new songs. It featured bass player Noah Harmon on mandolin and it was a high energy romp. They closed with crowd pleasers from their own catalogue – “Changing”, “Sometime Around Midnight” – and then a medley of “Ring of Fire”, “American Girl”, “and “Born in the USA”.
It was nice to spend some quality time with the band before they hit the road again, including dates at SXSW and Coachella. Tune in on March 11 to hear the full session on Morning Becomes Eclectic.
Airborne Toxic Event Set List for KCRW
All at Once
Book of Love (Magnetic Fields Cover)
Sometime Around Midnight
All I Ever Wanted