Have you ever believed in something so strongly that you gave up everything you had – friends, family, financial security, physical comforts – to pursue it? Cyndy Melanio and Jason Myles have. For the past four years, the San Francisco-based duo, together as La Fin Absolute du Monde (LFADM), have brazenly foregone all amenities, save for their van and the hospitality of strangers, in order to bring their socially conscious music to as many people across the globe as possible.
LFADM’s electronica is dark and heavy, like much of the world we inhabit. Their hybrid sound has garnered comparisons to Portishead, Björk, and Nine Inch Nails and has taken the band through the US and UK and even to Juarez, Mexico, once considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
On Saturday, August 30, LFADM’s journey will bring them to the Electric Owl here in Cyndy’s native Vancouver. I spoke with her and Jason beforehand, who discussed building confidence, human connection between people from all walks of life, open and honest communication between each other and strangers, Canada’s (specifically Vancouver’s) reputation abroad, and the personal challenges the band has faced from doubters and as an interracial couple.
Vancouver Weekly: Your online bio says: “We have been on a serious mission for the last few years to bare our vulnerable side in order to bring us closer to this madly confusing world and to the wildly colorful people that live in it.” Have you had any revelations about the “madly confusing world” or the people in it? What’s one of the most profound experiences you’ve had traveling and touring as LFADM? Have people around the world reciprocated your openness?
La Fin Absolute du Monde: It would be an overstatement to say we have figured this world out. In fact, the more we travel, the bigger the world seems, and the more interesting it becomes. We want to see more, we want to learn more and we want to meet everyone! It’s been enriching to know that no matter what people go through, wherever they go through it, we all feel the same types of emotions in all levels of intensity.
We have so, so, so many stories of being in strange places at strange times with strange people. It is often suggested that we need to write a book! But here’s a brief one for you. We once found ourselves deep in West Virginia in the Appalachians at a dilapidated motel by a small state route. Outside sat three generations of a large family. There were full beards, a lot of camouflage, few teeth, and arms with needle tracks. Definitely, absolutely, every colored person’s nightmare. But there was also a ton of intrigue. On both our parts. I have to give Jason all the credit for this one because I was TERRIFIED to get out of the car. And he, in his oh so charming manner, approached them jokingly about his discomfort in the area. After making everyone laugh, he sparked great conversation and brought together an eclectic bunch of folk who built an unassumingly warm relationship.
We are still learning how hard it is to not judge people, and we make genuine efforts to find a commonality to bridge our differences. As strangers and guests, it’s up to us to reach out and first show the respect that we hope to receive. People tend to seem surprised at our efforts and are appreciative. We never come with “big city” attitudes. For so long we have been “no good” for a lot of people and for a lot of things. If we can help it, we don’t allow people to feel that way around us.
VW: You talk very openly in your blog about your work/financial lives – what it takes to make ends meet as a touring band – and even your marriage. How has opening yourselves up in those ways helped your effort to connect with other people?
LFADM: As a couple, like most other romantic relationships, we work on our honesty and our communication. It’s not always easy. But once we are able to vent how we really feel to each other, the more we are able to understand and accept each other. We become closer that way. Why wouldn’t we apply those same things to the people around us? As corny as it sounds, love can and will only grow that way. And we never boast about our hardships with our hands out for charity. Never. We also have a lot of dignity. We live cleanly without drugs and alcohol and behave consciously as parent and step-parent who strive to be positive role models for our children. Strangers from all walks of life, rich and poor, old and young, give us so much… warm beds, home cooked meals, laundry machines, gas money, snacks for the road.
Everything offered to us is not only more than appreciated – it’s either paid back and/or forward. We may not have money to pay back, but we will cook you a fantastic meal and clean the whole kitchen afterwards. Or, WE will take you out for coffee or for a cheap meal. Or, we will share our abundant snacks with other touring musicians we meet on the road. So many people who have very little share whatever they have with us. So we do too.
More often than not, we find a lot of people, in general, like to hide behind their “perfect” social media lives that they portray. This is the happiest we have both ever been. But it still comes with a price, and we aren’t afraid to share our lives with you because we want you to share yours with us. Honestly.
VW: You’ve called your music “undeniably unique,” “worth talking about,” and “important.” It takes a lot of confidence to say that about one’s own work. Are you generally confident people? Have you always been that confident, or have certain challenges and perceptions forced you to develop thick skins?
LFADM: Haha. We love this question. You’re right. Those ARE very bold statements. The funny thing is, we have been and continue to work on our own self-esteems. In our past lives, we at one point, had everything that most people aim to have: a spouse, a family, a house, our own businesses… And then… We lost EVERYTHING. Friends included. Family too. As much as we have gained so many precious new friends, we have also disconnected ourselves from those who have told us we are too irresponsible and too old and too dark (literally and figuratively) and too different. It is incredibly difficult to brush off those types of feelings, and we have to do what we do try and stay motivated. Every single day we wake up we have to remind ourselves and each other that whatever we are doing right now IS important. And it is. Our music is mainly inspired by social injustices of abuse, racism and exploitation. We write about our own experiences as well as the stories we hear from other people who don’t have the voice to express themselves.
You simply cannot address these issues with catchy riffs. There’s an emotional process that occurs. By listening to a single song, you’re joining us on a journey in self-awareness. By following a formulaic verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern, the listener tends to tune out until he familiar catchy chorus returns. It’s important for us to keep our listeners engaged. We DO have something important to say. And that’s that no one person should ever feel alone in their horrible thoughts. If you think nobody understands you, then just know that WE do. THAT is what we are confident about. We are all too familiar with how self-destructive individuals behave and are passionate about inspiring those to re-channel their negativity.
We also come from polar opposites of the musical spectrum. Jason comes from a heavy metal, hard rock background. I’m a classically trained musician. But we have the same love for old school hip-hop and electronica. We try to jam pack everything, if not most of what we like about music, into a single song. Doesn’t that sound unique??
VW: LFADM opened for English post-metal innovators Godflesh in Seattle, Portland, and LA back in spring. Are those still the biggest shows you’ve played? How did the connection you felt with the crowd differ from your smaller shows?
LFADM: Gosh, those were incredible shows for us! We played for hundreds of people! We had our own dressing rooms that supplied us with our own 24 packs of water! For those few days we didn’t have to change in urine-soaked bathrooms! We did also open up for the March Violets, another influential post-punk band from the UK in the early 80s. That was pretty cool too. We do try to give the same performance to every size audience. We have to. That’s what we signed up for. Definitely, playing to a larger audience, there’s a certain undeniable magic and special feeling you get when you know you’re captivating a whole room’s energy. But in a more intimate setting, it’s also nice to have the time to connect with the audience with short anecdotes. Especially at the small level that we’ve been touring, the intimate shows enable us to really get to know the people we play for and this usually leads to lasting, long term warm relationships. We have many wild and colorful friends that we adore.
VW: This one’s for Cyndy: You proudly boast your Vancouver roots wherever you go. What led you to leave this city in 2005?
C: Well, I left 2005 to get married to my first husband, who at the time, was living in Las Vegas (THAT is yet another long and interesting chapter). But it was a short-lived marriage, and I stayed for another 3.5 years until I met Jason, who swooped me up and whisked me away to the SF Bay Area in 2010.
VW: What reputation does Vancouver have, based on people’s reactions when you tell them you’re from here?
C: Already, when I introduce myself as being Canadian, the first thing people usually say is, “Oh wow! That’s why you’re so friendly!” Of course, it’s followed by the jokes of “eh” and “aboot.” For those who have never been to Vancouver, I explain to them that throughout all my travels, I still believe in a very unbiased way, that Vancouver is one one of the most beautiful cities you will ever see. It’s an international metropolitan city that is nestled in the beautiful nature of ocean and mountains, vibrant in colour and life and offering the best of all four seasons. And more often than not, those who have been fortunate enough to visit Vancouver tend to agree. Those who have never sure as heck want to now!!!
As proud as I am when I talk about my beautiful hometown, I can only hope Vancouver feels the same about me. I’m tryin’ to rep East Van for life!