Who: Ryan Lynch (guitars), Matthew Zimmerman (vocals), Jeremiah Hayden (drums).
Sounds like: Thurston Moore and Iggy Pop tripping around Joshua Tree, in a sci-fi mockumentary directed by Steve Albini.
For fans of: Sonic Youth, Big Black, the Stooges, David Lynch, Jodorowsky's Dune.
A lot of bands make music that sounds like it should be in a movie. Rarer are those that actually go ahead and make the movie themselves.
Though the Bombay Beach film project—a dystopian Western set near California's desolate Salton Sea—is still in the conceptual stage, it is as integral to the band Bombay Beach as the album it just finished recording. One wouldn't exist without the other, really. Each song is linked to a specific scene, with the lyrics informing the screenplay, which is currently being written. It's a bit high-concept, but the way the band sees it, simply making records and playing shows doesn't cut it anymore.
"The whole band process, I hate to say, but it's been done," says singer Matthew Zimmerman. "What the movie has done is allow us to think in broader terms."
Initially, though, Bombay Beach didn't have aspirations beyond the normal band stuff. In fact, it probably had less. In the beginning, it was just guitarist Ryan Lynch and Modern Kin drummer Jeremiah Hayden fleshing out some riffs Lynch had lying around, with little conception of what, if anything, it would become. Zimmerman, who played with Lynch in the short-lived Dirt Castle, joined a few months in. Adding his wild-man howl to the preexisting guitar squall, Bombay Beach solidified its sound, melding Sonic Youth discordance with the feral groove of the Stooges—not exactly the kind of music that commonly gets described as "cinematic."
But when Zimmerman started putting lyrics to the clamor, he found himself returning to a character named Sonny, the antihero of a post-apocalyptic desert metropolis called Slab City. Each member gradually adopted a different role in that fictional world, which became a conduit for expressing real angst with the modern world. "It's like Method acting through your writing process," Lynch says. Eventually, the group came to the realization that it was writing the soundtrack for a movie that didn't yet exist. Then, about a year ago, it decided to try and develop the movie, too.
Bombay Beach has other ideas for expanding its universe, including comics and possibly a documentary of its attempts to sell the movie in Hollywood. Of course, a film is significantly more involved than an album, and there's a chance it will never materialize. But according to the band, completing the project isn't the entire point.
"The finished product is this one thing, but personally, for me, the process is the thing," Hayden says. "I tell people, 'If you want to be in a band, you better enjoy the process, or just get the fuck out.' So this has allowed for a process on two fronts."
SEE IT: Bombay Beach plays Rontoms, 600 E Burnside St., with Peter Rainbeau, on Sunday, March 8. 8:30 pm. Free. 21+.