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24 May 2016

CIVX Lessons: After a Break Between Local Shows, the Band Is Back With a New EP

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CIVX. CIVX.

After a busy couple of years—including a performance at Coachella—local favorite CIVX seemingly disappeared, with months passing between local gigs.

Then in May, the band resurfaced with not only a slate of local shows, but a brand-new EP, Security Through Obscurity.

I recently caught up with frontman Dillion Dominguez and bassist Clay Samalin in La Quinta, and they explained CIVX’s absence and the trials and tribulations of making the new EP.

“We did everything differently this time,” Dominguez said about Security Through Obscurity. “We worked with Freddy Jimenez, from Blue Hill Records and Tribesmen. We were in the studio in the most DIY way ever. We had been working with Jesse James from Sourdough Records, but I guess they split and disbanded. I hit them up out of nowhere, and they were like, ‘We’re not going to be doing any recording anymore.’ They split all their gear between him and the other guy they were working with. Long story short, they’re not recording other bands anymore.

“Freddy had done some stuff with Venus and the Traps before. Glock Lesnar is a good friends of ours and told us we should hit up Freddy. We did all the recording with him, but all the tracking is done in the United Kingdom with Rhys Downing.”

Rhys Downing, who has done work as a mixing engineer with The Cranberries, Sarah Brightman, Mark Ronson and many others, has been working with CIVX for a while.

“We did one song with him and didn’t do anything again with him for a while, but we knew we wanted to work with him again,” Dominguez said. “A lot of it has to do with getting money to record. When we got that done, we worked with Rhys, and he’s been good to us through the whole process. We got it done during a weekend where we were free, and Freddy was free.”

Samalin explained that Downing has done all the mastering work for CIVX at no cost and as a hobby project, and that’s why a lot of CIVX’s recordings have been slowly released over time.

“It’s getting the tracks mastered that takes so long,” Samalin said. “Rhys is a pretty busy guy, and for him trying to find time to work on our stuff during all these other jobs, it’s hard.”

Dominguez said the band has already recorded another EP and is waiting for Downing to finish it. Meanwhile, CIVX has been playing gigs out of town and writing new material.

“We’ve been playing a lot in Los Angeles,” Dominguez said. “We tried to get out of town with all the venues (in L.A.). You also want to have a new arsenal of material, too, and that’s also been our focus right now.”

Looking back on the band’s 2014 Coachella performance, Dominguez said that the band was fortunate to get the gig—but in some ways was unprepared.

“It’s so weird. That was a big step and goal for us, but we had the transition after (former frontman and bassist) Nick Hernandez left and we brought in Clay,” Dominguez said. “It’s a really cool hook-up, and it’s really great to say you played Coachella, but it’s not smooth sailing after that. People were also asking us afterward, ‘Awesome. Who’s your booking manager?’ We didn’t have one, and we didn’t even have an EP album. It was our fifth-ever show. We went from playing a couple of backyards in Coachella to playing at Coachella.

“When we went up to perform that day, they put us in the corner of the Mojave Stage, and we were just a hassle for the sound guys. They were like, ‘There’s no kickport for the bass drum? Are you guys fucking serious? You don’t even have a kickport?’”

CIVX released an EP on cassette-heavy Burger Records—but by the time it was released, it was old and outdated.

“That EP was one we did when we still had Nick Hernandez,” Dominguez said. “Afterward, Burger Records approached us, and they do cassettes, and they wanted to press however many of them. They sold theirs. We still have all ours. They probably got stuck in cars for days in the heat. We’ll hand them out for free, and we tell people, ‘We don’t know how they’ll sound.’”

While CIVX has had played many memorable shows, I’ll never forget their performance at The Date Shed last September. It was a mess from the start, because Clay Samalin’s bass didn’t work.

“That was the worst show ever,” Samalin said. “The XLR cable was plugged into my amp in the back, and the guy had plugged it halfway in, so it was enough to where my amp would switch off. I was thinking it was my pedals, so I’m like freaking out and going through all of them, taking them apart, and I was like ‘Fuck it!’ The guy finally came around and switched the cable, and my bass comes on. By then, I was so pissed. Getting through that show was hard.”

Dominguez explained how CIVX continues to evolve.

“With Nick Hernandez, something we did with him was structuring songs beforehand. Nick would write bass lines, and his vocals would come within those bass lines,” Dominguez said. “With me, I don’t think of vocals at all when structuring songs. I always have the microphone there, and I’ll always spew out melodies and listen back, thinking, ‘OK, that one is all right, and I’ll work around that one.’ I’m a very guitar-driven singer, no matter what. I’ll figure out how to sing and make it work until I’m confident doing the two things at once.”

For more information on CIVX, including a June show at the Joshua Tree Saloon, visit www.facebook.com/civxmusic.

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