|Arrica Rose at the Bradbury Building|
At the Bradbury Building [304 S. Broadway, Los Angeles (Downtown)],
Angels Flight [351 S. Hill St, Los Angeles (Downtown)] and
Angels Knoll [356 S. Olive St., Los Angeles (Downtown)]
Singer-songwriter, musician and frontwoman of Arrica Rose & the …'s (the Dot Dot Dots), Arrica Rose, selected one of the most interesting pockets of Downtown as her favorite spot in Los Angeles. She chose the famed Bradbury Building as our starting point, followed by a walk to Angels Flight and its adjacent park, Angels Knoll.
The Bradbury may seem like an average brick building on the outside with a corporate retail shop and chain restaurant on its first level, but once you step inside, the beauty of this architectural landmark instantly takes your breath away. Brilliant natural light flows through the enormous glass skylight of its center court, allowing you to notice every detail put into the intricately carved polished wood, cast-iron railings with ornate filigree, rich marble staircase and patterned, tiled floors. It's no wonder the Bradbury has often been used as a filming location for movies like Chinatown, Blade Runner and The Artist, as well as numerous TV shows, music videos, commercials and is even referenced in novels and comic books.
As I approach Arrica in the Bradbury's center court, she is talking with a small group of friends that includes Dan Garcia, the producer she has teamed with for most of her releases, including her latest EP, Lucky. Although Arrica is a native Angeleno, she was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, so over the years the time she has spent recording at Garcia's Radio Hill studio near the Bradbury was when she really cultivated a love for the neighborhood.
We admire the stunning details of the Bradbury, from the exquisite wrought-iron elevator doors down to the old mail slots and post box, then venture outside for a short walk up 3rd Street to the Angels Flight entrance on Hill Street. On the way, Arrica shares what she knows of the history of the small railway: how it was moved from one location to another, how it closed after a fatal accident and eventually reopened a couple of years ago. It's known as the "Shortest Railway in the World" since it only traverses 298 feet of track. In fact, we forgo actually riding on it for a walk up a long set of stairs leading to Angels Knoll.
As we walk up the steps, Arrica tells me how she was almost a New Yorker. Her father, an actor and native New Yorker, and mother, an educator and writer in her spare time, barely decided to move to California until right before she was born. Currently she splits her time between living in West Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
"Having lived here my whole life, I only had perspective on L.A. and its surrounding areas. Being up in the Bay Area now too, it's nice to go back and forth and maybe appreciate it more here than I ever did," she admits. "L.A. has been home to me for so long that I feel like I know the city inside and out. If anyone asks me where to go, what to do or what to eat, I always have this wealth of suggestions. I think that's what I miss and get homesick for, just that sort of kinship you feel you have with the city."
Once we make our way to the top of the stairs, we discover that white cotton from the trees above is strewn all over the grass at Angels Knoll. It's almost as if we're surrounded by little patches of melting snow, even though it's about 75 degrees out. We take a seat on a park bench, just like the characters in (500) Days of Summer, and I ask Arrica about her other L.A. haunts as we admire the view of skyscrapers, Grand Central Market and people milling about the streets below.
"I lived in Downtown and West Hollywood, and I still gravitate towards going to places in these places instead of in West L.A. A lot of the time I spend in L.A., I'm playing music at shows and recording," she says. "I'll be recording, and we'll go to the Redwood, which is around the corner and very convenient. I love going to Blossom, that's a great one. The pho is great. I also like going to Little Tokyo for sushi."
When I tell her I like the polka-dot dress she is wearing, Arrica confesses her fashion-related addiction.
"I tend to shop at thrift stores. That became an obsession of mine when I was pretty young and started collecting vintage dresses. I've always had a fascination with things that were older. Just that sense of history in the items," she admits. "There's a wealth of little stores that I go to. Sometimes the local Goodwill is fun and Jet Rag, too. I have stuff that's not vintage, but I always end up gravitating towards the vintage because I feel like it encompasses a sense of lost time, of everything that came before you."
This sense of blending influences from past eras with a bit of the modern into her music for an almost timeless sound is something that Arrica strives for.
"In a way, that's what I hope to do, to take all of the things that came before me and put some spin on it that may be my own so I'm not just recreating what came before, I'm contributing my own take on it a little bit," she tells.
From a young age, Arrica was surrounded by music, from Big Band records to the Beach Boys and the Beatles. Ol' Blue Eyes was definitely a big inspiration to her as well.
"When I was little, if there was a room full of people, I would ask everyone if I could sing them a song. I think I was about 4 at the time. I would put on Frank Sinatra's 'New York, New York' and sing along," she remembers. "My parents saw this and knew that music was going to be an important part of my life, whether it was a hobby or something I pursued professionally. They were very encouraging and took me down that path of, 'I think you should learn an instrument, too.' I am so glad they did because, as I love to sing, one of the things I probably enjoy the most is the songwriting process."
Arrica began taking voice and piano lessons while still in grade school, and she eventually started the guitar at age 15. Around this time, her parents would drive her to see some of her first rock shows.
"One of the first shows I went to see that they just dropped me off for was the Violent Femmes at Universal Amphitheater. That was a lot of fun. I also used to go to a lot of shows at Jabberjaw in the Crenshaw District. I remember the first time my parents picked me up there, they had this look on their faces, they were not pleased with the location. I managed to convince them that I was perfectly safe there, even though there were always shootings like a block or two away. But it was such a fun venue, and I saw a lot of great bands come through there. "
Little did her parents realize, but one of their evening rituals during her bedtime would eventually lead to Arrica being in her first punk band.
"I wouldn't go to sleep without listening to music when I was really small, and my parents would always put on 'Lovesongs on the KOST,'" she laughs. " I'm sure that some of what I do is influenced by going to bed to 'Lovesongs on the KOST' every night. I have a place in my heart for it. That's probably also why I got into punk rock as a teenager, it was my rebellion against the 'Lovesongs on the KOST.'"
She formed an all-girl punk trio called Uxby with Stefanie (Big Harp) and Kerri Drootin. The group played venues like Cobalt Cafe and the Smell, and Arrica shares a great story from one of those early shows.
|Arrica Rose at Angels Knoll|
Arrica eventually went on to attend USC, where she took a little hiatus from music to concentrate on film school. While she was doing the sound design for a thesis project, however, she began to realize that maybe music really was her destined path.
"I was watching the short and realized that I had a really clear vision in my head of what the music needed to sound like. I remember convincing the director that I should do music for the short, as well. I would up recording the music on a four-track at my house," she recalls. "We were going to watch it in a big theater, and I was so nervous because I didn't know what it was going to sound like, having recorded it in my living room. It turned out well, the director was really happy with it and that was the moment that I said to myself, 'I think this music thing is what I really enjoy the most.'
She began releasing her lo-fi home recordings through her own label, pOprOck records, put together the …'s – that were eventually comprised of herself on vocals, guitar, keys, mandolin and omnichord; Marc Thomas on lead guitar, Steve Giles on bass, Ryan Brown on drums, percussion; Laura Martin on backing vocals; and Kaitlin Wolfberg on violin – and released their full-length debut, People Like Us, in 2006.
Arrica teamed up with Garcia for the first time on 2008's La La Lost (with songs being placed in TV shows like "Nikita") and again for a solo EP, Pretend I'm Fur. Garcia was also at the helm for the band's 2011 release, the critically lauded Let Alone Sea.
"We have a great working relationship, in that, I feel like we understand each other really well," Arrica says of Garcia. "He contributes so much to my sound and is also good at distilling what I want from that sound, too. It's one of those things where we just speak the same language, and I think that's important when you're working with a producer – that you really understand one another."
Their professional rapport is so strong that Garcia also co-wrote a few songs on the Lucky EP with her. Arrica has been composing songs since she was 11, but has never really set up a system for her methods.
"I find that if I force myself to try and come up with a system of 'Oh, I'll write every day' or 'I'll just write in the evenings,' that pressure stifles my creativity a little bit. But I do notice that I tend to write songs in threes," she says. "The only pattern I do see in writing music is, if I finish one song usually there are two songs that I will write within a week. I have no idea why, and I try not to think too hard about it because thinking too hard about it sometimes destroys the process for me."
Dwelling too long on specific things instead of relishing the entirety of life is something that Arrica tries not to do, and Lucky's moniker points to that notion.
Besides her music, Arrica occupies her time as the head of I HEART Inc., a non-profit that allows artists to raise money for charity organizations – such as the Silverlake Conservatory of Music and Sojourn Services for Battered Women and their Children – through unique creative projects and events.
"I HEART started in 2008. I was on tour with two friends, Abby Kincaid and Laura Martin, in Albuquerque, and there was this woman there who had done a pin-up calendar benefit. We met her, she showed us these pictures and we asked her if we could recreated something like it in L.A.," she recalls. "Everyone got a little busy with other projects, and I took over from there and decided to really make it about not specifically doing the pin-up girl calendar but just about doing creative projects in general that could bring artists together that allow them to give back to their communities and also allow them to meet other artists who have this desire to inspire change and expose them to new fans. It's a way for you to do something good and get something good back in return."
I HEART has worked with sponsors and supporters that include Willie Nelson, Crosby Stills and Nash, Jack White, Jackson Browne, Sub Pop Records and Hotel Café, among others. They also sponsored Omaha Girls Rock camp for two summers, a project that Arrica's former bandmate, Stefanie Drootin, had brought into the fold.
"Working with little girls, teaching them how to rock out and express themselves through music is rewarding," Arrica says. "It was an amazing group of women that put this together, and I was really inspired by not only the little girls that were learning but all the women who were involved in the project."
According to Arrica, passion for whatever you're doing in life is crucial. Especially for artists trying to make a living through their music.
"You have to really love it. The music industry is in a weird space in a lot of ways, so it's really important to love what you do and do it for that reason. The rest will fall into place or it won't, but if you're doing it because you love to do it then you can't really go wrong."
Lucky is currently available. Arrica Rose & the …'s perform April 13 at Hotel Café. For more information, visit arricarose.com.