Nothing quite opens up new realms of artistic expression like a totally unfamiliar environment. Late of the Pier alum Sam Eastgate discovered this for himself shortly after the 2020 release of his last album under the hypnagogic-funk moniker LA Priest, GENE, when he was briefly stranded (well, that might be a little too aggressive a word) on Mexico’s Puerto Morelos beaches due to travel restrictions.
The experience—along with a stint in the Costa Rican rainforest—permitted him to ease into the writing of his subsequent record Fase Luna with a totally renewed sense of purpose for the LA Priest project, sidelining GENE’s occasional glitch influence for something more embroiled in Central American neo-psychedelia. Fase Luna occasionally explores territory previously charted by Unknown Mortal Orchestra, though the visceral sense of nature bleeding into each recording here sets it wholly apart.
In spite of this primary influence, Eastgate couldn’t help bringing a lifetime of music consumption with him to the album’s writing and recording stages, and even if internet access wasn’t always readily available, the music of songwriting heroes like David Bowie and George Harrison—not to mention more left-field icons like Björk and Cocteau Twins—managed to seep into these compositions. “I think it’s great how songs can inspire other songs, but in a way where no one element stays the same,” Eastgate shares.
With Fase Luna out now via Domino, LA Priest shared a handful of specific tracks he had in mind throughout the writing of the LP. Check out the record here if you haven’t already, and scroll on for his playlist and writeups on each song he included. Eastgate also just announced two US dates this fall in LA and New York—find those, as well as his upcoming European and UK dates, here.
Haruomi Hosono, “Paraiso”
I think this was the first time I heard a song with a tropical theme and thought, “I’d love to do something like that.” What caught my ear is that the sonic choices are quite insane—it sort of reinvents a genre and blasts it off into outer space. It made me realize that you can evoke an old feeling with new sounds, and although I’d forgotten about this song at the time, I definitely set off to try that with this record.
David Bowie, “Sound and Vision”
Combining lots of influences from all over the world, I sometimes needed a strong and simple rhythm track to hold onto. This song is the perfect blueprint of that. With a guitar part that slips gracefully in and out of the beat, and a vocal that floats above it all, I knew I could just fit a song idea like “Silent” over a couple of simple elements and let them breathe, which I definitely learned from songs like this.
George Harrison, “Crackerbox Palace”
When the album was nearly finished, I decided that one song didn’t fit, so I threw it out. I had a four-minute gap to fill, so I spent a few days writing dozens of songs. I ended up somewhere between George Harrison and Tonetta with sweet chords and trying to do those flowing melodies with little vibrato bits like George’s stuff. I didn’t have any of his songs in mind—and no internet, so I couldn’t listen to any—so I just imagined the general sound. Even though I think I only heard this song once before, this is probably the one I was referencing for “It’s You.” It’s just packed with ideas and makes no sense, but I love it.
When I was starting to record the first parts for the album, I knew I had to be careful not to put an overly brash or messy-sounding drum recording down, or everything else would be competing and playing along in the same way. This song is an example of building every detail on a whispering drum track that still somehow vibrates with energy. I couldn’t find it for 10 years after I first heard it on a cassette in a friend’s car, and I still think it’s an amazing piece of production that you can really sink into.
Queens of the Stone Age, “The Sky Is Fallin’”
For a polished bit of rock music, the harmonic stuff going on in this song is really unusual and I definitely channeled the planet that this song comes from when I was coming up with the first ideas for “Star.” I’ve known the song for about 20 years, so it really says a lot that it can still inspire me somehow. It really has a lot of beautiful melodies—but I’m never going to sound that heavy, so I didn’t even attempt to try that side of what makes it brilliant.
Connan Mockasin, “Skies Are for Flying”
I met Connan when my first band was starting to get noticed. He hadn’t done an album, but he had all these great songs out there. This little ditty stuck in my head for years, and I think it ended up coming back out in the bass line for “Sail On.” The descending and climbing at the same time is there, as well as the psychedelic feel of both songs. I think it’s great how songs can inspire other songs, but in a way where no one element stays the same. This song was like a Chinese-whispered dream to begin with, though.
Daft Punk, “Fresh”
It's strange that such a club banger had an effect on this record, but this song also has a salty, washed-up-on-the-beach sound to it where everything drips like melting ice cream. I definitely mixed a bit of this disco bounce into a few songs because this song demonstrated how well they go together.
The Knife, “Neon”
I don’t think this song was really an influence on my song “Neon” other than the word “neon,” but I can’t really think what the actual reference was for it. So I’ll just say that this is a really good song called “Neon” and I would have been just as happy if I had written a song like this and called it “Neon” instead of my song “Neon.”
Björk, “The Anchor Song”
This is one of the songs about the ocean that made me always want to write my own songs about the sea. I don’t think of it as happy or sad—i just seems to me to be about the freedom of being all alone. That’s the one thing I carried on in my song “Ocean.” I don’t think I captured the same mood at all. My song is all guitar noodling and sun-tanning by the end. While “Anchor Song” goes down, my song bobs about on the surface. But they’re in the same water.
Cocteau Twins, “Ivo”
This is just one of many Cocteau Twins songs that I listened to a couple of times before I went out to Mexico. I forgot what any of them sounded like, but when I was writing lots of short ideas and stitching them together to make songs, anything that sounded a bit Cocteau Twins–ish, or like My Bloody Valentine, I stuck together to make “No More.” I think there’s definitely a powerful feeling of being submerged when you listen to this song. I like not knowing what the song is about. I wish more songs were as hard, but also easy, to understand as this.