Loud Fast Lady talks with the experimental duo about their long-distance collaboration and other forces of nature
Musical experimenters Eva Aguila and Brittany Gould are equally surprised and enchanted by the beautiful noise they’ve been making together as Caldera Lakes. The two perform and record separately as Kevin Shields and Married In Berdichev, respectively, but Caldera Lakes seem to have captured their imaginations. When they talk about it, the experimental music project starts to sound like a fairytale romance.“She comes from a totally different [musical] background than me. When I first met her I didn’t think that she would like noise music. But then she bought something from me,” Aguila says of Gould. Aguila runs an intermittent tape label called Hate State and usually hand-crochets the covers for each release. On one of their first meetings, Gould bought a compilation from Aguila consisting of six tapes attached to a small, latch-hook rug. “The only people who would usually buy something like that are crazy, raw noise fanatics that just buy everything. I was like ‘This girl’s not going to listen to this music.’ Two years later we’re in a band together,” she says with amusement.
That band is a testament to the creative potential in the union of opposites. Both artists use non-traditional instruments, but after that, their approaches diverge. As Kevin Shields, Aguila runs bits of audio tape through an obsolete film editing device. She adds distortion or delay and patches it into her mixer, which she also uses as a source of feedback. It sounds like an extended-play jet crash. Gould’s sound, on the other hand, is atmospheric, often involving actual melody. Like Aguila, she uses a mixer and pedals, but her own voice is her primary instrument. Using a loop station as a sampler, she records herself live and turns snippets of her vocals into the beats.
As Caldera Lakes, they’ve combined forces and added distorted zither and bells to the tonal mix. Gould’s voice humanizes Aguila’s roiling sonic chaos — even as said chaos boils over into infernal eruptions. Their name reflects this meeting of violence and loveliness. “It means a lake that formed inside of a volcano; so there’s this really sort of serene feeling to it, but volcanoes are really destructive at the same time,” Aguila muses.
But it’s geography more than anything else that makes Caldera Lakes an unexpected collaboration. Gould lives in Denver, and the project began when Aguila, who has since moved to Portland, Oregon, lived in her native L.A. They got to know each other on tour stops in one another’s cities, but never played together before March 2008, when Aguila impulsively invited Gould to join her for a European tour. On a further impulse, they decided to play together as one act.
The duo practiced for a year, playing shows in Denver and L.A. before going on a U.S. tour. “She came to L.A. for like a week, and we just recorded. It was all improvised, but so much of the stuff that’s recorded came out of that one week,” Aguila explains. “I think we felt the same way; that it was magical somehow. It wasn’t like we were jamming. We both knew what we were doing. We had this intuitive thing going on together.” Gould expresses the same excitement about the first time they played together. “It was exactly what I wanted to be making, because I can’t do all that by myself. I’d never met anybody that I wanted to play music with like her.”
United by a love of mixer feedback, the two catalyze one another in way that makes their long-distance band worth the trouble. Says Aguila, “I really love Caldera Lakes because it combines all that poppy stuff with really abrasive noise elements. And that makes it more dynamic. Brittany helped me to move on to this other level that I don’t think I would have been able to get to on my own.” Gould mirrors Aguila with her own thoughts. “I wanted my stuff to display a harshness that I never could do. And she wanted something more melodic, and her gear wouldn’t do that for her. It seemed to work so naturally, which is why we’re willing to put in the time and money to go see each other.”
Gould studies fine art and printmaking in Denver, but says she will consider moving to Portland after she graduates in the spring in order to pursue Caldera Lakes. “Some people can collaborate by sending tracks through email, but we can’t do that. We have to be in each other’s presence. Everything is based on improvisation, and playing together and being there together is totally magic. We’ll record and we’ll listen to it later on, and we’ll be like, ‘How did this work out so perfect?’” Gould concludes. That’s right, they both said “magic.” Caldera Lakes may be a rare case of a long-distance relationship with long-term potential.