"Poetry you can dance to...nothing short of amazing." The LA Times
"Absurdly rich with talent. Drums demand foot-stomping, viola is laced between indulgent guitar hooks, and the lyrics are just wry enough to tickle your nerd bone." The LA Weekly
"A blend of Brit rock sensibility and Southern California energy, the Airborne Toxic Event is what would happen if Morrissey and Franz Ferdinand shared a summer home." Spin.com
"I already loved them after the 3 song EP but the live performance helped me decide this is one of my favorite bands of 2007." John Richards, KEXP, Seattle
"Reviews of their live show have been stellar, those who have seen it find it hard to believe they are a new band." Inflight at Night
"These guys (and gal) are great. They leave everything they have on stage." Floating Away
Literary allusions are hardly new territory in rock and roll. The Fall named their sixth record Bend Sinister after Nabokov's infamously dark novel. The Velvet Underground got its name from a certain cult book on sex and bondage given to Lou Reed at a party one night. "Killing an Arab" by the Cure is a reference to the Stranger by Camus - Robert Smith's favorite book, in fact.
The Airborne Toxic Event borrows its name from the novel White Noise by Don Delillo. Published in 1984, the book foresaw a world consumed by media - radio waves, billboards, television, advertisements - all crowding waking hours, finding their way into dreams, subconscious thoughts, incoherent bits of static about Toyotas, Pepsi, manic depression, and the president. The Airborne Toxic Event is an enormous dark cloud, created by an explosion at a nearby chemical plant. In addition to the crowded airwaves, the cloud portends death, lingering at the edges of life, giving it meaning, urgency, something to fear.
Such notions proved compelling to Daren Taylor and Mikel Jollett who formed the band in Los Feliz in 2006 based on a shared love of - among other things - the Cure, the Fall, and the Velvet Underground. The pair locked themselves in a small room in a warehouse in downtown L.A. for hundreds of hours, surrounded by the industrial yards, the train tracks, the L.A. River with its concrete embankments washing city refuse out to sea. Screaming, banging, stomping, dancing in the middle of the night, they began to feel they were on to something, flirting with the idea of becoming a two-piece band.
Then came Noah Harmon; a graduate of Cal Arts with a degree in stand-up bass. Harmon was the rare melding of punk and baroque: somewhere between Brahms, Charlie Parker and the Misfits. Jollett asked him one day if he could play electric bass. He could, in fact.
Anna Bulbrook was a classically-trained violinist from Boston, a 23 year-old chanteuse hanging around the L.A. art scene looking for something to do. The boys asked her to play violin on a few songs. Fearing that her expensive violin might be broken or stolen at a rock and roll show, she suggested viola instead. After a few practices she was playing tambourine and keyboard. On a whim one evening, it was discovered that she could sing.
Finally, Steven Chen - a trained pianist, guitarist and writer - was asked to come by the warehouse one afternoon and play a keyboard line. The chemistry was immediate, and after a brief stint in Tokyo, Chen returned to Los Angeles and joined the band full time.
The music press has compared them to the Cure, Modest Mouse, the Smiths, Franz Ferdinand, the Clash and the Arcade Fire. Rolling Stone named them one of the top 25 bands on MySpace. Their live show, in addition to viola, organ, guitars and trumpet, includes the hood of a 1969 Alfa Romeo found at a junkyard one afternoon.
It's been a heady few months. And what began with a literary allusion, with a couple of boys alone in a warehouse, has become a kind of sweeping plea - to dance, to sing, to cry, to live - to find something alive and kicking among all the static, death, and white noise.