California’s buzz retro-futurist band Automatic borrowed their name from a forgotten single by LA new wave group The Go-Go’s. But the trio of Izzy Glaudini (vocals, synths), Halle Saxon (bass) and Lola Dompé (drums) couldn’t sound less like sunny West Coast pop. Instead, these outliers specialise in post-punk with trimmings of kosmische and electroclash. Subversively, they eschew the six-string guitar.
Automatic formed in 2017. Glaudini is the daughter of actor/playwright Robert Glaudini. Dompé’s father, Kevin Haskins, and uncle, David Haskins, are the drummer and bassist for feted English post-punk band Bauhaus. Dompé previously played alongside her sister Diva and Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald in BlackBlack.
Automatic signed to Stones Throw Records in 2019, the independent label founded by Cali DJ Peanut Butter Wolf and typically associated with alt-hip hop and R&B acts such as Madvillain, Aloe Blacc and Georgia Anne Muldrow. On that year’s debut album Signal, the group referenced NEU!, Suicide and DEVO. CELINE’s Hedi Slimane used the single ‘Calling It’ for a Paris fashion show and label mate Sudan Archives memorably remixed ‘Strange Conversations’.
Automatic – ‘Calling It’
Mid-2022, Automatic returned with the “apocapop” concept album Excess, with Froth’s Joo-Joo Ashworth producing. The band satirise the contradictions of late capitalism, privilege, hedonism, intergenerational discord and climate change denial on what might be the sci-fi post-punk equivalent to The White Lotus.
The LP launches with the dystopian lead single ‘New Beginning’, which was inspired by the 2018 Swedish film Aniara and tells the story of plutocrats and the ultra rich boarding a spaceship to escape an uninhabitable Earth. The hooky ‘Teen Beat’ highlights Gen Z (and Alpha) disquiet about environmental inaction.
Last year Automatic toured solidly, joining Tame Impala on North American arena dates and playing Primavera Sound. Now the community radio faves are visiting Australia for the Sydney Festival, preceded by a Melbourne headline show.
Music Feeds spoke to Glaudini days after Automatic’s final show of 2022 at The Troubadour in West Hollywood. The frontwoman Zoomed in from a cosy curtained lounge, exuding low-key glamour in a vintage-style tweed jacket and gold chain necklace.
Music Feeds: Have any of you been to Australia before? I figured this is your first run as a band.
Izzy Glaudini: Yeah, none of us have been. I’ve been dying to go, so it’s really cool. As a band, the farthest we’ve gone is Poland [laughs] – all the way from America.
MF: It’s intriguing that you’re signed to Stones Throw. I’m sure you get asked about this a lot, but it’s historically been a hip hop label. How did you make that connection?
Izzy: When we were initially thinking about labels, they were always high on the list, even though it’s not an obvious choice for a band, an indie band – we were the first band they signed in years. They mostly work with solo artists and hip hop artists. But our drummer Lola, her brother-in-law [Matthewdavid] has a tape label called Leaving Records and, just through kind of the grapevine, we were lucky enough to have some connections there.
We sent our demo tape and Peanut Butter Wolf was really into it because he has a very eclectic taste in music. Anyone that’s a DJ, you are open to so many different genres, and back in the day he was really into post-punk. So he has a soft spot for us as a band.
MF: In 2022 you released your second album, Excess. What did you learn from your first, Signal, that you applied to this?
Izzy: The first album, we weren’t really thinking of making like a full cohesive record. It was just, these are the first songs we wrote together. We were just kind of playing and it was boring. Then, when you already have a band identity, you have to maybe step it up and think more conceptually and as a whole for a record. So I think we wanted to, not tell a story, but at least have it be thematically cohesive. And we wrote it during the pandemic, so that gave [us] a lot of material, for better or worse.
MF: At what point did you develop the concept? Did you set out with a theme?
Izzy: We definitely had a theme in mind, and it was kind of impossible to block it out because, living in California, there’s something called fire season. I mean, you guys know about this too, where, if you walk outside, it’s just oppressive – the smoke and the apocalyptic feeling. It’s just a real wake-up call to, “Oh, we are destroying the planet! This is real. It’s not for future generations. It’s happening literally now.”
It’s kind of terrifying to think about and, existentially, there’s so much dread. So we had to write about that, just for our own mental health. The kind of music we write is always a little bit sinister, but still dancey. So it just went really hand-in-hand with the concept.
Automatic – ‘Skyscraper’
MF: You sound like the antithesis of what anyone would think of as a Californian band. Your aesthetic is somewhat redolent of the hyperpop movement with SOPHIE and Charli XCX, but musically, it’s its own entity. What influences do each of you have? Are you in-sync?
Izzy: That’s a good question. I think we all really bond on our tastes. We find the same things interesting. I mean, obviously, we have two variations, but we pretty much have the same aesthetic and taste. And that’s kind of what informed our sound as a band. I’ve played with a lot of different people and it’s rare to hit upon that, so I feel really lucky.
MF: Your band name is a homage to The Go-Go’s. You’ve also got the connection with Bauhaus. How important do you think it is now for musicians to have a sense of legacy?
Izzy: I think it’s really, really important to be aware of not – I don’t even wanna call it “history” because that makes it seem antiquated. I just think everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. There’s like no soul. I mean, I still mostly listen to older records, you know – not that I wanna just only listen to stuff from the past, but you’re depriving your ears, first of all, if you’re not aware. And, second of all, you gotta know the masters, I think, to make anything interesting yourself.
MF: Has Lola’s dad Kevin Haskins given you any advice? Bauhaus definitely would’ve seen industry highs and lows.
Izzy: Yeah. Basically her entire family’s at every show. From the very beginning, [Bauhaus] had to learn the hard way of negotiating bad deals or not looking out for themselves artistically. They definitely got screwed. So [Haskins is] very much like, “Put it in writing. Get a lawyer. The minute you can afford a lawyer, you need to get a lawyer.”
It’s hard because artists aren’t, like, “together” people. We don’t really think of ways that we’ll get screwed over. But it’s important these days, I think, to protect yourself. Yeah, Kevin’s been really helpful.
MF: What is your live show like? What can we look forward to?
Izzy: It’s a pretty minimal show, but I think sometimes we stand out as a band because there’s so much space in it and it can be refreshing and like a palate cleanser. So, back-to-back against a bunch of guitar bands, we usually stand out more. We’re not crazily, like, energetic, but there’s a charged stoicism to our performance.
Automatic – ‘New Beginning’ (Live on KEXP)
Automatic 2022 Australian Tour
- Wednesday, 11th January – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
- Thursday, 12th January – The Weary Traveller @ CTA Business Club, Sydney