Photography Lauren Dukoff

Something is happening in music studios all across Los Angeles. A new scene of adventurous musicians, perhaps weary from the nonstop attention directed at certain East Coast boroughs pushing the musical envelope, is wooing avant-garde music lovers, demonstrating that experimental pop need not conjure thoughts of cold weather, brownstones, and the Brooklyn Bridge. LA bands such as High Places, Rainbow Arabia, and Lucky Dragons are among these acts, but there is also Hecuba. They are not satisfied by just pushing the envelope; rather, they are the kind of band that wants to tear the envelope open and show the world what the future sounds like.

The duo, made up of Isabelle Albuquerque and John Beasley, is closely connected to other LA artists. Albuquerque says, “There is a new crop of younger artists who are pumping so much life into the nightlife. It’s a really exciting time to be here.” One of the charms of the current scene is that it lacks a central narrative that might define artists so keen on remaining indefinable. Instead, there is merely a kindred spirit driving the whole machine forward into uncharted territory. “That’s what’s kind of cool about the bands here right now,” says Albuquerque. “We inspire each other, but we all have very distinct sounds, tastes, and ways of being.”

Hecuba searches for sights and sounds that exist beyond the hindsight of retro-revivalism. “We want to make music that doesn’t look back,” Albuquerque says. Ask her what period of music most influences them, and she will playfully respond, “2045!” Try to pin traditional genre and structure to their songs, and you’ll come up short, but you’ll be all the better for it. By focusing on the tiniest elements of the familiar: a chord progression from old soul music, the pitter-patter of analog hip hop beats, and ambient harmonies inspired by classical and world music—Hecuba is able to twist and manipulate seemingly disparate parts into a complete sound that becomes compelling in its unfamiliarity.

For example, their  recent single, “Suffering,” is a wonderful re-imagination of ’50s era standards that trades the “Wall of Sound” for the vacuum of space. Albuquerque says, “We wanted to have a very clear and crisp sound, where you can hear every snap.” The result is the perfect soundtrack to a Rockabilly-themed dance party that could take place 50 years from now. In fact, the video for the song involves heavy imagery tied to that era, though it’s all filtered through a penchant for the futuristic and experimental. This striking blend of nostalgia mixed with the otherworldly wouldn’t seem out of place in the daydreams of surrealist filmmaker David Lynch, providing he could keep up with them.

Filmmaking and the future are both forces that drive Hecuba’s creativity. In this sense, Hecuba are not just musicians, but performers striving to create media hybrids that fuse together visual and musical aesthetics. Albuquerque says, “We just collaborated on a couple music videos with Isaiah Seret and when we first met,  he said that he was a filmmaker that wished he was a musician. I thought this was funny because we are musicians who work like filmmakers.”

In fact, Hecuba started behind the camera, not in a recording studio. “We actually met in order to make a film together. Jon was making a film about a woman who had these visions of being abducted by aliens, and he was looking for someone to play this woman,” Albuquerque says. It’s fitting that this chance encounter would segue so seamlessly to music, given Hecuba’s renaissance nature and their anything-goes attitude. Where the next segue will take them is anyone’s guess.

– Charlie Rohrer