Sextile and Automatic Like Seeing On-Stage Fuck-Ups

The bands talk stage fright, the importance of a human element in music, and more.

Brady Keehn and Melissa Scaduto are the founding members of the LA-based post-punk band Sextile; Izzy Glaudini and Halle Saxon are the synth-player and bassist, respectively, of the also-LA-based band Automatic. Sextile just put out their latest record, Push, on Sacred Bones, so to celebrate, the four sat down for a chat about their musical origins, Nirvana, AI, and more.
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music

Brady Keehn: So, we’ve been hanging out for four hours now. We started off with rehearsing at the practice space, going through these songs. Now you’re here helping Mel through one of the biggest life events — she’s moving. How do you guys feel?

Izzy Glaudini: I feel great. 

Halle Saxon: I feel so good. So happy to help you guys and hang out.

Brady: So, how you guys even get into music? I actually don’t know that about either of you.

Izzy: Well, [when] I met you guys — I had another band and I remember I saw you guys at Harvard & Stone and I was like, This shit is so cool

Brady: Get out of here!

Izzy: Yeah! Remember, I booked you guys to open for my band? What venue was that?

Mel Scaduto: The Virgil. 

Izzy: Right. Because I thought you guys were so cool.

Brady: What was the name of your group?

Izzy: It doesn’t matter. 

Brady: [Laughs.] 

Izzy: I was playing guitar and, like, psych pedals. It’s a previous incarnation of music. But that was my first time playing music live.

Brady: But what made you guys get into music? What was that thing that you were like, I want to be a musician. I’m gonna do this.

Halle: Actually, it was the book, Please Kill Me, which is so cheesy. 

Mel: It’s such a good book, though. I’ve read it twice. 

Halle: Yeah, I read that in New York, and then I was like, OK, I’m going to be in a band. And then three years later, I met Izzy and we started a band!

Mel: Hell yeah.

Izzy: I don’t think I had a moment. I just liked doing it, and the more I did it, the more serious I got about it. Because everyone I ever dated was in a band, so I was like, OK, if you can do it, I can do it

Brady: [Laughs.] “If your dumb ass can do it.”

Izzy: [Laughs.] But it wasn’t until this band that I took it seriously, though, as a career path. I was just content floating around before that. What about you guys?

Brady: I mean, I’ve always been into music. My dad played guitar. But I think in my head, it was when I was 17 and in college that I just was like, I want to do this. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right now. I had a band in college 

Izzy: I actually heard it.

Brady: What?

Izzy: I met a friend of yours — I don’t remember his name, but he played me your electronic music. He was like, “It sounds like Animal Collective.” He said that, not me. 

Brady: Yeah, we were very inspired by Animal Collective at the time. I went out and bought the same like SP-555 sampler that Panda Bear used.

Izzy: Those were the days.

Brady: Yeah. I’ve never been really good at playing an instrument or anything like that — I don’t know scales. I have to look at posters to be able to figure it out and shit. But what I liked about them is they were taking samples and looping it and making music out of that, and you didn’t really necessarily have to be a technical musician to be able to make music. I thought that was really cool. That opened up my brain. 

Izzy: That’s like the hip hop way of doing it. 

Mel: I worked with Dave from Animal Collective at a record store in the early 2000s, in New York. He’s such a nice dude. My thing with music and wanting to — I don’t know if I wanted to be a musician from it, but something had happened to me where I listened to music and I felt so inspired by it that I wanted to be a part of it in some regard. Hearing Nirvana for the first time — I was 8 or 9 years old and it was the loudest thing I’d ever heard. My dad played it, actually, in a Jeep really loud, and I remember it being a profound moment. I remember it evoked this crazy excitement — kind of like when a cat has the zoomies. I felt that also from the first time I heard Raw Power.But I didn’t know if I believed in myself for years to make music until I got a little bit older. A lot of people would ask me to be in their band, and then I’d just blow it, and I never really took it seriously for a long time. 

Izzy: So many people I talk to, the first songs they ever learned were Nirvana. There’s something about his authenticity that just speaks to young people and people that are actually musicians. It just resonates. 

Mel: I mean, it’s crazy, the cultural impact of Nirvana. I think since then, we don’t have the same type of thing, but there’s so much cool music now. 

Izzy: It was more like monoculture then; everyone was listening the same thing, mainstream or underground even. But now, there’s so much that exists. It’s kind of overwhelming. Sometimes I’m like, Which one is better? I don’t know. 

Mel: It weirdly is now crossing genres in a wild way. I feel like there’s no rules anymore. Bands like us that are smaller also are obsessed with, like, Charli XCX. There’s a connection there between pop music, which is kind of cool.

Brady: Another thing I genuinely would want to know is: if you guys could start Automatic all over again, what would you do differently this time?

Izzy: Oh, that’s a great question. I feel like I wouldn’t do anything differently.

Halle: Yeah. Maybe just try and help myself be less scared?

Izzy: Yeah, stage fright is not as big 

Halle: If I could gas myself up or something, or [tell myself], “No pressure! There’s just ten people there, it doesn’t matter if you fuck up, you should just try to enjoy yourself.”

Mel: I’ve definitely been through that. [My answer] is very similar, where I would move to the front sooner. And what I mean by that is also having the confidence to, because I never wanted to. I always wanted to stand behind people. But it’s also the funnest role because you can engage and dance with other people and be free and shit. 

Brady: It’s really funny, after so many shows that we’ve played now, I have noticed a lot of things about how audiences react or are at shows, and knowing what I know now, I probably would be less scared. I’ve seen people sing lyrics to songs that we have never played before, as if they knew every word. And I was like, What is this person doing?

Izzy: Wait, how does that make you feel? Because when that happens to me, I am taken out of playing live. I’m like, This is weird!

Mel: Do you ever laugh? 

Izzy: Yes, definitely. I have, like, nervousness too — just like, what the fuck?

Brady: Yeah. I think I was like, what the fuck, when I saw that too. But I realized at that moment that that person was there for themselves. They’re not really paying attention to me, and I have nothing to worry about. They’re not being like, “Well, he just doesn’t have it together tonight…”

Izzy: I personally like it when bands fuck up and make mistakes on stage, when I can feel like they’re human beings and not, like, perfect robots. So I guess we should all cut ourselves a break.

Brady: Yeah, I think that’s the takeaway from that question: Give yourself a break if you’re starting a band.

Mel: [Laughs.] But it makes sense, because it’s such a vulnerable position. And when you’re younger especially, you have yet to get past certain things. So it all feels so heavy.

Izzy: It’s terrifying. Even now as a grown woman, it’s weird to have a million people looking at you. Like, as animals, your fight-or-flight kicks in, so you have to override that shit.

Brady: We were talking about this yesterday, [how] if you look in the crowd, sometimes you can find little pockets of energy that happen that flow. So maybe sometimes on the left side, you’ll get four or five people who are just like, “Ah!!!” And then you go over to them and you go, “Ah!!!” right back to them, and they lose it!

Mel: You’re so good at that. I’ll see you do that shit and I just start dying laughing. It’s so funny to watch them, like, lose their brains. And you’re really good at engaging. I’m almost afraid sometimes, where I’m like, I don’t know if I want to engage that hard…

Izzy: Our performing styles are very different. 

Halle: Yeah, I do not look out at all. I have no idea what they’re doing, and I don’t see the balls of energy.

Brady: [Laughs.]

Halle: I just go somewhere else. I completely disassociate.

Izzy: It’s a different kind of music in our band. There’s a lot of silence, and it’s just very stiff, even musically. And your band, there’s energy involved. I would love to play live in your band, to be honest. [Laughs.] 

Halle: I think maybe at times, I’ve felt insecure about that for sure.

Izzy: Like, Are boring everyone?

Halle: Yeah. Like, Are they bored? Are they tired? Are they criticizing me? 

Izzy: Probably a little bit of that, but… 

Halle: I had an idea for one more question, but it’s not about music.

Brady: Run it. 

Halle: I was just going to ask you guys what the last thing that you liked that you read was. 

Mel: Oof. I haven’t read in a long time. 

Halle: That’s fine.

Mel: I ordered a Cookie Mueller book recently. I wanna know more about her, so I just bought one of her books of some of her stories.

Halle: Wait, who’s Cookie Mueller again? 

Mel: She’s in some John Waters movies. She’s a writer, she died of AIDS. She’s in Female Trouble, I think, and Desperate Living

Izzy: Have you guys ever read The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, written by him? It’s really fucking funny.

Mel:  I’m sure it’s great. 

Izzy: Yeah, he’s just hilarious. Alright, what’s your last book, Brady?

Brady: KORG just put out this weird oscilloscope thing where you can tune your synthesizers to it, so — it’s some nerdy ass shit, but I’ve been reading up on my nerdy ass synthesizers. 

Mel: He’s like,I’ve been checking out this manual…”

Izzy: [Laughs.] I was going to say, tell us it’s a manual.

Brady: [Laughs.] That’s all I read, is fucking manuals.

Izzy: Do you guys want to read or listen to things that are made by [AI]? Does that appeal to you? Would it move you the same way that an album made by a real human would? Do you think the music is what matters, or also the person?

Brady: I think the context, the person behind the prompt matters. 

Izzy: I won’t fuck with it at all.

Brady: Yeah, not for art. Actually, I think the US government already made it so that you cannot copyright AI generated content. So you can’t monetize it, and anybody who generates anything with AI, you can make it your album cover, you can put it in your song. Personally, I think AI music tools are really stupid. They’re like, “Here, [it can] generate a snare sound!” It like, “Dude, I have a synthesizer.”

Izzy: I think people will always want to see like a human element behind stuff that’s made.

Brady: I think so. 

(Photo Credit: left, Sarah Pardini; right, Pooneh Ghana)

Since emerging in 2015, Sextile have been a party-provoking force on the LA underground, capable of kicking up a riot with the raw-edged squall of a synth or the sharp-elbowed jerk of a guitar. Originally formed by Brady Keehn and Melissa Scaduto after the pair relocated from New York to LA, Sextile are now re-joined by Cameron Michel on guitar and synths. Their forthcoming LP — and debut on Sacred Bones — Push is out now.

(Photo Credit: Sarah Pardini)