Last week, synth-loving post-punks Sextile delivered their latest full-length to a full house at Los Angeles’ beloved Fonda Theatre while a throbbing crowd swayed to, and with, what can only be described as “hardcore dance.” Though the band, with roots in New York and California, initially entered the discourse as a darkwave outfit, after the 2019 death of original member Eddie Wuebben, they took a three-year hiatus, only to reemerge with a quickened pulse and a penchant for electronica.
The trio has forged a dedicated fanbase and an addictive sound from LA’s underground scene, standing out for their unique place in the overlap of a Venn diagram between Kandi Kid ravers and circle pit punks. Days before dropping Push, their first full-length in five years, AltPress sat down with two-thirds of the band, Melissa Scaduto and Brady Keehn at an Astro Burger in East LA — where we talked sober living, New York City, and the genesis of Sextile.
How’s it going this week? Is it super busy?
MELISSA SCADUTO: Dude, I could not be going through a more crazier transition in life.
Are you excited at all or…?
SCADUTO: So, I want to be in the present moment for this record release, but I just moved from a beautiful house up the street that I’ve been at for eight years to the South Pasadena/Alhambra border to my own apartment. We’ve been so focused on this that it’s kind of far away, too. So when we leave for practice or various things that we have to do, I’m away from home for a while, and I’m basically just in boxes right now. So it’s a little surreal with these big changes going on, but I’m very excited about the record release.
How does it feel compared to your last full-length, five years ago?
SCADUTO: It was ages ago. We put out an EP in between that time that I think was our most successful work — the 3 EP. To be honest with you, I think that’s when we really found our sound and what we wanted to do. I’m most proud of that record because it’s the most listenable to me. That’s just [because] my tastes had changed, I guess. Our first record we made in sober living. We had just gotten sober.
BRADY KEEHN: They were chill about it, actually.
SCADUTO: You lived in a chill, sober living. Mine wasn’t. So I couldn’t even have men in there, and I needed that at the time, though. I was a wild child.
KEEHN: I relapsed in my first one, and then I went to another sober living, and then this one just let me do what I want, which actually kept me sober, because I wanted to make music.
SCADUTO: But also, you were ready, finally.
KEEHN: Yeah, I was. I wanted to just fucking make music. Like, let me focus on this. And the other spot, I couldn’t do that. It was more rule-based, and I rebelled against that.
Did y’all get sober in NYC, or did you meet here in LA?
SCADUTO: We met in New York. We actually met Cameron also in New York. I’ve known Cameron for almost 20 years. I’ve known Brady for 12. Cameron is not sober, but me and Brady met in recovery. It’s a kind of shocking story. I don’t think it happens for everybody where we were a mess together and somehow managed to get sober and start the band out here. I came out here because of MusiCares. They flew me out here.
MusiCares is so amazing.
SCADUTO: Fucking best. Saved my life.
They paid for so much of my therapy.
SCADUTO: They’ll pay to help you fix your teeth, all kinds of stuff. So we started the band in Narcotics Anonymous with two others that we met. Someone I met at an NA meeting at my sober living named Eddie Rubin. And then [Brady] met Kenny at sober living.
Was it just a conceptual idea, or was it like, “Hey, I have some songs. Do you want to work on music together?” How did that process start?
SCADUTO: It was the latter half. I have some songs. Do you want to work on music too?
KEEHN: I was writing a few things that I had come up with, and I asked Kenny to play on [them]. He was playing drums at the time, and then we recorded a demo in the Sober Living Garage, and then he sent it to our friend Sammy, our late friend Sammy, and he sent it to Michael Stock from Part Time Punks.
SCADUTO: But I met Eddie, the [first] show was booked… And when we played that first show, a label saw us right away that wanted to sign us. I was playing synth at that show, but my issue with the drummer, Kenny, at the time, was he was speeding up all our songs to make us into a typical rock band, and I hated that. I love primitive shit. I love Moe Tucker from Velvet Underground, so I really thought the band would benefit from me moving from synths to playing drums.
KEEHN: We also felt that it was stereotypical of a girl to play synth.
SCADUTO: Yes, and Eddie was on guitar, but actually he would overplay. So we moved him to synth because he never played synths, so we all switched instruments. It made the band honestly, organically, way fucking better. But we were still figuring out our sound on that first record. So honestly, I’m not really that proud of that record as much because it’s very dark. It’s rushed. I think we were more into death rock at the time and Death In June and stuff like that. So it definitely had a different vibe, the Cramps and whatever, which I love all those bands still, but I definitely feel like there’s not a lot left to be said within just rock music anymore. I think incorporating electronics, there’s a huge reason for that — in 2023, there’s no rules for anything. To keep in a genre is boring. So we just evolved over time. Albeit Living was recorded to play more as a band, and that was our last full-length record. And that one’s definitely more of a rock record.
Yeah, it’s a great record. There’s also elements of electronics. You can hear them bubbling up. I went backward. I heard 3, and then I listened to Albeit Living, and then A Thousand Hands.
SCADUTO: Which I just saw somebody paid a hundred dollars for it on Discogs. Oh, my goodness. I’m like, “It’s good.” They should. We’ve lost the masters, so I don’t know if it’s going to come out again.
So your new song “New York,” what’s the idea behind that song conceptually? Is it an ode to New York?
SCADUTO: To me, it’s like a romantic electronic song because it has that really cute playful melody. Since we wrote it right before the record was basically due, the vibe of it felt right to be an ode to New York. I had written these lines that I had saved in my phone in my notes or ideas or whatever that sparks up. And the line about “We’re tough out here, but the love goes crazy,” it came from an Instagram comment on a What is New York? post essentially [about] how New Yorkers are hard, but when it comes to shit hitting the fan, they show up for each other on a whole other level… I thought that line was really the epitome of the way that I feel about New York. It just so happened that we finished it when it was already hot out, and then I was like, “We got to make a music video.” The deadline was coming up and I was like, “Fuck it.” We got to do it on the 4th of July, one of the best times to be in New York. I feel like the whole city’s ready to cut loose. I knew I could get people randomly to dance on the fucking train just because New Yorkers randomly will interact with you. I had some of my best friends that I’ve known for 20 years in the video. Still live in New York.
Where did you make the record?
SCADUTO: Half was at Brady’s house and my house, and half of the record was made in Yucca Valley. We went out to the desert specifically with Cesar [Reyes] after we’d made “Crassy Mel” and “Contortion,” like, “We have to make more songs!” We gave ourselves a time constraint because we couldn’t put fire to our ass to finish the songs.
So you had to leave to do that?
SCADUTO: We basically decided that we were going to do our record release show at the Fonda and told our booking agent to book it. We hadn’t finished it. Then Sacred Bones was like, “Hey, we want to put out your guys’ next record.”
KEEHN: We’re like, “Great. We have a record date coming up, but we haven’t finished it. It’s just demos.” They said they needed it in one month, and we were like, “OK.” And then we did it.
What would you say your key influences were in this album?
SCADUTO: Definitely 1989 Hacienda-based albums, Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, Happy Mondays’ Bummed and Pills ‘N’ Thrills And Bellyaches, and Underworld in general!
KEEHN: For me, I’ve had this whole trip of trying to reconnect to what originally inspired me to make music, so I’ve been listening to a lot of records I listened to as a kid, getting back into sampling and modulating found sound. Yes, Underworld here, too.
What was the motive for making a dance album?
SCADUTO: Just wanted to challenge ourselves more and try to make a record we want to hear. Brady always says our live show influenced this — ’cause we always want to make people dance.
KEEHN: I think Mel and I are just getting back to our roots here. When I was 13, I walked into my first drum-and-bass tent at HFStival in D.C. Diesel Boy was on, and my life changed forever then. I had never heard bass or music like that before.
What’s your favorite track on the album?
SCADUTO: “No Fun”!
KEEHN: “Lost Myself Again.” I think it’s our fastest song ever.