Image from Open House Arts, Brooklyn. Photo by Lauraberth Lima.
Point Reyes is a picturesque stretch of beach in Northern California; a coast flanked by rocky cliffs, a lagoon and a lighthouse, miles away from urban sprawl. It’s also a band—a real cool one—in Brooklyn.
For Point Reyes, the musicianship is noticeably distant from the tranquil vibe of its moniker, though thematically, its music falls somewhere within worlds of solemnity and adventure.
“I am obsessed and filled with the Northern California landscape,” explains frontman, Asa Horvitz, who grew up near Point Reyes. “My mom is a poet and painter and a lot of her work is focused on this as well, so it really got into me.”
Even so, Horvitz contends the band’s better suited for New York. “If you want to make things happen, it’s a good idea to leave California…it’s a lazy place.”
Point Reyes is anything but lazy. The band came together last fall when Horvitz began searching for musicians to jive with, artists who would embody his eclectic tastes and inspiration with a “command of unusual textures.” Through friends and word of mouth, he came across Dan Bindschedler, a cellist, and Kyle Farrell, a percussionist and “monster.” Shortly thereafter, Point Reyes was born. Currently, the collective is in Poland, backed by a Fulbright Grant, working on their music and building a fan base abroad. The grant, which Horvitz applied for as a solo endeavor, was spawned by his desire to work at the theater company of friend and actress, Ang Gey Pin, in Wroclaw.
“Georgian music is very dense and fully of open 5ths and close 2nds, built on a logic of 5ths and on what harmonies feel good to sing together,” explains Horvitz, making the science of sound seem almost rudimentary. The artistic direction of Point Reyes is an attempt to reconcile Horvitz’s assorted interests in traditional and contemporary music, composition, and ethnomusicology. “Hearing this music totally grabbed me, made me obsessed with polyphonic singing and various ‘world music’ things…Ultimately I realized that what I learned from Gey Pin and other artists who had worked with Grotowski [late director, Jerzy Grotowski] was rigor and non-compromise, going one’s own way. And for me, that took me away from ‘folk music’ and towards writing my own.”
Point Reyes is not folk in a traditional sense, not even experimental, really. There are strands of the genre sewn into the group’s arrangements, yet what makes their music unusual is its obscure alchemy, merging both acoustic and electronic elements into each track. Such unique dichotomy is likewise expressed in the band’s video for “Morning Song,” a splicing of imagery portraying solitude of the woods and a world bound by networks and perpetual communication. Horvitz’s voice is simultaneously austere and contemplative, in the way Bob Dylan’s is eager yet unwearied. Listening to their EP, there are hints of bands like Postal Service and Arcade Fire, though Point Reyes has no propensity to emulate other artists.
With such a wide range of influences and interests, Horvitz is adamant about one thing however: the band should not to be branded as ‘folk.’
“I love bands like Extra Life, Travis LaPlante, Sam Amidon (which I guess is weird folk), noise music, and I go to classical music pretty often,” he comments. “I’m always intrigued by how our stuff gets read as genre. I’ve been considering changing it to ‘Pop Songs for Braxton’ and that will be our genre.”
Accordingly, Point Reyes is less interested in achieving Billboard rankings, more in playing as many shows as possible and gaining recognition. They’ve been regularly performing around Poland, and have gigs booked in Germany and the Czech Republic this summer. The supreme goal for their European adventure, nonetheless, is to create more music.
Stresses Horvitz, “We’re going to work full-time for two months, write a whole new batch of material. That’s something we can’t do in NYC—work eight hours a day, six days a week.”
The Fulbright has no doubt been stroke of good fortune for the band; Horvitz adds, “I don’t know if we want a label deal, though help doing what we do already would be amazing. I want a booking agent; I really, really want a booking agent.”
Horvitz’s dream gig is to open for Joanna Newsom, the muse of “Morning Song,” ideally at The Fillmore in San Francisco. All the same, he says he’d settle for a stone church, punkhouse, or old mud club as well. Newsom’s last record, Have One On Me (Drag City), has had significant influence on Horvitz as an artist, not only in music but gender perception.
As for life plans, Horvitz intends to kill the scene in Brooklyn with Point Reyes, plugging the band’s creative work onto a stage of consummate sound and innovation. He recognizes the talent brewing in his former homeland, particularly in cities like Portland and San Fran, and has intentions to go back West later in life. For now, he keeps California close at heart through his ale selections—Lagunitas, preferably—and his lyrics, which he feels seek meaning through place.
When broached with the quintessential barometer of musical taste—Miles versus Coltrane—Horvitz responds with the insight of a visionary.
“My dad is an avant-garde jazz musician and he played me Coltrane when I was 13 or 14, and it utterly changed my life,” he recalls. “Coltrane smashes up everything, he’s the punkest of the punk, and I would say the greatest instrumentalist I’ve ever heard. But I was ultimately more influenced by Miles because Miles is a bandleader and Miles is always changing. He’s thinking about music so deeply, he’s always evolving forward, and that is something really important for me, that I should keep moving forward.”
To Eastern Europe and beyond, Point Reyes flows, a sentiment much like their breezy origin, brought to speed with the current of time. Their only limitation is the number of hours in a day, but, with a temperament of valiancy, such parameters merely add fuel to their fire. Fittingly, Horvitz admits his greatest errs have only been his mindset—“any time I thought something was a mistake.”