Sean Smith has played music of varying genres for a long time under his own name, while musicians around him have gone through monikers like a winemaker goes through grapes. Now that’s changed.
“The music I’ve been playing is a little more removed than the interface of one person playing one guitar,” Smith says. “[The music] is a little more synthetic. I felt like it made more sense to name it something and I wanted that something to be slightly oblique.”
Smith ended up with his own moniker, LFZ. The three letters do indeed stand for something, but the musician will not divulge what.
“I have to keep at least one secret,” Smith says.
The master finger-picker – known as a new American primitive-style acoustic guitarist – added effects and began mastering synthesizers to birth LFZ in 2015, which he describes as “electric neo-psychedelia.”
“Synthesizers and electronic effects, as well as guitars, form rich yet minimalist soundscapes reflecting on the cycle of life and death,” Smith explains.
LFZ’s 2018 debut, Name Plus Focus, was released on John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees’ Castle Face Records. It marked a huge departure from the garage rock for which the label is known.
The seven tracks are ambient dreamscapes into hallucinatory regions reminiscent of a space – some scary, some happy, some undefinable – achieved while under the influence of peyote or some other psychedelic substance.
“These Crimes Occurred at Night” is a soundscape thriller that leads down a dark alleyway, immersed in the sound of a futuristic harpsichord.
Then there’s “Name Plus Focus Equals Purpose,” a hopeful, harmonic synthesized symphony in a land where notes and chords extend like long stretches of abandoned highways.
“When you start out, you experiment through mimicry a lot and trying to find your own voice,” Smith says. “Now, as an artist, I am more connected to that voice and more authentically in control of the music I make, whether it be compositional or improvisational. When I’m looking for a particular mood or idea, I now go directly to that sound and make it happen. I’m not wrestling as much with tones or textures as I am with the actual content.”
Monterey space-psych rock duo Star Breath opens the show.
LFZ AND STAR BREATH 7pm Friday, Sept. 27. The Lab, 3728 The Barnyard, Suite G-23, Carmel. $10 suggested donation.thelabarts.com