HEALTH’s John Famiglietti hopes to make noise all the way to mother’s land

December 18, 2015
From left, Benjamin Jared Miller, Jake Duzsik, John Famiglietti and Jupiter Keyes of Los Angeles noise rock band HEALTH. (Courtesy of Loma Vista Recordings)

From left, Benjamin Jared Miller, Jake Duzsik, John Famiglietti and Jupiter Keyes of Los Angeles noise rock band HEALTH. (Courtesy of Loma Vista Recordings)

By Brian Han

If you are a Korean, and your son plays on a noise-rock band, you are going to be hearing from a lot of concerned relatives and friends.

“Oh my god, we have to pray for him.”

Sorry mom.

But John Famiglietti of HEALTH,  a four-piece electronic noise rock band based out of Los Angeles, would like them to know that he is doing just fine. There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.

For example, they wouldn’t be so concerned if they saw the amount on the check they got for composing the soundtrack to the game Max Payne 3.

And even they had to be impressed with the coverage the band recently got from the Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker.

HEALTH is normally armed to the teeth with a heavily-distorted combination of atonal sounds pinned down by live pounding drums and an almost disarming voice. The group’s visual aesthetic soars across the border into offensive with music videos that feature profuse amounts of blood, dizzying cuts and most recently slow motion vomiting in “New Coke,” personally directed by Famiglietti.

He’ll be the first to tell you that “it’s not for your parents.”

But that’s what contributed to a sizable cult following since HEALTH’s inception in 2005.

Still, Famiglietti has plans to expand beyond that.

“Around 2010, we were touring Australia and I said, ‘We’re not getting any younger and we’re not getting any bigger,’” he recalled. “In 2011 electronic music production became so powerful. It took this quantum leap and I thought, ‘We might have to change some things.”

Much of the music on HEALTH’s latest album “Death Magic” was written back in 2011. The band began to introduce new approaches into their workflow including collaborations with outside producers like Andrew Dawson (Kanye West) and Lars Stalfors (Cold War Kids) who were more well-versed in pop. Before this point, all previous work had been self-produced.

There’s not much Korean about Famiglietti, other than that he likes the food, but even he couldn’t help but to notice the wave K-pop was making globally.

“All these American hipster cool music kids are really into K-pop and some stuff from Girls Generation and Psy are actually good,” he said illustrating the far reaching ability of the genre. “Our new stuff is a lot more pop. It’s all electronic now almost entirely. The plan was to create something way, way bigger.”

On “Dark Magic” the band’s known identity is still firmly implanted into the music. The songs are still dark and brooding enough that any similarities to K-pop will only be found by actively searching for those connections.

“The jump from our old stuff to K-pop would be impossible, but the production, the drum sounds. you could now put it in and say, ‘Hey, this is actually music,’ as opposed to noise,” he said. “You could put them next to each other in a playlist and it would make sense.”

Famiglietti naturally had some concerns about upsetting the hardcore fans, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far, he said.

If HEALTH achieves its goal of finding a more global appeal, Famiglietti hopes to take the music to new parts of the world — especially South Korea.

“I’m dying to play in Seoul and I think with this record it would make a lot more sense for us to go over there,” he said. “We’ve played in Asia already when we toured through China. We were approached to play.”

Touring and traveling are a big part of the appeal for for being in a band according to Famiglietti.

The band started out booking D.I.Y. tours in the states. They moved onto opening for some heavy hitters like Nine Inch Nails and Interpol, which opened up other parts of the world.

“It’s all about the night life and seeing weird stuff,” he said. “You have fun, meet girls. I remember in Rome, the Forum was closed so we climbed the walls. I guess the security there is lazy because there was no one else around. We went in and ran through it.”

He seems sure that the best way to see the world is to pursue a career in music.

“Being in a band is the cheapest form of travel,” he said. “Even if you’re not that good you can go wherever you want.”

Well, HEALTH now has dates in New Zealand and Australia lined up in February.


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