2019 American Music Awards

Coachella Backbeat: Of Monsters and Men, IO Echo, Tegan and Sara, More

Lord Huron, right, with managers Richard Cohen, left, and Dave Murphy (Catie Laffoon)

Coachella kicked off on Friday as thousands arrived at the Empire Polo Club grounds. The chatter of the day was all about How To Destroy Angeles vs. The Stone Roses -- both playing at the same time on opposite stages -- how everyone needed more sunscreen, and that Pharrell was walking around on site.

We made our way to the festival in the early afternoon, catching up with Pretty Lights (Derek Smith), who was backstage having tour bus issues. “We drove in [at] about 5am. They told us that we couldn’t drive in, but we told them they could try to tow the bus. In the end, the bus did not move,” he joked. Later in the afternoon that very same bus lost power, which isn't a fun experience under  such steamy temperatures. Smith told us that he planned to put a lot of new music from his upcoming album in to his Sunday Coachella set and that he was looking forward to his second year at the festival. When asked if there were any members of his team floating around to snap a photo with, Smith ran into the trailer and introduced us to his cat, Neko. It was hot and his trailer mate was not happy.

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From left: Of Monsters and Men's Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, Brynjar Leifsson, Kristján Páll Kristjánsson, Marisa Fair of Paradigm Talent Agency, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, Rachel Pestik, Ragnar Þórhallsson, and tour manager Tom Nichol (Catie Laffoon)

Of Monsters and Men aren't used to the heat. The Icelandic indie rockers welcomed a break from melting in the desert sun to bask in the A/C in a backstage trailer. Drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson expressed genuine concern over the matter. “I’m worried I’m going to start sweating on stage and have sunscreen drip into my eyes. That’s a serious problem” he joked. The band mentioned that they are finally starting to think about a follow up to 2011’s My Head Is An Animal. “We are going to work on it when we get home after the tour. It wraps in August,” said Ragnar Þórhallsson. Also with the band was their management team: Rachel Pestik and Marisa Fair of Paradigm Talent Agency and tour manager Tom Nichol who were getting ready to head over to see Jake Bugg. “I can hear him. Jake Bugg’s playing right now. I’m so antsy to go see him,” chirped Fair before politely excusing herself to catch the show.

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From left: IO Echo's Leopold Ross, manager Jamal Dauda and IO Echo's Ioanna Gika (Catie Laffoon)

One of Coachella’s must-see bands this year was IO Echo. We caught up with founding members Leopold Ross and Ioanna Gika in the media area as they were snacking on mango popsicles along with manager Jamal Dauda (Undocumented Management). Dauda told Billboard.biz that in addition to IO Echo, he works with Wolfgang Gartner, who played the Sahara tent tonight. “They’ve been working so hard and it’s just awesome that people are taking notice,” said Dauda of IO Echo’s recent success. He added that the management is undergoing more of a grassroots approach to marketing them: “They are the type of band that we feel is going to be doing it a long time and we want to do it the right way. I think the priority for us is just tour, tour, tour. They have an amazing live show and we stand behind it. It’s kind of just old-fashioned rock and roll -- just getting out in front of people. They just got off a Garbage run and then they are going to go out with Joy Formidable after this and we just want to stay on the road – playing Lollapalooza and just touring as much as humanly possible throughout the rest of the year.” Dauda also told us that he has a “slight addiction” to Billboard.biz. “I check it every morning, along with CNN -- to make sure nothing has blown up!” he joked.

Dillon Francis and his manager were backstage unwinding after his afternoon set on the Sahara stage. Francis mentioned that he’s finishing up his latest album, which Diplo is producing. He credited Diplo as being responsible for so much of his career and referred to him as his “EDM dad.” When asked what the best piece of advice was that Diplo ever gave him was, Francis replied, “Don’t get tattoos. That was towards the beginning of my career. I got tattoos. I have a dog on my leg; I have a dolphin on my leg that says ‘Dolphin Francis…’ He then proceeded to pull down his pants to show us and half the media area his leg tat. Matt Hwang from his Teamwork Management team laughed it off while a backstage publicist yelled, “Oh Dillon!”

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Dillon Francis shows off his tattoo (Catie Laffoon)
Sam XL was walking around the Coachella campus carrying a copy of the Coachella Camp magazine. “Last year I was in this! I had a picture with my daughter on my shoulders and I was one of the co-choosers. I had picked out 6 different bands that you should go see. And the year before, I was on the page with Rusko. I just looked at it and I’m not in it though, damn! I thought I’d get three years in a row.” His publicist, Chris Hulbert from Pure Media told us that the duo spent their morning hanging out backstage in the trailer area. “All these artists kept coming in to visit Sam. I don’t know who any of them are though. They are all his friends. I’m not that hip,” he joked.

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Thomas Gold, left, and tour manager Simon Bettison (Catie Laffoon)

Thomas Gold and his tour manager Simon Bettison were backstage revving up for Gold’s show. “I just started working with Thomas 2 months ago. It’s been really fun so far,” said Bettison, who added that Gold’s dressing room was “very Coachella” and filled with pictures of puppies taped on the wall. The duo just got into down from Germany and were flying out right after the show. “We’re bummed that we don’t get to catch any other shows,” said Bettison.

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Tegan and Sara (Catie Laffoon)

Tegan and Sara sat on the grassy Coachella lawn to chat about their busy touring and press schedule they’ve been on since the release of their latest album, Heartthrob. They also added that they are playing the entire album live each night. “We play 23 songs. We play 13 old songs and 10 new songs so it’s a very good mix,” said Tegan. “We have short songs,” joked Sara. They were on site with managers, Nick Blasko and Piers Henwood with Amelia Artist Management.

We also caught up with AESOP Rock and his tour manager James Lynch, who chatted about AESOP’s new project, an album on which he collaborated with Kimye Dawson under the group name The Uncluded, which is releasing on May 7th. “We’ll be touring together all summer -- June and July.” Lynch told us that aside from being the tour manager, he would also be playing in his band. “He’s going to play bass in the live show and some synthesizers in The Uncluded -- everything that me and Kimye don’t do, he’s going to do.”

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From left: Tour manager James Lynch and Aesop Rock (Catie Laffoon)

As the evening continued, we bounced around from show to show, also running into Lord Huron and management team Richard Cohen and Dan Murphy before capping off our Friday night in the audience of Jurassic 5 -- where we spotted KCRW’s Jason Bentley and HARD’s Gary Richards (DJ Destructo). We eventually called it a night after a captivating set by How to Destroy Angels.


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