Isaac (left) and Emma (right), from The Potential Lunatics’ Instagram (@TPLBand).
When The Potential Lunatics played their first live show at Bixby Knoll’s First Fridays, Isaac Simons-Araya (drums) was too short to be seen behind his drum set. Nearly six years later the Long Beach brother/sister duo Emma (guitar/vocals) and Isaac has evolved into a tight-knit band that sings about feminism, love and the adolescent experience.
“It’s really funny to see those [younger years] of my life so well-documented with magazines or listening to [our music]. I used to think it was really cringe worthy… it’s documented and it wont go away,” Emma said. “But I’m not as embarrassed like I used to be because I like it now. We see the progress in my songwriting and the way we play our songs… it comes together as a nice collage of our lives.”
Before the siblings officially started their band, Isaac wasn’t too keen on the idea of playing drums, but was eventually forced to by his sister. Emma is clearly the dominant personality and driving force behind the creative direction of the band, but the two now collaborate when creating new music.
Because they formed the Potential Lunatics during their preteens, the greatest hurdle they faced was finding venues that were open to having them perform. Long Beach, however, has been one of the cities to fully support them.
“I always felt like Long Beach is a place for artists, and my experience with [the city] is pretty honest compared to other artistic communities that aren’t noticed,” Emma said. “When we first started I remember we were very little children and it was just hard to get shows, but we were accepted in Long Beach. We started off playing at First Friday’s and it took off from there.”
When Emma first started writing lyrics, she said she had set standards for herself like refusing to rhyme words like ‘love’ and ‘dove.’ What had started off as a bratty, ’90s-influenced grunge band later transitioned to punk rock, mainly because Emma always had a desire to scream.
“I wanted to scream for a long time, but I was 12 and I couldn’t get something from deep inside out,” she said. “It took me a couple of years to completely get it to how I want… later we started to play faster and faster, and it’s been like that since.”
Besides having a passion for screaming, growing up with riot grrrl music and feminism also influenced the direction of their band.
“When I was eight years old I was really into the Ramones, which was cool,” Emma said. “But when I listened to Bikini Kill and their stuff is screaming and stuff about being a grill, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, this is what I want!'”
Like every young band, they have faced their fair share of obstacles, like having their tour van break down, battle scars and injuries form wild performances and even sexist comments and harassment during performances. Despite the annoyance of having to face sexism, Emma credits the latter in instigating some of their best gigs.
“I like being pissed off when I play. if someone gives me a reason to be pissed off like annoying punk boys who are sexist, it totally drives me,” she said. “It aggravates me in the right way, and we’ll do a good performance where I’ll be rolling on the floor and spitting at them.”
While Isaac isn’t as talkative or loud as his sister, his on-stage persona is a new person. He smirks, and exudes a diva-like attitude that he attributes in helping him perform better. They both admit they’ve purposely developed a bratty, in-your-face attitude.
“We’re nice people, but for the music and the things I feel about being a woman in the world, it is a conscious effort to act this year,” Emma said. “I feel like you don’t see a snobby, mean woman that’s in your face about these topics and I think it’s really important. You need to slap the annoying white boys in the face and you need to recognize that you’re part of the problem and that’s kind of what we’re doing.”
With two LPs and years of live performance experience, Emma and Isaac make it an effort to perform their live music anywhere and everywhere. They’ve performed at venues and events like the Troubadour, Gilman 924, the Grammy Museum, SXSW, the Long Beach Zombie Walk and any bars that are open to letting them perform. While the two have worked hard in honing their sound, Emma and Isaac are thankful for their supportive parents who have encouraged them to practice and helped them tour throughout the U.S.
After the release party for their second full-length album, “Dizzy Spells and Garden Talk” at the Expo in Long Beach, the Potential Lunatics have a mini-tour in the works. They will also perform at this year’s Long Beach Zombie Walk.
If you happen to stumble into a bar or venue where the Potential Lunatics are performing, don’t be fooled by their bratty attitude or petite size, the siblings have a lot of spunk and knowledge to drop during live gigs.
Above, left: Emma and Isaac were named two of the Post’s 40 Under 40 award recipients in 2013. File photo.
Above, right: The Potential Lunatics performing at LB Riot Grrrl’s first show, Bring Back the Riot. Photo courtesy of IE Riot Grrl.
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