Josh Landau Reveals the Inspiration Behind His New Solo Project, Stolen Nova
Words by Gemma Lacy
Photography by Andrew James Peters
Stolen Nova sashayed into the LA music scene this summer like a laid back, mustachioed comet. Anyone who knows multi-hyphenate Josh Landau wouldn’t be surprised by his entrance at all. You might recognize him as the flamboyant front- man of rock quartet Easy and guitarist and vocalist in The Shrine, but he can also be spotted taking laps in empty pools on his skateboard. The epitome of California cool.
With his new solo creation, Stolen Nova, he’s seeking to explore a new conceptual direction, taking inspiration for his name from Slick Rick and Oasis. He says, “it hit me that I needed a new slate for the new sound, so I went for the new name. I get a buzz out of doing something like that, changing my name or wearing something odd.”
With a focus on rock n roll, what’s most interesting about Stolen Nova is the departure from a guitar-driven sound that has become something of a signature for Landau. Shredding is something he views as a somewhat meditative state, an escape. Yet surprisingly technicality isn’t something that impresses him, he says. As he puts it, that’s like “someone riding a unicycle and juggling a flaming chainsaw or something you know, who cares?”
Instead, with debut single “Vortex” and his other new songs, he decided to discipline himself by just focusing on the song and not the notes. For anyone craving guitar though? He advises them to “just get Hendrix’ Band of Gypsys [live] record, it is the ultimate scream.”
It’s fitting that the video for “Vortex” should be a Monty Python-esque trip of a film. He began with images shot by his girlfriend, artist Nadia Lee Cohen, of a warrior cowboy look the pair had developed. When they had the finished images she suggested, “I cut my mouth out and make it move like this British TV show, Fonejacker so I watched a bit of that and took the scissors to my face. Then I watched loads of
Monty Python and kept cutting and rearranging.” He also credits the work of Jamie Reid and the art punk fanzine, No Mag, saying its Dada influences very much resonate with him. It was the collaboration with Nadia who he describes as “a weirdo genius with a master eye when it comes to color palettes and balancing and composing a frame.” She was adamant he use a dirty ripped sheet as a backdrop for cohesion but it wasn’t without challenges as he says: “It took hours, it drove us both crazy at a point.”
If the video is the announcement of this new artistic energy to the world, then Josh’s signature bravado is what is sustaining it. The first week of launch saw him scale a building on Sunset with guitar and amp to shred to an enraptured crowd. Less enraptured was the building owner who called the cops. Things may have resulted in a near fist fight on Sunset Blvd, but an adrenaline fueled return to the spirit of rock n roll is much needed after the mellowness of pandemic lockdowns.
Another ultimate scream for Landau is the surf/skate life, which is part of his DNA, but it’s more than that for him too. He tells me about a private beach in Malibu that he makes trips to for waves which are in his words, good and empty. ”Sometimes people there get really mad about it. There was this lady who gave us a bunch of attitude, then later we realized she is a TV writer and is worth 200 million dollars. Can you imagine having that and surfing and still being a miserable person. She still gets plenty of waves.” He says he grew up skating and surfing and will do it until “my body doesn’t work anymore” because it’s a conduit for him to clear his mind. The result with this new project is a buoyant, clever new style and sound, which takes him to a new level as an artist. “I didn’t want to overcomplicate this new music or the aesthetic, that’s the most important thing in my world. So I have chosen to just clear my slate for a little while. I want [people] to enter the Stolen Nova universe and get lost.”