Thursday, March 05, 2009

10 Questions

Hail Voyagers! This week we take flight with a high-flyin' bird of the strange variety, Brooklyn's Trevor Tyrrell of Weird Owl!

A mere two weeks ago, (February 17th), they released their debut- Ever The Silver Cord Be Loosed on Tee Pee Records.

Here are two takes on the album:

"Like their Texan kindred spirits the BLACK ANGELS, WEIRD OWL manages the neat trick of sounding retro and modern at the same time on Ever the Silver Cord Be Loosed.
Though wallowing firmly in the mire of 60s psychedelia, dark mystic
division, the Brooklyn quintet creates its own shuffling swamp thing
out of the magick muck. The band’s midtempo pace and guitar-centric
attack recall prime CRAZY HORSE, its dark aura the haunted atmospheres of groups like BLACK WIDOW, its lyrics the mushroom intellectual whimsy of any number of well-meaning late 60s acid philosophers. It’s like an angry LOVE translating the ALEISTER CROWLEY oeuvre into music with NEIL YOUNG
on guitar. As such, songs like “Tobin’s Spirit Guide” and “Do What the
Owl Wilt” won’t slap you across the face to get attention – they’d
rather slither at a measured pace until your brain cells make room. The
album is definitely a grower – the rush won’t hit you immediately, but
once it does, you’ll wonder where it’s been when you needed it."
-Michael Toland, The Big Takeover

"The 1970s have become the permanent center of gravity for rock music. Looking back at how they were perceived at the time, there was complaining about fragmentation of the love-in ‘60s, where rock and soul and folk and blues stewed together and shared the stage. But popular music was getting too big, too international, too in the center of the culture to remain a singular current. Recording technology reached a sophistication where subsequent advancements have all been diminishing returns. Plenty of discs from 1972 sound contemporary in a way that isn’t true of even the epics from a few years before, like Sgt. Pepper’s, where they layers still had to be bounced between four tracks.

So, until everyone tires of the 4/4 beat, any new artist is likely to hearken to some ‘70s antecedent. Weird Owl probably doesn’t see it as a burden. They hail from the Stoner Rock league, southwest division. They aren’t mind-expanding as much as mind obliterating. Like their peers, the lyrics could be pulled from a tarot card reading. In their case, the cards are laid out in the bed of a pickup, after a night in the desert, the revelers wrapped in Indian blankets, waiting for the sun to rise. These are heavy but meandering songs, throbbing with guitar effects, but still possessing Crazy Horse’s back-to-the-land feel. They’re from Brooklyn, but that doesn’t matter. Convincing Canterbury pastoral-prog is coming from Swedes like Dungen and Dead Man, while actual contemporary Anglo-Saxons such as Diagonal are making lesser attempts.

When the dissolving hardcore scene first backtracked through this era, they mostly ignored the occult and the acoustic, favoring the bombast. Those bands (the Buttholes, Green River) modeled songs on “Cinnamon Girl.” Weird Owl is going for “Cowgirl in the Sand,” where mood trumps volume. And they get to that summit a few times. On “Tobin’s Spirit Guide,” dry guitars trudge through badlands. The destination is the out-of-mind, yet affecting hook of “So it’s tragic / everything I see /it’s magic.”

In a lot of ways, it’s the guileless outlook that make this stuff fresh. Even the hippy originators didn’t have this kind of dedication to the mystic – they were still looking for a woman to ravage all the time, or bitching about the injustice of 30 days in the hole. When Weird Owl compare a woman to Isis, it’s not flattery: the singer is so scorched, the girl is pouring out “pure light.” The single-minded pursuit of mindlessness also limits this scene – as they’re out chasing spirit guides, a lot of these records lose focus. So far, only Entrance’s Prayer of Death has hit me as a front-to-back classic. But the heights here are well worth the songs that wander off the edge of the butte. In that sense, maybe the truest forebearer to burnouts like Weird Owl are the Meat Puppets. The plinking chimes of “In the Secrecy of Oceans” are similarly wide eyed, and it sports the Kirkwood Bros.-worthy “I’ve lost my feather / I’ve learned how to fly.” The newer band is fortunate to have technology at their disposal akin to top-of-the-line 1972 multi-track, but like the Puppets, there’s no showbiz management reining them in, prepping it for radio. It takes some patience to enter their world and get lost among the crystallizing Saguaros."
-Ben Donnelly, Dusted

As for me, what captivates and holds my attention throughout the experience of listening-paying attention listening, is their earnestness. This isn't loving homage or play-by-numbers set of sonics. Whilst the influences and nods are inherent Weird Owl also knows that to go off on your own road means you're going to get dusty, too. And I can feel it, that road. And the stops to light a fire and sit awhile and look up...or, put another way:"out here we're all stoned immaculate."

Into the mind of Trevor we go:

1. In ten words-or less, define "psychedelic music."

Evolutionarily-minded consciousness expressed in sound.

2. What is the most psychedelic instrument, why?

I’d like to think that all instruments have an equal level of potential no matter what the musician might choose to express through them.
There’s probably someone out there who could blow your gourd with his/her kazoo playing because his/her Mind has gotten them into the place where that’s possible.
So maybe Mind must be psychedelically-oriented first, and all else will follow, even if it’s just using a matchbook and some delay.

3. Favorite psychedelic album of all time?

Hands down: “Easter Everywhere”, 13th Floor Elevators.

4. If you could be a member of any band in history, what band would it be and what would you play?

Probably some sort of ancient temple band of high priests.
Something with a little magic to the proceedings.
I would be on chimes and intonations.
I’m thinking something Atlantean or Egyptian.

5. You can go back in time and save one famous "died before their time" rocker so they can continue making music; who do you save and why?

This is a tough question because I wouldn’t want to insert myself into someone else’s karmic responsibility and prevent them from dealing with the lot they’d cast for themselves.
It could result in a warped reality like in “Back to the Future” when that kid’s family starts disappearing from the photo, but on a much Heavier plane.
However, if I was promised metaphysical immunity and promised that I would not be acting selfishly in the face of the Designs of the Universe, I would say Jimi Hendrix.
Out of everyone from that era who met an untimely demise, I can see Jimi having a lot more valuable work left undone.
And he would have done it without turning into an embarrassment or a farce like some people who lived (who shall remain nameless).
But having said that, it was almost as if the Earth could not contain his trajectory anyhow, so he departed to fulfill his mission elsewhere.

6. What era has the best roster of psychedelic music? (60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s..?) Why?

Definitely the 60’s.
I love that line in the song “Woodstock”: “Maybe it’s the time of year/Yes and maybe it’s the time of man”…seems so appropriate.
There’s just so much pointing to the fact that the late sixties was an incredibly important time politically, socially, spiritually, chemically etc. without me having to go into it here.
A lot of the music that was created then was a manifestation of forces involved in this massive overall upheaval, and perhaps more importantly, a lot of it was able to be made before the music industry really congealed itself into the deformed beast it is today. There is a lot of innocence or purity or whatever you want to call it in the music that was made before the lawyers and giant corporations took over music.

7. What album do you wish more people knew about in the psychedelic genre?

There’s a ton of lesser-known gems, but now with information being so easily accessible, it’s hard to know if there is anything that remains truly unknown. For every band that ever was, there’s probably at least one clique of weirdoes somewhere still digging it.
Amazingly enough, a lot of times when I bring up “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake” by the Small Faces, I am met with blank stares, even amongst folks who are hip.
That record is great, especially the second side with Stan Unwin’s narration.

(Stanley Unwin)

8. What band, active today, most defines "psychedelic" to you?

I think that there are a lot of great bands out there, narrating their portion of the trip from their particular point of view.
I am more interested in people who are clearly extending the continuum of psychedelia, rather than imitating past points along the path. Forming a power trio and trying to sound like Cream is a little boring to me. With that in mind, of the records I have purchased recently, I would say that MGMT is doing a pretty good job of being psychedelic without too much backward-lookingness. A lot of their visual imagery is a dead giveaway on the trip factor, too.

9. Top Ten Psychedelic Songs?

Not in any order and not necessarily the best, but 10 I really dig:
1. 13th Floor Elevators “Slip Inside This House”
2. The Electric Prunes “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night”
3. The Pretty Things “I See You”
4. The Small Faces “The Journey”
5. The Jimi Hendrix Experience “Are You Experienced?”
6. The Brian Jonestown Massacre “Feelers”
7. The Rolling Stones “2,000 Light Years From Home”
8. Traffic “Heaven Is In Your Mind”
9. Country Joe & The Fish “Flying High”
10. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band “Ella Guru”

10. Turn the tables, if you'd like, and ask me a question.
Trevor: I am going to take your phrase of turning the tables and run with it: If your life were an LP and you played it backwards on the turntable, what would the hidden message be?

-valis: "You're a High Planes your own....CQ....CQ....CQ....CcccccccccccccccccccQqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq"

THANKS Trevor, and sincere best wishes to Weird Owl on a great 2009 and beyond! (Big nod to Tee Pee Records, too!)


hemizen said...

Just purchased "Ever the Silver Cord Be Loosed" after reading the interview. Diggin' Tobin's Spirit Guide!
Thank you Valis.

sr-71 said...

hmmm, the Cowgirl in the Sand analogy has me intrigued - i'll hafta check these fellers out.

also, WATCHMEN motherfuckers WATCHMEN woo hoo!!!

Cliff. said...

I'll certainly be checking out Weird Owl. Trevor's answer to Q1 is the best yet fer my money.

I too would save Hendrix and have often found myself pondering over, 'What if?' Hendrix was showing an ever increasing interest in fusing jazz into his music before his untimely departure, the Gods know what that direction would have yielded!

Great top 10 too into the bargain.

Chris said...

Trevor's answer to #6 is poignant.

gomonkeygo said...

I'd save Buddy Holly because I'm sure that had he lived he would have become the psychedelic savior of the planet, fronting the 13th Floor Elevators tag-team style with Roky, headlining Woodstock and levitating the Pentagon off the planet with a 24-hour jam on "Peggy Sue."

Seriously, imagine "Peggy Sue" as a track on Easter Everywhere!