Sunday, April 09, 2017

NEW WORK - Put Out The Stars and Extinguish The Sun

                                        Put Out The stars and Extinguish The Sun - Acrylic/Canvas 30x26

                                                                  San Jacinto Mountains - Coachella, CA  

INSPIRATIONS...


                                                                 Blade Runner (1982) Ridley Scott



                                                          Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantino

                                                                                
                                                                                                          Photo: Edwin Blumfield

                                                                                          

 
Ingredients: Golden Open Acrylics - Cerulean blue chromium, Teal, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Violet, Permanent Violet Dark, Zinc White, Hansa yellow medium, Napththol red medium, Liquitex heavy body Mars Black, Golden Acrylics interference Mother of Pearl abstraction, Liquitex Slow Dri. 


                                             "Putting out the stars and extinguishing the sun" 
                                                                     - Ray Bradbury




Monday, December 26, 2016

'Angel Is The Devil' - New Work in Progress... 25/12/16 - Happy Christmas!




Angel Is The Devil - Acrylic on Canvas 28 x 30 - Higgins

Bryan Ferry / Brian Eno - I Thought

 I thought - you'd be my streetcar named desire 
My way - my taste of wine 
I thought - you'd be that flame within the fire 
One dream that just won't die 



All night - looking for new love 
Impossible true love - nothing at all 
Looking for new gods - looking for new blood 
Looking for you 


I thought - I'd find you walking in the rain 
Just like a wayward child 
I thought - I'd find you calling out my name 
So foolish is my pride 



All night - looking for new love 
Impossible true love - nothing at all 
Looking for new ways - looking for strange blood 
Looking for you 





INGREDIENTS:

 Golden Acrylics:Titanium WhiteInterference Red FineQuinacridone Azo GoldCadmium Yellow MediumYellow OchreGreen GoldQuinacridone MagentaPrimary MagentaQuinacridone CrimsonIridescent Silver FineCerulean Blue DeepBurnt Umber LightMars BlackCaravaggio acrylic-primed cotton canvas rollLiquitex Slo-DriGolden Acrylic Glazing Liquid SatinGolden Polymer Varnish...and LOVE









Wednesday, November 23, 2016

All The Poems Have Wolves In Them...

         'She Brushes Off The Challenge With A Shrug' - Acrylic on Linen 32 x 42 - Higgins 2016

ACT I

All the poems have wolves in them,
all but one – the most beautiful one of all.
She dances in a ring of fire
and throws off the challenge with a shrug.
“Who did you right that one for?”
“I wrote it for you.”

ACT II

All the poems have wolves in them,
all but one – the most beautiful one of all.
I hope you go out smiling
like a child into the cool remnant of a dream,
the angel man finally claimed his benevolent soul.
Ophelia, leaves sudden and silk
chlorine dream – mad stifled witness.
“This is the strangest life I have ever known.”

—  All the Poems - Jim Morrison





Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Case of the Shanghaied Songbird - A New Film Noir by Scott Lewis


In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s masterpiece novel ‘Crime and Punishment,’ the guilt-plagued Raskolnikov, while on his journey from transgression to redemption, experiences a series of mysterious conincidences in which cause and effect appear to occur spontaneously.  While Dostoyevsky’s skillful use of happenstance was by no means accidental, the concept of a linked past, present and future, once belonging to the realm of esoteric conjecture, has since become a scientifically proven example of quantum physics.

Several decades of experimentation with the ancient Chinese oracle, ‘I Ching,’ led Swiss psychologist Carl Jung to attach a name to this phenomenon in his groundbreaking work, ‘Synchronicity – An Acausal Connecting Principle.’  The year was 1952.

During this same time period, some 9,000 miles away, amidst the towering Victorian backdrop of early 1950’s Melbourne, a down on his luck detective is about to discover how Carl Jung, an enigmatic jazz chanteuse, and a semi-conscious young woman lost in a dream will synchronistically provide the clues which enable him to finally reconcile the ghosts of his haunted past.  


Flash-forward to 21st June 2016 – the summer solstice.  
I received an email from Australian writer/filmmaker Scott Lewis, enquiring if I would be interested in designing artwork for a new film noir screenplay he had written entitled, The Case of the Shanghaied Songbird.’

At the time of reading this email, I was listening to Perth’s Tame Impala - a track called ‘Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control,’  and thinking, what a great title for a painting!  My next thought was…it’s winter solstice in Australia.


Scott subsequently forwarded me his script, explaining the lead character will be played by well-known Australian actor, Jack Campbell, who now calls LA home, but is known for his work in the popular medical drama ‘All Saints.’ 

                                                                                   Actor, Jack Campbell

Unbeknownst to Jack, Scott had subsequently cast multi-talented actress, Natalie Mendoza (Jackie Clunes in the British drama series, Hotel Babylon) for the role of the beautiful jazz chanteuse.  As it happened, Jack and Natalie not only knew of each other, but were friends. 

                                                                                  Actress, Natalie Mendoza

After reading the screenplay, I am thrilled to be connected with this project and what I feel will not only be viewed as an enchanting visual manifestation of the essence of noir filmmaking, but will most certainly be destined for film festival acclaim. 

Coincidence, casuality, call it what you will...

– the universe operates on its own vibration, and sometimes…

if we’re listening…


we find synchronicity.





GH:  When you contacted me about designing artwork for your film noir, my first thought was to do a little research into the Australian noir scene.  I was amazed to discover that there is a flourishing film noir resurgence going on there, with several films having debuting at Cannes and the Toronto Film Festival in just the past couple years.  You are a writer, director and filmmaker based in Australia, and your film centres around a detective hired to find a girl who is lost in a dream.  What was your inspiration for deciding to create a film noir?

SL: I have always been drawn to film noir and included aspects of it in previous short films, but this will be the first one that uses all the traditional elements of a 1940’s and 50’s noir. It will include many of the characteristics of the classics including the cynical sleuth, the sassy secretary and the sultry femme fatale.

I would love to shoot this on black & white 16mm film to really achieve that traditional look. Although in Australia, film stock and process labs have become very elusive and therefore expensive. Either way we will do our best to achieve the older style film look.  The use of space in a noir film is an aspect that I find very charming and has infinite creative potential. I am looking forward to creating some rich black spaces in the mise en scene of the shots.  I have learnt, as most artist do, that sometimes it’s what you leave out that can really speak. And film noir can do this beautifully. The viewer can project his/her own fantasies into that space?

I think Australia can lend itself to noir because of its vast empty space and this can be mysterious. Some recent Australian films have captured this beautifully like ‘Strangerland’ and ‘Mystery Road.’ These vast empty spaces in Australia may also account for our predication for telling stories about being lost. In this film, the Private Detective is attempting to find a girl who is lost in a dream. 



I am very attracted to the distinctive American Film Noir, and this story will be told in a similar style to that, but using the Gothic architecture and bluestone laneways of Melbourne.


It's 1954 Melbourne, Burn City.  Private Detective, Frank Drennan, has been down and out not for too long. He has a head full of eel juice and drags his heart around on a fifty pound chain.  Jobs are far and few between and his shadow is a reflection of a once successful detective.  A case arrives at his office, and with his reluctance it will take him into a world of sultry jazz club singers, surreal dreams, metaphysical philosophies, a mysterious comet and a sleeping beauty, all to solve 'The Case of the Shanghaied Songbird.'

GH:  So the story opens in the backdrop of 1950’s Melbourne – ‘A tragic but evocative saxophone is the soundtrack.’  When I read this, I immediately thought of JohnLurie!  Have you put together a musical sound track for the film, and are there any musicians or artists who come to mind who would be on your short list?

SL: There is a scene in the film set in a smoky oriental style jazz club where the character Vera will be singing a slow dreamlike song. The song will be similar to the old Cole Porter track ‘All Through the Night’ sung by Julie London in the 60’s.


Our Jazz chanteuse Vera will be played by Natalie Mendoza. Natalie comes from a Jazz musician family and has performed in many stage musicals including leads in Les Miserable and Miss Saigon. Natalie has suggested that she compose and perform a track in this style exclusively for the film.

I shot and cut a teaser video without the actors (as they are working overseas) and a local saxophone player Harry Cooper plays a cool little piece on that. In the film we will have him playing his saxophone in an old phone box and the sound will drift down a lonely street as the detective walks in the night gathering his thoughts.  Gabrielle Sing who plays Janet the secretary, is also a lovely singer. She originally auditioned for Vera until I decided that it would be perfect if our femme fatale character Vera was of Chinese heritage. 
And interestingly enough our head of Costume Department Clare St Clare is also a sensational singer and performer who evokes a different era. Clare performed a few tracks with the amazing Mikelangelo at the premiere of my short film Lily a few years back. I hope to enlist those guys to compose a track for the closing credits.

GH:  Without giving away too much of the plot, ‘The Case of the Shanghaied Songbird’ is not your typical pulp fiction style noir.  Your protagonist, Frank, shares some of the conventional hard-boiled cynicism of a Philip Marlow, but as the story develops we get to see his softer side.  He also experiences some mesmerising dream sequences, which incidentally reminded me of the scene in Hitchcock’s Spellbound -  the part that Salvador Dali created.  You’ve also used a lot of dream symbolism and flirt with Jung’s Theory of Collective Unconscious.  Were there any particular or personal inspirations from which you drew when writing this screenplay?




SL: I guess when you make a film that involves dreams you have to invite Jung along to the party.

When our private detective is researching esoteric matters to help him understand the case, he stumbles upon a film reel of Carl Jung discussing the Theory of Collective Unconscious and how it connects everyone on a certain level. Whether this is the doorway that the private detective uses to enter the dream or not, I guess you will just have to see the film and find out!

I have always been attracted to Jung’s theories and have also used his words in a previous short film Shadow Dreams. His work with dreams and symbolism is so enlightened. And then there is his work with synchronicity, alchemy and I Ching. One could easily be inspired to create a whole series of short films.
When writing the dream sequence I intended to use the motif of time and how time correlates with the mind, but not with the being or our true nature. So there is symbolism and dialogue in this scene that points to that idea. But to be honest it wasn’t until some time afterwards, that I noticed there was many more layers of symbolism that relates to the story. 

It is Frank’s epiphany in relation to time that may unlock him from his own mental slavery and be the key to solving the case. So there is a sort of redemption in this film that isn’t a usual trait in many other film noir movies that I have seen.

Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe is definitely the kind of character that Frank Drennan could be modeled off. I only recently discovered the old radio plays and love that hard-boiled dry wit, charisma, cynicism and ultimately good heart of the Phillip Marlowe character. I wouldn’t say Frank Drennan is a parody of this, but more like a knowing wink.    
                        
I drew inspiration from movies like The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, The Killers, The Blue Dahlia and Double Indemnity to get a handle on the language. I also just made up quite a few expressions myself, which was a lot of fun!


GH:  Your character ‘Isobel’ is diagnosed as having Kleine-Levin or ‘Sleeping Beauty’Syndrome – a rare neurological sleep disorder that makes one feel disconnected from reality, as if in a dream.  Time frame in general is disjointed such that midway through the story, the entire left-brained activities of reading and logic are abandoned and trance-like one can’t help but visualise the ethereal if not surrealistic mental images you describe.  How will you capture these elements on film, and are there any directors or cinematographers who have been your role models in this regard?

SL: Apart from the final dream sequence, I hope for the entire film to have a dreamlike feel to it. And again, that disjointed time that you mentioned.  I think someone like Michel Gondry does this very well and I do love ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.’

                                                                     
It’s inspiring to see that many of the wonderful effects in this film were done ‘in camera’ rather than CGI. I hope we can use some of those techniques on this film. In the past I have experimented with creating scratch films using 16mm found film. Basically this is where you manipulate the emulsion of the film directly by scratching it, adding ink and/or taping other pieces of film and fine organic material to the surface of the film. It’s creates a pretty cool analogue effect.

I also love the work of Tarkovsky and maybe there was some influence from his work with this film. He certainly likes to play around with disjointed time and dreams. He is a true poet of film isn’t he? It’s almost like, the clouds part when he calls action. And you have to give credit to his cinematographer on films like ‘The Mirror’ and ‘Stalker,’ who manages to capture those beautiful moments of light. I think EmmanuelLubeszki is an intuitive cinematographer like this and love his work with director Terrence Mallick.




And of course we can’t go without mentioning Jim Jarmusch and David Lynch.

GH:  Your protagonist Frank Drennan will be played by actor Jack Campbell, whom many know for his roles in the popular Australian medical series, “All Saints,” and the 1920’s crime drama, ‘Underbelly Razor’.  Can you tell us a little more about Jack’s involvement with the film, and have you finished casting for all the character parts?

SL:  I didn’t have any particular actors in mind whilst writing the script, but soon after finishing I saw Jack in Underbelly Razor and quickly sent him off the script. Fortunately he liked the story and also saw himself as perfect for the lead role of Private Detective Frank Drennan. Jack is currently living and working in L.A. He will back in Australia for Christmas, so I am pulling it together to shoot during this time.

As I mentioned earlier our Femme Fatale Jazz Club Singer will be played by Natalie Mendoza. It was quite the challenge to find an Australian actress with Chinese heritage that would fit the role and can also sing. We are very lucky to have Natalie interested in the film. It was a good sign when I mentioned to Jack that she was keen to play our Jazz Chanteuse, as he replied “Nat?” “Nat Mendoza?” “We met in L.A and are really close friends!!” I had no idea.  I am still yet to cast Isobel (the girl lost in a dream) but have done quite a few auditions for that role.

GH:  After reading the script, I can imagine recreating 1950’s Melbourne is no small task.  The elaborate dream sequences will no doubt be quite costly to produce, not to mention the costumes and camera equipment necessary to create a believable vintage aesthetic.   There are so few exceptional film noirs being produced, and obviously the subject of film noir has been a tremendous inspiration to me personally as an artist.  Having read the script, I have no doubt the film must be made!


You have a strong base of supporters in Australia; but where can my readers here in the US and Europe learn more about you and the film, and where can we go to donate to this noteworthy project? 

SL: Thanks Gina! One of the great things about the film that I haven’t mentioned yet is the beautiful artwork for the Crowdfunding flyer. We are very lucky to have such a talented artist!

I am running two funding campaigns and this one is through Indiegogo. All contributions are more than welcome so we can actually film this in December.



                                                                      Writer/Director/Filmmaker, Scott Lewis

GH: Thanks, Scott & all the best with the film!






Friday, September 09, 2016

METAL POSTCARD RECORDS - At The Forefront of Out of This World


Portland via Hong Kong, New York City, Sydney and Hersham/Surrey – Metal Postcard Records creator, Sean Hocking has travelled the world in search of new music, unexplored treasures and exotic destinations – an incendiary constellation in its own right, but combine it with a discerning ear, the persuasive rhetoric of a champion for undiscovered talent and the spirited belief that music has the power to change the world and you will suddenly find yourself caught up in a firestorm of  who, what, when, where and how did you exist this many years unaware of Metal Postcard Records, or that Cambodia has an Alterative Music scene that will blow your mind.  Did the temperature just raise a few degrees?




A fan of John Peel and Radio 1, patterning his fledgling company after the indie record labels of his youth, including Factory, Rough Trade and Fast Product Records among others, Sean concluded that the smaller labels were appealing in terms of not only the music – the daring unorthodox, sometimes political, always provocative sounds of late 70’s UK, but also the artwork and album cover designs, which were far superior in their originality than anything the mainstream could offer.  



                                                                          Design by Peter Saville


With the desire to showcase original underground and obscure new music, and with a nod to Siouxsie & the Banshees and anti-fascist, John Heartfield, he founded Metal Postcard Records in 2002. 



In speaking to Sean about his roster of artists from not only China and Cambodia, but Australia, the UK, and one of my favourite cities, Portland, Oregon, it’s apparent his passion is ideological, free of restriction and strongly of the opinion that today’s youth need, or rather deserve to be informed there exists a whole world outside of our perception of ‘alternative music,’ that’s just waiting to be discovered…bands like “Ollo” from Sydney, Tasmania’s “Zoe Zac,” “Cambodian Space Project” who bring to mind Tokyo’s Shibuya-Kei sounds of the 90s, “Bambora Adora,” reminiscent of early Galaxie 500,  and “Christopher Rau” who have a psych vibe similar to Perth’s Tame Impala. 


While these bands may fall on deaf ears to hardcore Taylor Swift fans, those of us who grew up with a healthy respect for MC5, The Clash or The Fall, or have children we wish to rescue from the pablum of mainstream culture, understand what independent labels like Metal Postcard Records are trying to achieve - It’s not about the hype, it’s not about the lifestyle or the herd mentality of flocking toward the subliminally marketed trends of the moment, and it’s certainly not about money - it’s simply about the love of music.

So if you’re feeling adventurous and I haven’t frightened you out of your comfort zone, put on your headphones, light up or open that coveted bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet and treat your ears to a brand new experience, because when all is said and done, what good is life without new experiences?
 


GH:  You founded Metal Postcard Records back in 2002.  Very nice reference to a Siouxsie & the Banshees song by the way, and certainly reflects the international focus of your label.  Can you describe exactly where you were on the day you decided to start a record label and how the idea came about?

SH: Yes I referenced that song as one of my favorites of all time. It just so happens that the Scream is the LP that has the best song titles in the history of song titles. At school I persuaded my friends to call their band Suburban Relapse.  Why no other band has thought of that name has always surprised me.  Metal Postcard was also named to confuse people into metal. Over the years many have flocked to the site, bandcamp etc., expecting run of the mill heavy metal and being somewhat surprised and generally angered by what they've heard. As they say in the UK, "Result". But more importantly the song is all about an anti-fascist artist, John Heartfield, and I wanted the label to celebrate art and anti-fascism at every turn. There's also a slight nod to Scotland's wonderful Postcard Records in there too.  

I'd been dreaming about my own independent label ever since listening to the John Peel Show in the late 70's as a young teen, but what solidified the idea of the label was an idea that popped into my head as I was holding a Burroughs night for an art label I was running with a friend at the time ( 12 Apostles - http://www.12-apostles.com).  The opening dj at the night was Lars from Sydney electronica act Ollo and there he was at 8 in the evening dressed from head to foot as a gorilla playing Psychic TV's recording of the Jim Jones massacre as his entire set, it was this particular moment in time that forced me into action.

GH:  I understand the label’s first release was a satirical version of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ sung by George Bush?  So this was in 2002, the country was still apprehensive and healing from the atrocity of 911.  Was it your intention at that time to shake up the status quo and kind of push the boundaries with such a political statement? 

SH: Yes. Mash-ups were all the rage at the time and although fun they were in the main rather pointless and safe in just referencing pop culture. I'd come across Sydney artist Wax Audio, who was quietly tinkering away on his own and saw that with his Lennon ideas and 9/11 ( I was unfortunate enough to be in Battery Park City that day only 3 blocks away from the Towers) that he was actually trying to do something interesting with the form + there nothing better than a track that starts with Lennon saying fuck; I thought what a great first release for the label. Talking of fucks the A side has nothing on the flip side which is still, I think, one of the most punk things ever committed to vinyl (https://metalpostcard.bandcamp.com/track/off-the-air) A song that shows shock jocks for what they are.

GH:   I’ve been a fan of underground music myself since my teens and remember how excited I was when I first heard bands like Gun Club and Sonic Youth back in the late 80’s – I understand you grew up in Australia and the UK – Can you tell me which artists you were listening to back then and how they influenced your desire to search for new music in places as far away as Cambodia and Hong Kong?

SH:  I grew up and went to school in the UK and then spent a little time in Australia before returning to university in the UK.  As a young teen in the late seventies we'd all heard the first wave of punk as kids, so that set us up for what was to come. Peel helped and before long you'd be hearing a great new band every week, as well as Siouxsie & The Banshees, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, The Birthday Party, The Swell Maps, Gang of Four and too many others to mention.  We were also obsessed by the US underground and The Cramps, Black Flag, Fear and of course, The Dead Kennedys. 

In the end though it was Peel who really sent me into a new world where one week you might hear The Dodgems from Brighton and their song "Lord Lucan," the next week a new band called Human League and a song on Fast Records called Being Boiled and of course the mighty Fall whose discordancy was just something that you couldn't hear anywhere else at the time.

The Australia visit was also a revelation, as out there was a music scene growing up on its own DNA strand.  The NME wouldn't arrive until about a month after UK publication and I rarely remember hearing many US artists. Sydney in 1983 had a live music scene that I've yet to see bettered. Bands like The Lime Spiders, Hoodoo Gurus, the Triffids, the Sunny Boys as well as infrequent visits by NZ weirdoes like the Bats and a host of other local acts made it a very exciting time to see live music at venues like the Trade Union Club, the Hopetoun and Paddington Town Hall.

GH:   What were some of the obstacles you encountered getting your label out to the public, and taking into account the good and the bad, would you recommend your profession to other music lovers looking to break into the same business?

SH:  First up I’d like to mention how kind Rough Trade records in Portobello were to me on my first releases.  They wouldn't hesitate to take records, sell them and order more. They still do the same.  I’ve been buying records from the store from the age of about 13 onwards and they have been equally kind to me as a customer and a label owner. There's no other store like them on the planet and I wish 95% of the other people I’ve dealt with over the years had their manners and class.  

In terms of getting out to the public I started in the days where a physical distro was a must and my experience of these people in whichever country they are based makes me believe they are some of the worst people on the planet up there with Middle Eastern dictators and serial killers. It took me over a decade to get distribution in the US and this year they've gone into receivership stealing all my revenues for the past year.  It's only the third time it has happened with distributors!

My advice to all future indie label owners is simple. Do it because you love it, don't expect to make money. Those artists who make you the least amount of money are by far the most important artists on your label. They are the ones that actually believe in art. With regard to ancillary services like distributors, promo, pr and all that other gumph, be aware they don't give a shit about music. They just want your money and in some cases they think you will make them look cool. Sometimes you have to use them and bite the bullet and spend money, but in the main I suggest you ignore the industry as much as possible and choose your own path . I believe 100% that DIY will take you where you want.  Make art not business.


GH:   Are you avidly looking for bands to sign and if so, where can we reach you?

SH:  I wouldn't say avidly but I do want to hear from you if you make left field music that has a meaning of sorts. Mindless white noise or shouty rap with dope beats won't get far with me! I'm always at metal postcard@mail.com but please do listen to some of the catalogue  https://metalpostcard.bandcamp.com first to know that you are in the MP ballpark

GH:    So I’m a bored Gen-Y teen. I’m already tired of Pokemon Go, sick of that Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra LP my ‘think-they're-hip’ parents keep playing and I want to hear something completely out of this world – Who should I be listening to and where can I buy it (keeping in mind I like to support artists so am willing to pay)…?

SH:  Ok that's easy - Let's start with a new MP act . Digital Suicide from India are the bees knees. There's no point trying to describe them just listen https://metalpostcard.bandcamp.com/album/digital-suicide-28291115 

And also new Portland (OR) band  Honeybucket who's debut album  "Magical World" is due in the Fall. Talking of which, that's how I describe them - an American suburban version of the Fall with their own sound and aesthetic . I just sent out the following track to College & Indie Radio in the US and we have received back a slew of complaints about un-tuned guitars and general whinging which always means you are on the right track ! (https://metalpostcard.bandcamp.com/album/honey-bucket-devo-hat)

Other current acts I'm mad about:

Salary (Perth) This track Mini-Moke is beyond wonderful.

Peter Bibby (Melb)   Listen to Goodbye Johnny.

Dream Herbs ( Walthamstow - London) New on Metal Postcard soon - influenced by Syd Barrett, Hawkwind, Black Flag, Sabbath - designed to annoy hipsters. 

Loom ( Norwich UK)  producer on Peckham's GobStopper Records . In my book the best label on the planet at the moment:

Psycho Comedy ( Liverpool UK)   Smells Like Teen Spirit !.. goosbumps everytime I watch  ( https://youtu.be/4m-TqhJtp5I)

Rabbit Island ( Perth)  I'd be happy if this was the last thing I heard before I died.. 


GH:   I’m going to end with a question that’s become a bit of a theme with me lately, but I’m always intrigued by the answers I receive:  You have one album to listen to from now until forever; what will it be?

SH:
 
This is nigh on impossible but I’d have to go for a double album to get as much music as possible and if it's a double album it'll have to be The White Album.

Thanks Sean! 


So there you have it kids – Collect your allowance and get online.  Just stay out of mummy’s wine!




Friday, July 15, 2016

CHICAGO’S ‘SECRET COLOURS’ - PAINTING WITH SOUND


I have a thing for psychedelic music, but if  I really wanted to hear a band that sounded like 13th Floor Elevators, I’d probably just listen to Roky wailing, ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ – especially since today is his 69th birthday.
At the moment, however, I’m actually listening to ‘Who You Gonna Run To,’ a Britpop – Blur/Stone Roses style cut from Chicago’s own Psychedelic scenesters, ‘Secret Colours.’  The song is off the band’s 2013 release, ‘Peach.’ 
I’ll admit it.  I’ve been secretly following ‘Secret Colours’ since their self-titled debut in 2010.   Six years and four albums later, with a series of sold-out shows appearing alongside such Psych heavyweights as Spindrift, Asteroid #4, The Raveonettes and The Warlocks among others, the secret’s out – These guys are clever enough to know that ‘inspired by’ is only a starting point.
Listen closely and you might hear shades of ‘Lush’ ‘Charlatans’ or ‘Ultra Vivid Scene,’ morph unexpectedly into early 70’s T-Rex or the jangly harmonies of Glasgow’s Belle and Sebastian, proving ‘inspired’ doesn’t have to mean stifled. 
Core members Tommy Evans and Justin Frederick not only craft songs that refuse to be pigeonholed into any particular genre or time frame, they don’t really care whether it’s not ‘cool’ to pay homage to The Beatles or The Kinks, because nothing goes out of style quicker than ‘cool,’ whereas the best things don’t have an expiration date.
Released in two parts, ‘Positive Distractions’ is the band’s fourth and most cohesive release to-date.  Describing the making of the record and his new line-up, Tommy explains:
 “We recorded 12 songs in 11 days.  We worked fast.  We didn’t think about much.  When you have something that feels right, it’s definitely not going to last forever, so you’ve got to do the most you can with it before it goes away.” 
As with music - as with art...Sometimes you don't need to over think it - you just need to feel it.
Interview with Tommy Evans:

GH:   When I first heard Secret Colours, I was hearing bits of Stone Roses, Blur, Tame Impala and a little Brian Jonestown Massacre  (and I realize I’m treading on holy ground when I make that last comparison), but I also detected some T-Rex and maybe even the Beatles -  Basically Psych to Garage to Britpop and five decades all coexisting in a wonderfully strange new way.  In your own words, how would you define your sound?

TE: You pretty much nailed it on the head.  We love all those groups and we seem to take bits of those groups and put them together to paint our own picture. When creating something new it's always good to start with something familiar, put it in a blender and see what new flavors you can make. 

GH:  You’ve gone through some line-up changes recently.  Can you tell us about the band’s evolution from your first album ‘Peach,’ which I understand you collaborated with producer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse), to your latest ‘Positive Distractions?’
TE:  Peach is actually our second record.  Brian is awesome to work with.  He really pushes good musicianship, rather than snapping amateurs to grid in Pro Tools and auto-tuning the fuck out of everything like many young producers are doing these days. He makes sure the music stays organic. Positive Distractions was recorded down in Dripping Springs, Texas and Dandysounds Ranch, home to the group, Cross Record, who are friends of ours. We basically had a fresh lineup, so I felt we needed a newer approach to making a record than we did with Peach - isolating ourselves from city life, drawing inspiration from nature and not doing anything other than drinking heavily and making a rock record. We also just went back down there to record our follow-up with a similar approach. That should be out sometime in the fall. 

GH:  The term 'polychromatic' has been used to describe your sound, but the word also applies to colours – What is the significance of your name? 

TE:  We always try to make our sound colourful - that makes for the most interesting music. We want our listeners to put on headphones and drift to wherever it takes them. As far as where the secret comes from, listen to the lyrics and decide for yourself. 

GH:   What was it like being a midwest band playing SXSW and recording in Austin?  Were you influenced by any of the Austin psych bands like the Black Angels… not to mention 13th Floor Elevators were from Texas?

TE:  All of them.  We love the city and the vibe. The Angels were kind to us. We played what is now Levitation in 2012 and 2014. It definitely inspired our musical direction and made us fall in love with Austin. Whenever we have the chance to go back there, we will without hesitation.

GH.  So there’s this thing about Chicago and ‘stripes’ – I actually paid homage to Chi Town in a previous post (http://american-noir.blogspot.com/2014/10/she-was-worth-stareshe-was-trouble.html) and noticed Patti Smith, Billy Corgan and Mario Cuomo of The Orwells all photographed wearing stripes… As well, you are all wearing striped shirts in a photo from the Chicago Tribune.  Is there something I should know about this?


TE:  Ha!  I'm not sure, strange coincidence.  If there is an underground society of rockers with striped shirts I'd like to know about it. 

GH:  Last but not least, this question is for all of you:  If you could have one album to listen to until the end of time…What’s it going to be?

TE:   Collectively, I think if we were all stranded somewhere we'd be hoping to have a copy of the White Album. That album has a diversity of styles and is double-sided, so we'd get a few more songs to get sick of rather than a lot of 8 or 9 song records that are coming out today. 

GH:  Thanks, Tommy!   

For more information check out:
https://www.facebook.com/secretcolours/

                                                  Underground Society of (Chicago) Rockers with Stripes…

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