We’ve been looking forward to Aarhus’ 1st ever Psych Fest for several months now, and it begins in just a matter of hours. Autumn has arrived, scarfs and handkerchiefs are out, and leather wearing badass rock n’ roll bands are away from the outdoor festival fields and indoors brooding under mood lights. Even as I write, faithful volunteers are hanging screens, lights, and laying cables for our two day worship of loud dark music in Radar, and the Rahall’s newly christened “lunar suite”.
This week we have corresponded all the way in sunny California with one of the headliners for Psych Fest ’13: The Asteroid no. 4. Their journey through both music, and bi-coastal immigration has been fraught with waves of critical admiration of their peers, and naturally produced some of the most inspired genre bending recordings that are available in the Garage/Psych realm. I had a wee letter writing chat with the gang before they headed off on tour over here. Let’s sit back and enjoy!
Scott Vitt (SV)- Lead Vocal, Guitarist
Matthew Rhodes (MR)- Bassist, Vocal
Adam Weaver (AW)- Drummer, Vocal
[chat question=”Who are the Asteroid No.4 and what can we expect here in Aarhus when you guys visit?“]
SV: We’re an American band, living in Northern California and you can expect debauchery and mayhem when we arrive in Aarhus. [/chat]
[chat question=”At the risk of sounding cliché, what would be some of the influences, both musical and otherwise that have shaped your sound?“]
SV: Well musically, there is simply too much to list. However to narrow it down, I think if we were to pick, say four, musical acts that were put in a blender and the result was an Asteroid No.4 smoothie, it would have to be, Popol Vuh, Hawkwind, RIDE and Neil Young. Additionally, we are very influenced by our surroundings and most recently, California has been a huge inspiration to us.
MR: Coming from Philadelphia to the west coast landscape I’ve noticed it having a big impact on the Asteroid No.4. It feels like we’re hitting our stride and we’re comfortable, even with songs that started to take form in Philly. More relaxed, open spaces in our arrangements allow for songs to exist in their natural place. The area we live, to me, has already begun to show up in our sound because of the beautiful region we wake up in every day.[/chat]
[chat question=”What has been your favorite ‘psychedelic’ experience that you’d care to tell us about?“]
SV: Non-drug related?
MR: A few years ago, while still living in Philly, we came back from a west coast tour and entered a cab to exit the airport. The driver had signs covering the car interior prohibiting its passengers to “curse, kiss, hug, touch”, or pretty much not show any human affection towards someone. Meanwhile as the sunset, the driver asked to refrain from talking above a whisper as he blasted his prayer CD-ROMs of chants and guidance. It was a strange way to come back home.
SV: Yes, that was very surreal. We saw orange orbs one night. Ryan (A4 Guitarist) and a group of our friends all witnessed it. I can’t say much more out of concern that they are listening….and you know who “they” are, right?[/chat]
[chat question=”Aarhus is called ‘the city of smiles’ and Denmark has recently been elected ‘the happiest place on earth’, any thoughts on that?“]
SV: “The city of smiles”? This I’ve got to see. We’re excited to experience what “the happiest place on earth” has to offer.
[chat question=”This’ll be your first time playing in Denmark, what are you most looking forward to?“]
SV: We have yet to play in Denmark, but it is definitely a place that we’ve wanted to play for a while. I’m looking forward to eating at NOMA (ed: multi Michelin award winning restaurant in CPH). Now, if I could just get a damn reservation! [/chat]
[chat question=”The ‘psych’ genre has really become prominent on the music scene, especially in Northern Europe and Scandinavia. What would you attribute to this wonderful explosion of ‘back to basics’ rock, and often mind expanding, yet dark sounds.“]
SV: I am regrettably, not all that familiar with modern “psych” bands from Northern Europe or Scandinavia, but I do know that there is a thick heritage of bands from this part of the world that made up some of the best of the genre ever. I am personally a huge fan of Baby Grandmothers, Mecki Mark Men, November, which were all Swedish I believe. I also really like The Young Flowers, who were Danish. And then there’s pretty much everything German from ’68 to ’75 or so that was just some of the best stuff on the planet. However, if this region is as liberal with using the term “psych” as they are in the US and UK, then there is probably not as much psychedelic music as one may think.
MR: It’s great that with today’s catalog of music we can listen to any era and genre, but I think a lot of bands today want to be labeled as “psych” because it’s a popular and weird title to give to their music. Few bands now evoke a “psychedelic” experience when listening. [/chat]
[chat question=”‘Psych’ though is a bit of an umbrella that I suppose is used for all things a little gauche, or in the non-traditional rock mainstream, at least that’s our official stance. I get what you mean though: ‘Psychedelic’ music, but even that specific sub-genre could be used to describe practically anything. I take it to mean a more cerebral approach to making music. “]
SV: Agreed. Maybe it’s not all psychedelic, but the “back to basics” thing is real and I would attribute it to either some rejection to technology or strive to get back to a simpler time. The world is becoming a scary place, mainly because of technology and humanities inability to handle it correctly, starting with a severe lack of etiquette or taste. The dark sounds you speak of are probably just a little more noticeable when living in “the happiest place on earth” or the “city of smiles”, because where we’re from, there’s no hiding how dark things can be. Unfortunately, I also agree with what Matthew is saying because this “psych” thing is simply not really psychedelic!
MR: Music isn’t psychedelic just because you have backwards guitars and reverberating vocals. I’m glad that more bands are trying to achieve a “psychedelic” sound, but I’ve found that more often than not they are really just playing a form of rock music. I’m glad they are influenced by the sound of “psych”, but it is a label that has been used to liberally as of late.[/chat]
[chat question=”You guys are from the USA, unlike any of the other acts on the line-up. What is going on over there with the underground psych/garage genre? Do you think any political or economical unrest is affecting the underground music scene?“]
SV: Off the top of my head I can think of two real psychedelic bands in the US right now, other than us of course (haha!), and that’s the Strangers Family Band and The Paperhead. Of course, I prefer to remain out of touch and live in the past because the present and/or the future isn’t very interesting musically speaking, to me at least. As far as underground bands being affected or being creatively fueled by the current eco-political unrest of our times….Well I don’t think any are unfortunately or at least as much as they should be. The mainstream is like the blob! It’s gets in under closed doors and cracks in the wall.
AW: The underground scene is, or was, one of the only true reflections of current political and social unrest. The mainstream is more interested in being a distraction from what’s really going on. I think bands and artists detached from the mainstream are able to make observations about their environment without having to worry about what people will think. Right now there is a lot to be upset about in our country and where its mainstream has led us.[/chat]
[chat question=”Lastly, please say you are bringing over vinyl for us to buy! And what can we expect from you guys for the rest of the year? Any upcoming releases, projects, or events we should know about after you win our hearts at Psychfest?“]
SV: We will bring plenty of vinyl…Well we have a new record ready to release and we look forward to playing the Aarhus Psychfest. Thanks for your support! [/chat]
And so indeed we will see them on this Saturday when they will take to the stage as the final band of APF ’13. Since the time of writing the lads have gracefully began streaming their new album, the eponymously titled sixth full length with the words “listen to our shite, buy a t-shirt, watch us play…” which is all a band really hopes for right? For us to “Listen to their Shite” (and like it). Well this writer is doing just that now, and I can happily report that it’s going down Swimmingly.
See you all hopefully at the concerts, and check out theasteroidno4.bandcamp.com for that new stream of shite to hear.
(PS: the word “shite” is actually derived from the old English word of “Skide”. Sound familiar Danish speakers?)