The Black Angels on hometown and idol

Photo by Junette Reyes/FIUSM

Kyle Pineda/Staff Writer 

Psychedelic music has often been associated with flower power, white rabbits, and walruses. While the focus has always been on the psychedelic music scenes in 1960’s London and San Francisco, Texas was brewing its own brand of droning, dirty psych rock, courtesy of bands such as the 13th Floor Elevators, Bubble Puppy, and Shiva’s Headband. Fast forward almost 50 years later, contemporary Austin act The Black Angels, and touring partner Roky Erickson of the pioneering 13th Floor Elevators were in town Feb. 18 to showcase their brand of Texan psychedelia at Grand Central in downtown. Alex Maas, bassist and vocalist for The Black Angels joined FIUSM by phone over the weekend to discuss the city of Austin, touring with their hero Roky Erickson, and the troubles of putting together a music festival.

To start things off, I do have to ask someone from Austin… what makes Austin so “weird”?

Alex Maas: Must be something in the water, I don’t know! (laughs) Good question, you know I think there is a liberal arts school there, a lot of creative types, there always has been and that has something to do with it. It’s just a fun, free thinking town.

You recorded “Indigo Meadow” last year, and a lot of fans who tune in to these interviews often are curious about the recording gear. What sort of equipment was used in the recording of the album?

AM: On “Indigo Meadow,” we had tons of opportunities to use all of our vintage keyboards and organs, old transistor organs, basically everything from Vox Continental to old Gibson organs, a Vox Jaguar, Celeste, Mellotrons and stuff like that

Do you take these on tour with you?

AM: No, I mean, we take a couple of our pieces on the road, and a Vox Jaguar kit incase anything breaks, so we have spares… those things are so delicate sometimes, you need to have a backup so we always roll with a backup organ

Did you approach the recording of “Indigo Meadow” differently from your previous album? 

AM: I mean not really, generally we just get into the studio together and write songs together. I guess one thing that was different was that we didn’t have these songs sit here and marinate for like, several years before we recorded them. Some of our other albums we did that, we’ll tour around, create a song and then we’ll play it live, and it’ll marinate and have time to change it over time. This one we just went in there into the studio for a month. We did pre-production on the record, which we kind of always do, which means we go in there and hash out what you want to be in a song and what you don’t want to be in the song.

I do want to talk about Austin Psych Fest, your band is presenting the seventh annual edition of the festival, correct?

AM: Correct.

What is the most challenging aspect of putting together a music festival, especially one that is continually growing like Austin Psych Fest?

AM: I think the financial thing is probably the hardest. How do you keep it organized enough so you don’t lose your a** every single year? We’re still trying to figure out how to keep the thing floating. Another challenge is trying to keep a fresh lineup, we have a lot of competition in Austin, there’s a lot of other music festivals there. We’re competing with other offers from bigger promoters all the time. Like if we want to get The Jesus & Mary Chain, or David Bowie, or Donovan, they’re getting offers from much bigger people so money is a concern there.

In 2008, your band connected with Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators and you served as his backing band for a west coast tour. Is it intimidating playing with someone you look up to like that?

AM: Of course, definitely.

So how did you get over that? 

AM: It’s one of those things where everyone was messing up. That’s a part of music, is screwing up, and you have to be okay with that. It never got in the way really, if anything, it was just difficult to learn some of the material we weren’t familiar with, like some of his back catalogue stuff if you will.

That’s a pretty hefty back catalogue to work with too. 

AM: Yeah, and so like when you mix the monster music movie kind of stuff with the Black Angels, it ended up sounding like later Velvet Underground, like maybe something off of “White Light/White Heat or Loaded.” Typically, that stuff didn’t really sound like that, but the mix between us, and playing those rock and roll songs sounded something like that.

What’s next for the Black Angels after this tour?

AM: We have a release coming out on the April 16 it’s a seven song release, almost a full length record. We have that coming out, we’re looking to expand the Austin Psych Fest into other countries. We also are looking forward to releasing some more Roky Erickson material that we worked on, trickle it out there as its ready. We plan on recording a new record in the summer. 

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