It may appear somewhat of a broad brush statement that a psychedelic rock band is inspired by recreational drug taking but, in the case of San Francisco band The Spiral Electric, there’s nothing stereotypical about it.
The band sent us through a song that was inspired by an acid trip, and their founding members met through one of them “buying a bunch of weed” from the other’s roommate. That said, South Park teacher Mr Mackey’s statement of “drugs are bad mkay” couldn’t be further from the truth if this band’s music is anything to go by. (Disclaimer: Drugs are bad, kids, don’t do them)
The quartet of Clay Andrews (vocals, guitar, keyboards and percussion), Nicolas Percey (lead guitar), Cedar Wingate (bass) and Matias Drago (drums) sent us the brilliantly titled Swamp Type Thing, from their self-titled album released back in March, to give us a taster for what they have to offer.
It opens with the sound of crickets and trippy little noises with light guitar noises creeping in, then a laboured drum roll leads into big distorted drawn-out guitars and cool little licks. The chilled opening instrumentals return, then a big solo takes over on top of the little licks and drawn-out guitars.
The pace drops right down again with trippy electronic noises and light guitar, then another burst of the rocky goodness and a bigger shredding guitar solo. Oh, and the song ends with the sound of ribbiting frogs, of course.
This track provides a taste of their instrumental excellence, but there’s more to the band than just that. Drown My Sorrows does the same, opening up with a fun bouncy riff then a screeching, somewhat Oasis-sounding guitar solo, but also – albeit after two minutes – includes vocals. Repeats of “Gonna drown my sorrows, in your river” come in as the bouncy riff continues through this lively track.
Their album is packed with deliciously trippy yet rocky goodness. And they go all Deep Purple on us in the excellent The Final Moment, with classic rock organ sounds over a rocky backdrop. Give it a listen below:
We had a chat with frontman Clay Andrews who told us the story of the band and dug into their musical inspirations. Read on below…
GR: Who are The Spiral Electric?
CA: “We’re a heavy psych band from the San Francisco bay area, on a voyage straight into the heart of the nearest supermassive black hole on a bolt out of the blue.
“The story goes like this: Once upon a time, I met Nic at a St. Patrick’s Day concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco back in 2009 – Primal Scream and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. I was drinking gin & tonics – doubles – and was enjoying having conversations with everyone within earshot. Just so happens that one of the people standing near me was Nic, and we wound up hanging out for the rest of the show.
“His roommate at the time dealt weed, and I didn’t have a dealer, so I went back in a few days with my acoustic guitar and some money, jammed with Nic and bought a bunch of weed from his roommate. I kept going back every few days to play, and it turned into this band!
“Nic had never been in a band, or even recorded his playing before, and I’d pretty much given up on collaborative music, so we met at just the right time! Nic and I have palpable musical chemistry, and a tolerance for each other’s bullshit, so we’re still at it ten years on, and people keep responding more and more strongly to the songs we write.
“I guess we’re onto something. Then again, maybe I had a dream that I opened my front door, and there was a man on a flaming pie who said ‘You shall be Beatles,’ to which I replied ‘Nah man you’re too late, they already happened,’ and stamped on the flaming pie, but it was all full of Spiral Electric.”
GR: You sent us Swamp Type Thing to have a listen to. What should people be expecting from the song?
CA: “For it to dose them with weapons-grade psychedelics, drive them into a swamp in the middle of the night, and leave them there in the dark.
“It was inspired by an acid trip we took at a little festival in northern California, it was near a creek and the night was alive with sounds. The place was aglow, with that odd psychedelic luminescence that makes it seem like everything is being artificially lit from odd angles, and there was something moving in the water – probably another festival-goer – but in the trip, it seemed like some strange prehistoric creature was stalking its prey. So the song grew out of that experience.”
GR: How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t listened to you yet?
CA: “Our sound is heavy, trippy, and spooky, with occasional bouts of swooning ecstasy and wild abandon.”
GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about?
CA: “A lot of things spark me off into songs, but I do tend to write about the darker side of life, especially on this latest album. All of my lyrics are referencing personal experiences. There’s a lot of pain, death, grief, anger, and depression in this collection, although there are moments of transcendence and joy. Pretty much life, innit.”
GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences?
CA: “For the music I bring to the band – Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Love & Rockets, Oasis, The Verve, The Cure, Elder, Bongripper, Sleep, Smashing Pumpkins.
“I do tend to be inspired by music from many genres, time periods, etc. I’m as likely to put on something by Stan Getz, or Miles Davis, or George Jones, as I am to listen to the Brian Jonestown Massacre, or Dead Meadow. It’s all noises and pauses to me, man. It all gets chucked into the blender of my head, and what I contribute to The Spiral Electric is the smoothie that comes dribbling out.”
GR: What have you got coming up through the rest of 2019?
CA: “We’ve got some local shows booked, but in the fall we’re hoping to get out on the road. We’ll be putting out a double-vinyl version of our new album, basically as soon as there’s money to get it pressed, haha. Our next album is mostly written, so sometime in the next six months, I’m sure we’ll be heading back into the studio with Steve Kille (Dead Meadow) for a second album together (our 4th release)… no double-album this next time, though!”
GR: Anything else you’d like people to know about you/your music?
CA: “Yes. If you listen to our albums in the dark with a single candle lit, you will see your future.”