ROXANNE GALLO FOR TVD | “After roaming through the Indigo Meadow, the time has come to journey to the “Clear Lake Forest,” where 7 tales of diamonds, executioners, and other strange occurrences await underneath the crystal waves lapping in the lake,” says Black Angels guitarist Christian Bland of their Record Store Day release, “Clear Lake Forest”, a limited edition, clear vinyl 10” companion EP to 2013’s full length, Indigo Meadow.
With a description like that, I can’t help but feel this music is created with the purpose of taking you out of your reality and experience something you can’t otherwise in the monotony of daily life, much like the drugs psychedelic rock is named for.
Hailing from the musical melting pot of Austin, TX with a decade on the scene under their belt, the Black Angels have established themselves as psych-rock heavy hitters. They have proven successful at melding genre-past with genre-present by recently touring with the legendary Roky Ericson, as well as helping to develop Austin’s Psych Fest, now in its 7th year. Named for the Velvet Underground’s ‘The Black Angels Death Song,” the band consists of Christian Bland (guitar, organ, drone machine), Alex Maas (vocals, bass, organ, drone machine), Stephanie Bailey (drums, percussion), and Kyle Hunt (keyboards, percussion, bass, guitar).
“I had access to a limited number of vinyl records as a kid. My parents had (as so many did) purged the vast majority of their extensive collection in favour of the new audio super-format—CDs. The rogues that remained included a copy of the White Album that my mom bought for me, a bunch of soca music (maybe that’s why I still love Trinidadian everything?!) Rubber Soul, Graceland, and enough Woody Guthrie to fill a museum. There were more too—some Dylan and Stones and a bunch of great jazz records.”
“My father brought the psychedelic stuff, he was right into the Stones, the Dead, and Little Feat. Those bands really started the obsession for me. My mom loves to dance, she grew up on 7 mile road in Detroit and had spent a lot of time moving to that Motown sound.
My first experience of actually seeking out music was with vinyl. I would go to the shelf where my parents kept it, find a record, and listen the whole way through. THAT was important—that I would go from one side to the other, experiencing hours of music that grew and changed, expanded and contracted, and then…finished.
I bought my vinyl (and CDs) at a place called the Record Archive in Rochester, NY. They had these bizarre commercials where a giant record guy danced around and told you the specials that week. It was the record store ad analog of Gene Wilder’s trip down the chocolate-psilocybin river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
“I remember I was at a girlfriend’s house back when I was 19. Her parents were cooking for us and, after her dad kindly taught me how to pour a beer the ‘right way,’ they played Abbey Road on their turntable.”
“Wow I still remember how taken aback I was with the beautiful warm sound, I just focussed everyone out for a little bit and concentrated on the music….I had heard The Beatles plenty of times before but not as they were originally intended, it suddenly made much more sense to me. Ever since then I like to get old albums on vinyl if I can, you have to invest more time into them but then you appreciate the result so much more.”
“My first memories of vinyl are in my parents lounge, being fascinated by the great pictures on big square bits of cardboard, then finding out that there were these round things inside which music came out!”
“I couldn’t understand how, but that made it more interesting. My parents collection was made up of The Beatles and loads of Motown. But I specifically remember my first vinyl LP being Adam and the Ants’ Prince Charming. I love that album but I think the cover is great too. So, I guess I must be influenced by this sound!”
“I suppose I could start with a story all about my first record player or the purchase of my very first vinyl record…but that just seems like it would be very boring to write and even more so to read. So, I’ll just take you back nine months ago when I moved into Rancho Relaxo.”
“What is Rancho Relaxo? Well, it’s a house on the east side of Austin that has been well-known for its basement shows for many years. I moved in with some of my best friends and we made the home our own. One of my roommates is named CeCe, and along with being well-known for her vegan deserts, she also happens to be known quite well as the guitar player for the grindcore band Phobia. Tight.
Along with her amps, guitars, and bakeware, CeCe moved in her vinyl collection…and holy shit, her collection is unfuckingbelievable. It’s a collection so incredible, that I never bothered unpacking my own (nine months later my collection remains in a box). I’d compare this situation to a child having a chocolate factory installed in the living room.
“When I was 4 or 5 my family owned a Fisher-Price turntable and two albums that I played on a daily basis—Sesame Street, Big Bird Discovers the Orchestra and Walt Disney’s Story & Songs from Peter Pan. The latter was a picture disc, and as the record played my eyes would trace the orbits of images of Captain Hook, Tiger Lily, and the Darling children.”
“It was auto-hypnosis; along with the audio, the cumulative effect was transportative. The Big Bird album wasn’t a picture disc, but the album jacket was no less engrossing: it depicted and described the categorized instruments of an orchestra. The album audio relates the story of Big Bird being tasked with finding each of these instruments, as they had gone missing prior to some important performance. As this detective story progresses, the listener is asked to help Big Bird identify the sounds of each instrument, and the narrative culminates in a reunited orchestra playing something called “Big Bird’s Heroica Symphony No. 3 in E-flat, Opus 55.” By the time I saw an orchestra performance in person I had an established bond with the sounds I was hearing and the instruments creating them. That was the beginning; I was obsessed.
My adult relationship with vinyl started about 7 years ago when I heard King Crimson’s Discipline at a Chicago hipster-bar called Rainbo Club. Years prior, an uncle of mine (himself a recording engineer) had given me a copy of the album on CD, but it was an early digital master, and hearing the album played back on vinyl I was made aware of compositional nuances that weren’t apparent in the digital version (I’ve since purchased Discipline on vinyl).
“I got into records when I was tiny. As kids, we were taught to revere the records and treat them delicately. I’d dig into my dad’s macho collection and roll around on the rug to “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, or “25 or 6 2 4″ by Chicago. I’d try to follow the vocal melodies on the piano, and strum along on the badminton racquet.”
“But the one platter I kept coming back to was my Mom’s prized double album, The Best of The Carpenters. That thick-textured matte paper with the embossed logo in gold, that deep brown, gross ’70s dentist’s office palate. Funny… looking back, I firmly believe The Carpenters are darker than any self-proclaimed metal or goth bands today… so, unknowingly, my mom was fitting my brain with training wheels for teenage Joy Division and Cure fanaticism.
My collection has grown through the years… live albums, picture discs, bootlegs, imports, etc. I’d buy anything by U2, The Cure, Love and Rockets, The Smiths, Stone Roses, Catherine Wheel, Bauhaus, Pixies, The Cult. EVERYTHING on Factory Records… EVERYTHING on 4AD Records and Creation Records.
My most coveted are my blue RIDE/Slowdive split 7”, or the 1989 UK limited edition 2-track 7″ of The Cure “Lovesong” with linen painting, or the A-ha “Take On Me” single with full comic book. (The most embarrassing record I own is probably the Fat Boys or Twisted Sister Stay Hungry.)
“The first vinyl record I ever listened to non-stop was the soundtrack to Star Wars.“
“I was 7 and I have listened to it probably more than I’ve seen the movie. I know where all of the musical phrases fit into the film—I think that I can even run the soundtrack in my head to this day (it really helped me in film scoring school!) I listened to a lot of my dad’s vinyl records and he had a very nice turntable. He really only had classical music. Since my parents were divorced at this point, I would go over to my mom’s place and she would play a lot of folk and country music.
When I was around 13, I started listening to heavy metal (since all my friends were) and the album that changed my life at that point was from Metallica. I had been listening to Quiet Riot, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden. My friends told me about this local band Metallica, so I ran out to the record store in Huntington Beach and bought Kill ‘em All. I played the first track on side 2 (for some reason) “Whiplash”—it was the fastest thing I ever heard up until that point and the guitars sounded like galloping jet engines. Very exciting!
“I remember bunking off school to go and see The Cribs in a HMV when I was 15 years old. I wrote a little dentist appointment note or excused myself from class, ran home, swapped my school polo for a stripy t-shirt and got the train into town to see a band that I hadn’t really heard of before play a couple of songs from their new album, Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever.”
“I wasn’t the kid to bunk off school. To my mind, this is probably the only textbook example of badass behaviour in my teenage years. After the 5 songs, there was a signing and I panic bought a 7” of the single “Men’s Needs” (with “I’ve Tried Everything” (acoustic) as the b-side). I kind of resigned myself to the fact it wouldn’t get played, but it would be a souvenir or something. My dad’s record player hadn’t seen light in years. And besides, who listened to records these days? It was 2007. My iPod Photo 32GB was the love of my life.
The 7” sat proudly in my window, emblazoned with Gary, Ryan, and Ross’s signatures. Alongside it sat giveaway Babyshambles and Coldplay 7”s that had been glued onto the front of recent copies of the NME, a Fuckshovel picture-disk and RHCP picture-disk (“Picture-disks” I thought to myself at the time, “now that’s an investment”).
The record player was bought out one day and I popped down with my 5 little pieces of plastic and put them on, at 33RPM naturally, until my dad came in to adjust the belt to 45RPM. But they sounded just as distorted and weird. Apparently, in the 7 months those records had gathered dust on the windowsill, they’d also warped and distorted in the sunlight. “Fuck this,” 15 year old me snorted “I’m going back to my iPod.”
“The first vinyl record I remember purchasing was Blue Monday by New Order in that infamous sleeve.”
“I was too young to realise the legacy that went with this particular single, but I knew as soon as I saw it that I had to have it. That impulse, that feeling of ‘this is something special’ has stuck with me ever since, and it never fails to re-emerge every time I enter a record store.
My vinyl collection really began to expand when I was a student in Manchester. My friends and I would listen to records like we would watch films, engrossing ourselves in every detail. Manchester is a great city for vinyl lovers; independent record stores are still thriving while the bigger chains seem to be fading away, and the variety of these record stores means you’re always spoilt for choice. It also means that it’s very easy to absorb all the different kinds of music, while still being united by the format.
“As a child of the ’70s, I grew up on vinyl. The first full-length album I ever bought was Harry Nilsson’s Son of Dracula. I think I must have been 8 years old, and had no idea what I was getting into—particularly when “Jump Into the Fire” came on. Bass detuning, drum solo, a likely intoxicated Harry Nilsson screaming his balls off. Holy crap it was great.”
“Other major albums with which I developed an early obsession included Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, to which I used to perform concerts for my family (sewing the seeds for my later career as a competitive air guitarist); Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf conducted by Leonard Bernstein; and Cheap Trick’s Dream Police—who definitely lived inside my head, and came to me in my bed. Oh no.
My brother and I would get our vinyl fix at The Music Disc, run by Karen, a grizzly and wrinkled chain-smoker with the nicotine-stained teeth to prove it. Smoking—in a record store. Imagine it. I remember the day I asked Karen for other albums that sounded like Pink Floyd (I had all of them already) and she suggested Procol Harem’s Whiter Shade of Pale, which I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as Floyd’s Ummagumma.
I’d sneak into my older brother’s bedroom when he wasn’t around, plug in his brown KOSS headphones, and crank his cornucopia of classic rock: Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, the Stones, The Who. Tommy totally blew my mind and I recall my parents actually taking us to see the movie when it came out. Anne Margaret writhing around in a living room covered in Heinz baked beans? Tina Turner as the Acid Queen? What the hell were my parents thinking? As an alienated suburban kid in Denver, living in my own quiet vibration land, I totally related to the album’s titular deaf, dumb, and blind boy.