The TVD Interview

Los Angeles-based psychedelic cowboys Spindrift are taking a break from recording the follow-up to last year’s Classic Soundtracks Vol. 1., as they prepare to embark on a series of dates en route to the Austin Psych Fest. We spoke with bassist Henry Evans about the evolution of the band, their soundtrack work, and the story behind his mean double neck guitar.

Spindrift plays April 19 at Los Globos with Gram Rabbit and Sexywaterspiders.

Is the show this Thursday officially the beginning of the tour?

Yeah, that’s right. We built the tour around the Austin Psych Fest, which is put on by The Black Angels. They’re good friends of ours. We were on tour with them at the end of last year, and we said, “if you guys want us, we’d love to do it.”

We play the Psych Fest every other year it seems. That’s sort of how it works out. The first year we were there, and then skipped one, did one, skipped one, and now here we are again.

You just played in Ojai for the New Los Angeles Folk Festival.

Yes we did, and it was awesome. I think it was the first time any of us had been out there. It was so gorgeous. The show was a blast, everybody had a lot of fun. There were tons of people, and the bar (Deer Lodge) was really cool.

Daiana Feuer puts on the L.A. Folk Festival, and she made this road trip show that was under the umbrella of the Folk Fest. Kirpatrick (Thomas, vocals/guitar) and I did an acoustic thing that she put on at the Echoplex a couple years ago called Murder Ballads Night. That was really fun. We did some covers, it was great.

You joined the band around 2005, correct?

2004 or 2005, something like that. I was good friends with Dave Koenig who had played in Brian Jonestown Massacre for a while, and that’s how he met Kirpatrick.

When Kirpatrick moved to L.A., he ended up going on tour with those guys, and he was playing them the demos of the cowboy stuff he’d written. So the first L.A. incarnation of Spindrift was basically BJM minus Anton (Newcombe), with KP playing guitar and singing. So over the course of the band, a lot of those guys have floated in and out, played for awhile and left, then come back.

I’d been friends with Dave for a year or two at that point, and I came to see the band one time and I was talking to them afterward. I said, “If anything happens and they’re looking for a bass player, I’d play in this band in a heartbeat.” The next thing I knew, they didn’t have a bass player anymore, and I was picking up the slack.

You and Kirpatrick are now the only members left from that lineup.

It’s the first time that I’ve been in a band where it’s been that kind of situation where people have come and gone. Sometimes I miss the old guys, but a lot of times it’s great to be playing with the new guys too. It’s a unique situation. Well, it happens to bands all the time…but it’s unique to me.

Do you see the musical style as having evolved between the lineups, or do you think it has remained consistent?

It’s definitely evolved. Most significantly, we added pedal steel, so that changed the dynamic a lot. Also Sasha (Vallely) plays flute, keyboard, and sings. Our former keyboardist Julie (Patterson) did some singing, but Sasha does a lot more. In technical terms, that has changed the sound of the band.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s easy to recognize Spindrift when you hear it, but stylistically we’re not that easy to pin down. There’s a lot of Ennio Morricone influence, but there’s also a lot of other things that get thrown around and put into the mix. There’s always been an evolution, at least since I’ve been in the band, and that has kept going with the new lineup.

How much of the music is a collaboration, and how much of it is KP’s vision?

It’s largely KP, but we all bring something to the table. A lot of it is just us working on our own parts, as well as bringing in a riff and saying, “Hey, can we fit this into something?” There’s a song that Sasha wrote called “Shadytown” on the last album, and there’s a song that I wrote that might be on the new album. As a creative force, KP is the one that brings almost everything to the table.

Is the band recording now?

We’re still in the process. I’m actually really excited about this project. It’s an acoustic covers album of old Western singers like Tex Ritter and Johnny Western, cowboy campfire stuff. I’m pretty stoked about it, it’s gonna be really good.

Will this be an official Spindrift release, or is it a side project?

As far as I know, it’s going to be released as Spindrift. We’ve performed a lot of it under a pseudonym, but I think this time it’s gonna be us – for real.

Do you see the band going in more of a country direction, or veering back towards psychedelic rock?

I think it’s going to veer back toward psychedelic. This (Western music) is music we love, and we always want it to be part of what we’re doing. We’ve all thought about it a lot. Personally, I bought an upright bass for this (record). Touring with an upright bass is a big project. Especially if we’re going to tour and have an acoustic set and a rock set. I don’t know how we’d do it. Not just for that reason, but I think we’re going to concentrate mostly on the psychedelic rock with a Western tinge, rather than pure Western music.

Tell me about that double neck you play.

That is a Danelectro double neck that Frankie from BJM found for us. Originally, it was not a bass. It was a six-string guitar and a six-string baritone. We switched out the guitar neck and put a bass neck on there, and we never looked back. It’s been a boon for the band. It’s so cool to have the option to do either one. Sasha can take care of the low end with the keyboard, and I can switch over to the baritone, and really get that authentic Western sound.

I was mainly a bassist until I joined this band. A lot of what I do, and traditionally a lot of what baritone guitar in Western music was used for, is typically following the bass line. So it works perfectly for what we’re doing.

How often do you record in Joshua Tree?

We love Joshua Tree, and I think of it as our spiritual home. We try to make it out there as much as we possibly can. But this last album (Classic Soundtracks) was actually the first time we have recorded out there. Other than that, we’ve always recorded in L.A. Most of this new album was recorded in L.A. as well.

Do you have your own studio here?

For what we’re doing now, it’s a lot of home recording, and finding spaces that sound cool. In the past, we’ve done it at friends’ studios. Wherever we can make it sound as good as possible and spend as little money as possible.

Each song on Classic Soundtracks has a corresponding film. Did you create the music to accompany the films, or did the music come first?

It was a mixture of both. It was mainly music to match the films, but it went back and forth a little bit.

Are there any plans to release a DVD with all the films from Classic Soundtracks?

Right now it’s just for online viewing pleasure. It’s a conversation that we’ve had, but we’ve never really come to a decision about anything. There are twelve different directors whose work we’d be using. The royalty situation seems like a headache.

What about following up The Legend of God’s Gun (2007) with another feature?

I don’t know that there’s going to be a soundtrack album available, but there are definitely some films in the works that predominately use our music. There’s one called Dust Up that Ward Roberts directed. It’s coming out soon. The director of God’s Gun, Mike Bruce, did another film called Treasure of the Black Jaguar that used a lot of our music.

Morricone has been cited as an influence on the band. What other soundtracks or composers are you into?

Lately I’ve been listening to Basil Poledouris a lot. Specifically the Conan the Barbarian (1982) soundtrack. I’ve completely fallen in love with it. I listen to it over and over. Also Lalo Schifrin. I don’t know why it took me so long, but I just recently bought a bunch of Steve McQueen movies, including Bullitt (1968). You just sit there and listen, you know? Close your eyes and listen.

Any thoughts on vinyl?

Yeah, it’s the best medium for music. A lot of times I try to buy records from bands, as opposed to record stores. I just saw Big Business play with Thrones, and I got some vinyl at that show. Although in honor of this interview, maybe I’ll head over to Amoeba after work and grab some vinyl there.

I’ve got some things on my list. Thank god I have an iPhone now, so whenever I think of something I can put it in my phone. So when I’m at the record store, I never have that moment where I’m going, “wait – I remember wanting something…what was it?” Not anymore. Now I know. I always know.

That’s the other great thing about being in a band and touring. Almost everywhere we go, we end up in a record store. And there are lots of finds still out there.

Photo by Trever Long

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