Interview by Lallie Doyle.
Hailing from Memphis, Spaceface are bringing back psychedelia with their debut LP Sun Kids. I talked technology, Tennessee and LSD with the band as they embark on their US tour.
What does the name Spaceface represent?
When we started the band, we knew the name had to be something that would allow us some room for exploration and growth. I think it shows that we have a fun loving attitude and don’t take ourselves too seriously, while hinting that you might hear some tripped out things you’ve (hopefully) never heard before.
Memphis is arguably the birthplace of Rock and Roll, with the city having such an entrenched musical history, does that impact the way you work there?
I think so. It’s great to come from a place with such a wealth of inspiring music in its history but growing up there, you start to sort of see a lot of warning signs. With Stax, Ardent, Big Star etc, you’re hearing a lot about the immense squandered talent and mismanaged opportunities. There’s a feel within the entire community that, being from Memphis means you’re just gonna have to try a little bit harder than most folks. And I think we do, and that shows.
Sun Kids is your debut LP – considering Sun Kids is a psychedelic album were you influenced by any color patterns or schemes? What was the most surprising source of inspiration for the record?
The sound was meant to be very natural – we went through a good bit of effort to incorporate sounds from nature around these floaty ethereal tones and pads that you wanna live in-between. The colors I see throughout the record the most are blue, green and some yellow so you’ll see a good bit of those throughout the live light show. The most surprising source of inspiration for me came with the first track – we were trying to write something that would feel innocent, energetic and sincere enough that a crowd of people would want to play with one of those rainbow grade school parachutes at a show – which we pull out and run exercises with at shows during that song now.
What was the most challenging song to write or record on the LP? Are there any tracks that didn’t make it onto the album that still haunt you?
I think the most challenging song was “Timeshare” because we recorded it a few years ago with Julien Baker on backing vocals before she blew up. When we finally got around to mixing, it was decided we liked the song but not our execution of it so the music got a complete overhaul but by then, JB had signed to Matador and blown up so it was kind of like… While we couldn’t get her to re-record anything, we didn’t wanna loose her beautiful vocals so there was some working around that. Not to mention getting our friend Pierced to add strings and stuff… I think it was worth it in the end but that one took the most time. There’s a few songs that didn’t make it on the record, my favorite being this slow epic one called “Calm Before The Storm” … I’m thinking it might be the opener to the next record.
The tracks feel quite otherworldly and surreal – was there an intention to move your listeners away from reality, especially given the current political climate in the US right now?
I think a big point of psychedelic music is specifically taking a step away from “normal” reality. For us, that’s the coolest part of music is how transformative it is. When we wrote the album, actually, Bernie Sanders was at the height of his campaign and we were all filled with such hope, I think it was more of a reflection of how we felt than an escape. Now it definitely feels like it’s meant to cheer you up. As far as the sounds throughout, yes, we wanted to create an atmosphere conducive to hallucinations and release. Some sounds that you’d want to live between.
Your music fuses 60 and 70’s era psychedelia, have you tried to modernise the sound and bring it more towards the 2010s?
I feel like modernization of your music is inevitable, we have that sort of influence because that’s most of our favorite kind of music. But as it stands, we already use samples, synthesizers and 808 kicks throughout the record and live. I like to think we blend the eras rather than strictly harken back. At the moment, I’m more influenced by artists like Teebs and Solange than The Meters or Beatles so maybe that’ll reflect the next bit of recording we do.
Obviously in the 60s and 70s it was a pre-internet era – how does the band engage with the history of the genre in such a technological age?
Technology helps you bring the whole vision together more seamlessly. I think the visual element of music is as often overlooked as it is important. In Spaceface, we use technology to tie that element into the live show so as to more fully control the visual experience and fully envelop the concert goer rather than simply having a few dudes up there playing music. Technology also helps you spread your music around more easily and do the DIY thing. With social media, I’m sure it’s a lot more of a breeze to get in touch with 10 different people who actively book shows in Brooklyn than it was back then.
Psychedelic rock is intended to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs, most notably LSD, are hallucinogens still a component of your musical creation? Is it possible to make music for this genre sober or without acknowledging it’s drug tether?
Though the genre may have roots in that, I think its expanded far beyond just drug culture and seeped its way into most pop culture. I think it’s totally possible to write sober and I’m pretty sure only one of the dudes in this band is still capable of playing music while under the influence. Music itself is a psychedelic experience, the style we choose to write in just happens to be a little more vocal about embracing that idea. I think if you look back, you’ll see that even classical music was enjoyed in various mind-altering states.
Jake, how does it feel to move away from such a huge band as the Flaming Lips, do you think there are certain expectations or pressures on you?
I don’t know that I’ve “moved away” from the Lips, I’m kind of just constantly doing both. The only expectations I’m under comes up when promoters use the Lips name to hype up our shows, but in that way I think we deliver – with lazers, live sound reactive LEDs, fog and all sorts of antics.
Rumour has it you are recording a 3D music video; what were the ideas behind the film?
The video is actually already done but it’s not 3D, it’s 360 degrees – meaning you can move your phone around in your hand but it allows you to look around inside the world the video is exploring. The idea came up when my buddy Vinyl Williams was telling me about all this heavenly mystic symbolism he had been wanting to incorporate into a video and the implications of their being there – I showed him our song “Sun Kids” and we both thought it would work perfectly with this angelic cultish dreamscape 360 video he wanted to make so we went for it!
If music was 3D what would it look like?
Sound waves can be 3D! Look up cymatic plates – I actually went into a big YouTube wormhole while we were recording this album and it resulted in my tuning the whole thing to 432 rather than the standard 440. The dippy theory has to do with sound resonating with the water in your body and that specific tuning creates more harmonious shapes, thusly resulting in a more pleasant experience. Synesthesia is another fascination of mine that is also reflected within the show. Some kick drums sound like pink triangles and bass tones sound red and fuzzy or green and jagged. Hard to explain sometimes but I think if you close your eyes and try to train your brain, you’ll see what the sounds look like.
You’re about to go on tour – Which destination has surprised you the most when touring? Whether that be the audience, the venue or the general atmosphere?
I think the DIY shows are always the most surprising – Non Plus Ultra in LA and The Moon in Grand Rapids both put a lot of love into the shows we’ve played there with mapped projections or sound reactive clouds hanging from the ceiling. I think people at those shows tend to be a little more receptive to the whole experience of the night rather than 1 band they’re waiting for.
What makes playing in New York city special? (Or not so special…)
Playing New York is special because it’s something you’ve dreamt about doing since you were a kid so it feels like a fantasy checked off every time. Especially when the show goes well, you leave feeling like you’ve planted your flag on another planet.
Spaceface play Brooklyn on September 2nd at Sunnyvale alongside White Hills and New Myths—all ages, tickets and details here.