If a 21st century Paul Schrader was desperately hammering out Taxi Driver now with a revolver on one side and a bottle of pills on the other, he would almost certainly be listening to Night Beats. Over three albums, the Texan counter-culture, psych troubadours have been channelling a pulsing, literate 3am trawl through America’s southern arse-crack. A place where the forgotten masses of outsiders lose their heads in hedonism under the shadows of boom and bust, perpetual war in distant lands, faded glamour, house repossessions, and the shit-stained waft of a flaming star-spangled banner. On their latest, ‘Who Sold Our Generation’ their groove-heavy experiments in dark, strung out, dirty underground rock n roll has become a laser-precise shot of thrilling subversion. Yes, there is a clear link to ‘60s forbearers like the 13th Floor Elevators. But under the gentle whip-crack of BRMC’s Robert Levon Been, they’ve made, more than ever, a new blue print to blow minds and say more with music – rather than fetishizing a reproduction of their grandparents’ music scene.
We sent them ten questions to mull over while they were rattling around in the back of a van, across Europe. Here are their responses, which have all the contempt, fury and passion you’d expect for a band with something genuine to say.
Who has sold your generation? You tell me. There’s no question mark in the title. It’s a seed that we planted to bring more awareness to – if we still feel (or have ever felt) ownership of our minds and lives. I can go on, but I like for the listeners to create their own ideas.
If you had to write a manifesto for your band what would it say? Create good music. Play live in every corner of the world. Open people’s minds, show them a good time and make people feel something real.
What do you love and hate about America? The USA is a complicated place. There are a million things involving the political system of our country that I detest. But we also have some of the greatest freedoms in the world. Also, the best cheeseburgers. Also, our musical history, I guess.
What do you think it is about Texas which attracts so many psych bands and what is the ‘Texan approach’ you (or someone) mentions on all your press releases? I don’t know all too many bands that take a ‘Texas approach’. Most of the ‘psych’ music people are making today definitely doesn’t have the raw, dangerous and curious approach Texans’ spearheaded.
How important was the underground scene of the ’60s to your band – did you set out to carry on where other left off or did you naturally gravitate towards that sound? It was natural. In no way did we consciously try to sound like underground ‘60’s shit. We just happened to love it and it comes out sometimes in our music. We love all types of music.
The thing that sets you apart is the groove and rhythm underneath everything. Is this something you did consciously and do you think you’ll experiment further with this, perhaps one day moving into something like Krautrock? Thank you, you get it. It’s all about the beat. Rhythm is key. I’m a fan of Krautrock, but I honestly feel like there’s a lot that I haven’t heard. I’m always looking for new avenues to try though, so perhaps.
How did you get involved with Robert Levon Been and what do you think he’s bought to the new record? We met years ago, but we really connected when he came to our show in LA. I also met Nic Jodin that night, who ended up being our main producer for the latest record. James and I were planning on recording the record as a two piece and I’d overlay bass. Robert got word of it – we were actually previously in talks of bringing him into my other side project UFO Club – and came in. It was just a matter of time ‘till we collaborated. He made a great impact on the record. Not only his fantastic playing, but his energy was great. He’s a funny dude, and real aware. I personally think he’s one of the greatest song writers around today.
As a lot of people like to pigeonhole things, what do you think separates a so called ‘psych’ band from a ‘garage band’? Is it just a darker mood? I think if they’re trying to define psych, then they’re missing the point. As a musician at least, you’re always thinking of different ways of doing things, different approaches, different sounds. Garage though to me simply means stripped down rock and roll. Not a lot of pedals, usually no synths or drum machines. Psych, anything goes. Or not.
Do you think the 21st music ‘industry’ with the internet allowing you to put out and share more music – but with next to zero money in record sales – has given you the freedom to do things your own way or hindered you? It does and it doesn’t. I feel like you could always do whatever you wanted, it just wouldn’t be seen as easily with the internet. But you really can reach a huger audience now if people dig it or get some kind of break.
Are there any more plans to release with the UFO club, and other than Night Beats, what bands should we know about here in the UK? You’ll be hearing a taste soon. We have plans. But we’re keeping it under wraps for now. Cosmonauts are great. Curtis Harding, Froth, Pussywarmers, Sturgill Simpson, Cult of Dom Keller.