By RAYMOND CUMMINGS
Brooklyn, New York foursome Psychic Ills are responsible for some of the modern era's most modest space- and psych-rock workouts; the oft-mannered, elliptical swirl-cone throb on 06' Dins evoked Scottish garage-rockers Clinic and krautrock legends Can at their most sober and self-contained. Last year's Mirror Eye - recorded following the departure of founding member Tom Gluibizzi and the addition of new keyboardist/synth player Jimy SeiTang - found the Social Registry signees emerging a sound less submerged but no less trippy.
In a mid-September email interview – which was supposed to run on the web site of an East Coast alt-weekly, but was scrapped, understandably, because it was too pithy – we quizzed droll multi-instrumentalists SeiTang, Tres Warren, Elizabeth Hart, and Brian Tamborello about their handle, their mutating sound, and their arresting cover art. You can tell that the band really, really put their hearts and souls into answering my questions – and for that, I’m so grateful that I’m practically turning blue because I’m poking a hole through my cheek. Cheers!
Ill With The Composition: What, exactly, are "psychic ills"? Whenever I see or think of your name, I immediately flash on the Yellow Swans' Psychic Secession.
Tres Warren: It's just a name--a couple of words put together. I don’t know that record, but I saw them at Tonic a couple years ago and was into it.
IWTC: How did wind up on tour with the Butthole Surfers? That's huge.
TW: We got asked to do it.
Elizabeth Hart: The day we got the email about the tour, I had listened to The Butthole Surfers while on the subway en route to work. Synchronicity. It was kind of a no-brainer.
IWTC: While Dins struck me as songs emerging from then receding back into a sort of primordial static, Mirror Eye seems, in a way, more realized or direct even as it's got a prism-psych feel to it. Did you go into recording Eye with a different methodology in mind?
Jimy SeiTang: Perhaps so. Maybe some of the Moldavite prism crystals were aligned differently when we went and recorded that album.
Brian Tamborello: Not necessarily. We didn’t go into it with any defined methodology. Of course, we had changed as people over the couple years that had passed, and Jimy had joined us, so there were just natural differences in the way we approached the music.
IWTC: Can you tell me a bit about the significance of your album artwork? The cover of Dins had a sort of pop-realism feel, with candy-colored blotches overlaying a grainy, black-and-white photo of a helicopter, while Mirror Eye's cover seems to be a blurred action shot of a woman playing a tambourine that looks as though it were ripped from a magazine.
TW: The cover of Dins is a painting by Wolf Vostell, from 1968, called "Three Hairs and Shadow." The cover of Mirror Eye was pretty much ripped out of a newspaper--well, it was a collage that I removed the collage elements from.
IWTC: You record live to tape, right? Do you find that that process yields more unusual results, happy accidents?
BT: Recording live naturally opens the process up to both pleasant surprises and frustrating confrontations with the music. Sometimes the latter creates a tension that leads to, and can only be shattered by, the former. “Mantis” was basically born of that.
IWTC: What's coming up next for Psychic Ills? After the tour, of course.
TW: Hanging around. Probably make another record. Stuff like that.
JST: New concepts, new ideas through sound and textures - and yeah, lots of hanging around.
IWTC: Bands that make mystical, lysergic music seem to take on an automatic shroud of mystery, even if they don't intend to; they almost become living myths, even if they're just regular folks. What do you think that your fans would be surprised to learn about each of you?
TW: I don’t know. That we were killing time at nudist hot springs between shows the last time we played on the West Coast?
JST: That we all live through another dollar, another day.