With their fuzzy blues stomp causing ripples across the North West, Getintothis’ Chris Hughes catches Psyence make a fine return to Liverpool.
In a modern soundscape where label classification has become as broad as the kaleidoscope of noise itself, Psyence truly blur those lines and have carved out a unique sound that defies genre.
In their two year existence, the lads have ridden psychedelic tsunamis everywhere they have been, and show no signs of breaking off the waves anytime soon.
Known for their ferocious live show, including a packed-out appearance at last years’ Liverpool Sound City Festival, they have attracted praise from The Quietus and were described by The Charlatans’ Martin Blunt as ‘the best live band’ he’d seen in ten years. But this pressure has only inspired the band to grow, each release reaching higher and further than the one before.
Phoenix, their latest concoction released through Liverpool-based Salvation Records, manages to reach these lofty ambitions. An experiment left bubbling above Bunsen burners and served through a 12” red vinyl single, bassist Jay Bellingham’s introductory scream lets us know we’ve reached new territory. Breaking into a bluesy riff that gives Jimmy Page a run for his money, the rawness of earlier singles Zebra and Medusa is certainly still present – indeed it serves as another vital ingredient towards their sound.
Switching from stoner-blues stomp into a tightly anarchic ruckus, drummer Joe Walsh’s double-time beats keep it all together. The guitar tone and Jay’s fuzzy bass have a middle-era Arctic Monkeys edge, fast-paced and frenetic, though Steve Pye’s far-off vocals lift the track above any potential accusations of indie-rock flirtation. His face melting guitar licks and solos go a long way to keep the progressive spirit of garage-psych alive, something that many modern psychedelic bands have abandoned.
Psyence have always rocked hard, but Phoenix’s high tempo leaves a trailblaze of ashes in its wake. In contrast to the chaos, it’s clear someone has been staying up late practising and honing their song writing. There’s a thought-out structure to the madness that displays a newly-discovered maturity – a word not unduly deserved despite being readily thrown around in modern music writing. Of course, this takes nothing away from the youthful party-angst that drives the track.
Chemicals for Breakfast was released as a digital single earlier this year and now makes its vinyl debut as the B-side. It’s no overstatement that this tune matches the raw power and drive of its A-side. Filled with crying wah-guitar, riffs that twist and turn around eerie vocal melodies reminiscent of The Sonics and head-banging breakdowns that come on heavier than a chemically induced hangover.
We made sure we got down to the first leg of their second UK tour. Revisiting their spiritual Merseyside home of Sound Food and Drink , the lads put in a third-eye cleansing experience that was not to be missed. Loyal fans had followed the band from Stoke, lining the tops of long wooden benches with local fans alike to create a vivid cauldron of noise.
Opening with their powerful new single, it’s clear that Psyence have already earned a hardcore fan base as many in the crowd sing along to every word – some climbing atop tables to dance with pints held high in the air. Every song sounds ripped straight from a studio recording with added live intensity – searing guitar solos and rock-along riffs blaring up and down Duke Street.
We were lucky enough to catch up with the band after the show.
Getintothis: What’s been the highlight of your time with Psyence so far?
Psyence: We think the highlight of being a part of Psyence has been the whole journey from start to where we are now; from playing pubs to now going on our second UK tour. It’s felt like our two years of being together has flown by, we have been working hard to reach our short term goals, continuously persisting to reach our long term goals- enjoying every last minute of it.
Getintothis: Can you talk a little about Phoenix, and its origin? Was there anything different in the process of writing and producing this song than other recordings in the past?
Psyence: We had the structure of the song first and spent a while tweaking that around. Our bassist Jamie is our main lyricist and bounced a few ideas around with singer/guitarist Steve once we had it together. The name came last. The song is about breaking up from someone who you are obsessed with and being better off in the long run.
In terms of recording the track it was quite a new song for the band so we went for an experimental way of recording, seeing what worked and what didn’t. We felt we had taken a risk but are proud of what we have accomplished.
Getintothis: How do you see your music progressing in the future? Do you have a clear aim or do you prefer to take things as they come?
Psyence: We don’t really have an aim, such as we need to have this sound, or sound like that band, we want to sound like Psyence. The first three singles we have released have all been different from each other, each one a completely different dynamic to the last. That’s the feedback we’ve had anyway. We feel we’re just doing what we love. Science itself is about experimenting and that’s what we try and do with Psyence, pushing our limits and seeing what we can achieve.
Getintothis: It seems there’s an emerging live scene in Stoke at the moment, what’s been your experience with that?
Psyence: Stoke has a great scene at the moment and not just with psych. Bands who have been around quite a while and new bands popping up everywhere, it’s great. We do feel Stoke gets somewhat overlooked for bigger cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds or Nottingham.
But in recent times, the city has had its coverage on the likes of Huw Stephens’ Radio 1 show. We achieved getting in NME Radar and different artists/bands from the city are playing at festivals like Glastonbury and Reading & Leeds. Stoke really is a little hotbed of talent and needs to be checked out. You don’t know what you are missing.