The Black Angels' Christian Bland on Reverb -- "The Voice of God"
The Black Angels frontman has his hands in many honey jars.
The whole 'Don't Mess With Texas' adage was actually an anti-littering campaign, but damn if that state don't have attitude. And while not exactly weirder than many other American cities (including this one), Austin does breed a distinct kind of freak, Christian Bland being one of the most notable. The Black Angels frontman, distinctive for his trademark screeches that pop off at peak of his psychedelic dirges, brings a more subdued, but still spun-out sound to his side project, Christian Bland & The Revelators.
Their Lost Album, recorded in an old ice cream factory in 2007, went missing for a few years, but was thankfully found again. This is excellent news for fans of Bland's more experimental, drawn-out trips, as lately The Angels have taken a more concise, pop-driven route, for better or worse. Even The Black Keys have taken note -- just compare Turn Blue to Phosphene Dream. Everyone can get on board this trippy train.
Bland definitely has his hands full. Also in The UFO Club with Lee Blackwell of Night Beats, Bland is a co-founder of the record label The Reverberation Appreciation Society and one of the four organizers of Austin Psych Fest, not to mention the fact that Bland designs a lot of the artwork for his various projects.
Wondering how he keeps himself sane, we called Bland up in the middle of a recording session with The Black Angels -- that alone is exciting, given the strength of the recent Clear Lake Forest EP. It seems Bland is going to be less involved with the behind-the-scenes work for Austin Psych Fest, which is going on its eighth year.
"[APF is] like a dream come true really. We invite all our favorite bands to come play for a weekend," Bland says. "It's been four of us the whole time setting it up and every year it's grown and grown, kind of become it's own creature. It's been hard ... one of the guys in the group, Rob Fitzpatrick has kind of taken on 99 percent of everything because Alex [Maas] and me are always busy doing Black Angels stuff and touring. The other guy's a filmmaker, so Rob is taking on everything. It's almost out of control for him, so we're talking about partnering up with some other folks that can help us out so we can focus on why we originally started the festival, which is to see the bands and do all the artwork for the festival, the aesthetics of everything and let someone else take care of the business end of things ... everything behind the scenes you don't think about."
A weekend filled with some of the coolest psychedelic bands living today, Austin Psych Fest has headlined The Dandy Warhols, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Warlocks, The Zombies, Tobacco, Phoenix's own Destruction Unit, and many, many others. Imagine all that reverb -- something Bland almost seems obsessed with, but for good reason.
"Reverb is kind of like the voice of God. When you're in a cathedral, when you get that natural, cathedral reverb. It lends itself nicely to a diety," Bland says. "Reverb has a definite healing effect on me. I like all my guitar amplifiers cranked up to 10 on the reverb. It gives you that nice syrupy sound."
Clearly a huge fan of the 13th Floor Elevators (both band's even call Austin home), we asked about some unreleased tracks The Black Angels were asked to cover of the Elevators' founding member Roky Erickson in 2008. Unfortunately, those tunes seem destined to remain shelved, as Erickson went with Okkervil River's versions instead.
"They're still just sitting there. I don't ever think he's [Erickson] going to come record on them. If anything, we would probably just put it out and sing on it ourselves," Bland says. "Okkervil River, they did an album with him, which was after we had recorded all our stuff. I just think our stuff was more gritty, I guess. We were trying to go for the next 13th Floor Elevators album. We had electric jug on everything, and I think they were just wanting a cleaner, more mainstream sound."
Another of Bland's influences? Paranoia. You can sense tingling it on white-knuckle songs like, "The Sniper At The Gates Of Dawn" and "You On The Run." The anxious aura is cut by driving guitars (reverb-heavy, of course) that prick like fangs or resembles a gun in your back. Yet Bland says he wouldn't describe himself as a paranoid person.
My dad's a preacher. I grew up going to church every Sunday. I think the paranoia was instilled in me," Bland recalls. "That idea [of Hell] still looms over me. I can't shake my upbringing. I guess that's just part of it. I don't think I'm a very paranoid person, but songs are catharsis, they help you deal with things like that."
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