Vibes are optimal right now for Tempe pupil dilators Otro Mundo. Their cassette debut of gnarled grunge-pop gems, Jellied, got them in the pages of British mag NME earlier this year, and now they're hard at work on new material and a December tour with New York punks Psychic Blood. Tonight, they open for kindred jammers Young Prisms tonight at Rhythm Room.
Joined by bassist Danny Pupillo and drummer Steve Nappa, singer and guitarist Alex Jarson co-writes the songs with his brother Andrew, who also engineered the Jellied recordings.
"It's cool because there's no reservation," Jarson says of their working relationship. "If one of us doesn't like a part, we can just yell at each other." It's hardly an Oasis-type brother standoff, however. "My brother's one of the best guitarists I've ever played with," he says. "I can't solo, but he can do all that."
The band name actually comes from an early shared memory: remnants from their aunt's art show she put together several decades ago. "She made shirts that read 'Otro Mundo' with skeletons and esoteric symbols," Jarson says. "When we were younger, me and my brother would wear these shirts to bed every night. We found them a couple years ago and started wearing them again."
Beginning work on a new batch of songs, Jarson said the band recently had a good experience doing a free recording session at the Conservatory of Recording Arts in Tempe, but the peerless microphones and expensive mixing decks didn't match the desired distortion squalor. "The equipment was too good for us," he laughs. Old mics and warbling tape heads were ultimately used for this new release, due in January, which Jarson calls an homage to '60s psych (Hendrix, Stones) and '90s guitar screeds (Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine). "Something similar to all that but with a Hüsker Dü approach," he says.
The charm of dilapidated gear also is apparent in the "Jellied" music video, a hazy cut-up of foreign locales and expansive chambers. While exploring Europe last year, Jarson lugged around a big '80s VHS camera that was excitedly labeled as being "only three pounds," catching footage of depressing tourist traps, weathered architecture and dancing in the streets. He eventually found the caved-in Italian home of occultist and mystic author Allister Crowley. "People that actually live in the town don't go there because they really think it's haunted," he says.
All of Otro Mundo's audio and video output is channeled through Ascetic House, a multi-media art entity Jarson co-founded that has released everything from live VHS performances to experimental literature. Among the litany of Ascestic works are Jarson's approachable, detailed first-person writings about psychedelic drug experimentation. He likes to avoid intellectualizing it too much, but Jarson says his music and writings are both means to overcome earthly restraints and reach larger, more profound experiences.
"When I think of '60s rock and people like [psychedelic author] Timothy Leary, they're basically these figures that say you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want. It's just liberating," he says.
Otro Mundo is scheduled to perform tonight at The Rhythm Room.