“Everyone Smiles As You (Spin) Drift Past the Flowers”
For years, Spindrift – the band that arose in the East and settled in the West – has been a unique and omnipresent force for those who worship at the altar of psychedelic sounds.
Touring relentlessly has added to their legend, not only on their own but also joining brothers in arms like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Black Mountain, The Black Angels, and even a few bands that don’t have the word “black” in their name. The open road – with both the danger and promise it provides – suits the band well, as cosmic explorers with a particular interest in the dust, dirt and drama tied to the American West.
We won’t be the first to describe the sounds produced by Spindrift as “cinematic” – though worth noting that the band resides in the rarified class of bands that have translated their songs to the full moving pictures experience (via their film, “The Legend of God’s Gun”). Spindrift, however, is much more than pictures, light and sound. They are stardust, they are golden, they are billion year old carbon … or something.
What we’re trying to say is that Spindrift are every bit the live band as they are spaghetti western mystics, and to miss your opportunity to see them live would be criminal.
Henry Evans, gunslinger extraordinaire of the bass and baritone guitar, was kind enough to shoot straight with “Revolt of the Apes,” in advance of this weekend’s tour stop in our hometown, along with The Diamond Center, The Young Sinclairs and Boney Loner.
Where does the fascination with the American West spawn from for Spindrift as a band? For you personally?
The band started playing this music when our singer, Kirpatrick, moved from Delaware to Los Angeles. He spent the whole drive across country listening to western soundtracks and visiting the landscapes where they were filmed, but we’ve all been interested in The West and the mythology of America since we were young. I think that for children of the seventies, the cowboy was more of an icon than he is today. Same with astronauts and truckers. For me these are images to hold onto, especially since a lot of the history of America over the last few decades has been focused on mistakes, greed, and disillusionment.
One of the things so compelling about the music of Spindrift is the convergence of different influences – the band certainly has no hesitation in exploring sounds outside of the standard rock (for lack of a better term) template. How does each band member contribute to this sonic exploration? Can you think of a band or genre that you love, the introduction to which came from another Spindrift member?
I agree. Our sound is tough to pigeonhole, and I always have a really tough time when people unfamiliar with our music ask me to describe it. I usually tell them it’s psychedelic spaghetti western soundtrack music, but that’s really just a starting point. With The West, we really began to explore a lot of different influences, and our next album will continue to do that. It’s tough to remember who brings in what music sometimes, but Kirpatrick is definitely the one who introduced me to Johnny Western, Joe Meek, Bruce Haack, and a lot of the more “out there” music. As the bass player, I try to maintain stability, and a lot of the influence that I try to bring to the band is more standard rock stuff.
What does the name Spindrift mean to you? One can remark on the “cosmic gunslinger” nature of your music, but still find it curious that your name calls to mind the exploration of the sea before the desert. Is this simply a holdover from the earliest days of the band, or do you think the name has evolved along with the band?
The band has been going for many years, and the name is about the only thing that hasn’t changed. In some ways I suppose it is a holdover from the old days, but the original inspiration was a book called “Spindrift: Spray From A Psychic Sea,” which perhaps explains why the name still resonates. Spindrift is also the word for the slight amount that a bullet deviates from it’s course as it spins, and that’s western!
One could fairly describe the Spindrift sound as something approximating a “psychedelic in CineScope” – not just for the expansive nature of your sound, but also for the band’s ties to film, in particular, “The Legend of God’s Gun.” What place does film have in your view of artistic expression? How does the relative immediacy of music compare to the more labor-intensive process of working in film?
I think it’s very clear to even the casual listener that our music is inspired by cinema. It’s the basis of the songwriting. Not so much that we see a movie and think, “This would be a good riff for that scene,” but more that we try to make music to evoke an emotion, landscape, or image, or to develop a story, the way that music does in film.
As for comparing film and making music, the creative process for both can be very labor intensive. I think that the best music begins with an inspiration, which can come very quickly, but then it’s usually a process of refining, expanding, and becoming comfortable with the material. I prefer music to film because of the performance aspect of it, and because it affords me the opportunity to travel and meet lots of like-minded people.
So, what’s one of your favorite films of all-time? What’s a fine film that you have seen this year? Did you see that Eli Wallach (the actor who played “the ugly” himself – Tuco Benedicto Pacífico Juan María Ramírez – in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”) received an Honorary Academy Award this past weekend?
Aside from “Once Upon A Time In The West,” there are tons of westerns, like “Django,” “A Fistful of Dollars,” “The Magnificent 7,” “High Noon,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “Shane,” “The Searchers,” “Rio Bravo,” “The Oxbow Incident,” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” A lot of those old black and white westerns are a lot more thematically complex than I expected the first time I saw them. Some of my favorite non-westerns are “The City Of Lost Children,” “Alien,” “The Devil’s Backbone,” and “Wild At Heart,” and pretty much any film made by those directors.
I haven’t had many opportunities to see many movies lately, but I made sure to see “Machete.” Robert Rodriguez is great, and Danny Trejo is my all time favorite heavy, and it was great to see him as the hero. I also went to see “The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus,” which was really cool. I’ve loved just about every Terry Gilliam movie I’ve seen since I saw “Time Bandits” as a kid. Other than that, I saw a bunch of terrible action movies like “Predators” and “Jonah Hex,” which was an awful disappointment. Don’t waste your time. I also saw “Antichrist” this year, which was brilliant, but disturbing. I think Lars Von Trier is a genius, and I end up thinking about his films for a long time after I see them.
Like many people who do not live there, I harbor an intense fascination with the state of California. How has your impression of California changed – if it all – since the time your arrived in the California Republic? Erik Davis, in his spectacular book entitled “Visionary State,” says the following:
“As a place that has always been imagined as much as it has been lived, California is, perhaps, inherently visionary. The Gold Rush was a vision, and so was Los Angeles, which boot-strapped itself into being through self-mythology and hype. In this sense, California’s colorful and unique spiritual culture is simply one aspect of the creative mania that has made the state the Great American exception. But it also reveals something deeper: the continuing call of spirit at the frayed edges of the modern world, a call that demands novelty and reinvention, and the equal invocation of ancient ways.”
I agree that California, and particularly Los Angeles, is at once the beneficiary and victim of it’s own hype. I’ve gotten so many negative responses when I tell people that we’re from LA, but for me it’s the perfect place to live. It’s certainly not for everybody, and the negative stereotypes that everyone has about LA are there to find if you’re looking for them, but it’s one of the biggest cities in the country, so by definition, there’s a lot more going on there, too. There are sections of the city that are no different from any small town we’ve stopped in across the country. Similarly, California covers about 2/3rds of the west coast, and it’s really diverse. Cities, mountains, deserts, farmlands, and forests, with all kinds of people in all the different parts.
Here’s an easier one – what music have you been listening to lately?
We’re listening to The Black Angels right now. They’re on tour with one of our other favorite bands, Black Mountain. One of the drawbacks of being in a band is the number of shows that we actually miss because we’re on tour. In the van I like to keep it pretty mellow, so I play a lot of Magnetic Fields, Air, Brightblack Morning Light, Earth, and country stuff. Once in a while I’ll whip out Slayer or The Misfits. For newer stuff, there’s Sleepy Sun, A Place To Bury Strangers, Dead Meadow’s live album, Quest for Fire, and a lot more that I’m forgetting.
When I had the great pleasure to see Spindrift perform at Austin Psych Fest 3 earlier this year, I was struck most strongly by the band’s spirit of showmanship – and I mean that as a compliment at the highest possible level. Is there an active thought when performing to “mach schau” (as the Germans once yelled at The Beatles), or does it just … happen?
A little of both, I suppose. We make the kind of music that makes me want to move, but I also think that if a performer doesn’t seem excited about the music he’s making, how can the audience be expected to get into it?
What’s next for Spindrift?
We’ll be on the road for a few more weeks, finishing our tour on December 4th, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace in Joshua Tree, our home away from home. Once we finish this tour, we will immediately go into the studio out there and begin recording our next album, “Classic Soundtracks,” which will come out in the spring. After that, a lot more touring.
If anyone would like to pre-order the album and help us pay for recording expenses, they can visit our Kickstarter page here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1644764845/classic-soundtracks-by-spindrift