Published on July 29th, 2015 | by The Beige Baron


Carlton Melton

11705132_832558760127354_2084440422515226180_nCarlton Melton has left the dome!

Well, briefly, to create Out to Sea, perhaps the clearest snapshot of the band’s sprawling yet intense brand of improvised psychedelic rock captured so far, and one that’s earning rave reviews from established music mags to indie websites alike.

From northern California, the band (comprising Andy Duvall, Rich Millman, and Clint Golden) ordinarily gathers at a friend’s geodesic dome to load up and blow out on epic, multi-layered, guitar-heavy jams.

The results of recording in this unique atmosphere can be absorbed on key records like Smoke Drip and Photos of Photos, which helped Carlton Melton break through the rash of trendy psychedelia and into the consciousness of thousands of fans all over the world.

Big difference this time is that we could play much louder.

For Out to Sea, Rich, Clint, and Andy booked into El Studio with Trans Am’s Phil Manley, who recorded, mixed, and contributed to a number of tracks, and later got friend and collaborator John McBain [ex-Monster Magnet/Wellwater Conspiracy/QOTSA] to master the results at his studio.

Brown Noise Unit was fortunate to chat recently with Andy and Rich about how Out to Sea came into existence.

11009138_809995992383631_5853421334749310534_nBNU: Out to Sea is more stylistically diverse compared to some of your other albums. I’m hearing a kind of almost Pentastar-style rock on some of the tracks through to drone to ambient to the epic space-doom of songs like The Barrier. Some of the songs are built around a darker, more aggressive guitar tone; others are gentle and reflective. Can you tell me how you approached making this record? Did you try anything differently? What’s the reason for the eclectic mix of sounds on this one?

Andy: We honestly didn’t try to do anything differently on this recording. The only difference—if you ask me—is you can hear everything much better, because it was recorded in a proper studio. Every time we have recorded in the past (in the geodesic dome), we seem to always come up with a wide variety of jams. We just never had the opportunity to release all of them on one album—until now.

Rich: Yeah, we approached going into El Studio as any other time going up to record at the Dome. Big difference this time is that we could play much louder. We could use bigger amps, Marshall half-stacks, full Ampeg bass rig, and turn it up.

…Some neighbor two miles down the road gets pissed and retaliates the next day with a loud chainsaw

10456066_719614111421820_1555983031600280494_nAt the Dome we record with room mics, so if you get too loud you risk blowing every thing out, or some neighbor two miles down the road gets pissed and retaliates the next day with a loud chainsaw or weed whacker.

Any major changes to the guitar and bass rig for this album? Any new amps or pedals you experimented with? I’m hearing synths or keyboards on some of the tracks too, like the opener Peaking Duck… Any other bits of special gear you were playing with?

Andy: This was the first time I recorded with my ’78 Premier kit. Our engineer Phil Manley always gets a great drum sound; it’s the best my drumming has ever sounded on record.

As my all-time favorite graffiti stated: “Drugs Helps”.

Also, this was the first time I recorded through my ’08 Fender Twin. And, another first, I used my Big Cheese “Shroom” pedal (made in Australia) that my friend Tom Graham built for me on the song The Barrier.

Were these songs rehearsed before you went into the studio or did you compose or improvise while you were actually recording? Was it a quick record to make or did you spend a lot of time doing overdubs?

10615486_715594351823796_1610177926619575200_nAndy: We don’t rehearse. It just happens in the studio. If we didn’t record the sessions we wouldn’t remember any of it. Our songs are like ghosts caught on tape.

I would say it was a quick record to make. The recording session was over one weekend last July.

The first night we recorded five hours straight, then Phil went home and we “slept” at the studio. Phil arrived the next day around noon and we recorded another two or three hours. Eight hours total—that was it.

I overdubbed the floor tom on The Barrier. I initially played guitar on it, but listening back I thought it needed something to sink your teeth into. Not much else was overdubbed. Maybe a bass riff.

Phil Manley recorded and engineered the session as well as playing guitar/synth on a couple tracks. John McBain mastered it. They both are amazing talents.

Rich: Everyone had some ideas to bring to the table, some sparks if you will, maybe a synth loop or guitar riff here and there. But yeah, every track is composed and improvised while recording.

Nice way to put it.

10409018_696890233694208_7990140139996023256_nDid drugs play any role in the creation of Out to Sea? Do you feel like weed or psychedelics give inspiration or do you work straight?

Andy: I don’t work straight. As my all-time favorite graffiti somebody spray-painted on a Delaware underpass stated: “Drugs Helps”.

Rich: We don’t necessarily do much at all straight and narrow. I’ll say we were heavily under the influence of sound and vibration for these recordings.

Andy had a good answer to a similar question years ago regarding music and psychedelics. He said, “One hand washes the other.”

The whole center section of the album is evocative of water. Songs like Too Close to Home, Similarity, and It’s Been Summer All Winter seem to be working with watery, rippling delay. The album is called Out to Sea after all. Was the sea an influence on the sound, or is “out to sea” just a reference about becoming lost in music or unmooring your mind? Have you ever heard the solo artist Azusa Plane? Some of the songs have that aesthetic.

Andy: I have never heard Azusa Plane, but now I will investigate. It’s nice to hear that you get that watery vibe from some of the tunes on the record. It definitely seems there was a subconscious water theme with this record.

First off, California is in one of its worst droughts on record. It’s hard not to think about that around here. But the theme came after the fact. We didn’t go into the studio thinking in those terms.

I put two and two together and thought, “We should name the record Out to Sea.”

1937495_695780233805208_9209917199135755135_nWe had the song title (that I came up with while taking a bath), then we were thinking of album artwork and I had this sunset photo I took in Jenner, California.

I put two and two together and thought, “We should name the record Out to Sea.”

It all fit together perfectly. I’m very thankful Rich and Clint and Simon [from Agitated Records] went along with it.

Rich: Yeah, everything sounds different underwater, right? Everything was sounding and feeling different during the recording of those tracks you mention.

What are your favorites off Out to Sea to play live? Will the composition change in a live setting?

 Andy: We haven’t had a chance to play much of the record live yet, but Diamond in the Rough has been a personal highlight in our recent shows. We look forward to playing nearly all the songs off the record in a live situation.

I’m sure each song will evolve. They are like snowflakes; no two times do we play a song the same.

Rich: I’d like to take a stab at all of them at some point. Unrealistic, but I do get excited about the thought of playing any of these tracks live.

How different was the finished product to how you imagined it sounding before recording? Is this your favorite Carlton Melton work so far?

10150584_715594338490464_8742065507642166808_nAndy: It’s nearly impossible to make expectations in this band—one of the main reasons why I love Carlton Melton so much. It will always be off-the-cuff, always a surprise.

Hearing it played back for the first time, it’s like being a kid again. The thrill of surprising yourself: priceless. This is, by far, my favorite of any of my band’s recordings.

Rich: I was pleasantly surprised by how a lot of these tracks came out. Definitely find myself getting amped up when listening to some of these tracks at home or wherever… start getting the itch.

Any tour plans coming up? Where can people buy the new record?

Andy: Yes, we are touring EU/UK this fall. Among the dates, we are playing Liverpool Psych Fest.

Rich: And you can always find Carlton Melton stuff at aQuarius records in San Francisco, USA, and Norman Records in Leeds, UK, and Piccadilly Records, Manchester, UK.

Out to Sea is out now on Agitated Records and is available from good record stores.

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Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.

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