Published on March 9th, 2016 | by The Beige Baron0
Interview: Kill West
If contemporary psych rock forms a part of your musical diet, you probably remember the first time Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker, Dead Meadow’s Howls from the Hills, or The Warlocks’ The Mirror Explodes blossomed in your lobes like a hit of sonic psilocybin.
And here’s Kill West coming out of nowhere with an LP called Smoke Beach that gives the same rush of adrenalin that those classic records did when you first heard them. Smoke Beach absorbs the best elements of this kind of music and blends them together with their own special sauce in a record that can only be described as 42 minutes of fuzzed-out psychedelic bliss.
“Not being silver-spoon-fed on facilities or fancy gear, you have to use more of your artistic intuition to get a message across.”
It’s no mean feat to break through the noise of a million bands dropping acid and trying to be the next Brain Jonestown Massacre. Very few create anything that shakes up the meta; or that encapsulates so perfectly that trippy vibe that keeps psych-heads endlessly searching for another hit of something good.
Within a couple of bars of Smoke Beach‘s opener, Out to the Stars, I tapped the volume up. And up some more, smile starting to spread in the sick fluorescent office light. Vocals bleed in, mixed low and reverbed out in a wall of gritty, abrasive fuzz, then a wah-wah lead swoops through the loping two-chord-groove.
I’m sold, but there’s no way they can top that song. It’s gotta be downhill from here.
I’m wrong. It just gets better. The album builds, peaks, and begins its slow descent into motorik hypnosis that surely tips a hat to Wooden Shjips or White Hills, two bands known to draw on a wide range of influences from decades past.
I’m down in the subway now, wading through humans. Headphone amp cranked all the way up, Beyer 770s trembling as they punch bass notes deep into my skull. Man, this is loud, but it won’t clip. Seemingly every fraction of the frequency spectrum is shimmering in the red, yet there’s somehow always enough room for another track, another echo-drenched guitar line to flap like a jellyfish through the dense sea of noise.
Whoever mixed and mastered this record is a genius, I decide, buttoning the volume back down to a train-friendly level.
Who the fuck is this band?
“I’ve been playing since I was a kid,” says Kill West’s guitarist Fran Beceiro from his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when we’re in touch. “I was jamming in my cousin’s basement until I was like 14, then in high school I met Martin and formed a couple of punkish bands. That lasted a few years until we met Joel, who played also in a local punk rock band.
“The three of us started jamming in my parent’s garage, and eventually we recruited the rest of the guys for what it would later be known as Kill West.”
The balance and overall dynamic presented on this album is impressively consistent. We wonder how the songs came together, who wrote them, and what the recording experience was like?
“It was a really organic process, I guess. I would come up with some riffs and some lyrics during the week, then show it to the band at rehearsals, basically after the Kill West EP, we just kept recording everything.
“Eventually we thought we saw a cohesive sound and songs that seemed like cool stuff to make an album.
“We recorded everything at Wacala studios, my friend Emilio Paravisi owns it, and it’s 10 minutes away from my house and our rehearsal space, so it was a super-chill experience, no pressure or deadlines or anything like that. We had a lot of fun doing it.”
The first five tracks on Smoke Beach—Out to The Stars, Neon Cross, Golden Ice, and Coast to Coast in particular—recall laidback grooves and wandering solos of Washington DC band Dead Meadow—one of the first to energize the revival of ’70s rock that mixes Zeppelin’s mysticism, Sabbath’s riffage, and the spaciness of Pink Floyd.
Did Dead Meadow figure in the creation of Kill West’s sound?
“The Meadow were a big influence growing up for sure, I just saw them live a month ago, they were amazing. Obviously we all like a ton of different stuff, but I think we can agree in the love for true rock and roll like The Stooges, some 1977 CB’s and Max’s Kansas City, Suicide… going through stuff like early Bluesmen, Hawkwind, Crazy Horse… the list goes on forever, there’s just too much stuff to name.”
I remember school as maybe the most boring, anti-intellectual thing I had to go through.
So what was it like to grow up in Buenos Aires? What was school like?
“It’s a very unique place to say the least. I think it’s really strange, can be really fun and sometimes kind of boring, like most places maybe? But mostly I loved it, people here are not afraid to show their love for their friends and family.
“Having said that… I don’t think I was never really in touch with what is really happening here socially. We’re from the suburbs, like a 40-minute drive from downtown. I remember school as maybe the most boring, anti-intellectual thing I had to go through. I spent hours drawing monsters and zombies in my book out of my Ramones backpack and fucking around with some other also-bored-as-fuck dudes.
“Martin and I grew up skateboarding every day after school, so that was a big character-forming thing too, I guess. Although maybe not every day, we still do it. One day, music got in first place, priority wise.”
Every country has it’s own setup for live shows—what’s the deal for gigging in Argentina?
Any thoughts on the surge of great bands coming out of South America, such as Montibus Communitas, Serpentina Satellite, Föllakzoid? Do you think there is anything distinctive or unique about psych music from the region?
“Limitations are key I guess? In our case, I think that played a big part, being so far away from an actual ‘scene’ and not being silver-spoon-fed on facilities or fancy gear, you have to use more of your artistic intuition to get a message across.”
Speaking of gear, I’m curious as to what the band uses, without giving away any trade secrets?
We’re constantly working on new stuff, there are new sounds on the horizon
“I’m using a Jazzmaster right now, with a bunch of distortion and delay pedals, also got a cool Vox wah pedal, nothing too fancy, but it gets the job done.
“Joel plays a beautiful Fender Precision through a sustain pedal. Martin with the Gibson SG standard, MXR phaser and tremolo, some boss OD, and tape echo. We really like the vintage Holy Grail by EHX too.
“Production-wise, I came up with an aesthetic direction I wanted to take, then proceeded to turn Emilio crazy with how I wanted things to sound.”
So with one incredible album under their belt and world seemingly at their feet, what’s up next for Kill West?
“We’re constantly working on new stuff, there are new sounds on the horizon, and hopefully we will get some tours going sometime in the near future.”
In the meantime, fans can purchase Kill West’s music at the following locations: vinyl is available through Echo Drug Records, cassette on Onkagkubaka Records, CD on Crang Records, and digital download on Kill West’s Bandcamp. Follow the band on Facebook.