Published on May 29th, 2015 | by The Beige Baron1
Tres Warren from Psychic Ills
“Music is a mystery to me, but that’s why I like it,” Psychic Ills guitarist Tres Warren tells us during a quick break from recording the group’s latest album—the first since One Track Mind in 2013. “The more you know, the more there is to know.”
For over 10 years, the New York City band has been exploring the fringes of rock. Their debut LP in 2006, Dins, was critically acclaimed and became something of a cult classic for fans of experimental music.
A cryptic collage of sounds, colors, and textures that drift together and break apart, the music coalesces into rhythmical shapes, drifting from the ’60s-style jangle of Electric Life to the motorik of I Knew My Name and closing with a bleary-eyed anthem Another Day, Another Night, which sounds like rock getting sucked into itself, queasy looping riffs reversed and vocals sweeping back and forth across a radio dial.
For Mirror Eye in 2009, the band seemed possessed by the spirit of krautrock, launching onto a cosmic sea of synths, keyboards, tape echo, guitar delay, and unsettling Eastern modalities—lysergic paranoia in an Istanbul nightclub.
A whole bunch of EPs, cassettes, and remixes followed before the band released the Hazed Dream LP in 2011—a spacious album that floats over a desert landscape at night, a wide arc of star-studded space pressing in overhead, on hip indie label Sacred Bones.
Aside from a split record with San Francisco band Moon Duo and a vinyl reissue of Telesthetic Tape, the band’s last major release was 2013’s One Track Mind—perhaps their “straightest” effort yet that holds echoes of The Rolling Stones or Jesus & Mary Chain and the tripper San Francisco bands in the late ’60s.
With the Psychic Ills newest creation nearing completion in the studio, BNU sought to find out whether there was a particular star that has guided the band, and whether Tres Warren has always had confidence that his own musical picture was worthwhile, or if he received encouragement from someone in particular to keep working at it?
“I just found some things I was into and explored them. I haven’t had anyone encouraging me to make music. It’s just something I feel like I need to do. When I’m not making music I go off the rails. I’ve got more to learn and there are also some things I could stand to forget.
BNU: Your first album really affected me because it reflected a kind of apathy so cathartically in the guitars and vocals especially. But, and I am thinking of Dins specifically here, there’s also an optimism going on too despite that. Would you on balance feel more cynical or less cynical now than you did in the early 2000s, or have you just kind of thrown your hands up and walked away from everything, you know, socially or politically speaking?
I don’t really know the answer to this question. We were young when we made Dins in 2005, but at the same time, there’s never been any social critique happening in this band.
So much incredible art and music has come out of NYC. But for many people around the world, we see it through the eyes of Seinfeld or Sex in the City or just Hollywood movies generally. But we also know that hip-hop was born in NYC, and Beastie Boys, and Ramones. What is it actually like to live and make music in NYC and is it anything like the rest of us see on TV?
Working with Sacred Bones has always been cool. Caleb is a good guy.
It’s probably getting more and more like the shows that you’ve referenced but I still like it enough to be here. At least LaMonte Young’s Dream House is still here.
What has changed for you since you signed to Sacred Bones? Do you have to pay for studio time still out of your own pocket? Sleep got a massive advance and blew it all on weed and amps, and recorded a seminal album; do you think that time has gone forever?
We’ve always had recording budgets, so that didn’t change. We’ve definitely spent some money in the wrong way. But working with Sacred Bones has always been cool. Caleb is a good guy. He’s into the stuff he’s doing.
Who is the most famous musician you met who was an asshole, and who is the least famous artist you met who was a fucking champ?
I haven’t meet that many famous musicians. One time I played in a backing band for Damo Suzuki. He was awesome.
There’s stuff in all of them that I’d change.
Which of your albums are you most proud of? When I write a story I sometimes can’t bear to read it again; do you listen much to your own records and what do you wish you could go back and change?
There’s stuff in all of them that I’d change. I can get into some of all the records but I don’t listen to them that much.
What direction is “psychedelic” rock going and does that term even mean anything when people across all genres of music are taking drugs and making music? There seems to have been a trend back to “surf” and “fuzz” the last few years and also the motorik krautrock seems to be coming back. What do you think about all that?
This question always comes up and I never have an answer for it. I like all that stuff that you listed and whole lot of other stuff like that some people may or may not call “psychedelic” like country, jazz, etc.
What keeps the two of you together and continuing to make music?
We’re good friends, other than that, if you find out, tell me.
What are you working on right at this moment?
A new record. It’s been taking a while but I wanted to take a while. I wanted to take a break from all the other stuff; interviews, photos all the other non-music making stuff that comes with the territory.
What is your favorite movie?
My favorite films are westerns.
Psychic Ills records are available at good record stores or via the band’s website. Stay tuned for further details about the new record due later this year.