Swaths of contemporary psychedelic rock bands around the country can cite the Austin 60’s psychedelic rock scene as one of their key influences. Bands like Shiva’s Headband, The 13th Floor Elevators and Conqueroo revolutionized the Austin music scene while contributing to the counter-culture wave that would sweep America by urging people to ‘tune out’. While Austin psych-rock has thrived since the 60’s, there has never been a more worthy groundswell of new bands to carry on their forefather’s legacy than the likes of the Black Angels, Night Beats and, newly minted The UFO Club, of which Christian Bland (The Black Angels) and Lee Blackwell (Night Beats) have collaborated for their latest project.
On a humid, hazy, and rum-soaked Wednesday night, Sailor Jerry’s and Austin’s Psych Fest collaborated to bring together some of Austin’s headiest, psych-rock bands to celebrate the release of The UFO Club’s self-titled debut album. Other Austin bands featured on the bill included The Wolf, Cheap Curls, Holy Wave and Blackwell’s Night Beats who tantalized the crowd with different shades of pop/rock psychedelia under the intricate light show provided by Psychedelic Light and Sound.
The debut album by The UFO Club, which was released through Austin Psych Fest’s Reverberation Appreciation label, is described by front-man Christian Bland as “50’s psych-rock dragged into 2015”. The 11-track album has been sitting on the shelf for some time as it was recorded almost two years ago in Austin Texas’ Laguna Studios.
“We spent two years ‘perfecting’ and ‘un-perfecting’ the tracks until we had it right” said Blackwell. “And we’ve started in on our next one, so it wont be as long of a wait”
The UFO Club draws from a variety of influences, citing Phil Spector, Bo Diddley, The Beatles, and Buddy Holly, as well as hover boards , Back to the Future II and the recent Mars Landing. However varied their influences, it doesn’t mean that they’ve forgotten their Austin psych predecessors.
“It’s revering the legacy of the psychedelic music that started here in Austin. We are preserving what started here and that’s what its all about” Bland said. “Its like a Chia Pet. When you buy it, its dead. Sprinkle a little water on it and begins to grow.”
I asked Bland if the UFO Club was the ‘water’ reviving the ‘Chia Pet’ of Austin psych-rock.
“Well no. We’re the acid rain that’s falling on it. It might not fodder or foster a creative situation, but all we can hope for in the future is that people who hear it are like… yes …YES… YES!…..YES!!!”
We don’t need to wait for the future to get a glimpse of the effect that The UFO Club’s music has on its listeners. The crowd at Red 7 was enveloped into the headliner’s set from the first riff off their first song. With spaced out covers of songs like the Ronette’s “Be My Baby” and The Seeds “Up In Her Room”, The UFO Club lets you drift out far enough gain an ethereal aloofness but eventually reigns you back to the present with thrashing guitars and poppy rockabilly hooks. The distorted fuzzed-out pop wafted through Red 7, lulling the crowd into a nostalgic sway, and subtly ushering in a new era of Austin psych rock.
“ I’ve lived in Austin ten years. It provides a lot of research into music. It has definitely grown on me.” Bland said. “It’s creative and has a lot of musicians which has always drawn me in. And thank God for Psych Fest”
The UFO Club understands what they’re is doing isn’t Top 40-friendly and might not have a home in other cities, but their willingness to mesh genres and experiment with new sounds is refreshing, because as Bland puts it:
“God knows the stuff that they play on the radio is absolute crap.”