Friday, April 7, 2017

In the Flesh: Some Observations of, and Words From, Cobra Family Picnic and Trees Speak at Last Weekend's Warped Psych Show

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 3:45 PM

Psych and ambient-noise devotees gathered at The Flycatcher last Saturday night. The psych/space noisniks Cobra Family Picnic kicked things off.

Frontman Randall Dempsey might have the dedication to craft as The Lizard King—even left the stage when the booze ran out to fetch a beer from the bar. Rock ’n’ roll!

We talked to lanky bassist Boyd Peterson who, along with his wife, keyboardist Lesli Wood, founded Cobra.

When did Cobra Family Picnic come together?
“A couple of years ago. With my wife Leslie and I wanting to do music that we like. We are from Los Angeles. We like old school ’70s, Hawkwind and Can [from Germany]. That’s what we do.”

How would you describe the sound of Cobra Family Picnic?

“Very organic and retro.”

Who is in the band?
“Lesli Wood, myself, Boyd Peterson, Conor Gallaher [on electric guitar], Randall Dempsey on vocals—Randall also has his own band named Desert Beats which is supercool '60s garage band—and the drummer is Daniel Thomas.”

So, you have an album coming out?
“Yes. Magnetic Anomaly, coming out in May on Cardinal Fuzz a UK, super psych, underground awesome label. It will be released on CD, tape and vinyl.”

What is next for the band?
“We are going to do an album release, probably, in late May. We are going to do something with The Myrrors. Supercool. They are labelmates.”

Trees Speak
While some in the audience sat and stared intently into the hallucinogen flashback inducing lights—designed by gifted artist/designer Gregory James Houston —others lost themselves in the near constant billows of fog that spewed forth from the stage.

Trees Speak is an experimental rock band that transcend mainstream pop influences by incorporating elements of avant-garde, shoegaze, Krautrock, art and electronic—along with violin-bowed guitar, theremin and a glut of effects pedals, and it’s an ear-bending rush of lush soundscape.

At the set's conclusion the band strolled from stage to a programmed loop. We had a chance to chat with Diaz and guitarist Lex Elias.

When did Trees Speak form?
Diaz: “About 5 years ago.”

What aesthetic influences the project?
Diaz: “Minimalism.”

What bands do you draw inspiration from?
Diaz: “Tangerine Dream. Their early work from the 1960s. Beak [English electronic band.]”

Who is in the band?
Diaz: “Julius Schlosburg on drums, Lex Elias on guitar, Jamie Laboz on bass and myself on keyboards, guitar and theremin.”

Do you have any recordings?
Diaz: “We do. We have a record that is going to come out on an Italian label, Cinedelic. They are going to release a double album at the end of the year. Cinedelic releases a lot of Italian soundtracks from the ’60s and ’70s.”

What is next for Trees Speak?
Diaz: “We are performing at Hullabaloo Festival in Flagstaff June 3-4. We are going to be doing a two-hour set in the forest. It is going to be at night and the forest is going to be lit up with LED lighting.”

You perform behind a scrim with intense backlighting. What gives?

Diaz: “The whole concept is experiential. We don’t want to be just about music. It’s a sensory experience. Sound, sight, smell, touch.”

Diaz: “Nag champa.”

What is your role in the band?
Elias: “I love pedals. I love sound. I just kind of bounce around. .. whatever comes at the moment.”

Do you rehearse this material? I sense that there is an improvisational aspect to the music. Care to expand?
Elias: “The sound goes wherever it takes us. We have an idea of what we are trying to achieve with sound, texture and swells. But, there is no goal. There is no set start nor an end. We just trigger off of each other. Speaking with other people, some say that the music is lullaby-ish. Some say it is nightmare-ish.”

Over the course of the night, repetitive blasts of light, streams of guitar feedback and ambient noise jetted, rising then cascading down on the trance-inducing grooves, taking the audience, perhaps, into that murky place where the subconscious and dreams and nightmares battle.

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