Los Angeles is the epicenter of the modern-day psych rock revival scene and few acts typify that sound better than Frankie and the Witch Fingers. The group is preparing to release their third full length LP, Brain Telephone, through Permanent Records (you can pre-order it by clicking HERE) and on the eve of the album release show this Friday night at The Echo (ticketing info found HERE). Therefore, I contacted the band to see about answering some questions and guitarist/vocalist dynamo Dylan Sizemore was able to respond in kind via e-mail.
Lee Bedrouni, MAT MAG: Hey Dylan, thanks again for agreeing to take our questions. How have you been doing lately?
Dylan Sizemore of Frankie and the Witch Fingers: Howdy! My pleasure. Thanks for the questions! Things have been very busy lately, but we like busy!
Totally. I can definitely see that as I managed to catch you perform live at both Echo Park Rising and opening for L.A. Witch at their free album release concert in MacArthur Park at the Levitt Pavilion. It’s cool to see bands be given a platform to perform in such open spaces for the public, what did you make of the experience?
Both shows were a hell of a good time! The L.A. Witch ladies were super rad. It’s fun to play free events where random folks who wouldn’t go to one of our shows will just walk up just to see what all that damn noise is. I hope we freaked them out.
Hah, word. Speaking of album release shows, we’re here to talk about the album release show at the Echo on the 15th, how excited are you for that?
Excited would be an understatement. This is our first time headlining a show at The Echo and we’re fired up to see what kind of weirdos show up to party with us. We are lucky to have a super solid lineup of friends that night. POW! and The Mad Walls will be playing, two of my favorite bands in LA! Don’t miss them, it’s going to be killer!
Absolutely, those are some great bands! So tell me, are there any surprises in store for folks that show up to the concert?
We’ll it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I told ya! Let’s just say, it’s gonna be a special night. You’ll have to come see with your eyes and ears to know what it’s all about.
That’s true, it’s never a good idea to spoil a great surprise.
Switching gears slightly, the new record’s called Brain Telephone, a great album title for heady, heavy psych rock that connects on a fundamental, almost primal level. Is there a story behind the album name?
Thanks! Haha, heady is a funny word especially in this context.
Well, we’ve all got brains, and for the most part we don’t really comprehend the power and infinite possibilities that exist in that squishy little receiver of information sittin’ up there. The way I see it, there are many ways to unlock the untold realms and hidden secrets within yourself, and making a record about that could be a good way to connect those ideas to the fine folks that listen to us.
Interesting. Given that, what was the recording process like for the new album?
It was a pretty long process. We recorded over many months on and off in different places. It’s the first record we’ve made in LA so all of the weed we smoked during the recording sessions was legal.
As one is wont to do in California, heh. But please, do continue.
Our past records were recorded in Bloomington, IN so now we feel like we can say we’re from here. We also stepped up our game a little and got a Tascam 388. We used to do the 488 cassette setup, so this record is a little more hi-fi, but still tape-like and warm.
Ah yeah, holding onto that lo-fi edge. If you don’t mind me asking, what, if anything, was different about the recording process this time around then on your previous releases? Did you try to recapture some feeling or pattern from songs’ past? Or did you consciously try to do things differently?
As a band we’re always growing with what we’re listening to and who we’ve become as humans and as musicians. This record to me seems more thought out and more of a collection of songs that all exist in the same world. We’ve never really delved into anything like that before. Throughout this record there is this theme of picking up signals through the telephone receiver that is your brain. I think we’re just getting freakier.
Getting freakier, I like that. What do you like the most about the new record?
Aside from the musical stuff, I like that our records are tangible evidence of the support and love we get from the people who have gotten us to where we are now. Our label family Permanent Records give us so much freedom and give us the resources to make art that we truly care about. And so many of our friends have put effort into what we’re doing, and it makes me glad that there is a record around to remind them of what they’ve done for us.
Also I really dig the packaging! My girlfriend Nikki Pickle and I did all of the artwork and I hope people get a kick out of the stuff we put in there.
That’s really cool, it’s great to hear about the people in your orbit that supported you on your way. On that note, which artists, records and/or songs inspired you and your music-making while completing this project?
I will always be heavily inspired by The 13th Floor Elevators. Their music has so many dimensions that one could only quantify it as never ending. The sounds are both backwards and forwards and the messages of Tommy Hall can tear your mind into shreds of light. They were so fucking tuned into their telephones man, the world wasn’t even ready. If we can impart upon others a fraction of what their albums have done to me, then I’ll die happy.
Speaking of shreds of light, did you draw inspiration from any movies or television shows while recording the record? Has that ever been the case for the band?
I think cartoons have instilled some crazy shit into my skull, and i’m happy about that. I’ve been obsessed with this really fried out cartoon King Star King right now, but other than that I don’t think television or movies have a conscious impact on our sounds.
Lastly, I’m curious about one thing when it comes to psych rock, garage rock and composition.
Within psych, garage and their interrelated genres, there’s often this tense dynamic in the form and function of the music – almost like trying to cast a spell on the listener either through the reverb, echo and spacey parts of songs or in the driving rhythm and sheer loudness of the music. Is that something you’ve been able to pick up on and try to manipulate? Is it ever a challenge to reach that balance, musically-speaking, in a single song?
There’s definitely an intention to lure in the listener with some candy, eat their eyeballs, and then sing them to sleep, As a kid I was around Pentecostal churches where they shake and speak in tongue and dance like the grounds on fire. And now I’m around all this rock n’ roll music where people do the exact same shit. That’s the thing, everyone is God, it’s all energy and we can mess with it as much as we want to, especially with something as powerful as music. You can turn a room blue with one chord. I think we do alright at balancing those things into songs but we definitely have a lot more to learn about it all.
I’d like to thank Dylan for taking the time to answer my questions and implore you, the reader, to swing on by The Echo this Friday night, September 15, for the Brain Telephone album release show. If not, here’s the slate of tour dates where you can catch Frankie and the Witch Fingers and get your hands on a copy of their new LP!
Frankie and the Witch Fingers Tour Dates
|Sep 28||Soda Bar||San Diego, CA||Tickets & More|
|Oct 12||Desert Daze||Joshua Tree, CA||Tickets & More|
|Oct 17||The Catalyst||Santa Cruz, CA||Tickets & More|
|Oct 21||Chop Suey||Seattle, WA||Tickets & More|
|Nov 01||Beat Kitchen||Chicago, IL||Tickets & More|
Words and photographs by Lee Bedrouni