Friday, March 20, 2009

Sik Sik Nation and the psyche scene of Detroit - playing The Belmont - 3/27

Listen on myspace

Sik Sik Nation
3 / 27 Belmont

w/ Qualia

Gossip Gospel &

First Communion After Party

Local trio hopes to surge the psyche scene:

They'd barely left Detroit when the muffler fell off the van.

Trio Sik Sik Nation had to be in Cleveland in 3 hours, for a show. The van was now an immobile custodial shell for their vital drum kit – but they couldn’t cancel the show, they couldn’t bring themselves to back out. A shrug and a quick nod, and they grabbed their pedal boards, some drum sticks, commandeered a friend’s car and drove down to the gig. Almost immediately after meeting their bill-mates, they had to beseech them to borrow amps and a drum kit. And,...shoot-from-the-hip as it was, it turned out to be one of their best shows yet.

It exemplifies what bassist Eric Oppitz says of the trio’s principled makeup, “We’re very proactive people.” Singer/guitarist Sean Morrow added, “We’re always trying to one-up ourselves, to advance.”

Sik Sik Nation
self-released their debut full length 8 Styles to the Unholy, last spring. Last winter, after some touring through 08, they built their own studio in Oppitz’s basement, sound-proofing the walls, obtaining the equipment, building a computer, installing shelves and laying down pedal boards. Since then, they’ve prepared nearly an album’s worth of material and released a single online for free download.

Listen: "Lord Is My Gun"

Though they valued and enjoyed working with Ann Arbor’s Jim Roll (engineer for 8 Styles,), Morrow said they wanted to “buy all the gear and do it ourselves.” This way, “we’re not on a time clock and we can work on it as little or as much as we want.”

“We just have more creative control over everything,” said Oppitz, who met Morrow 4 years ago to form Sik Sik Nation, with drummer Rick Sawoscinski. The band was able to prepare, record and release (online) their single in the span of a weekend, on their own terms, at their own pace, with their own mixing.

“Eric and I have been in bands for like 12-15 years, so we’ve been in studios. Just being around studios, seeing what people do. You just get an ear for it and if you have an ear for it you know where things need to be placed.”

The three of us discuss the regrettable act of bypassing studios or engineers, but yet, also, the often unavoidability of it, in this day and age, with the hyperactivity of the internet-music-world. Not to mention, the effects of this veritable economic depression we live in…

“When you’re paying someone else and you’re on their time, it’s very nerve-wracking,” said Sean. “You gotta wash your hands, or take a dump…it’s gets like, alright this is costing me money!”

“You lose that momentum,” said Oppitz. “We can do this and we can do it on our own time. We’ve just released a single and we’re gonna continually release stuff…because we can make good recordings whenever we feel like it and continually release singles. Whatever we want to release, whenever we want...” Oppitz said that that has been the goal, repeating their work ethic buzz word of “continual…”

“We love what we’re doing,” said Morrow. “Getting paid or not getting paied, we love what we’re doing.”

The band charts a dark swirl of hard-rolling, smoky psychedelic rock – that has a gritty garage swagger, classic rock’s relentless pounding mixed with a nice dose of sultry shakeability – electrified by a strong, underlying blues influence. 8 Styles captured a stretch of their work reflecting these shoegazey fuzz-rock ballads and punchy, rhythm-heavy blues. The bands in their constant listening rotation include A Place To Bury Strangers, Black Angels and the Warlocks, as a reference point.

With their newest (as yet untitled) album, Oppitz said, “It’s definitely got that psychedelic experimental aspect…But, it’s definitely got a groove. We’re never gonna abandon melody in songwriting…”

Morrow adds, “It’s gonna have something that someone can shake their ass, tap their foot to or clap along to, we’re never gonna abandon that. But, at the same time, we’re getting away from the straight verse-chorus-verse thing…”

“We had a lot of the blues element [on 8 Styles],” said Oppitz, “that has turned into more of a groove backbone. As opposed to straight up 12-bar-blues type of thing, there’s more of a backbone, more of a groove that rides through the song, with layering the psychedelic and the soundscapes on top of it…”

While singer/guitarist Sean Morrow had time off from his day-job teaching during mid-winter break, they hit the road through the east coast and midwest. Now that they’re home, they thought they’d try to spur some life into the often-under-the-radar psyche scene percolating in Detroit, with a stalwart psychedelic-leaning bill at the Belmont, featuring Detroit’s Qualia and Minnesota-based First Communion After Party and Gospel Gossip.

“It’s hard…” said Oppitz of trying to build and connect into the scene, especially for psyche bands – a more mysterious scene comprised of bands who only poke their heads out once in a while, seemingly. We joke about a “proactive” band in a non-proactive genre; or, as Morrow fittingly quips, “We play drug music but we also get up for our work on Monday morning…”

“For us,” said Oppitz, “to get on really eclectic bills [is] fun, but those don’t always necessarily work. Because, [with scenes] you have a pocket here, a pocket there; they come to see THAT band and leave, and people come in to see US and then leave. It works on a level, but I feel like every single show we played on tour, yeah-we ended up playing first – but, people came early and stayed till the end. I feel like that doesn’t always happen here.”

So the trio, modest, earnest…and relentless, continues to forge on, with no real scenester-ins or hot-connections to the hip-spokes of this fickle stratum of Detroit music. They’ll put out more singles as the year goes on – and in the autumn they’ll release their self-recorded 2nd full length, (not to mention a tour in May). But in the meantime, it’s March 27th at the Belmont

“We’re trying to create more of a scene around ourselves,” said Oppitz.

Tune in next week for more on Detroit's Psychedelic scene: an interview with Tony Thrush from Friends of Dennis Wilson.

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