Psych Out

THE SUNSHINE FIX at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Wednesday (February 27). $6. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNNbill doss understands preciselywhat it.


THE SUNSHINE FIX at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Wednesday (February 27). $6. 416-598-4753.

Rating: NNNNN

bill doss understands preciselywhat it was about his former band, the Olivia Tremor Control, that made listeners either grin stupidly with joy or demolish the stereo in a fit of rage.The Athens, Georgia, psychedelic ensemble, which broke apart in 1999, was really two bands in one. At one extreme was a group with an exceptional ear for twisted pop harmonies, capable of creating some of the most intriguing psych pop around.

At the other was a bunch of sound geeks who spent too much time making “trippy” soundscapes that might have sounded cool when you were high but were deathly dull otherwise.

The two Olivia Tremor Control albums rammed these approaches together, and the result was an infuriating, uneven split between songs and sound collages. It’s everything Doss’s new Sunshine Fix group isn’t.

The group’s new Age Of The Sun disc offers all the pure psych-pop moments of the OTC, without the infuriating interludes.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that complaint a lot,” Doss drawls from Georgia. “I guess it’s fairly obvious that my contribution to Olivia Tremor Control was the songs and not the soundscapes. With The Sunshine Fix, I wanted to do something that was a little more upfront. I love those weird sounds but, like you, wanted more songs.

“That’s the thing with collaboration. It’s great because each person brings things that create something larger, and one plus one suddenly adds up to four. The problem is that you lose the things that you actually brought, and if someone else is dominant, you feel you aren’t contributing anything. Even though we were all adding to the sound of that band, the Olivias ended up being based around things the other songwriter, Will Cullen Hart, came up with. After a while it just became stifling.”

Not everything’s changed, though. Like his past projects, the sound of The Sunshine Fix relies heavily on the fact that it was recorded at home in Doss’s mini-studio. The amount of detail crammed into each track on Age Of The Sun is impressive, and it’s the kind of pastiche that could only be done at home over a couple of years rather than in the typical three week haul at a proper, expensive studio.

“I could have taken all the music on Age Of The Sun and made it into bluegrass songs, which I almost did,” Doss laughs. “I could never have those choices in a studio that costs $100 an hour, and that’s why so many of the bands out there now sound the same. They go into the same studios, have to get their records done quickly and don’t have the freedom to experiment and see where the songs could go. That, for me, is the most fun.”

The problem with being a product of your studio is that your grand experiments rarely work live. The Olivia Tremor Control were notorious for their disastrous live shows, and the same goes for most of Doss’s pals in the Elephant 6 pop collective.

Doss promises The Sunshine Fix will be different, if only because of his new quadraphonic sound system.

“We have a guy remixing our show while we play,” Doss explains. “He sets up in the back of the room and reworks the music as it happens, adding loops, bits of samples and other sounds.

“It lets me focus on the songs themselves. Before, I was trying to work all these different pedals with my feet, and it looked like something out of Riverdance. Now, I can concentrate on having a really tight band while he trips people out.”mattg@nowtoronto.com

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