Hardworking psychedelic rockers the Black Angels are on the road promoting their haunting new album, Directions To See A Ghost (Light in the Attic), a heady spell that channels the mind-bending demons of the 13th Floor Elevators, the Venus In Furs drone of the Velvets and raises the eclectic spirit of Arthur Lee’s Love. We caught up with singer Alex Maas to talk about his Austin-based Angels, who float into Lee’s Palace tonight (Thursday, June 26).
Are the Black Angels into heavy drugs?
Would you say a good psychedelic band needs mind-altering substances?
I would say that’s not true. Let the music bring you there.
What is the one defining factor that makes music psychedelic?
There’s no one factor – that’s the thing about it. I think anything can be psychedelic. I mean, the word is up for interpretation; it gets used all the time. But you can play any song in a psychedelic way, right? I definitely think so.
Being from Austin, do you have any relationship with legendary psych artist Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators?
We did a show with him once at South By Southwest. We’re actually going on tour with Roky in the fall. We’re going to be his opening band and backing band.
Was his music influential in bringing the Black Angels together?
Yeah, and just listening to the oldies. There’s an oldies station here in Austin that’ll play old country or Strawberry Alarm Clock – stuff like that. We all have the same kind of tastes.
Your new album, Directions To See A Ghost, refers to some kind of trick called Yorick’s Skull. What is that?
There’s an old soap box that has a skull with an “x” in the eye and you look at it for about 30 seconds. The skull gets imprinted on your retina, so when you look away, like at a wall, you see the skull. It’s an optical illusion. It’s the directions to see a ghost.
You believe in supernatural powers?
Powers, yes. I’ve never seen spirits, ghosts or anything like that, but you can’t discount anything. We don’t really know anything at all.
There’re some dark lyrics on Directions, much of which has to do with war and violence.
We’re not really dark people. We’re all generally pretty happy. But I think it’s important to care about the direction of the world. Being political is a thread of our band, though I don’t know if we’re a political band. I write about all kinds of stuff.