Currently on the road, promoting their second album ‘Monster Head Room’, Californian four-piece Ganglians admit that they are far more polished than ever. Those who witnessed the band’s early shambolic performances, when situations like using leeks to replace lost drumsticks were commonplace, will agree that the band is now more tighter and together, and this could well be their summer of UK love.
Soaring multi-vocal harmonies and gentle instrumentation now replace the crackly lo-fi punk technophobic recordings of their self-titled debut album, and take Ganglians in a whole new musical direction.
Long-haired front man and certified man of mind abstractions Ryan Grubbs says that Ganglians’ sound was primarily informed by early Sixties studio bands like The Millennium, in particular a track called ‘The Island’, which they found themselves listening to whilst making their album.
Grubbs talks about Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, saying, “There is something about madness and insanity that’s always interested us. There’s an element of trying to replicate psychosis in our music but also demonstrating the beauty and clarity that comes from this. It’s about showing both sides, helping people to confront their demons but also making them feel really good at the same time.”
You could place the band’s recent musical offerings within the canon of psych-folk, where acts like Grizzly Bear and Kurt Vile rule the roost.
From the Beach Boys-esque vocal doo-wop of tracks like ‘Voodoo’ and ‘Candy Girl’, to the haunting sincerity of ‘The Void’, with its harrowing, scrambled cries, and ‘To June’, where tropical animal noises even make an appearance, this latest album veers more towards richly layered folk than punk.
Far out, Grubbs says his psychedelic sonic ramblings are inspired by the facts and principles of metaphysical new-age philosophy and even occultism, “especially the writings of Robert Anton Wilson and the subversive aesthetic of Kenneth Anger.”
So it was surprising to hear that Grubbs also enjoys contemporary electronic artists like Major Lazer: “Watching them at Primavera was a pretty metaphysical experience,” he recalls, with a trippy glint in his eye. “I really like mash-ups and there’s just something about Major Lazer which is really cool. It’s club music but it’s also super weird at the same time.”
Despite their super bohemian ways, Grubbs is quick to promote Ganglians’ new approach to writing is structured and considered. “It’s ordered chaos, if you like,” he explains. “We always try to evoke a beginning, build-up, climax and resolution. That’s the only way you learn things in life, by riding the wave...”
Grubbs compares the curve to acid, saying he values the creative properties of the drug, describing one monumental trip in vivid detail. “I was walking on Big Sur at the time. I looked around me and all of a sudden the sand was this rich, deep purple colour: I thought I was on an alien planet or in a C.S Lewis novel. There was a tunnel of white light and all I wanted to do was walk on the waves and into the sea as the sun was melting into it.”
Rich in colour and scope, ‘Monster Head Room’ is a psychedelic experience in itself - so no need for class As or melting suns this summer...
Words: April Welsh
Photographer: Bella Howard
Styling: Rose Forde
Assistants: Camilla Felici And Tom Baxendale
Thanks to Avalon Bar, Shoreditch
Big Chill Festival 2010