It was my pleasure to have written the cover feature on this year’s Overall Best Of Poll Winners – Acid Dad.
Additionally, inside a number of Dave Cromwell composed features can be found, referencing more detailed writing previously appearing on the magazines website and/or specifically written for this issue.
As is so often the case with print (and web) journalism, space limitations and word counts will condense features that might otherwise benefit from a more in-depth profile. Here then is an expanded feature on The Incredible Trip Of Acid Dad, which includes a fuller interview and more detailed analysis of their music.
The true definition of a band is the collective vision each member shares. In the case of rising psych-punk rockers Acid Dad, their 22 month journey from humble beginnings to current cross-country touring act is nothing less than remarkable.
With three distinct personalities forming the bands core philosophy, it all came together in August 2014 when complimentary singer/guitarists Danny Gomez and Vaughn Hunt joined up with promotionally savvy drummer Kevin Walker. Bassist Sean Fahey came on board as the final piece six months ago, solidifying them as a quartet.
After putting out a few one off singles, the band released their debut EP, “Let’s Plan A Robbery,” on February 26th, 2016. The four tracks were self-recorded in upstate New York from December 2015 through January 2016 with Vaughn and Danny handling lead vocals on every other track.
On the heels of that release Acid Dad went on the road for two months, undertaking their first major tour that initially took them through the Southeast States before heading over to Texas and a week of SXSW showcases. Following that they continued on through the Mountain States, Pacific Northwest, Southern California and the Southwest before hitting significant Midwestern and Pennsylvania venues, ultimately making their way back to New York.
Although the ‘psych-punk’ tag is something of the bands own making they would like to avoid simple categorization. “We love a lot of different music,” Vaughn explains. “From the CGBG scene with Richard Hell, to Iggy Pop to the Replacements, punk music is a backbone to my songwriting that I can't seem to escape. And the same time we love the melodic beauty and simplicity of Neopsych from the 90's like The Brainjonestown Masacre and Mazzy Star,” the Tennessee native continued.
It’s soon discovered how much enthusiasm each member share when it comes to their collective influences. “The 50’s set the basis for what followed with the distinctive appropriation of blues, country and even jazz music to create a sound that was later adopted by groups that ranged from The Stones to The Velvets to The 13th Floor Elevators,” says Danny. “It’s very interesting to see how these bands while still sounding similar in theory, created their own unique sound. I think that’s what it comes down to for music with me, grabbing all these varied appropriations of the oversaturated rock n roll formula and pushing this energy back out as sincerely as possible to create a distinct, personal experience,” he concludes.
Their current EP “Let’s Plan A Robbery” is intriguing not only for the music, but boasts cover sleeve artwork based on the cult classic film “Repo Man.” While each member are huge film buffs (with Kevin getting the nod as the biggest), Vaughn explains the reason they chose this image for the record. “I first heard about the movie seeing references to it on t-shirts at Trash and Vaudeville. It's about a young punk kid whose parents are hippie Christian loving pots heads that don't really care all that much about him. He meets up with this repo man crew who take him under his wing and teach him how to break into cars, rip people off, fight gangs and how in the end be the perfect repo man and be a part of the hustle. However there is this crazy psychedelic side plot involving a stolen radioactive alien from Roswell New Mexico. There are a lot of acid references and psychedelic monologues that flow in out of the movie. It really fit the whole Psych-punk notion. The scene on the cover of the EP is when the punk kids rob the liquor store. My favorite line in the whole movie is said right before they rob the store "Let's do some crimes". Our songs on the EP are all about the hustle, so we named it "Let's Plan a Robbery."
That sentiment is apparent when you dig deeper into the lyrical content of those recorded tracks. The Vaughn penned “Don’t Get Taken” builds around a jagged guitar hook as it cautions on the need to “get out” before getting trapped in a “tricky game” and “master scheme” set by outside forces. Danny’s first contribution “Fool’s Gold” showcases the bands early 60’s vibe with background vocals creating a soothing falsetto bed of “oooooh yeah, yeahs.” Emotionally charged lyrics of a complicated relationship come wrapped in a tone reminiscent of a young Mick Jagger or Van Morrison. Quicker paced “Digger (Gotta Get That Money)” emphasizes Vaughn’s yelped vocal phrasing with a more electrified acid rock guitar sound. EP closer “Shoot You Down” finds Danny leading a dreamy, measured paced Stone Roses homage.
However, when played in the live environment, these songs take on a less serious, more party-like atmosphere. Their recent homecoming show at Le Poisson Rouge had them playing front of a wildly enthusiastic, frequently slam dancing crowd.
In addition to his duties as the bands drummer, Kevin exhibits the qualities of a tireless entrepreneur. Already working as show booker for a popular Brooklyn night spot, his reach now expands from NY to LA with his own startup company. “I really admire Louis C.K. on a business and artistic level,” Kevin states. “In addition to breaking with established conventions within comedy he has managed to rethink the entire business model of marketing and distributing entertainment. He maintains complete artist control and freedom to experiment. To me, Louie is the David Bowie of comedy.”
As to other influences that inspire them, bassist Sean weighs in, “my girlfriend is a performance artist and I go to everything she's in or invites me to. I'm definitely very inspired but what she does and brings me to. I’d like to think of us as performance artists but we’re still calculating our show. Bands like the Replacements and the Grateful Dead had that stuff calculated. I definitely consider them both performance artists, but more so with The Replacements because you never really knew what you were going get. They sold out the Beacon Theater in ‘87 and completely bombed, but everyone had a great time anyway.”
With all four members decidedly in their prime going-to-college years, it appears only Danny is determined to get his degree. Natural businessman Kevin surprises stating “if I finish school, my major will focus on a medley of history, English, philosophy and film studies. I dig the liberal arts education idea.” While Sean claims “I’d rather push a broom,” Vaughn offers that “I take every day as it comes. Right now, I don't have time for school.”
Digging deeper into what makes the band ‘tick’ – I asked a number of direct questions. They follow below here, with each member’s unique insights.
Q: It’s been said you’ve created your own genre for your music which you call psychpunk. That is, a hybrid sound that pairs the riff based structures of psych with the quickly strummed guitar chords and quick tempo changes of punk often within the same song. A lot of this structure can be heard on your latest EP. Do you think there is still room to evolve this concept further? Where do you think you can take it?
Vaughn: When we all sit down together to write, this organic mosh of different tastes and sounds gets woven into our songs. I wouldn't say we have created our own genre, but write music around our current influences. Recently, I think we are moving away from "psych punk" and more into classic rock and roll and grunge. On the road we have been listening to a lot of Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Fugazi, The Replacements and Black Sabbath. We are headed in a direction that is more heavy and little more classic. We will see after we finish writing the album if we still believe that we are psych punk.
Danny: The music we’ve made has naturally been composed of these oxymorons. As we continue to write more and more songs you start seeing not only the development of these sounds, but they start to become much more honed in. We’re really looking forward to getting to sit down with all these songs and see them evolve into a cohesive body of work that utilizes all these different elements to complement the songs.
Sean: PsychPunk is a better way of saying rock which can mean so many things. Nickelback is a rock band and we are going to stay as far away from them as possible. I’ve already got my restraining order in place.
Q: What movie, past or current could you see any of your music in?
Vaughn: We wrote a couple new songs on the road. There is this one new one which, I can see it fitting in the cocaine binge scene at a casino where everyone is killing it in the game, but also like running from the cops or something.
Danny: Ideally in something like Trainspotting, but it’s probably more in the vein of something ridiculous like Dazed and Confused. Kevin: Yeah Danny is on to something here. Shout out to Richard Linklater.
Sean: We are all pretty into the idea of syncing our music to nascar races so I would say Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
Vaughn: *praise hands emoji* to what Sean said!
Kevin: I’ve always been into French new wave (Goddard, Truffaut) , Italian neo realism (De Sico) and early 70s American film (Scrosse, Copolla, Kubrick, etc).
Q: Do you feel that the rock music made in the 1960’s is still the basis everything that’s followed? Especially guitar bands. Are there any other era’s that stand out for you as a cut above the others?
Kevin: A band like the Elevators definitely created a paradigmatic shift in rock music, basically laying the groundwork for psychedelia. It’s crazy how little it’s changed in 50 years. I think, rockwise, some of the most intriguing sonic innovations occurred in the postpunk era. That’s when rock music was really stripped down to it’s bare essentials, leaving all of the 70s excess behind. I’m talking about bands like The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Modern English, For Against, on and on…
Sean: I think the 60’s is when rock bands really blew up and became something for kids to do in their free time. Sears Roebuck started selling these cheap but now classic Silvertone and Harmony guitars and it made it a lot easier for anyone to start a band. The roots of Big Star run deep with that kind of upbringing in rock n roll. They would have these $60 guitars and learned how to play a lot of the British Invasion shit which goes back to early blues from the beginning up through the current time. One of my all-time favorite guitar players is Willie Nelson and he learned from gypsy jazz from the 40’s, specifically Django Reinhardt and mixed that in with country legends like Ray Price and Hank Williams. Rock n roll is prehistoric in my mind.
I agree with Danny. The blues in the 50’s started to become popularized by artists like Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters which heavily influenced rock legends like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. From then, those bands influence the next generation. It's cyclical.
Q: What has been some of the best and worst experiences on the road so far?
Danny: Touring with our brothers from Louisville White Reaper. We just got to kick it every night and had a blast jumping around from town to town. Worst experience (in the best way) was in the middle of nowhere South Carolina sitting through a mailman’s 16 song opening set, while he ran around the stage with only two green feathers covering his penis. I think the most ridiculous part of it was when he covered “The Passenger” and then screamed right after “Fuck you Iggy Pop! I just did that better than you…” was a very strange night filled with beer and electronic darts.
Kevin: My most memorable night was in Portland and involved psilocybin mushrooms, the drummer from the Dandy Warhols, and a stripper. Portland is rad. Can’t say any more.
Sean: I think I met my future self somewhere in Tennessee. He was a landscaper with a 16 track that wouldn't leave me alone. He was pretty tight. Worst moment was throwing up on a drive thru attendant after getting piss drunk on jäger because I thought someone jacked some of my gear. I found my gear later though so whatever.
Vaughn: This tour has been really pain free. I guess the worst experience so far is that our van security alarm broke at the very start of the tour. Every time we unlock the van or open the door, the alarm goes off and we have to manually disarm it, which takes about a minute of the alarm blaring. It's kinda hilarious.
Q: Do you still consider yourself a Brooklyn band, and is that still home to you? I heard some member might be considering a move to LA. Is that the recipe for success? Begin in Brooklyn and then get bigger in LA?
Vaughn: We all met in NY, but we are working really hard right now to break through on a national level. I don't wanna be labeled as a band from a certain area. I just wanna be known for the music we produce. The reason we would move to LA is because of a cheaper living situation. We have a bunch of family and friends who just moved out there as well. Our dream is to to have the whole band live together and have a studio in that same place.
Danny: I think we’re more of an NYC rock n roll band than just Brooklyn band to be honest. We don’t want to just label ourselves choosing preference with Brooklyn just cause we live here. The city and music will always hold a very special place for us. The reason I moved to the city originally was because of its rock n roll lineage, everything from Lou to Richard Hell and Thurston Moore have created a certain atmosphere that is so entrancing and alluring. The great thing about music is how it can be done anywhere and seeing how that environment influences the music created. Who knows where we’ll be in the next few years, but I’m excited to see the music that comes out of it.
Sean: I never tell people we are a “Brooklyn” band. Anytime anyone asks where we are from I say New York City because fuck it we are right? For the most part practice and record in our secret bat cave upstate. I also live in fucking Queens now.
Q: Are there any comedy, film or business innovators who’ve made a mark on society that you particularly admire? If so, briefly explain why.
Danny: I like movies that take place in very quotidian conditions, easily relatable yet showcasing our natural human concerns. There’s a film from 1969, I wanna say, by French director Eric Rohmer called “Ma Nuit Chez Maud” or “My Night At Maud’s” that is part of his movie series Six Moral Tales . The movie just revolves around a man who is invited over to dinner by a modest libertine called Maud and their sexual tension throughout the night as they discuss themes of morality, religion, atheism, and love. It’s just a really good example of how conversation can be extended throughout a film to become the main character and the link between these two strangers.
Kevin: Louie C.K. truly represents an artist who does whatever the fuck he wants and, after 30+ years of doing it, is finally seeing great success. For his show ‘Louie’ he somehow managed to cut a deal with FX (the network who releases the show) for a flat budget per episode wherein they don't get to even see it before it goes on air. He maintains complete artist control and freedom to experiment. He also avoids the Live Nation conglomerate for ticketing his live appearances. In addition to price gouging and insane hidden fees, Live Nation / Ticketmaster leads to massive scalping wherein tickets sell out for a show within an hour of being released and proceed to make their way online at exponentially higher prices. Louie avoids venues that have exclusive contracts with Live Nation and makes each patron buy directly from his website and register it under their respective name. No reselling as you need an ID to entire with your assigned ticket. That's how a live show can cost $30 instead of $300. He also released his entirely self-produced, self-written, self-starring new show “Horace and Pete” in a similar fashion through his website. To me, Louie is the David Bowie of Comedy.
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Q: Are there any cover songs you would like to do?
Vaughn: We don't like covering music live really, unless we are fucking around. I believe that if do a cover, it's gotta be different and it has to be better.
Kevin: Steve Miller Band?…( Jokes)
Sean: Danny always mic checks ‘Road Runner’ by the Modern Lovers. We are slowly learning that. Both of us are huge Jonathan Richman fans.
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Q: Outside of making music, what else might interest or excite you? Do you have any favorite authors or a book you would like to recommend?
Vaughn: Besides music, I love art. Living in NYC we have access to some of the best art museums. So on my days off ill go to the either the MET or Moma and post up on bench in front of a Monet or a Rembrandt and write in my journal.
Danny: Baudelaire, “The Flowers of Evil”
Kevin: Check out Dan Fante (John Fante’s son). He’s got a great booked out called “86’d”. I love gritty, street level, druggy writing. Everything that Dostoevsky laid the groundwork for… Miller, Bukowski, Vonnegut, Salinger, etc etc
Q: What was your favorite act at SXSW this year?
Vaughn: Iggy Pop, DZ Deathrays, Music Band
Danny: Iggy Pop! Our buddies Sunflower Bean as well. Sean saw Kevin Morby and said it was awesome, bummed I missed it.
Kevin: I enjoyed Sextile at the Part Time Punks showcase at Barracuda
Sean: Kevin Morby!!! I love that man. Definitely made me stream a few tears here and there while riding in the van too. His band is killer. His guitar player looks like Joni Mitchell and absolutely slays. Also Iggy Pop. It's hard to see shit when you're psychpunking out if you know what I mean. Also my god Sunflower Bean. (Nick if you are reading this, please give me guitar lessons I’ll pay you in Grateful Dead live tapes).
Q: Was playing the Rachael Ray RR Feedback show as exciting as it looked? What was your takeaway from all that?
Kevin: Haha. It was a great show. Good crowd, nice stage, we played with our friends “Daddy Issues” from Nashville. Sean may or may not have knocked over Rachael Ray herself.
Sean: Definitely gave her a little nudge with my case. Sorry Rach we love you!!!!!
Acid Dad will perform a showcase during The Northside Festival on June 9 at Brooklyn Bowl.
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Other significant Print Issue No. 46 Features
Inverted funk rock rhythms and classic shredding guitar are the hallmarks of Brooklyn’s Hundred Hounds.
On featured track “The Ranger,” the eternal quest to find life’s true meaning is the central focus. “I don’t feel so lonely when I open a book,” depicts coping mechanisms when human contact fails. The spirit of Jeff Beck shines through however, blending blues and soul with dexterous guitar leads.
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60’s garage rock stands front and center on Low Doses “In Love Again.” Bright guitar, driving bass and straightforward drums sets the stage for love’s risk taking.
Vocalist Ryan Masterson sings how “to fall in love, babe it’s such a thrill. However “the flame goes out and you get your fill.” Head bobbing rock n’ roll centering around the hook “if I could, you know I would stop thinking about you.”
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That track in particular comes on at a quicker pace, but lyrical verses are clearer, allowing for snippets of vocal hooks to take a deeper hold. Nods to My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” era can still be found in the metallic pitch-bended welded shearing sound that emerge within the mix. The pop elements owe more to the development of a song structure with a lighter overall feel. More than a few modern era “gaze” bands have successfully blended romantic compositions and teen angst lyrics with harsher guitar sounds, and Infinity Girl appear to be mastering this style as well. However, dense layers still emerge within that particular track, keeping the essential feel more dreamgaze than twee.
The band’s previous EP release “Just Like Lovers” touched on the most influential 90’s dreamgaze sources with elements of that era’s pioneers Ride (powerful drumming), Slowdive (dreamy guitar washes) MBV (pitch bends) and JAMC (catchy guitar hook) all seamlessly woven in that added their own take on a continually evolving sound, giving credence to the “infinite” possibilities their name suggests.
Opening track “Untitled (July)” delivers a warm, floating sensation. Lyrics submerged just under the recognition line means you are forced to feel what is being offered. All semblance of relatable storytelling has been removed. A full minute of ambient coda emphasizes compositional intent.
“Taking Nothing” accentuates the essential 90’s gazer elements, while “Read YR Mind” builds around a singular guitar riff before the cathedral ambience reemerges. An interesting hybrid of blurred vocals, looser drumming and single note guitar lines (complete with yet-another ambient coda) sees this track placing closer to Sonic Youth. “Summer Gold” carries a triumphant air through a rolling snare drum rhythm and ascending progression. That rising impression is creatively juxtaposed against a descending ending melody line. EP closer “Not My Hang” initially keeps things sparse instrumentally, whereby actual lyric fragments can be deciphered, while ultimately going big and jammy.
If Sonic Youth’s eventual dissolution ultimately saw their principal frontman and long-time drummer join forces with My Bloody Valentine’s bassist to further explore this hybrid sound, so too have Infinity Girl.
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Four dudes in a guitar band traveling in a van around the country will give you songs like “Blacktop Lanes.” Jesus Jim exhibit the looseness popularized by The Replacements while maintaining slanted rhythms more associated with Sonic Youth.
“I know your standing on the line” may be one definitive statement amid the jumble of voices, the rhythmic pulse driving it along provides the true reason to ride along.
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Physical copies will be available all popular New York Metropolitan area venues - beginning at The Northside Fest and continuing throughout the Summer.
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