Indie = Psychedelia in 2018
by Peter Marchant
In 2014 I was introduced to my friend’s new boyfriend who was a massive fan of ‘psych’ music, especially one band in particular: ‘The Brian Jonestown Massacre’. I had played guitar in ‘indie’ and ‘pop’ bands for my entire performing life and yet I somehow managed to miss this strange term. However, four years on and I am now fronting an outfit that I can categorically say is a ‘psych’ band (short for Psychedelic Rock or Pop by the way).
It turns out that this was a genre that I had been into for years without even realising it. The Beatles, Oasis, Kasabian, MGMT…these were all bands that I loved and simply considered to be Rock or Indie bands. My new friend encouraged me to delve deeper into his Spotify playlist and into the fuzzed out, reverby world of psychedelic rock.
2018 is a crucial time for this ‘macro-genre’ (as I call it) as we are seeing more bands than ever who would have previously been considered all-out indie now playing very ‘spacey’ and ethereal sounding music, strongly influenced by artists of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
A perfect example of this is Arctic Monkeys, whose album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino’ was released on the day I wrote this. As a guitarist, one of the first things that you notice when the needle drops on this record is that there is hardly any guitar…or so it seems. The guitar is used, but sparingly. When there is guitar it’s never a conventional crunchy, twangy Fender Stratocaster sound that is so closely associated with their first two albums. For example, towards the end of the first track ‘Star Treatment’ a guitar part (finally) comes in, which acts like a call and response with the ‘Beach Boys sounding, palm muted, melodic and guitar-like’ bassline. The effect on this guitar part is more accurately described as a subtle ‘fuzz’ sound more than a crunch or distortion, with a clipping characteristic that is typical of tape saturation. Even the chord progression in this section of the song is classic psychedelia. The chord progression Cm to F repeating is reminiscent of that used in Pink Floyd’s ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ when that famous vocal solo kicks in (the chords being Gm to C repeating). A far cry from their days of playing ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ in 2006. See what spaced out inspiration lies in the more recent music of those indie bands of days gone by.
Other examples: The Coral – ‘Sweet Release’, Foals – ‘What Went Down’, Gaz Coombes (formerly of Supergrass) – ‘Walk The Walk’, Phantom Isle – ‘Focus’ (my band!)