Psychic Ills on the Porch

My experience with the Psychic Ills started with the song “East,” which a friend, Mr. B. Barry put on a mix. Then I saw them at SXSW last year at Ms. B’s and was thoroughly impressed by their solid grooves and still even more grooves. The next time I saw them occurred a few weeks ago in Tribeca, on the heels of their 3rd release, “Mirror Eye.” I was exhausted after traveling all day, and since it was my first night in NYC, there was no rest to be had. Though the Ills didn’t jolt my senses like the city did, they soothed me into comfortability; I was in new territory listening to familiar sounds.

Mp3: Psychic Ills – Eyes Closed

Tres Warren: I’m always surprised by the effects of sleep deprivation.  That might have been the best condition to absorb that situation in–a real cruise control state.  Thats cool about ‘East’ too–we’ve been throwing that one into sets again recently.

JD: Do you have any expectations for someone who comes to your show as far as what you would like to do to them through your music?

Brian Tamborello: No, there are no intentions of affecting people in any particular way.  There are no expectations for ourselves even, I don’t think.  To go into a set attempting to incite a certain reaction in people would probably make the music/performance feel forced and unnatural for us.  That’s not to say that there aren’t bands/performers that can do that successfully, but it’s just not how our process has developed.

JD: My two experiences of seeing you live couldn’t have been more different.  In Austin the night was aggressive, and in Tribeca it was anything but that.  The pre-show dance by your bassist seemed like an experiment in feeling space.  It was a pre-cursor to the music which seemed to experiment with moving through space also, deliberately, but cautious and steady.

TW: I think her dance was situational like the show–there was room to move physically and sonically.  Because it was only a two band bill, both bands played for about an hour and a half.  The other one you’re referring too was like a 20 band outside show.  It had the opposite vibe–which can be cool too.

JD: As expected, you guys were an exceptional contrast to Excepter.  Whereas they may be dealing with more of the subconscious musician surfacing live for the observer, you guys seem to be striving for the intentional conscious groove.  Both bands I’d say, at their successful levels, attain a momentary feeling of bliss for the listener, when everything culminates and becomes clear, but you take opposing roads to get there.

TW: I couldn’t summarize their intentions–they’re never less than interesting and always guided by something.  The environment was a good collision of energy.  Their set along with the records Keith(NNCK) was playing in between the bands gave the night a unique unification. 

JD: Is there improv in your shows?

TW: Yeah, there is.

JD: Or is it more how it seems to me to be, which is a very planned and intentional process of music making?

TW: There’s certain places that sort of act as markers and we usually get there in similarly different ways each time.

JD: What are your thoughts on planned sets vs. improv sets, and the positive and negative aspects of each one?

BT: For us, fully planned sets of fully written songs can get pretty tedious, especially on tour.  They will still be elastic and change in subtle ways each night, but obviously don’t allow the freedom that an improv set can.  More freedom doesn’t always produce better results, though, of course.  More space to run is more space to fall. As Tres mentioned, our sets are a combination of planning and improv, songs and pieces.  Our set lists are written, but with a lot of space around each letter, word and line which allows us the opportunity to find new ways of getting around within each song and of getting from one song to the next.  As we have expanded the space I’ve grown to appreciate it more and more and begun to be more personally engaged in the music, even when that means being totally frustrated or lost in the space.

JD: I got the sense watching the band, before the show and during, that this is somewhat of a spiritual process for the members of the band.  Besides the near-fact that music is made on some sort of spiritual level (or maybe not with the advent of computer-music-making-technologies) how does a sense of spiritualness, if it actually does, guide you in music making/playing?

TW: It may be spiritual in that its a family affair in a certain sense.  We’re connected on a path to some collective frequency.  But its not related to a prescribed philosophy and its unaffected by technology.

JD: What are your thoughts on your shows being a sort of social experiment?  Because to me the show really contrasts much of the busy/hurried lives that most people lead in order to keep from going under.  The slow repetitious nature of your music reminds me, the viewer, to slow down, take a look around, feel the movement of my bones, and listen for resonances in the air.

BT: I wouldn’t call it social experimentation.  We’re not trying to make anyone feel or think anything in particular.  But, of course, simply by playing music together, we are expressing ideas and values (both personal and shared), of which attention and presence are definitely a part.  In addition to ideas and values, though, we’re also full of frustrations, barriers, neuroses, and fears, which I’m sure come through in the music as well.  The ratio of all those things shifts constantly on internal and external waves, so if we were trying to conduct an experiment, it would be riddled with inconsistencies and fall apart.

JD: Do you have thoughts on your particular relationship to society?

TW: I think survival is enough of a statement.

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