More about: The Warlocks
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A constantly rotating 10 piece of disparate souls under the tutelage of leader Bobby Hecksher? A dark and dangerous band of drug fixated space rock aficionado's? Already, since signing to Californian label Bomp records in October 2000, more myth has built up around this LA band than a PR company could imagine in it's wildest rock n'roll dreams. Arriving in London to promote double A-side 'Hurricane Heart Attack'/'Cosmic Let Down', their debut UK gig was a whirl of feverish music press excitement, that Laura Rigsby (Organ/Tambourine/Vocals) recounts, whiskey and soda in one hand, Silk Cut in the other.
"It was slightly overwhelming and slightly surprising. Our lives at home are very simple, we like to play music, we like to hang out, but when we got here the first show that we played was insanity. There were photographers and craziness that was unexpected. For me at least. Slightly overwhelming but very exciting".
Joined by one of the two drummers, ex-pat Danny Hole, the two are here to dispel some of the myth and talk about sophomore effort 'Phoenix', a lightning bolt of broad and expansive west coast drug induced rock that will prove to be THE defining record of 2003. A rush of sugar coated melodies forced through a hypnotic, drone rock blender before a shotgun marriage to the bastard spirit of 'Let It Bleed' era Rolling Stones, it's one of those records that recognises it's roots without clubbing them to death like a helpless seal pup. Fresh, exciting and possessing that unquantifiable something, Danny believes that the Warlocks are unmistakably of the now.
"I think essentially we're a contemporary band. Those kind of influences are just there, but we're definitely trying to create new sounds as well, new styles of song's y'know".
So you're just using bands like The Stones, The Velvet's and Spacemen 3 as a reference point and taking it from there?
"Yeah, just like everyone does. You have records in your collection, or whatever, records that you've been listening to or stuff that you've had with you forever. It's a subconscious thing in many ways".
And what of this notoriously revolving line up? Guitarist Jeff Levitz departed just before this debut UK jaunt and Laura has only just officially re-joined the massed Warlock's ranks (currently numbering seven). So is it the case of Bobby the despotic leader, penning all the songs and wielding the axe at the merest sound of dissent? Or are 'The Lock's' more of a democratic Polyphonic Spree collective? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, as Danny is quick to leap to the defence of the bands central figure.
"It's pretty democratic, y'know. He brings the song to us and there's a lot of room to go a million ways with it [from what he presents to the band]. We've been playing together a long time, so we're pretty tuned in to the sound and, y'know, what needs to go where and stuff, what's needed of the song".
Listening to Phoenix, this assertion that the Warlock's wall of sound is the organic result of musicians walking the same path rings resoundingly true. Whether it's the incessant pounding of dual drummers Danny and Jason, the melodic hum of Laura's organ or JC and Corey's skyscraper riffs, you find yourself blinking with disbelief upon finding out that the band have only been together for just over two years. Describing how the band's sound has evolved dramatically since those early releases on Bomp Records, Laura is quick to re-assert the crucial part everyone in the band plays.
"For the most part, from the beginning, its grown, vastly grown. People in the band fluctuate, y'know there's a lot of people talking about, y'know everytime we hear... doesn't that band have ten members? What's the deal with that? But it's the whole thing that we all add our own parts, everyone has a purpose, and as we were saying before, we all put our parts in. It's not just one person leading the show. That's what makes it the sound that it is!"
That one effectively dealt with, amid continuing assertions that the 'gang' is strong, what of the mind broadening live performances? Have they had to compromise at all on this first tour of smaller venues like Manchester's Roadhouse or is it the same show that they've toured in the States?
"It's never the same", say's Laura emphatically. "It sounds different every night, the songs are different every night. Every show you'll here a different thing. They'll be different parts. We get up there and do our thing. They'll be some jamming, the sets are similar, but you always get a different show. Attitude, mood wise, sound wise, quality". Realising that she's just admitted to throwing in a ropy set all in the name of 'doing their thing', Laura quickly laughs before backtracking to reclaim any lost credibility. "Hopefully high quality".
With dates back in the US supporting Interpol and summer festival appearances at Glastonbury and Roskilde already pencilled in, if they can keep the 'gang' together (which even by Tap drumming standards looks a bit of an ask despite protestations) it seems there's nothing that the Warlocks cannot achieve. Even after a shuffling nervous start later that evening, once the band latch onto that hypnotic groove it doesn't take long for these LA spirits to start sprinkling some of that black magic over yet another ecstatic crowd. Not always a comfortable ride, The Warlocks deserve - no demand your attention!
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More about: The Warlocks