Aussie Psychedelia: An Introduction to the Soundscape
by Hayley Anderson
The term “psychedelic music” opens itself up to a lot of interpretations, encompassing a wide range of music styles influenced by the 1960s psychedelia scene. It is generally characterized by its hypnotic melodies and experimental studio effects like phasing and reverbs. There are countless sub-genres that fall under psychedelic music such as psych rock, psych pop, neo-psych, chillwave, space rock, etc. There are really no limits to what someone can compose under the expanse of psych music. Artists in Australia have shared the wealth via federal funding and grants from the Australian Council for the Arts and several other organizations, creating a rich and fruitful music scene. My first taste of Aussie psych music was probably Tame Impala’s Lonerism album that was released in 2012. The album is a lysergic cocktail full of analog synths, phased out guitar flutters, and Kevin Parker’s melodious vocals. Then, later in high school I was introduced to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard through the song “Hot Wax” from their album Oddments and quickly began to discover more psych bands. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how close knit this music scene is; many bands share members, help produce each other’s music, go on tour with each other, or produce independent projects. This six hour playlist is titled “Aussie Psychedelia,” and is comprised of 12 bands/artists. Continue reading for a preview of the individual groups. Happy listening!
Members: Kevin Parker, various touring members
Probably one of the most well known bands from Australia, Tame Impala is the brainchild of Kevin Parker. Parker writes, records, and produces all the music for Tame Impala, but in the past its touring members have consisted of Julian Barbagallo, Nick Allbrook, Jay Watson, Dominic Simper, and Cam Avery. Listening to Tame Impala is one thing, but seeing them live is a cosmic journey loaded with confetti cannons, laser beam lights, iridescent synths and gnarly bass riffs. It is no wonder they have become a headliner of huge festivals and have collaborated with other big names like Travis Scott, Lady Gaga, Theophilus London, and more. Tame Impala is set to release a new album this year and so far has released the synth-heavy song “Borderline” and the radiant, disco song “Patience”
Members: Jay “Gumby” Watson, Nick Allbrook, Joseph “Shiny Joe” Ryan, Jamie Terry, James Ireland
For about a decade now, POND blends lead singer Nick Allbrook’s raw vocals with dynamic instrumentals that can range from subtle (in songs like “Medicine Hat”) to bold (in songs like “Xanman”). POND shared members with Tame Impala in their formative years, and still work somewhat closely as Kevin Parker produced their eighth studio album this past March titled Tasmania. The album is saturated with rich, cinematic compositions that are often intricate with whirling soft guitar and synth melodies. POND performs live with untamed enthusiasm, much to the credit of Nick Allbrook who often is bouncing across the stage and even climbs venues’ pillars to serenade audience members, encouraging the crowd to reciprocate his jubilant energy.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Members: Vocalist/guitarist Stu Mackenzie, harmonica/singer Ambrose Kenny-Smith, guitarists Cook Craig and Joey Walker, and dual drummers Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, sometimes just referred to as “Gizz” or KGATLW sit at the wild end of the psych music spectrum in the sense that it is hard to pin them down to one specific sound. Their freewheeling attitude has led them to release 13 LP’s, five of which were all released in 2017. Possessing a multitude of sounds, the band has released a full acoustic album, a jazz infused album, and have a highly anticipated thrash metal album titled Infest the Rats Nest coming this August. The band is signed to Flightless Records, which was started by their drummer Eric Moore and boasts a talented lineup of artists, many of which are featured on this playlist. If you haven’t seen Gizz live yet and are looking for a good show with some insane shredding and moshing, you should definitely check them out in August at the Aragon in Chicago.
Origin: Byron Bay
Members: Angus ‘The Hothouse Flower’ Dowling, Jack “Kool Breeze” Crowther, Dr. Eliot Love-Wisdom
Between their organic music style and philosophical outlook on life, Babe Rainbow is a relic from the sweet and nostalgic grass roots spirit of the 60s and 70s. Many of their music videos, often recorded by Samuel Kristofski using a Super 8mm film camera exhibit this vibe while also bringing something vibrant to the music scene. Babe Rainbow’s music features groovy bass lines and embraces a variety of instruments like sitars, flutes, bongos, maracas, and more creating soul-soothing soundscapes that are impossible not to boogie down and smile to. When not making music or on tour, the members of Babe Rainbow spend their free time surfing and growing their own food out in rural Australia.
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets
Members: Jack McEwan, Luke Reynolds, Luke Parish and Danny Caddy
If you like the Chicago-based band Post Animal, you’re guaranteed to like Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. Their sound is a fusion of gritty Hendrix inspired shredding, pounding drums, and distorted vocals. Songs like “Found God in a Tomato” take you on a dazed, atmospheric jam session while songs like “Hymn for a Droid” practically bounce off the speakers. The band originally met through their mutual drug dealer when they began jamming out together, and now have produced three LP’s, with the most recent named And Now for the Whatchamacallit released on May 31st of this year.
Members: Amy, Hannah, Sarah and Holly Findlay
The Findlay sisters grew up listening to Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin, so it’s no wonder their sound is an homage to the prog, psych, and metal luminaries of the 60s and 70s, while still making a place for themselves within a male-dominated industry. Their album Bent was released on June 14 of this year and was recorded in just five days with the help of King Gizz members Stu Mackenzie and Joey Walker. The album draws from the sisters’ personal experiences; the song “Shutdown” is about being misrepresented and belittled in an industry that often makes them feel like outsiders, while “Route 29” is about the fear of walking home alone at night, a feeling many women can resonate with. Stonefield is currently touring with KGATLW and you can check them out in Chicago in August!
Members: Zak Olsen, Daff Gravolin, Jamie Harmer
Not to be confused with the electronic group The Orb, Zak Olsen, Daff Gravolin, and Jamie Harmer formed Orb as a not-so-serious doom metal band. As they began to jam more, they developed an appreciation for the sound and crafted songs that drew influence from doom metal and psych music. Their sound is heavy, riff-driven, and covered in layers of fuzz guitars and crashing drums. In the past, Orb has gone on tour with KGATLW and The Murlocs. The group is signed to Flightless Records.
Members: Jay Watson
If you don’t know Jay Watson you’ve probably still heard his music or even seen him perform. He is a talented multi-instrumentalist best known for his roles in Tame Impala and POND, but also somehow still finds time for his own solo project under the moniker GUM. Many of the songs released under GUM are either songs that aren’t a good fit for his other bands, or music he would rather keep for himself. Watson has an aptitude to compose music that traverses multiple genres, writing on average 20 songs a year and even aiding in live performances with artists like Mac Demarco and Angel Olsen. He has released 4 albums under GUM, and whether he is working with POND or Tame Impala, Jay Watson is a musical powerhouse who has played a part in some of the most celebrated psych music out of Australia.
Origin: Ocean Grove
Members: Ambrose Kenny-Smith, Matt Blach, Cook Craig, Callum Shortal, Tim Karmouche
Formed in 2010, the Murlocs’ music is self-described as a “blown-out, distorted demented dance party brand of soulful R&B.” The band is made up of five members, two of which (Ambrose and Cook) are members of KGATLW. Their fourth album Manic Candid Episode was released on March 22 of this year and is much more bluesy with Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s soulful vocals, harmonica solos, and minimal special effects.
Moses Gunn Collective
Members:Alex Mitchell, Sam Sargent, Lewis Stephenson, Aidan Moore, Bella Carroll
Further exemplifying the different forms the psychedelic genre can take, the Brissy-based band Moses Gunn Collective possesses a hypnotic quality; it’s as if their sound lies on the boundary between consciousness and a lucid dream. The group is made up of a medley of established artists who originate from other projects like Orphans Orphans, The Belligerents, The Furrs, Morning Harvey, and The Family Jordan. Their song “Back Into the Womb” from their album Mercy Mountain is an energetic piece featuring electric chords and Aidan Moore’s swaying vocals.
Sunbeam Sound Machine
Members: Nick Sowersby
Soundbeam Sound Machine is the recording project of Melbourne-based Nick Sowersby. His music is mind altering, and not in the sense that it’s heavily trippy, but in the sense that Sowersby is able to transport the listener to a hazy, blissed out summer day. One thing that I particularly like about Sunbeam Sound Machine is that the sound is undeniably laid back yet still intricate; a guitar simmers over fuzzy beats and sound distortion while Sowersby’s voice floats over it all. This past May, Sunbeam Sound Machine’s second LP Goodness Gracious was released. Sowersby describes the album: “I began working on this album in an exploratory way, recording for recording’s sake until an album began to naturally take form. Along the way I found some sounds that it feels like I’ve been hearing in my head for years. The result is 11 songs that document a period of change, about what we look to for guidance, comfort and stability in uncertain times.”
Members: Stephen Bailey, Brendan Shanley, Derrick Treatch, Glenn Palmer, Thomas Cahill
The Perth quintet have put out three albums since forming in mid-2012. Their songs are both meditative and menacing; many songs start out with a slow pulse, ebbing and flowing into explosive, sonic sound. Between their drawn out instrumentation and ominous riffs, their music makes oceanside Perth seem like an apocalyptic desert shrouded in a burning haze.