Sometimes you just can’t put your finger on a bands sound without either completely missing the point or just getting it plain wrong. The thing is, Thee Telepaths are post everything and to the mind they sound like musical magpies. There are elements of punk, psych, and dare I say it prog. Throughout this twelve track album the band are able to incorporate so many familiar sounds, bands such as The Cure, Julian Cope and Spaceman 3, can be heard, having said that there is a very modern vibe to the album. The use of drones connect the various parts to great effect giving the whole album a sense of continuity despite the tempo and textural changes. Then there is the track listing, Alpha (parts 1-5), Epsilon (parts 1-3) and Delta (parts 1-4). I felt like this all needed a bit of explaining so I reached out to guitarist Tom Wright to shed some light on this rather brilliant album..
1, For those who don’t know the band give us a brief overview.
We’re the other psychedelic rock band from Kettering 😉 Actually, that’s not really true – we do know one of those guys as it goes but he’s now joined Fat White Family. We’re really a four-piece guitar band, with some electronics thrown in, from a couple of different towns in Northamptonshire and our first long-player of all-new work is coming out shortly. We’re close friends, have been together 5 years, and released 3 EPs over the last four that have moved in stages from being dominated by the 60s garage & psych influences we started out with to the much wider sounding music and longer songs that we’re doing now. We’ve had a compilation of our first couple of EPs out in North America on Dub Ditch Picnic too. We mix it up live still, and the gigs are energetic and are combination of intense and slightly chaotic. Over the last few years we’ve hung around the periphery of the psych scene and we’ve played a lot of gigs around the country with some cool bands like The Underground Youth, The Telescopes, Gnod, Woven Skull, Black Delta Movement, One Unique Signal, TVAM, Kontakte, Magic Wands, Psychic Lemon… We like a pretty broad spectrum of music between us all, and spend a lot of time listening to music together.
2, What is the concept behind the album? There are three parts, what’s the story?
There’s not so much a concept really, more like a couple of loose themes on which we hung a few ideas that had been kicking around for various lengths of time. When we were putting together the three pieces, one was in A, one in D and one in E, so we had working titles of Alpha, Delta and Epsilon and as they took shape we kept the names, but we separated the parts within them. A couple of pals that we played the early rough mixes to said it had a lush nocturnal feel (which is where the title ‘The Velvet Night’ came from) and we tried hard all the way through to keep that. The lyrics have some ideas that link together in them (and they are in some places inspired by the title, although they’re also quite surreal in places and very much open to interpretation) and there are some musical phrases that reoccur during each of the three tracks. The Greek theme spilled over into the sleeve – the original picture was based on a photo of a mural of the Argonauts taken by some urbex guys in a derelict cinema in a back street in Kettering a few years back. Funnily enough, four blokes on a galley, sailing across the cosmic night to the sound of ‘2000 Light Years from Home’ had been how I’d previously been describing the string sounds on one of the tracks to the other guys as we were writing it, so although we stumbled over the pic it fit really neatly.
3, Stylistically this is a very “psychedelic” album but you seem to be touching bases on a lot of other genres.
Thanks – it’s great when people listen closely enough to the stuff that they pick up on that. We think that psychedelia lurks within many different things, and we spent so long recording this that we listened to a lot of stuff over that time and we absorbed elements of quite a bit of it, as you do. I’ve got a music room in my basement, and we practice and record there occasionally and we’ve spent a lot of late nights there playing records at each other. That still included the old staples like the Stooges, MC5, Krautrock and Sabbath, but also American punk and post-punk stuff too like the Modern Lovers & Pere Ubu, old Latin American psych, Miles Davis’ early electric stuff, the early Funkadelic LPs, Iron Butterfly, Fela Kuti, Ethiopian jazz, dub stuff by King Tubby and Augustus Pablo, a fair old amount soundtrack stuff, early ‘70s Vertigo Records stuff like that mad Aphrodite’s Child LP about the Book of Revelations. Beaty atmospheric stuff with strings like David Axelrod, Serge Gainsbourg and ‘Scott 4’, and DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing’ was a big touchpoint in the editing. The Cure’s ‘Faith’ LP. More recent stuff like Thee Oh Sees, Wooden Shjips, Lumerians, Goat & Here Lies Man was on a fair bit down there as well.
4,Tell us about the writing process for an album like this.
When we were preparing to record Neon Spiral in late 2016 we were approached by the label Eggs In Aspic to provide something for a tape release – we didn’t have anything spare so we said we’d record something especially for it. The idea was we’d jam in a practice room and edit the cool stuff together. In the end we went in and jammed an hour each in the keys of A, D and E (because we could use open strings a lot more in those keys), but we only actually recorded the bass and drum parts. We took them home, edited the bare tracks down to 30 mins each, jammed a couple of guitar and keyboard tracks over them, edited a bit more, wrote a bit more, added some vocals, some more instruments, edited, wrote, deleted some stuff, added some stuff etc… In the end it took so long to get off the ground that EIA quite understandably moved on, and we shelved it for a bit as 2017 was pretty busy anyway. At the end of the year we got back to it – took the parts into Far Heath Studios with our usual engineer, and tried our best over the next several months to drive him mad (edit, write, record, write, edit, digest, edit, write, record, digest, write, etc…). He seems to like a challenge though.
5, How are you going to present this live?
We can do it all between the four of us although we’ve had to change things about a little bit. Dean (our singer & rhythm guitarist) plays a lot more guitar live now so I can move across to keyboard when I need to. I’ve added a second one so that we can do things like play Moog and Mellotron sounds at the same time. We’ve always used drones and so those things kind of make things hang together. We’ve had to alter the arrangement in a couple of places – where the album sometimes builds in layers that we just can’t replicate live because of volume or lack of hands, Tim (bass) and Vincent (drums) have reworked parts to make some elements more dynamic. It’s not like you won’t feel like you’re watching and listening to us playing the album, it’s very recognisable as being the album, but at the same time a bit different. We’ve just put together a new set of gig visuals to run behind / over the top of us while we play. They’re all taken from one cult director, who I won’t name, but they’re very colourful, very freaky and a bit dark in places. Not obviously trippy, but definitely out there.
6, What’s the plan for the rest of the year and where next?
The record’s out on March 8th and then we play Leicester on 9th and then there’s another 7 or 8 gigs in the works after that including Nottingham, Cambridge, Corby, Northampton, Lincoln, a couple of smaller festivals, hopefully London, Bristol, Brighton and Colchester and we’d like to get up to Scotland for a couple of gigs. We basically want to be gigging through the rest of the year, but I guess we’ll do bookings as we get them (hello promoters…). We’ve got an album to flog 😉 Towards the end of the year we’ll start recording the next thing, although we’ll be doing that a lot more quickly than we did this one.