The Black Angels - Hell's Angels
3D’s Carlisle Rogers talks with Southern rockers The Black Angels about signing to Light in the Attic, and the making of their new album Directions To See A Ghost.
The Black Angels are a drone-rock band out of Austin, Texas that manages to combine the drone of the Velvets with this mescaline-soaked Doors sound: reverb caroming off Morrison wails and driving guitar lines. Their first album, Passover, established that sound, but the new one has perfected it, a kind of polish that leaves things rough where they need to be. Directions to See a Ghost is able to draw from that old well and still pull up fresh water. Guitarist Christian Bland says the band is pretty close to the desert, a place where they get inspiration, and maybe cactus.
Recorded at a little studio perched on the Colorado River, the album has a delicious live feel, a kind of human hum pervading everything, even when they try to make things disappear up the drone machine. “Both of our albums were recorded at the same place in Austin, at Cacophony Studios with our friend Erik Wofford,” Bland says. “It’s this real warehouse-looking place with high ceilings, so you can get tons of reverb, and one side of the building is this glass window that overlooks the Colorado River. It’s pretty cool, inspiring up there. There’s nothing like natural reverb…except maybe plate reverb, but those are hard to come by nowadays.”
Christian says that on the new album the band experimented with playing each other’s instruments a lot more than in the past. “I play drums, guitar and bass. Alex Maas is the lead singer and he also plays bass. Stephanie Bailey is the main drummer, but she also plays bass. Nate Ryan plays the guitar and bass and Kyle Hunt plays the organ, bass and guitar. We constantly switch it all up and switch around, which allows us to get some new sounds. If you listen to Passover, we just stuck to our main instrument. On the new album we mixed it up so it gave us a different sound. We’ll probably continue to do that and on the third album, probably learn some new instruments. It keeps it fun for us.
“With the first album it was mainly Alex and I who wrote the entire thing. With the second album, I would say it was a little bit less of Alex and I and more a collaborative effort with everybody. We just went into our practice space and started jamming on something and then when we hit a groove we really liked, we would start to work it out as a song and create parts. We all moved into the same house together at the end of 2005, shortly after signing with Light in the Attic, and that was one of the best things we ever did. It’s perfect because we can just call upstairs and say ‘hey do you want to practice-’ which is so much easier than being all spread out, especially with five people. When you have that many people and they all live in separate places, it’s a bit of a challenge to get everyone together.”
Signed to Light in the Attic, Christian says the Black Angels are the label’s first touring act, but if they’re signing guys like this, they’re definitely worth watching. “They really liked the same kind of stuff we were into,” Bland says. “When they came to SXSW in 2005, we just started talking and they told us about some of the stuff they had re-issued, some rare Spacemen 3 stuff, maybe even some Stooges, but they were listing all the bands we were into. We thought they were perfect for us since they liked everything we liked.”
Oh, and the Black Angels are touring with Roky Erickson in the US later this year, which is kind of like doing heroin with Lou Reed.
WHO: The Black Angels
WHAT: Directions to See a Ghost through Light in the Attic/Inertia
WHEN: Out now