Text and Interview: Alec Coiro
Photos: Kenny Jossick and Daria Werbowy
Psychic Ills is a psych-rock outfit out of New York. As Elizabeth Hart puts it, “People come and go in bands,” but the core members of the band are Elizabeth and Tres Warren, who — with a little help from their friends — are just releasing their new album, the very psychedelically named “Inner Journey Out.” The word “psychedelic” definitely gets thrown around a lot in relation to Psychic Ills, probably because it’s a good shorthand way of describing the deep mood and groove that the band is able to conjure. But judging from the tracks we’ve heard off the new album, you don’t need to be tripping to enjoy it. Although you might be tripping if you don’t. The record exhibits the sort of laid back confidence of a group that’s learned a lot, but still has a lot a lot to say. Elizabeth told Ravelin about Psychic Ills’s studio process on the album, how they’ve grown as a band, and what it was like working with Hope Sandoval on “I Don’t Mind.”
Psychic Ills has gone through several different incarnations. What has remained constant/consistent through it all? What has changed?
People come and go in bands. Tres and I are still making music together, and that’s a constant. The music has evolved over time, which is natural because there is always the desire to improve upon the previous effort or try new things.
I’ve seen your genre listed alternately as “Psychedelic Rock” and “Experimental Rock”; which genre label do you prefer (if either)? How about psyched to rock? How has the genre/scene evolved since you started the group?
“Psychedelic Rock” definitely seems to have had a resurgence over the past 10 years or so. We didn’t set out to be a “psychedelic rock” band, that’s just the label that’s been attached to our music. I don’t mind it; I think it’s a pretty broad description. Our tastes and what we are listening to or influenced by has varied over time.
What’s your process like in the studio? I get the sense that a lot of studiocraft goes into creating your sound.
It is always fun to experiment in the studio. On our new record, Inner Journey Out, we had a lot of friends and guests involved adding some things to the mix that we hadn’t used before like additional vocals and some different instruments like pedal steel guitar, saxophone, cello and violin.
Your collaboration with Hope Sandoval sounds amazing. How did that come to pass and what was it like working with her?
We toured with Mazzy Star in 2013 and have always been fans of the band. They are incredible song writers, the quality of their music and the way they execute it in their live set is really admirable. We had an earnest aspiration for Hope to sing on the record, so Tres wrote “I Don’t Mind’ with her in mind. Fortunately for us, she liked it! Her contribution is perfect.
How has your other work, like your other music projects and Elizabeth’s dance career influenced or stayed separate from Psychic Ills?
Both of us have been in other bands and involved in different projects through the years, although Ills has always been a mainstay. There isn’t a direct influence between the two, but dance and performance is just another thing that I love to do, and exploring these other interests helps broadens what I bring to Ills. Tres has other music projects and also makes films. He directed a video for a song on our last record, “See You There.” Maybe he will direct another one for this record, he has a great visual sense.
You’re kicking off the tour for this album in Europe. What have your European experiences been like in the past? Will we get a chance to see you stateside soon after?
I love touring Europe, we have had so many incredible experiences playing there and have forged many lasting friendships with other musicians and people that we have met on the road. European promoters are especially hospitable and often really go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Our record release is in New York on June 11th at Williamsburg Hall of Music, it’s part of The Northside Festival . We also plan on playing some East and West Coast dates in the fall. Stay tuned!
Both of us have been in other bands and involved in different projects through the years, although Ills has always been a mainstay.