Text and Interview: Andy Fenwick
Photo: Joanne Cuellar
On Facebook, the Myrrors describe their work as “Sonoran Trance Music,” which is about as apt a self-description you’ll see from a band today. It’s apt despite the Myrrors of 2017 sounding much different than the straightforward, guitar-rich Myrrors who debuted with Burning Circles in the Sky in 2008. By 2015’s magnificent Arena Negra, they had taken a multi-year break, added a violin, toured Europe, and committed themselves to Indian street instruments and ocarinas, sounds not usually heard on psychedelic rock records, at least by American psychedelic rock bands, who’d be smart, like the Myrrors, to move away from electric guitar and into the majestic acid territory of Popol Vuh, Ghost, recent Goat, and latter-day Boredoms.
On their 2016 effort Entranced Earth, guitars seemed to have taken a final step back in favor of clarinet, recorder, and ocarina; yet each song still retained a chewy guitar center amid the Myrrors’ hypnotic sprawl. But on new tracks “Somos La Resistencia” and “Organ Mantra,” from the Myrrors’ 2017 release Hasta La Victoria, guitars are almost fully removed as any sort of central instrument. “Somos La Resistencia” remains in the same trance territory as past releases, yet not; for one thing, it’s fully sung in Spanish. For another, it has giddy-up, compared to past Myrrors tracks; a circular 2/4 stomp bolstered by a stuttering electric bouzouki. Electric bouzouki (best guess) also appears on the head-nodding “Organ Mantra,’ but duels with clarinet atop a swaying bassline.
We spoke with Myrrors co-founder Nik Rayne, who also releases great stuff on his Sky Lantern Records label.
So the obvious question re guitar increasingly taking a back seat: any reason why? Influences? Inexplicable?
The lack of electric guitar was, I think, partially a result of the recording process for this new record. This is absolutely the fastest we’ve ever made an album, and we approached it a little differently in that Grant and I were both bringing in different things we had been playing around with separately and fitting them together, rather than building things up from scratch. A lot of what I was writing at the time was acoustic based, composed on random instruments like the bulbul tarang (an Indian street musician’s instrument). Meanwhile Grant has gotten pretty deep into new age music, so he inevitably introduced a lot of keyboard-based material. Once we had fleshed out these disparate ideas and pieced them together, I realized that adding electric guitar parts seemed a little bit unnecessary. But I think the electric guitar has been a little over-represented in modern music anyways.
You’ve messed with instruments like a bulbul tarang; any new ones here?
The electric bouzouki is definitely a new texture to the sound, and I suppose could be said to have taken the place the guitar normally would have taken, at least on Somos La Resistencia. There are also some subtle overdubs using instruments I brought back from a recent trip to Hanoi, like the dan nhi, which was used a lot for providing string drones.
Who’s playing the horn(s) on Somos La Resistencia? On Organ Mantra?
That would be Grant, otherwise the band’s drummer.
What’s the ambient street-sounding noise in the background of Organ Mantra?
The sounds weaving in and out of Organ Mantra are all me looping vocal parts through an over-driven speaker – an element to our sound that originally came out of our live performances but which has recently found its way into our last few recordings. The title track is actually loosely built around a wrinkled cassette tape loop of my voice, which you can hear lurching its way most of the way through.
Any new recording techniques to get the brass covered properly? Any new equipment you love using?
This is actually the first album since reforming not to have been cut at my home studio, Eastland. We cut all the basic tracks in Grant and Miguel’s tiny little dining room and hallway. The saxophone was recorded on a single condenser microphone, except for the looped and echoed lines in Organ Mantra, which were fed through an amplifier and effects using a 1970s-style built-in mouthpiece microphone.
Tucson has a great tradition of being a sleeper scene for bands, Meat Puppets in the 80s, 90s with Doo Rag, Calexico/Giant Sand, etc, Supersuckers, and then the likes of Mostly Bears in the oughts. What’s it like now? What bands should we also check out, that might not get heard outside of AZ?
Personally, my favorites recently have been Cobra Family Picnic, a sort of classic psychedelic space-rock band that I imagine has the potential to get pretty big in that scene, and the relatively unclassifiable Phoenix ensemble Sunn Trio, who have been making some of my favorite music here, or anywhere else for that matter. Keep an eye out for their debut LP next month, it’s pretty wild.
Where is the band at now, as this new album is released? Expanding? Shrinking?
The band has actually shrunk recently in that we’ve been playing as a super-stripped down four-piece, which has been an interesting experiment. But we’re looking at getting some auxiliary members involved for upcoming performances and maybe fleshing out the live sound a little more.
You toured Europe in 2015. How was that? See anything great? Any new tour plans?
Europe was a great experience, and we’re really anxious to go back! The length of it all made it a tumultuous blur, but I know some highlights were seeing Keiji Haino perform after our set at Le Guess Who festival, all our shows in Greece which were absolutely surreal, and finally getting to hang out and play with the band Centralstödet in Sweden, whose music I have been putting out on my label Sky Lantern Records the last three years but who I had never actually had the pleasure of meeting! I know Grant at least has started looking into the possibilities of another go-around over there, maybe by the end of the year, but in the short term we’re looking to finally hit the west coast here in the US since we’ve never actually done a full tour there and it’s so close that it’s started to feel kind of ridiculous to have set that side for so long.