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Preview and Interview: THE BLACK ANGELS

many thanks for the photos of Alex by Briana! Visit her at:

At the Mercy Lounge, Friday, March 30th

The Black Angels are a youthful band in debt to the music that initiated the counterculture four decades ago. While the retro label suggests a kind of dated backwash, the Angels courageously deflect such implications. Lead singer Alex Maas insists, “When using the word retro—by definition meaning ‘old-sounding’—that’s fine with me. There’s tons of amazing music from the Sixties, and people should shed light on it.”

In transcendent fashion, the band’s war-sick and wigged-out theater of thump and drone digs deeper into the back catalog to invoke a lifestyle—not just the notable influences. As this particular past tense shamelessly fuses the Doors and the Velvet Underground alongside fellow Texans like the 13th Floor Elevators and the Butthole Surfers, haunting vocals get fuel-injected with guts and groove, all held down by Stephanie Bailey’s stabbing drums. Hiding his good looks behind beard, bangs and pageboy cap, Maas cannot hide the brutal reckoning of his lyrics. In addition to tracks from last year’s Passover, the Angels’ upcoming set will include a sampling of new songs recently recorded and awaiting release, some of them due on a split EP with Vancouver’s Black Mountain. (

What follows is the transcript of a conversation between writer Andy Smith and Alex Maas, lead singer from the Black Angels from the morning of March 21, 2007.

AS: Wearing your debt to the Velvet Underground up front, with your vocal stylings being frequently compared to Jim Morrison, making music so strongly reminiscent of an era 40 years gone, discuss how you carry the weight of your influences?

AM: It’s not really a weight. We just have influences that we like. If anything, we feel like it is our duty to spread good music.

AS: Are you concerned with how people use the ‘retro’ label to describe your music?

AM: When using the word retro—by definition meaning old sounding—that’s fine with me. There’s tons of amazing music from the Sixties, and people should shed light on it.

AS: Yourselves and others have described what you do as psychedelic. What do think contributes most to the psychedelic sound that you have?

AM: 13th Floor Elevators, the Red Crayola, even Butthole Surfers—a lot psychedelic music comes from Texas. There’s tons of psychedelic music—anything from like Can to modern psychedelic music like Psychic Ills.

AS: Is there something specific that you do musically? Is it what you call the drone machine? Is it the wah-wah pedal? What is it?

AM: It’s not just one thing; it’s everything. It’s the sound, the layers. Christian’s guitar is one of the main things—and Nate [bassist] as well. The overall feel of what we’re doing—I don’t think we never set out to be super, super, super psychedelic to where it’s stuff that doesn’t have a song in it.

AS: When the record first came out, there was a lot of talk about the fact that several you share a house together. How would you describe the relationship between communal living and the band’s writing and touring process as band.

AM: That’s definitely played a part in the cohesiveness of the band. We moved in with eachother—that’s kind of serious, like a big marriage or something. We all moved into the same house. We’re all sitting here listening to the same music, eating the same food, sharing the same stories. So, we’re definitely growing and evolving as a band. Living with each other creates ideas to bounce off of each other all the time. It’s a real positive thing that we all moved in with one another.

AS: Talk about some of the changes that success have brought for you personally.

AM: We still love to tour. Maybe our standards are rising. We’re not sleeping on people’s floors as much anymore.

AS: You get a hotel room instead of a couch?

AM: We get a couch instead of a floor. We sometimes get a room and that makes it an awful lot easier.

AS: Do you drive the bus yourself or do you have a driver?

AM: We have a 15-passenger pan we drive ourselves. We all share driving. We drive with eight or nine or sometimes 15 people in the van, so we’ve got plenty of drivers.

AS: Are you ready for Bonnaroo?

AM: I know it’s a big festival. I’ve never been. A lot of our friends are playing.

AS: You reference the Vietnam War and the Iraq War in your singing and lyrics. Coming of age during the wars since 2001, how has this affected you personally and as a band?

AM: We’re definitely freaked out by everything that’s happening. It’s a scary situation. I’ll never go to war—not unless it’s something I really believe in. I think it’s ridiculous that we’re over there. A lot of people are talking about it but a lot of people are just thinking it and being kind of complacent. There’s definitely parallels between the Sixties and what’s going on right now. It’s really easy to see that we’re falling into the same kind of problems; history’s repeating itself.

AS: Is there already a follow-up to Passover planned?

AM: We’ve got six new songs recorded. Right when we got back from Europe, we tracked six more songs in the studio. We have a lot of material; we’re just trying to figure out when’s the best time to release it. We’re about to do a split with Black Mountain, do you know them?

AS: From Vancouver, they’re phenomenal.

AM: We’re doing three originals, and we’re covering a Black Mountain song.

AS: Are they going to cover one of yours?

AM: I think so; that’s the whole plan.

AS: So you have a split record with Black Mountain and possibly another of your own? So, two new records coming out this year?

AM: Yes.

AS: So what can we expect when we see you on the 30th?

AM: We’ll be playing a lot of new stuff in the towns we’ve been to before.

AS: So I better let you get to the rest of your calls. I’m sorry about the technical difficulties.

AM: Technology’s always difficult.

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