Photography by Shawn Brackbill
Words by Luke Coz
Since 2003, the Psychic Ills have created a sound based on repetition and noise. The band’s songs drift and hover, with parts melting into each other, often starting with one anarchic theme that is pounded into the skull as other elements dip in and out. Likewise, the band’s mission has changed over time in much the same way, with the edges becoming further dilated and the core — a sort of infinitely looped om — further clarified with each release.
We talked with Ills bassist Elizabeth Hart about the slow transformations in their music, what the next era of the Ills might be like and the ultimate party host.
WC: How important are set and setting (multimedia aspects, volume, size of the room, etc.) to your performances?
EH: I think it is important to create an environment in the setting that you are given. Oftentimes, we have used projections, although it isn’t imperative. A healthy volume level and a good mix are always preferable.
WC: Many bands (from the Velvet Underground to Black Dice) have implied that volume is fundamental not only to their sound, but also the way they write. Is this true for you guys?
EH: I guess it has seemed pretty crucial previously, however not so much with the record we are working on now, in terms of writing.
WC: What’s your process like? For that matter, is there a process or do different songs begin different ways?
EH: We used to write songs from jams and expand on ideas that we felt had something. The new stuff is much more structured and “song-like,” if you will, so the process has been very different. It has been really cool to approach this record in an alternate way, even though it is probably how most people write music.
WC: Does that mean the new material is shorter? Are you featuring more prominent choruses?
EH: Yeah, I’d say so.
WC: Your music tends to unfold over time, but it doesn’t seem exactly improvised. Where do you strike the balance?
EH: There has always been some sort structure, with room for improvisation to see how things unfold.
WC: It seems your music has become more dilated and even serene. How did the shift from an urban psychedelic sound to a transcendental one happen?
EH: On some of the last few records — Astral Occurrence, Catoptric and Telesthetic Tape — we are definitely working in a more improvised way, but the shift [in sound] was pretty much a natural movement through things and in exploring different sounds. Though, we’ve moved through that phase now.
WC: Any touchstones or thoughts you can share about the new material you’re working on now?
EH: It will be a good record to listen to while making lunch or maybe driving in a car with the sun shining in.
WC: Is the mood ‘lighter’ then? Are we talking electric-acoustic guitars and Fender twins or are large doses of noise and trance still coded in there?
EH: I think it’s just reflective of where we are at in this moment: desert daydreaming. …
WC: How would you rather tour the country: on a horse or in a tank?
WC: What’s the best Japanese horror film you’ve seen?
EH: I don’t think that I have actually seen any Japanese horror films. Have any recommendations? I loved Thirst, but that was Korean. I am into art house Italian horror films, most anything Dario Argento.
WC: Better party host, Social Registry’s Rich Zerbo, Andy Warhol or baseball legend Manny Ramirez?
EH: Rich Zerbo, he is a fabulous cook!
WC: Rich is a grill master. Any favorite Zerbo dishes?
EH: I am a fan of his mussels.
To see more on Psychic Ills click here.