Way back in April of this year, I finally found my way down to the Mecca of psychedelic music, Austin TX. The scenic Carson Creek Ranch provided the serene backdrop for the 6th annual Austin Psych Fest. I was like a kid in a candy store, writing for a music blog afforded me the freedom to wander the artist tent and meet the people behind the music I loved so much.
One of those fine people was Ives Sepulveda of The Holydrug Couple, a Chilean psychedelic band I had only recently heard of but quickly fell in love with. Ives was humble and generous when I emailed him regarding an interview. We texted back and forth and arranged a comfortable spot to sit, chat, and escape the hot Austin sun for a few minutes.
Having caught the band’s brilliant set on the gorgeous riverfront Elevation Stage the previous day of the festival, I was filled with questions and excitement for this interview. Without further ado, Psychedelic Sunday International is happy to bring you into the mind and the music of The Holydrug Couple.
Dan Jarvis: I saw that you guys played the first annual Milwaukee psych fest this year also. I didn’t make it out to that one even though Milwaukee is a hell of a lot closer to Chicago than Austin. What was the difference between a smaller festival that was just getting its start compared to Austin Psych Fest?
Ives Sepulveda: Totally different. The fact that it was practically snowing in Milwaukee and it’s so fucking cold there, here it is almost tropical. It’s very cold and rainy in Milwaukee; It gives it a totally different vibe. In the north, people are much more warm and friendly, here in Texas they are more “badass”, you know? Like cowboys. Milwaukee Psych Fest was a small place, it was at the Cactus Club, it was totally different vibe.
DJ: How was the turn out in Milwaukee?
IS: It was good.
DJ: It’s great to see a band like yours play a festival that’s just getting its start, and also so far away from your home country. I wanted to ask you about your first full length LP. You recorded it entirely in your home right?
IS: I recorded everything in my room. The first record, we recorded it live, I tracked it on reel-to-reel, Manuel and myself recorded at the same time. We went for a very purist sound with one guitar, drums, some keyboard drones and maybe just a few overdubs.
For this second record, fuck… I did not want to be limited by the instruments. I first recorded 15 demo songs, I played all the instruments in the demos. Then, I showed them to Manuel and he recorded the drums, then we’d take the tracks to my bedroom and finish them. I recorded all day in my bedroom. It was winter in Chile, and I was in a mostly melancholic mood. I was just sleeping and recording. I recorded the rest of the tracks there in my bedroom.
DJ: So you had them all in demo form and the two of you just finished it all at home?
IS: Yea, we are working like this from now on. At first we were only jamming together and now we are making songs. I am composing now.
DJ: You’ve got a little more structure now, you’re not just jamming anymore?
IS: Yea, I want to make structured songs. I have my studio, so I have total control over the albums.
DJ: What was the recording process like for that first record, the Ancient Land EP?
IS: The first record that I tried with reel-to-reel, I couldn’t go wrong, because if you do another take on the same tape you start to lose fidelity. You could do one take maybe two but that was it. My friend that was recording us didn’t have as much free time as that I wanted. I’d ask him, “Hey man, can I record tomorrow in the afternoon?” he’d say “No no no I can’t”, so it was done in a real rush and not on our own schedule. So now I have control.
DJ: You guys signed to Sacred Bones Records out of Brooklyn, they’re a really great independent label. How exactly did you get connected with them?
IS: In 2009, these guys sent us a message and said “Hey guys do you want to release an album with us?”
I said of course but you’ll have to wait because I want to re-record the first EP. I thought that my demos weren’t sounding good enough so we went back and worked on them and then we sent off the tapes the next year. We are always talking through emails, and after they released the EP they told us we can make an LP and that they can release it in December or January… so you have to send it to us by September or October. From that May until the last day I had to send it in, I worked on it.
DJ: You recorded this last album, Noctuary, digitally. So now you could do as many takes as you wanted and make mistakes. Did you go back and try to perfect things a lot because of this?
IS: Yea, I recorded some guitars 50 times, I would be sleeping or I would come back home from a party, maybe drunk, and I’d do another take. It was perfect. It was really beautiful working that way, total freedom.
DJ: That’s great, some major record labels might want artists to churn out a product quickly and rush the process, but it’s to great to have a label that will allow you to take your time and trust you to do it your own way.
IS: Yea, Sacred Bones are really good people. They understand us perfectly, they’re not that kind of label. We met them in New York when we were there for 3 or 4 weeks in 2012. We hung out and went to bars and it was like a family.
DJ: You were in Chicago just recently, last Sunday. I wish I had gotten to see you. Are you touring still after this? More shows?
IS: No. Tomorrow we have the last show here in Austin. Then, we fly back to Santiago.
DJ: How’s the tour been, how have the other shows gone? In Chicago, and in other smaller clubs, were there a lot of people? Were you well-received?
IS: Yeah. Yeah, it was so weird because I expected some kind of reaction at a festival like SXSW or in New York. I knew that we had some fans there so I sort of expected people to be at those shows. But then we start this tour around Columbus, and played Grand Rapids, you know… I’m from Chile and I’m playing in Grand Rapids, like what the fuck? The first gig was in Columbus, Ohio and man, full of people that came to see us. “I went to see you guys” “I love you” they said, and started buying records and stuff… It’s weird, you know, because how do people know about us?
DJ: It’s the internet, man. I first heard “Ancient Land” from Austin Psych Fest’s website, and I loved it. I was happy to hear them announce that you were playing. It’s easy to get your stuff out there these days.
IS: Yeah, I think the reaction here in the US has been the best. It’s the best audience. In Chile, we are not that popular.
DJ: In Chile, is there much of a psychedelic music scene there?
IS: Yeah, man. In Chile, we are on a record label, and there’s a bunch of friends making music for it. Like four or five bands that are like us.
DJ: So is that about it? Is it just a few bands in Chile? Not that many other bands making psychedelic music?
IS: Psychedelic, yeah. there’s like four or five bands. You know in Chile,
the popular music, for the common people, is like this horrible romantic or dance music. Mostly indie music is the popular thing. Like pop or electro-pop or pop rock songs. In the psychedelic scene, I think that our audience is growing, you know, but we are not the most popular thing in Chile. We’re much bigger here.
DJ: Do you think psychedelic music is making a comeback? Do you think people are getting more into this kind of music all around the world? This festival is getting bigger and bigger, and there are more and more psych fest’s popping up all the time.
IS: I dunno… There’s a new psych scene, with bands like us, The Warlocks, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Psychic Ills, and Tame Impala, it’s a worldwide psych scene. I don’t know if I like to label it with the term “Psychedelic”. ‘Cuz for me psychedelic music can be any kind of music.
DJ: It’s really kind of a broad term. Psychedelic music comes in many forms.
IS: Yeah, like what does it mean to be psychedelic, you know? It’s not a rule or something. For me, psychedelic music is like an intelligent and sensitive way to make music, you know? To make the people feel things, to give them images or memories or something. There’s punk music or dance music… and that music is for dancing…
Punk music is about having a discourse about something, psychedelic music, for me, is about sensitive and intelligent stuff. Deerhunter played last night, they are more like a psychedelic band. They create these landscapes and have these beautiful melodies.
DJ: And a lot of personal lyrics.
IS: Right. So for me, this new psychedelic comeback, it’s about the freedom of making music. In the 90’s there was this corporate way of making music, like MTV and Nirvana. Grunge music became more about selling clothes. There were millions and millions of dollars put into it. It was like a business. And now if there’s some dude in any part of the world making music, and if its real good, then people are going to listen. It’s about word of mouth. That’s the new psychedelic movement for me. It’s about youth culture and freedom, do whatever you want.
DJ: I’ve always been into psychedelic music, especially from the ’60s like Os Mutantes, and Kaleidoscope, who I got to see live yesterday and they were really amazing. What influenced you? What records did you listen to that informed the way you make music?
IS: Everything, man. You know, it’s like when I was a kid, like 8 years old, my first favorite band was Nirvana, and then I listened to Smashing Pumpkins. I love them still. I listened to them since I was a child, and even the other day, we were on tour and in the car listening to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
I dunno, I listen to a lot of music… experimental electronic from the ’60s, psychedelic or pop folk from ’60s and ’70s. I love the new bands right now like Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Peaking lights… I love Peaking Lights. Primal Scream, everything. I listen to a lot of music, and I can find inspiration in it all.
DJ: Yeah, it really can come from anywhere. I like that about psychedelic music today. I’ve interviewed four other bands this weekend and they all mentioned a wide range of influences, from rap albums to pop and psychedelic albums. You can take it from anywhere and make it your own.
IS: Yeah, it’s like the Smashing Pumpkins album. That album has this piano intro, a real majestic thing. Then comes “Tonight Tonight”, a real orchestral beauty, and then this fucking heavy metal, and then this really quiet acoustic, and then this electronic sounding “1979”. What influenced these guys? Everything.
The Holydrug Couple are touring Europe this fall, but we hope to see them back in the states soon. Their debut full length LP Noctuary is available via Sacred Bones Records in CD, Vinyl, and digital formats. The band also just released a 14-track album of Noctuary Demos available to stream and download via Bandcamp.
LIVE PHOTOS BY DAN JARVIS