Published on July 6th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Drivin’ N Cryin’ Brings New Psyche Rock
A few years ago, Drivin’ N Cryin’ singer/guitarist Kevn Kinney spent most of his time with the band, crankin’ his amp and plowing through the old hits at shows around the country. These days, he’s quite a bit more invigorated and inspired by having new cohort Sadler Vaden (formerly of Charleston band Leslie) in the band as lead guitarist and co-songwriter.
Over the last year, Kinney, Vaden, bassist Tim Nielsen, and drummer Dave Johnson have have written a pile of new songs and recorded and released three conceptual mini albums on their own label New! Records. They hit the road this summer behind Songs From The Psychedelic Time Clock, the third EP in an ongoing series of four. The six-song disc follows last year’s Songs From The Laundromat and Songs About Cars, Space and the Ramones.
Drivin’ N Cryin’ recorded most of the new disc last September at Ocean Industries on James Island with engineers Eric Rickert and Jeff Leonard assisting co-producer Chris Griffin, a longtime Georgia colleague.
Kinney spoke with Metronome Charleston recently about the latest EP and his love for various styles of psychedelic rock.
Metronome Charleston: It seems like you and the band are having a blast with the road shows this year. You seem to have the art of touring and performing down pat.
Kevn Kinney: I guess so [laughs]. We’re still working it. We do feel very rejuvenated. This last year or so has been great, recording these EPs and touring.
Metronome Charleston: Songs From The Psychedelic Time Clock might be our favorite new D’N’C’ EP so far in the series. It’s groovy and jovial and jangly.
Kevn Kinney: You like this one? Good. We had fun starting the sessions at Ocean. I don’t do stressful studio sessions anymore. I don’t think good art comes from stressful sessions. I don’t know how people do it. When I made that record with the Golden Palominos [2012’s A Good Country Mile], it was a very intensive three-year project with hundreds of practices. It was a lot of work that paid off, but it was bit too stressful for me.
What I’ve learned over the last 27 years is that I’m not a great guitar player; I’m a pretty good guitar player. I’m not a great singer; I’m a weird singer. I’m not a great songwriter, but I write good songs. I think my best talent is getting the best out of musicians and bandmates. I know how to let Tim be Tim and how to let Sadler be Sadler. Tim is a great punk rock bassist, and Dave is a solid Kinks-style drummer, and Sadler is a terrific Grand Funk Railroad … whatever he is. It all comes together.
Metronome Charleston: EPs don’t sound exactly like the classic rock albums of Drivin’ N Cryin’s early days. You’ve stretched into new territory. Did this come naturally?
Kevn Kinney: We’ve experienced a lot of psychedelic music and moments, from hanging out with the Butthole Surfers or jamming on our own. I used to love this Milwaukee garage band called Plasticland and how they could get really psychedelic. I was always drawn toward heavy -guitar psychedelic rock. This one is kind of like if I had to present a thesis on psychedelic rock, you know?
Metronome Charleston: The opening song, “The Little Record Store Just Around the Corner,” has a massive riff, a three-chord pattern, a heavy groove, and a bit of band name dropping. It’s a solid opener.
Kevn Kinney: That song comes directly from the Nuggets compilations and some of the my Milwaukee roots. It goes right into “Metamorphycycle,” which reflects some of the late ’70s and early ’80s punk rock in Milwaukee that I loved — bands like the Ama-Dots, Tense Experts, Dark Facade, and Plasticland.
Metronome Charleston: On “Metamorphycycle,” we hear extra tremolo and spaced-out guitar that resembles early Floyd, Hawkwind, or Spirit. You sing, “Open up your world and come along…” at one point.
Kevn Kinney: Yep.
Metronome Charleston: “Upside Down Round And Round” switches gears as an acoustic guitar-based folk-pop thing with 12-string guitar and sitar. It’s an anthem with great harmonies.
Kevn Kinney: We co-wrote “Upside Down Round And Round” with Andy Shernoff from the Dictators. It’s more like a Beau Brummels/San Francisco ’60s psychedelic kind of thing with a little bit of Kraftwerk’s lusty synthesizer stuff thrown in. Sadler came up with a lot of the music on that one.
Metronome Charleston: Swinging back to the pop side, “Sometimes The Rain (Is Just the Rain)” has more of a Beatles/Kinks drum beat with some of that classic Byrds arpegiation.
Kevn Kinney: I think “Sometimes The Rain (Is Just the Rain)” is kind of more like the Teardrops Explodes-meets-Dream Syndicate kind of thing — that ’80s rock that drew hard from the Byrds and British psyche rock. There’s a hint of the Plimsouls and the Paisley Underground in there, too.
Metronome Charleston: The heaviest tune of the bunch is “In The Sound Room.’ It’s almost an acid-rocker with a Stooges-esque garage beat.
Kevn Kinney: Iggy!
Metronome Charleston: Tell us about “The Psychedelic Time Clock” and its surfy, big-riff fuzz guitar and tambourine. It could easily have been the opening track or the follow-up.
Kevn Kinney: I didn’t want “The Psychedelic Time Clock” to be beside the opener “The Little Record Store Just Around The Corner” because they’re a little too similar. “The Little Record Store Just Around The Corner” is actually a fictional record store in my head, and it’s also a painting I made. It’s based on a vinyl-only store in Atlanta run by Ted Selke [Full Moon Records in Candler Park] that’s literally around the corner. Great place full of great 45s. My first job ever was working at a Peaches records, so I go way back with vinyl and record stores.
Metronome Charleston: How does the music on this new disc compare to the previous two EPs? Do they link up and complement each other?
Kevn Kinney: I love this format, because I’m kind of ADD. Basically, what’s happening here is that all four EPs will become a unique collection. If we’d worked with a regular studio producer, we’d have handed in 20 songs and a lot of them would eventually be left off as he tried to figure out how to make an album out of it all. We’d wind up with an album that’s somewhere in the middle of it all. We’re just putting everything out there now. People can buy just one song on iTunes or Amazon or whatever, and they can mix and match and make their own album. I think there might be at least one song on every EP that everyone will really like.
Metronome Charleston: To your ears, what are the musical boundaries of genuine psychedelic rock?
Kevn Kinney: There’s a traditional psychedelic sound. Certain songs are tiki bar songs, and certain songs aren’t. What most people think of is fuzz guitar and electric sitar. There’s the Byrds’ California sound. There’s the Beatles’ Rubber Soul. There’s avant garde psychedelia like Kraftwerk. A dozen different varieties. If you play out as a psychedelic band, most people want you to dress up in a suit and have a fuzz guitar sound, like traditionalist bands like Woggles or the Fleshtones. Personally, I think starting off a rock record with a folk song like “Mystery Road” or “Straight to Hell” is kind of psychedelic! In my mind.
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