SXSW Leftovers: Talkin' [Expletive] With Psychedelic Horse[expletive]

psychedelic horseshitPsychedelic Horse[expletive], taking no prisoners.

As I was talking to Psychedelic Horse[expletive] dude Matt Whitehurst on Thursday night outside of Soho before his band's set at Siltbreeze's SXSW showcase, I knew he was going off. But listening back to it as I was transcribing left me slackjawed and somewhat conflicted. His band plays fractured, damaged songs with snotty vocals and barbed hooks that, on record, sound like they were recorded using equipment that no longer exists. Much to his chagrin, that's a pretty popular sound these days. Bands such as Wavves, Vivian Girls, No Age and Times New Viking have become superstars on the indie scene by adhering a similar approach. This doesn't make Whitehurst too happy.

Without any prompting he was immediately hurling every insult in the book at those bands. (Except for Times New Viking, his friends. He tried to explain that one during the interview, judge for yourself whether his reasoning is sound.) Was he just putting on a show? The skeptic in me thought maybe it was all a work and it's all part of a plan to get some attention. Or maybe he truly is this angry at bands that he feels have appropriated something near and dear to him, who have sanitized it, stylized it, cashed in on it, and are now representing him as leaders of a lo-fi movement.

You could say that Whitehurst exists in a small bubble, one that he takes very seriously and is very protective of. He compares message board Terminal Boredom to Rolling Stone, calls Matador a major label and considers a band like Wavves - currently touring couple hundred seat venues - a big star. It's sort of a matter of semantics, but the point is that you start to realize that it really isn't a front, and he's just a guy who feels his scene and sound have been taken over by poseurs and he can't stand it and doesn't care who knows.

Some of the anger may be misplaced, but the you can't deny his passion. Usually if you hate something so much, it means you love something just as much, and there's something to be said about strong feelings either way and avoiding that boring middle. And he doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk. The last time I saw his band play before SXSW was for a dozen people in a musty living room at 12:30 a.m. on a Tuesday night. In the following interview Whitehurst comes off as a bit insecure, a bit shrewd, a bit childish, plenty lewd, a bit inconsistent, very often on-point and always, enormously entertaining and quotable. Good luck figuring out what every [expletive] is. He used some doozies.

Do you like coming down here and playing 13 shows in four days?
Yes. I just like playing with different people. It's always the same crowds when we go on tour and [expletive]. They wanna come out and see Vivian Girls or Wavves or some [expletive]. And we get up there and freak 'em out. So down here it's kind of nice. People don't know what to expect.

Vivian Girls, Wavves - why is everyone in a lo-fi band now?
I have no idea. I don't know. It became in vogue sometime in the last year due to a few figureheads talking a bunch of [expletive] on Terminal Boredom. And now it's exploded into this thing there where Wavves is getting $30,000 to [expletive] crank out this [expletive] generic [expletive].

There's a lot of one-person things now.
Right it's one person with GarageBand and a few chords and like -- Wavves to me sounds like [expletive] TV on the Radio. That band sucks [expletive]. It's one of the worst bands to get popular in a long time. They [expletive] trump No Age because I think it's worse than No Age. No Age is just like, [expletive]. It's really [expletive].

But you're playing at least one show with Wavves down here.
Three of them, yeah.

So how do you reconcile that?
We made "Wavves Suxx" t-shirts with it spelled S-U-X-X. We got tons of people taking pictures with us in those. People are all into it. And actually Wavves came up to our drummer and our drummer had no idea it was Wavves. And Wavves took like six pictures with Rich with the "Wavves Suxx" t-shirt on. So, you know, that little [expletive]'s probably into it or something. And is probably like, Oh, it's like hip-hop, man!

People could know nothing about you but your band name and it would be pretty easy to figure out you're probably not going to be indie rock superstars.
I guess not. We'd love to be but I guess we picked the wrong name for that. We should have named ourselves Wavves. We'd be rich now if we would've. We're better than Wavves, he does the same kind of [expletive].

(Much, much more can't miss stuff after the jump.)

Your band is getting bigger in terms of members but the trend seems to be bands with one or two people.
Bigger and cleaner. Sounding like [expletive] is not ... that's the biggest [expletive] [expletive] crutch I've ever heard. Don't tell me lo-fi, and say, It's a choice and it sounds so much better. Yeah, it sounds cool, but it's only cool when you first start making music and there's the discovery involved in it. And like, distortion is a cool thing. But just because distortion is a cool thing doesn't mean you just record all [expletive] and pawn that off as being good music and you being a valid artist.

[Interruption for when an underage girl comes up to Matt and asks him to buy cigarettes for her.]

What? [She repeats.] Yeah, after this interview. (Ed. Note: Never happened, alas.)

Anyway, so if something sound's real, it sounds real -
Manufactured lo-fi! That's not cool. People can say "Magic Flowers Droned" is manufactured lo-fi if they want but I [expletive] mixed that record as clear as I could [expletive] get it. It was recorded [expletive] really [expletive] and was [expletive] - I was young and we just started the band two years before. I'm not Rick Rubin. But I wanna be. I want it to [expletive] sound like a [expletive] tight-[expletive] hip-hop production. We have enough [expletive] going on to where clean production is just gonna make it sound better, y'know?

If you have to [expletive] keep recording lo-fi then you're a [expletive]. Straight up [expletive] [expletive]. You know? You're hiding. You're hiding behind static. Which is cool, people have [expletive] done it for decades. But it's like a [expletive] easy way out. And you're not gonna [expletive] progress or grow into any kind of good band if you just keep on making lo-fi music.

If you write good songs you don't need lo-fi production, man. Good songs, no matter what kind of production are gonna be [expletive] good. So it's about the songs, not about the production. Production just weeds out the [expletive] idiots. It's like, people that are [expletive] [expletive] and know nothing about music, the first thing they notice is the production values. It's like, Oh, it doesn't [expletive] sound like Rihanna. And it's like, I want to sound like Rihanna because those people will listen to us and take it for what it is. Not like, Oh, this is static-y, it's like the Velvet Underground. And it's like, [Expletive] you. The Velvet Underground, that [expletive] is clean. That is clean as [expletive]! "White Light/White Heat" is a [expletive] album of beautiful, clean static. Clean [expletive] static. That's how it sounded in the room. I don't know, man. I [expletive] hate the new lo-fi [expletive]. Wavves, Nodzzz, Vivian Girls. That [expletive] sucks. It's [expletive] poseur [expletive].

Do you think it'll be fleeting, or will these bands maintain fans?
I don't know. Honestly I hope so because somehow if those [expletive] [expletive]-[expletive] bands, by default, are like the leaders of the lo-fi movement now and we're somehow under that umbrella because we made a lo-fi album. So it's like, if those bands [expletive] don't do good, I'm going to hunt them down and kill them because that's the end of us. They're [expletive] representing a bunch of good bands. Somehow the [expletive] bands get to represent the good bands. But it's like that all through [expletive] history. Psychedelic Horse[expletive] - I think we're better than Wavves, for sure.

I don't know, it pisses me off, kind of. We work hard and I feel like we're pretty sincere about what we do. And to have a bunch of [expletive] no-talent clowns come in and just take the easiest way out and [expletive] rip off - not necessarily even - I don't think that any of those bands are ripping off Psychedelic Horse[expletive]. That's like the furthest thing. I wouldn't pay them a compliment like that. I don't even think Psychedelic Horse[expletive] is that good of a band but it's like [expletive] leagues and years beyond any of Wavves and Vivian Girls and [expletive]. That's elementary [expletive]. Like, [Expletive] my [expletive]. I don't know. Just a bunch of poseur [expletive], honestly.

I don't care if people like Psychedelic Horse[expletive]. It's for me. It's for me to make music that I like. I don't give a [expletive] if anybody likes it. Those bands, they're all about like, Oh, we're girls! Or, Oh, we're skaters! Or, Oh, we're California bros! Yeah, but, can you write a good song? No. You [expletive] put a couple chords together - I don't know. I shouldn't be talking so much [expletive] in an interview about Psychedelic Horse[expletive]. But it's so prevalent now, everybody's getting a [expletive] about all these bands.

Well that's the thing, everyone is getting a [expletive] out of these bands. It seems like now more than ever people load up on a bandwagon.
Well what it is, is the people who have been blogging all this stuff and making this stuff popular. No one has the [expletive] [expletive] to get on Terminal Boredom and be like, No man, that [expletive] sucks. Because no one will [expletive] stand up to those people. People think that all those people who say all that [expletive] and blog on Terminal Boredom, that that's The Word. Like, I love Mike Sniper to death, and he's a friend of mine. But it's like if Mike Sniper says something, that's the [expletive] it. If Mike Sniper says you're good, you're [expletive] the next [expletive] Matador band. And that's [expletive]. Because Mike Sniper, just because Blank Dogs had a prolific career and it was mysterious at first, doesn't mean that he [expletive] should dictate what is good in music nowadays.

And the future of music is [expletive] getting [expletive] by idiots on Terminal Boredom. [Expletive] kids that would be into cool music are listening to Wavves and No Age and thinking that it's really cool. So then there's [expletive] Wavves and No Age copy bands, like third generation, or actually it's like 10th generation [expletive], y'know? Kids are gonna start listening to that [expletive] and be like, Oh, this is cool, it sounds like No Age and Wavves. But it's gonna be even more watered down and we're gonna end up with [expletive] Britney Spears lo-fi.

Is it like the new grunge or something?
I hope it's like grunge or something like that. Because then maybe like someone will give us a couple thousand dollars to make a record and we can actually go into a studio and make an ambitious record. None of these bands getting signed to any of these labels have any ambition at all. It's like, they're comfortable writing two-chord [expletive] fuzzy pop songs. And they all sound the same. (Pauses to check cell phone.)

You gotta take a call? That's cool.
I gotta go smoke this joint with this dude. Can we go over there?

[We go over there.]

It seems like nobody wants to be the bummer on the party and say that something isn't good.
But the only way things get better, though, is if people have honest criticism. That's why music sucks today. All the honest critics that actually wrote good music criticism are [expletive] dead or got [expletive] sold. That's why music sucks. Because no one [expletive] has a [expletive] half a mind about [expletive] telling you when you [expletive] suck. The [expletive] first person that should've been on [expletive] Wavves and Vivian Girls and said they sucked was Rolling Stone. They should've been like, This is [expletive] [expletive]. [Expletive] this [expletive]. Rolling Stone? [Expletive] them! Those are important magazines. They need to [expletive] criticize instead of [expletive] [expletive].

Well Rolling Stone, that's been questionable for a while. You're on the cover then you get five stars the next issue.
Right. It's like being a homeless guy. If you [expletive] [expletive] you'll get money. But if you don't, you're gonna be a [expletive] homeless guy.

Honestly, with the bigger magazines you sort of expect that. But the whole thing was that blogging was supposed be more honest because it could be anyone and it could be anonymous -
Terminal Boredom is the new Rolling Stone. It's just as bad. The bigger heads on Terminal Boredom are ruining music today. Period.

Guy who he had to smoke a joint with: That [expletive] is idiotic. Idiotic!

Matt: That's Rob from Eat Skull. He'll be in the interview, too.

Rob: People who sit around [expletive] typing [expletive] on the Internet all day should be round up and shot.

Matt: I agree.

Dude, that's like, sort of my job.

Rob: Well, you can't fault a man for trying to make a dollar, dude.

Anyway, so you think this will make it harder for the "good" bands to break through?
Well now it's like if we make a record people are gonna be like, Oh, this Psychedelic Horse[expletive] record sounds like Wavves! Because it's lo-fi! No. No, it doesn't sound like Wavves. Wavves sounds like TV on the Radio, which [expletive] sounds like some really bad [expletive].

Yeah, I don't really get that band, they're not the worst.
It's just like Wavves if he had some black dudes and a full band.

I really do just think that people are afraid to be negative, unless it is proven from above that something sucks. Then it's fine.
Truth from above now is [expletive] Mike Sniper on Terminal Boredom. He's God. And I love Mike, Mike's the coolest dude, but it's like, that's why we have a government like we do. It has a balance of powers, there's checks and balances. If everybody is [expletive] [expletive] the figureheads of Terminal Boredom's [expletive] then music's just gonna keep getting [expletive] and it's gonna mask itself as good music and become a disease and kill the youth of America.

Rob: Oh, [expletive]. I didn't realize you were getting interviewed.

Matt: No, it's all cool, stay in.

Rob: Well, I think I gotta play.

Does that make you want to change what you want to do and sound like?
It was like that from the very beginning. I wanna make "OK Computer." You know? I wanna sound like Radiohead. I don't give a [expletive] about lo-fi. [Expletive] that [expletive]. It's stupid. It's a cop out.

So the new record will represent this?
We're trying to make it sound as good as it can. If someone would give us the money we could go into a studio and actually sound like Radiohead instead of trying to do it with lo-fi equipment.

But you have like five new releases coming out over the next few months, right?
Four. Four or five, something like that. Might as well do it, you know, while people will still want to actually put out Psychedelic Horse[expletive] records, which I don't think will be very long. Might as well put out as much [expletive] [expletive] as you can. Things aren't gonna be like they are for this long.

Do you think the inevitable backlash will [expletive] you over without ever having benefitted you?
No, because I don't even feel a part of it. We're just guilty by association. I don't personally feel part of it. We just get lumped in with it. It's inevitable that we're gonna get lumped in with that [expletive]. It's just bad for music.

Rob: You made up that name.

Matt: What? Psychedelic Horse[expletive]?

Rob: No, the name of the genre. (Laughs.)

Matt: Oh, [expletive]gaze. Yeah, yeah. You know what? No one's even made a [expletive]gaze record yet. It hasn't been accomplished. No one's [expletive] taken lo-fi to that next level and made a record as good as "Loveless" and "OK Computer" that is lo-fi and uses the medium in a way that's accessible to millions. I don't know. This took a pretty weird direction I guess. It's just all me going, [Expletive] all this [expletive].

Well, you know, beef is in now, apparently.
It's just I'm annoyed by it. I have to [expletive] see it all the time and I'm [expletive] sick of it. I don't wanna have to [expletive] play with Wavves with his [expletive] gelled hair and his [expletive] skateboard buddies. It's like, [Expletive] off, man.

Well I guess originally lo-fi was about the complete lack of image -
That's all it is now. Lo-fi was kind of cool because the music was different and fresh. But now it's like a thing. It's like clothes. Like, I'm just wearing lo-fi clothes, because that's what's hip right now. This blank [expletive] that has no value in it at all and no passion or spirit. And as long as its stylized, like the logo on the record is something you can put in an American Apparel store, thousands of people are gonna buy it.

OK, so how about Times New Viking. They're your friends, they've done three albums that were all very lo-fi, so -
Yeah, and I've been trying to talk them into going hi-fi. And I think it's like, they're in a position where they could really - they are on Matador Records. They could be making some crazy [expletive] [expletive] with the money that they get and make an ambitious record. But they wanna keep doing the lo-fi thing. And that's kind of even more bad ass because you're on a major label and they want to keep making lo-fi records because it's like, [Expletive] you. We could be going hi-fi, but we don't want to. We're on a big label and that's what everybody does once they're on a big label. So like, [expletive] that [expletive]. Everybody starts sucking once they get on a label. We're gonna stay lo-fi and stick to what we know and keep making good music.

And they might not become the biggest band in the world but in [expletive] 20 years every Times New Viking record that you listen to is gonna sound [expletive] sweet as [expletive] and people are never gonna be like, Times New Viking started to suck. Every one of their records is gonna be like, that [expletive] record was tight. And you know what? It [expletive] came out on a major label. And that's even tighter.

You're doing the Siltbreeze showcase tonight, and it seems like there's a bit of a comeback for labels, where you can trust something will be good if it's on a certain label. But then there's the other aspect which you were talking about before.
There's so much music being made now. It's so easy, it's so [expletive] easy to find good music. It's everywhere. There's a million [expletive] good bands and half of that million no one has ever heard because they don't play out of their bedrooms, or [expletive]. Or they don't make tapes or anything. The best [expletive] is something that people have never heard. It's unfortunate the way things are.

Music has turned into a commodity. It's something that's part of like - I'm sounding like a total hippie right now - but it's like this spirit and it's part of everyone. It's something that connects with everybody on a very basic level and it's something everyone can relate to. And it just sucks that it gets boxed up. And the fact that it got boxed up in the first place, people started making boxes instead of expressing their spirit. It's just a bummer.

But it's fun, though. Everyone should [expletive] make music. Do crazy [expletive]. Just make music and hand it out to everybody. Do [expletive] crazy things. No one's [expletive] wild anymore. Nothing crazy happens. No one tells the truth because everyone's so afraid of what everyone else is gonna think, and their image. Everyone's afraid of being pretentious. And it's like - pretension is necessary to advance art. And honest criticism is necessary to advance art. Failure is necessary to advance art. And everyone's so afraid of all of those.

By David Malitz |  March 26, 2009; 9:38 AM ET Beef , Hype , Interviews , SXSW , Screeds
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Well said, expletives and all: "No one's [expletive] wild anymore. Nothing crazy happens. No one tells the truth because everyone's so afraid of what everyone else is gonna think, and their image. Everyone's afraid of being pretentious. And it's like - pretension is necessary to advance art. And honest criticism is necessary to advance art. Failure is necessary to advance art. And everyone's so afraid of all of those."

Posted by: LeffT | March 26, 2009 11:53 AM

It's [expletive] funny as [expletive] to talk [expletive] about people talking [expletive] on the internet when your own [expletive]-talk gets printed on the [expletive] internet!

I do love Psychedelic Horse[expletive] anyway.

Posted by: rickele | March 26, 2009 2:22 PM

Great interview, very entertaining, but wow - such a reminder of how idiotic, arrogant, and self-absorbed these indie musicians can get. Who does this guy think he is? What's even funnier is that all of these bands mentioned are really talentless and will be quickly forgotten.

Yeah, music has a business aspect, so what? What does that have to do with anything? I just wonder how this guy could be so completely unaware of the confrontation between art and economics that others have experienced way before him over the past 100 years. Our most treasured filmmakers, novelists, painters, etc. have all struggled between expression, popular appeal, and doing whatever necessary to enable them to continue doing what they love to do.

This guy sounds like a trust funder, somebody who's never had to pay his own rent or figure out how the world works.

Posted by: jtk231 | March 27, 2009 5:20 PM

lol-fi

Posted by: jrode | April 7, 2009 10:12 AM

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