PAWTUCKET – Back in Providence’s noise rock heyday during the ‘90s, Arab on Radar was part of a electrifying scene that included Lightning Bolt, Six Finger Satellite and many others. Their abstract sound gained them an underground following and influence that still resonates today even after band called it a day in 2010.
Since then, lead singer Eric Paul has gone on to be part of the acts The Chinese Stars, Doomsday Student, and more recently with Psychic Graveyard. The latter has him joining Paul Viera, who was the guitarist for both The Chinese Stars and Doomsday Student; Charles Ovett, from the act Joules; and Nathan Joyner, who was in the bands All Leather, Some Girls & Hot Nerds. Together ,they bring elements of post-punk and electronic music into the fold.
On Saturday, Psychic Graveyard will be having their first local show at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket with Brooklyn noise trio Child Abuse, Boston punks (New England) Patriots and Providence electro artist Valerie Martino. I had a talk with Paul about how the band started out, a couple singles they have out, getting remixed, and the evolution of Rhode Island’s music scene.
Rob Duguay: Psychic Graveyard seems to have this mix of post-punk and dance music going on, which is a bit different than what you’ve done with Doomsday Student and Arab On Radar. What was the original vision that you Paul, Charles and Nathan had for the band when you first started writing music? Did it change over time?
Eric Paul: At first, we didn’t have a specific vision for Psychic Graveyard. Nathan, Paul and I had been talking about writing songs together for about a year before we actually started the project. Nathan was sending us the skeletons of songs that he was putting together and I was really intrigued by what he was doing. The songs reflected an aesthetic that I’d always loved but had never been in a band that sourced that type of inspiration. In his songs I heard bands like Cabaret Voltaire, The Normal, O.M.D. and Kraftwerk, and I was excited about working within this aesthetic.
More than anything it was a challenge. These songs were outside my comfort zone and I was excited to try something new. Our debut album is fairly eclectic; you can almost hear the push and pull of our older influences, but there is also a lot of new new terrain. We actually just finished up a five-song EP this past week. While mixing the new songs I realized that with these newer songs we embraced more of the new approach and left behind a lot of the elements that made up the older approach.
RD: It’s cool that you were open to taking on an artistic challenge rather than be alienated by it. So far the band has released two singles, “Dead In Different Places” and “Loud As Laughter”, which is off of the EP that you just mentioned of the same name as the latter that’s due out on May 17. Where was it recorded and who produced it? The quality sounds excellent.
EP: We recorded pieces of the album at Earthing Studio in San Diego and other pieces of it at Axion Studio in Pawtucket. Other elements of the album including the guitar and synths were recorded in a home studio we built ourselves. Nathan was responsible for the majority of the production.
RD: He did a great job on it. Toronto dance music duo MSTRKRFT remixed “Dead In Different Places” while New York City post-punk act Liars remixed “Loud As Laughter”. Who got in touch with both acts to make it happen?
EP: Nathan is a fan of the culture of remixes. All Leather released an entire album of remixes that featured Congorock, Nik Zinner, Melt Banana and Bloody Beetroots, just to name a few. Nathan was also in a project called Leg Lifters that remixed a bunch of songs for other bands. Personally, I have been friends with Jesse F. Keeler of MSTRKRFT and the members of Liars for over 15 years now. When sharing the new project with them I had expressed to them that Nathan was interested in having remixes of our songs.
Both bands were really excited about doing it. We are hoping to work with more artists in the future on remixes. It was really fun to collaborate with other artists in this way.
RD: As a musician who has been around the music scene in Rhode Island since the ‘90s, how much has it really changed? Do you like the way it is these days or do you wish it’s more like it was when you were starting out?
EP: This is a difficult question. It’s almost impossible for me to compare what the city is like now to what it was like then. The late 90’s was such a special time for me; some of my most fondest memories were playing at Fort Thunder. Also showing up the morning of an Arab On Radar tour to pick up records covers or T-shirts that Brian Chippendale and Matt Brinkman had dreamed up is another fond memory. Seeing bands at Fort Thunder like Le Tigre, U.S. Maple, !!!, Godhead Silo, Landed, and Lightning Bolt play some their earliest shows was awesome.
It was a special place that defined who I was then. I view everything through that very specific lens. That does not mean that the current music community doesn’t have their own special bands and own special venues that inspire these types of memories. I think there are a lot of exciting bands in Providence right now and there always are. This city breeds amazing music and I’m sure these bands are creating their own legacies.
RD: Do you plan on having Psychic Graveyard be your main musical outlet from now on or can we expect more music from Doomsday Student?
EP: For the near future, I will be spending most of my time on Psychic Graveyard. Doomsday Student is on an extended hiatus right now. When the time is right we’ll be active again.