The Psychedelia of Everyday Life: Dahlia FX Interviewed
Categorisation of music is a necessary journalistic evil? Discuss.
What started out as a review of their forthcoming Angel Ablaze EP ends up with David Boland and Tien Ren from Dahlia FX refusing to be pigeonholed by Ged Babey and explaining their modern take on psychedelia.
When he says people David Boland means me.
It amazes me that here we are 13 years into the 21st century and people still ask about this kind of thing…
All I asked was “Is your music best listened to under the influence of any particular stimulants or herbal remedies?” I was trying to be subtle, but yeah I suppose I was asking if they make head music for stoners? I expected a yeah, whatever maan response and a sly grin.
… If we were sat here in 1967-8 I’d totally understand why some may ask about that, but these days a cool sound can be at your fingertips. Fortunately Tien is at the helm when it comes to production and has a qualified command of guitars, beats & progamming which makes my end of the songwriting just plain interesting.
The great thing about music is that there are no rules or regulations, a song can come from a beat, riff, a piece of poetry, a bass line, after an experience, a trip, a book, a movie or just a good old fashioned jam as far as we’re concerned, with nothing but a glass of water or a cup of coffee as a stimulant, who cares
Oh, and a broken heart can also bring a lot of passion to a song…
When I’m writing it’s usually with a bass, a laptop, an empty room (for singing) & that’s it… So, to answer your question, I honestly don’t really know what it’s best enjoyed under…
Dave did concede however that…
The other day I played the new stuff & did love it even more after a couple of bottles of wine!
David Boland aka Dangerous Dave
To my mind Dahlia FX make 21st Century psychedelia, with guitars and production that makes a heavy sound seem weightless. When I reviewed their album I described it as being like… the Stones Roses playing with the Cocteau Twins in zero gravity. A kind of interstellar post-rock; with Syd Barrett on vocals; remixed by the Aphex Twin; but still just about making accesible, wide-screen, high definition rock’n’roll
In the same way as Lee Perry called Dub X-ray Music I’d say Dahlia FX make MRI Music. If you’ve ever had an MRI Scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) the result is a full colour on-screen 3D holographic image, a road-map of your insides. That’s what Dahlia FX sound is like. A version of flesh and blood rock music reproduced technologically with skill and precision to create a new landscape of sound….
The last three songs on the new EP see the band going back to a more stripped-down live rock sound which makes me think of Cream or the guitar-playing of the Only Ones John Perry …. In Space. .
But Dahlia FX still have an ahead of the game contemporary sound. For example, If you found the mbv album somehow both underwhelming and inaccessible and Tame Impala’s latest, a bit too tame and retro, then maybe this is a band and an EP you might find hits the spot.
Tien: I rushed to get the mbv album on the strength of Loveless and Tremelo EP (the only other MBV CDs I’ve got) but found it obvious and a bit twee.
David: They’re a good band, I don’t mind that comparison at all…
Its unfair to compare so-far studio-bound duo Dahlia FX with such established bands but already, after years of listening to, processing and creating in their minds a visionary, forward-thinking, spine-tingling, out-there rock music, they have achieved what it took others a decade or more to perfect.
Dahlia FX can successfully take me out of an everyday pissed-off mood into a better place. So personally, I’d describe them as Modern Psychedelia. (Critics have to categorise to give the public some idea what to expect.) I asked the band how they felt about that description? What does Psychedelia mean to them?
Tien: 13th Floor Elevators… Retro music I suppose. I’ve never considered labelling the sound we make. So if you like labels then that’s as good as any other…
David: There is an element of modern psychedelia in the songs but it’s not something we think about as a deliberate direction, I guess because we’ve both been doing this kind of thing for a long time the songs have to be a little out-there for us to find interesting and even we find our own stuff straight forward occasionally, with the usual verse / chorus break / outro.
Modern psychedelia doesn’t really mean a lot to me personally as it is so loosely used to describe many different bands these days. Groups I know in Berlin for example House of Light & Programmed 4 Pleasure fall into this category by the critics and they’re both completely different from anything we seem to be doing.
The Sunsleeper video is cool, but I find it a tiny bit disturbing and voyeuristic. The girl looks underage but there’s an eroticism about her movements, the jut of her breasts sillhouetted…. The person watching leaning against the tree is vaguely sinister, until you realise it’s probably her mother … there is a beautiful hippy innocence about the scene, but also a darker undercurrent or maybe it’s these Post-Savile days… ?
David: Ha, that’s a new one on me, that footage was filmed at the Boom festival in Portugal last year by some friends of mine, the girl dancing is actually Japanese & in her 20’s who totally agreed to be filmed & the big bloke in the red shirt (also Japanese) who walks close by her at one point is her boyfriend. The reason it’s quite compelling to watch is because if you study her movements she’s actually combining Shinto Martial Art performance dance with the hula hoop..
So I’m completely wrong and probably some kind of paranoid pervert?
David: Yeah, fraid so.
All words by Ged Babey. For more writing by Ged visit his Louder Than War author archive.