If you’re into psych-rock, you may be wondering what’s in the water in Perth, Australia. Home to Tame Impala and Pond, the city isn’t just the capital of Western Australia anymore.
For decades, local artists were challenged by the city’s geographical isolation, which provided logistical and financial barriers to touring and promotion. It seemed that in order to make it big, you had to leave your hometown. But, in the mid-aughts, Perth-based bands honed in on their scene and began to garner international attention. Psychedelic Porn Crumpets is the latest addition to this growing list of psych revivalists. Equal parts intrigue and shock-value, the quartet’s name is an ode to the vast, perception-altering world of psych-rock.
In 2009, frontman Jack McEwan (guitar, vocals) graduated high school and immersed himself in Perth’s music scene; Kevin Parker had just started releasing EPs as Tame Impala and his fuzzy, delayed guitar sounds clearly fanned the embers of a smoldering psychedelic scene.
“The whole, like, psych scene stuff just became centered around Perth,” McEwan says. “Everyone wanted to be, like, slightly different, so that you just went and spiraled off in your own accord. You just couldn’t help but get inspired. It was great growing up there.”
You can hear Perth’s influence driving every Crumpets song, but the band has devised its own intoxicating spin on psych-rock. Take for instance the group’s breakout single, “Cornflake.” The track pairs larger-than-life blues riffs, à la Jimi Hendrix, with lush reverb reminiscent of the Flaming Lips. This unlikely coupling creates sonic whiplash that has you headbanging one minute, and the next you’re contemplating the origins of the universe in a cerebral dream — which is precisely what drew McEwan to the genre in the first place.
“[Y]ou can go anywhere, like, you don’t really have put a sort of single perspective on what the genre is,” McEwan says. “It stems from Radiohead to King Gizzard to Palm or even Grizzly Bear’s got some sort of psych tones to it. It’s so broad, and there’s so much more dimension to sort of shape you across land, and be more creative while writing the albums.”
For Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, bringing new music to life means looking to everything for inspiration: from film, technology and friends, to counterintuitively isolating themselves from music all together. One of McEwan’s favorite writing tactics is to separate himself from music for a few days, and let his subconscious write songs for him, once he returns.
“You find a different world to sort of piece yourself back together, rather than just doing music all the time,” McEwan says.
Crumpets’ most recent album, And Now For the Whatchamacallit, reflects McEwan’s process with songs as outlandish as the album’s collaged cover art.
The album’s closing track, “Dezi’s Adventure,” is an invitation to follow the band down a stream-of-consciousness rabbit hole. “Lay down, breathe with the Earth, find a sound / Right on your doorstep there’s an adventure,” McEwan sings, reaching out a hand to the listener. Sgt. Pepper’s-style organ kicks off the hallucinatory escapade, before mixed meters and an omniscient voice-over take hold. “Dezi’s Adventure” initially clocked in around 12 minutes, keeping with the band’s maximalist approach, but was ultimately condensed to keep the saga relatively grounded.
The modern state of psych-rock is unrestrained. Perth artists are a microcosm for the meandering genre; bands have found a way to reinvent the style a hundred times over, and Psychedelic Porn Crumpets look poised to do it a hundred times more.
“When we’re on the tour, you do one show, and then you drive to the next place, you get in the hotel, you drive to the next place, you do a show,” McEwan says. “So you rarely get time to sort of step back and be yourself. So I think when you do go home, all you want to do is write music, because you’re not actually writing when you’re away. Even though you’re playing each night, it feels like you’re sort of far away from the instrument, which is a weird, weird bit of irony in that.”