Arizona seems to have a particular quality that creates inspired rock bands with slightly fried edges or more, whether it’s long-running stalwarts like the Meat Puppets or underground psych legends like the Black Sun Ensemble. Call it the harsh environment—or the fact that it’s better to practice inside away from the heat and dust, even while feeling it through the walls.
The Myrrors are a strong young Arizona band keeping that tradition alive on their third album Entranced Earth, which will be released on Beyond Beyond is Beyond come May 27th. It places them with other equally powerful acts in psych/drone’s newest generation, such as Japan’s Kikagaku Moyo, Canada’s Shooting Guns and the UK’s Cult of Dom Keller and Haikai No Ku—all with their own sounds and aesthetics, but all dedicated to being enthralled by head-nodding waves of feedback and general zoning out.
Originally formed by drummer Grant Beyschau and guitarist Nik Rayne in 2007, the Myrrors self-released their debut, Burning Circles in the Sky, before its original members had even graduated from high school. The reputation of the band grew strong enough that eventually Beyschau and Rayne reactivated the group with newer lineups some years later, resulting in last year's Arena Negra, their first album for Beyond Beyond is Beyond.
With tracks ranging from shorter meditations like “Liberty is in the Streets” to the lengthy “Invitation Mantra,” Entranced Earth shows the Myrrors on a roll, following touring and higher profile shows like last year’s Austin Psych Fest. I called up Rayne to find out more.
Noisey: Since it's been almost 10 years, I'm sure from your own perspective that you and Grant and everyone involved has—whether it's learning to try other instruments or learning new techniques or things like that—picked up things along the way. What would you say is your greatest change, both individually as a performer and with the group? What do you think is the key to what's happened over time?
Nik Rayne: Well, when we put the band back together, we had to go through — how should I say this — a period of searching in order to find out where we were at. The band has always been a natural extension of what we're interested in at the time. Back in 2007, 2008, the album that we recorded was basically indicative of the music that we were into, the level of musicianship we were at. So when we got the band back together, with all that time apart we'd all been listening to new things, and just doing our own stuff. You're not the same person at that point, so we had to spend about a year just recording at home, just feeling things out, writing songs, just trying to see what the Myrrors were at that point. I'd say that the main constants were the fact that you could label it "psychedelic music," music largely influenced by 60s and 70s rock 'n' roll stuff. And then also the fact that we were still very interested in the drone as a component of the sound, which was influenced by the fact that we had been listening to a lot of stuff like Indian classical music, like gamelan stuff from Bali and Java, where the drone was a stronger component in the sound.
Whenever I think "OK, Arizona bands," I think about bands like Black Sun Ensemble, and this desert psychedelic sound in general. Do you see yourself in any particular lineage being from Arizona, or is it more the fact that, "Well, we just happen to be here"?
That's hard to say. When we started the band, I don't think we were really aware of bands like Black Sun Ensemble. We thought that this was a wasteland here for the kind of music we were interested in. As far as Arizona music, probably our biggest influence there was Sun City Girls, which was quite different from the stuff that we were doing, but I think it was more the spirit of exploration there. I think the strongest link we might have as far as environment is just being in the desert, being able to draw out some certain aspects of music that—when you're playing music in this vein, it becomes emphasized more strongly. There's a space here in the desert.
Do you guys ever do performances or recordings or things just out of doors, or do you get inspiration there? Or is it pretty much studio-based stuff?
We take trips on the weekends sometimes and always bring a little tape recorder and some instruments with us. We love going out and jamming and making field recordings and stuff. Which probably comes through on the records too, because there's lots of those little field recordings and bits of things that we include on there. We've never performed electrically outdoors here in town, just because it's hard to set that up. But one thing that I don't think is that strongly reflected in our recorded work is that we jam a lot with acoustic instruments. This is the first record since that first one that actually has some kind of snippet of what our acoustic sound is like, with the track "No Clear Light."
With that extra element being mentioned, how did Entranced Earth come together?
This one ended up being sort of a mix. We were busy at the end of last year either doing our own thing or being on tour, so we didn't have a lot of time to prepare or set up for the record. In that standard way of going about it, you would presumably write the material, go in, have a series of sessions. For this one we ended up drawing on some of the ideas or melodies, things like that, that we had discarded for previous recording sessions, that we wanted to keep and mess around with a little bit more. So we had some stuff in the archives we wanted to try and rework or reimagine. And then we had some things we'd been working out on the road, just as jams. Lots of the electric, freeform or should I say "longform" material on the new record, is the result of different ideas we'd been working out onstage in Europe or on the Southwest tour that we did last year around Austin Psych Fest.
Do you prefer to record live, or is it a matter of overdubs and edits? What works best for you?
It's generally a combination. We usually record the basic tracks live, and then go in. Me and Grant especially play lots of different kinds of instruments, and we like experimenting with textures, experimenting with the mix, doing unusual things with instrumentation. Which can be hard to do, because we have a limited number of people. So for both this record and the last one, it's been basic takes live and then we'd go in with other instruments and start experimenting a little bit, moving things around, adding on different types of things, mixing things in.
I'm a sucker for very long tracks like “Invitation Mantra,” so I'm always interested in how you determine when a song as long as it needs to be—do you ever find yourself shaping or expanding it, maybe playing it longer as you need to?
Onstage, it usually varies according to the night. Most of our stage setup is based around improvising. We have the bare bones of the songs from the record or whatever, but those are just blank canvases to experiment onstage with. So we are very much a jam band in that sense, probably not in the traditional sense of the word. In the studio, I think we're usually just feeling out how long the song should be. Maybe there have been times where we've gone on a little bit too long, but usually we can feel out when we've said our peace and we think that things have come to a conclusion.
You mentioned experimenting with other instruments as well on this. Was there any particular ones that you went, "Oh, it'd be fun this time if we get this in here and see what we can do with it?"
There was one instrument that I'd been playing a little bit, a bulbul tarang, which is a type of Indian instrument. It looks like a combination of an Appalachian dulcimer and a typewriter. And I'd been experimenting with that and messing around with it. When it came time to do the record, that was one thing I wanted to push in there. So we went back to some jams and found some little riffs and stuff, and I constructed the song "No Clear Light" based off of learning that instrument and experimenting with it a little bit.
Do you find that you guys are self-taught in this regard, or do you work with others to get the mastery of these things?
We're all completely self-taught on everything. It's a constant process of learning new things and just experimenting, trying to see what works. We probably don't play most of our instruments in the traditional sense, just because we're always trying to find interesting new ways to get tones and textures out of them. But I don't think anyone in the group has actually really received any sort of formal musical education.
Are there any current bands out there, say younger bands around your age, who you would consider peers or ones you watch for? I'm always interested to hear what folks like you are listening to, or who you've met along the way.
We've met a bunch of people just being on tour, or I've discovered bands. Because I have a cassette tape label that I've been putting out music on by like-minded artists, very experimental things. I've met a few people looking for music that way too. The main one I can think of is Kikagaku Moyo from Japan. We played with them when they were over here, super-nice guys. And Scattered Purgatory from Taiwan is also a great band, who we're actually talking about doing a split with, speaking of splits. They're a heavy drone-type band, really cool stuff. They're actually going to put some stuff out on Kikagaku Moyo's own label. But there's too many to think of. We always have our ears out for new sounds or interesting groups out there.
I thought Entranced Earth was a nice, striking name. Any particular origin for that?
It comes from an old Glauber Rocha film. He was a Brazilian director from the early seventies, late sixties, who did a bunch of experimental films during the height of Brazil's, I guess you could call it, new wave of cinema. His films have always been inspiring; they're an interesting mix of a surrealist, earthy naturalism with a very strong political and social mindset. I feel like these are values that are similarly reflected in lots of what we do, because we approach things in a similar way. So it was a tribute to that, but also it seemed like a very fitting album title for what we ended up putting together. Ned Raggett is entranced on Twitter.