Photo by Erica Ryan Stallones
Most modern music tagged as psychedelic at best resembles the jittery head spins of two cups of black coffee. With tentative reverb puddles the only nod to tripping, these are tame bands embellishing their dull college rock with download hype. Sun Araw is an exception: a vast head-fuck of confusing and disconcerting sounds. Meet California native, Mr. Cameron Stallones.
His latest full-length is On Patrol, and like its predecessor Heavy Deeds (one of 2009’s best records), it’s released on Not Not Fun. Both works feature a murky swill of guitar, splattered over droning, mindlessly repetitive synth beats. Sun Araw is part of a fascinating new current of Californian psychedelic/experimental music and he’s touring Australia mid 2010.
Vice: Sorry if you’ve dealt with this before: the name?
Cameron: Sun Araw: unsubtle devotional reference to Sun Ra, a hero of inter-dimensional living. Also Araw is a Tagolog word meaning “sun” or “day.” So there’s a Sun Day vibe, sacred rest, that’s a big part of it.
Sorry to presume you have living parents, but if you do, how do you explain Heavy Deeds or On Patrol to them?
I do. They’re cool, and always eager to understand what I do. So we talk about it. There’s obviously a gap sometimes, but that’s the way with any parental relationship. And I often return to that relationship to better understand whatever seemingly unrelated events are whipping around. Dream-logic has a huge hand in how we understand these sorts of energies.
There’s something about Sun Araw that feeds from the early, confused sci-fi-meets-Thatcher developments of UK post post-punk. Any literary influences on the band?
Yeah I dig on all that stuff, especially Gibson’s Neuromancer. It’s funny because I think we’re just now seeing how prescient and relevant those dudes are. I think we can gain a lot by re-investigating that stuff, particularly Philip K. Dick. As far as more direct influences, my recent music has been influenced by reading a lot of Borges, for Alephs and labyrinth-zones, and Calvino’s Invisible Cities, for amber pipes and gardens at dusk.
Do you dream often? Listening to the new record, I had the impression that you dream heavy.
Yeah man. And I’ve gotten way better at remembering them. I try to cruise around in that gray zone a lot, it helps them stick. At my job we have a nap room, and I doze on lunch breaks pretty regularly because I end up in that half-zone for a solid 10 to 15 minutes. In the last year I’ve had two dreams that appear to me in total clarity, even right now. That’s rare for me. I won’t go into specifics, but grappling with them has been very positive. Dream-logic is so important to me musically. I think Mckenna said if you take the idea of collective consciousness seriously, you have to remember that at any given time, half the world is asleep.
Have you spent any time in the deserts of California?
A fair amount. Joshua Tree is a really potent zone. It looks and feels like another planet and in some ways it is. Then there’s Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain. He lives there and will show you around if you go. It’s incredibly significant, an unbelievable work of total art. The whole Salton Sea area is wild. There’s a town called Bombay Beach. You go over this dirt dam and on the other side, everything is rotted and half-sunk in mud: pianos, houses, trailers, everything. The beach is made of fish skeletons, because the lake got too salty. I spent a wild night in a strange motel near Slab City. Ended up watching Ghostbusters II. Seemed like the best move.
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