Saturday, August 23, 2014

Interview with Unmanned Ship

Doesn't the phrase "Unmanned Ship" have a bit of the mystique attached to it? I always think that "unmanned ship" would be used when a ship is expected to be manned - like it was careening over a lofty wave before settling into port, but no one was on board. Cause, like, there are ships in a harbor without people, but you wouldn't call it an unmanned ship - you'd just call it a ship. The name implies mystery, as does the band's music, but in reality, Kevin, Bill, and Dan are all very up front about their music, the band, and what is in their future.

The most easily attainable material from the band is their LP For Whom the Bowl Tolls on Rotted Tooth Recordings. They've also put out a couple tapes and some CD-Rs, but I don't know where or how you'd find those. Unmanned Ship creates a sonically expansive kind of music with clear psychedelic resonance. It's heavy. It's loud. And it's big. The band has written and recorded more songs than they've released - that said, many new songs are played in a live setting, which is my preferred method of listening, especially to massive, instrumental music.

I met Kevin through his other band Oozing Wound and got to know his music as Unmanned Ship afterwards. I only recently saw them for my first time, though, and I was really impressed. These guys play really well together, and are clearly in tune with each other, which is what separates a good psych band from a great psych band. We met at the Orbit Room for some Tiki-Tickle-Time and food. Dig em on their Facebook Profile, buy their record, which is linked above, and go see one of their shows.

Jordan: How was your practice session?

Kevin: It was fun, chill. It was nice to play in more of a daytime thing.

J: Are you gearing up for something?

K: No. Well, we have a show on the 29th of September at Emporium the barcade. The next couple of months are busy. We’d like to play a bunch of shows, but we’re all going to friends’ weddings and stuff throughout September.

Bill: Big wedding month.

K: Seems like everyone we know is getting married.

B: We’re going to master a two-song record on Wednesday that we’re putting out with Maximum Pelt. 

K: Ian, the guy who runs Wally World, has been putting out some records by the Funs and Lil Tits and Mines and stuff. He’s going to press this 7” with a couple songs that we had left over from the LP we put out on Rotted Tooth.

J: How long are the songs?

K: Like 6 minutes and 5 minutes.

J: So it’ll be a 33 rpm 7”?

B: Totally.

J: Have you done much else other than the LP?

K: Like two tapes and a weird CD-R thing from back in 2005.

B: It was a collage of a bunch of 4-track stuff that we would do. We’d do like 10 CD-Rs wrapped in...what did you used to wrap them in? Sweaters?

K: Yeah, they were like sweater cases. We’d throw em out at shows.

J: Where’d you get the sweaters?

K: Like thrift stores, but they’d be unravelling and stuff. But other than the LP that’s about it.

J: Do you have thoughts of recording another LP?

K: We actually have one recorded that we just finished mixing. We don’t know who will put it out yet. Ideally, we have another one that can be recorded in the winter.

J: Like, you’re still writing songs?

K: Yeah, we’re sort of behind all the records we put out by like two years. Hopefully by the end of winter, we’ll have like three songs done, but only one of them will be out - ideally it’d come out like next summer. Lots on the horizon, but we’re a pretty casual band.

B: It always ends up being that someone wants to put it out and we’ll jump for it.

Dan: Then we wait six months. What always happens is someone hints they want to put it out and then a year from that day it’ll come out. Then we’ll play like one or two of those songs live. Even these two songs on the 7” we stopped playing like two or three years ago.

K: And we only play like two songs off the new album that’s ready to come out.

B: It’s more like we’re two years ahead of ourselves.

J: So your show at the bottle was stuff for the third LP?

D: Some of it was. Two of the songs were.

K: Ten minutes worth or so.

B: The new record is going to be a mindblower though.

K: Yeah, it’s great.

J: Do you guys have artwork done?

K: No, but we have a title.

J: What’s the title?

K: No More Digital Blood.

J: I like it. I agree with the sentiment.

B: We have a new video too. I don’t know if you saw it yet.

J: Is it a new song?

K: It’s a No More Digital Blood song recorded live in the Situations garage.

J: Oh cool. Do you guys all live there or is it just you?

K: Just me. It’s a weird place.

J: I like the colors.

K: Thanks.

J: I’m amazed that the guys in like Club Rectum all live there. So many strong personalities in one place.

K: It’s hard to do, having a communal space that also puts on shows and ends up being a practice space with your roommates. Those guys can handle it, though, cause they’re crazy.

J: I was just talking to Zack [in Oozing Wound] about the Oozing Wound split with Black Pus at that Dark Entries show at the Bottle and how I hadn’t heard Lightning Bolt or Black Pus before and he was like “really?”

K: Oh, was he like “REALLY?”

J: Yeah, totally.

K: Yeah, Lightning Bolt was definitely an early influence. I got into them around 2003 or 2004 after Wonderful Rainbow came out and I didn’t even know that they were a duo.

B: Well, I remember watching that documentary at your guys’ place. That had to be like 2005 or 2006.

K: That was right when Hypermagic Mountain came out. I saw them pretty much by accident at a Califone show at the Empty Bottle in 2003 or something. They were really good, both of those Brians. Really crazy. It’s just nasty music. My grandma wouldn’t hear a difference between them and Cannibal Corpse, but those dudes are so positive too. Not outwardly, but in their tunes. You know that they’re having a good time. That struck me. You don’t see many bands that play harsh shit but are also into having fun.

J: Yeah, they’d be more likely to be into like heroin.

K: Heroin, pain, destruction, fights, aggro-nation. If they weren’t in the noise scene, though, they’d be jocks at a frathouse, but it just so happens that they’re into weirdo punk rock.

J: Do you think that mindset influences you guys?

K: That’s definitely why I was attracted to it. I relate to it. I like abrasive, loud music.

B: We’re all metalheads at heart, but we embrace the positive energy from people and getting buzzed. We like the dark stuff, but we’re not addicted to it.

K: Some people get totally addicted to it - they can’t get out of it. The deep, dark, mouth of madness depths. You can only get so much out of that stuff.

J: One thing leads to another and then you’re watching kids get run over by cars or some shit.

B: We just like to hole up in practice space, write tunes, and smoke a bunch. We should be putting out a record every six months, but we can’t do that.

J: Cause of financial stuff?

B: We’d just rather have powerful songs than farting in front of a micrphone.

K: We sort of move at a glacial place. There are some songs that I’m baffled at their existence.

B: It’s almost like they grow legs and walk into the studio when they’re ready.

K: It’s not really conducive to a John Dwyer method.

J: I have no idea how he does it.

K: There must have been a time period when he just recorded a shit ton and had the opportunity to finish it up. But maybe he is constantly writing non-stop. It’s admirable. It’s insane, but it’s more insane that he can do it and not be watered down.

J: Obnox kind of does that too. He’s got at least one record out each year. How’d you guys get into psych?

K: I was never really...

B: Out of it?

K: (laughs) Yeah I was never really out of it. I always liked trippy shit.

B: My dad basically raised me on Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, the original dark psychers. I was definitely drawn to the psych stuff.

D: It’s like, how soon did you get that delay pedal?

K: That’s what it is.

D: When you get the delay pedal simultaneous with your first bass, you get into psych. Remember those first shows? This was like back, way back. Kevin would be doing something like solo in high school. (sings a little bass riff) with massive delay.

B: When you start using effects as instruments.

K: I never really thought of it as “I’m into psych stuff.” I more thought “I like my mom’s old records and these nasty weird bands and these local Chicago bands that don’t even relate to each other in a genre way.” But I was always playing weird, trippy stuff from the get-go because it was fun. Maybe we are getting more psychedelic though. Our third album is tentatively titled Psychedelic Staycation.

D: I don’t think our last album was that psychy...It was like a quarter or a third psychy.

B: I’d say that you get into the surf rock a bit - there’s some psych surf stuff in there.

D: It’s like one part psych, one part rock, one part....

B: Mystery. There’s your tagline right there. “One Part Psych, One Part Rock, One Part Mystery.”

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