Following a highly acclaimed show in the city last February, silver-tongued cult US psych pop auteur KELLEY STOLTZ returns to Merseyside in support of his forthcoming LP In Triangle Time. Creator of fuzzy psych pop gems that run to a back catalogue eight albums deep, the Detroit-born, San Franciscan-based musician is showing no signs of slowing down, with two albums and an EP scheduled for release this year alone. Frequently compared to The Velvet Underground and Leonard Cohen, Stoltz’s inspiration was initially fired as a teenager by Echo & The Bunnymen, whom he supported in the US in 2010. While Stoltz’s acclaimed 2013 LP Double Exposure was issued through Jack White’s Third Man Records, the new album is being released through storied Californian psych/garage label Castle Face Records, home of Ty Segall and label founder John Dwyer’s band Thee Oh Sees. The compelling gloom of In Triangle Time’s lead single Cut Me Baby prepares the ground for record’s clear influence of Berlin Trilogy-era David Bowie. Impressively, given the layered instrumentation of his albums, Stoltz works completely independently, recording and playing everything solo. Stoltz’s ability behind the studio console when producing his own material has led to working with other Bay Area bands as a producer. With Stoltz set to headline a night at 24 Kitchen Street this month, hosted by Liverpool swamp blues stalwarts THE CUBICAL – and featuring fellow SF residents DIRTY GHOSTS – Richard Lewis caught up with him to find out about the making of the new album.
Bido Lito!: While you’ve certainly been prolific since your debut LP in 1999, why do you think that you’ve written so much new material recently?
Kelley Stoltz: I always tend to write and record, a little every day – but after doing the touring behind Double Exposure in 2013 and 2014 I was a bit tired of myself and my songs really! So I began to write in a more humorous and free way to coax myself back into the studio. This began to take shape as a record for my alter ego, which became the Willie Weird character. It’s a cyclical thing for me, being inspired – it’ll come on hard for a year and go away for three months and I wonder if it’ll ever get back. After a while I was invited to play Purple Weekend festival in Spain this December, and so I thought if I can finish these up it would tie in with a new tour. This kind of gave me an end date, which helped push it along.
BL!: Have you approached In Triangle Time in any different a way to the way you approached Double Exposure? If so, why?
KS: I do think I let go a little more easily and tended not to fuss over every layer as I had in the past. I feel like some of the songs are still skeletons that could be dressed up more, but I consciously wanted to get away from over-producing and over-playing.
BL!: What prompted the decision to issue all three records this autumn: the LP (In Triangle Time), the EP (4 New Cuts) and the side project (Willie Weird)?
KS: The tour was planned around the date at the Spanish Festival, so it gave me more stuff to sell!
BL!: Is the side project a one-off or something you think you will continue?
KS: I dunno, we all have our fake band names and dream projects that are forgotten in the morning! This is definitely a side of me that needs to come out, it’s who I am most of the time, goofing off doing impressions. The serious songwriter thing is another side, but mostly I like to laugh. So I’m sure there will be more.
BL!: You seem to have been an Anglophile for several decades now: are there any new bands you’ve heard coming out of the UK recently that you’ve been into?
KS: I loved the production on the Temples LP, great use of compression, real authentic sounds. I look forward to hearing the new LP by Richard Hawley too. I also picked up some Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet reissues that are sublime.
BL!: In Triangle Time’s opening track Cut Me Baby seems to have a definite Bowie Berlin Trilogy feel to it – did you recently pick up on this influence or has it been there for a while?
KS: Bowie is the first dude for me. I wrote that song after listening to Look Back In Anger almost weekly for 30 years.
BL!: On his 2014 LP Apple Bonkers, fellow San Francisco resident Joel Gion (from The Brian Jonestown Massacre) wrote about how much the city had changed with the arrival of Apple and its employees. Do you feel the city has changed in recent years from the town famous for being the birthplace of the hippy movement?
KS: Yes, quite a bit. It was an affordable, beautiful, inspirational place. The new generation come here not for creative pursuits as their own end, but as a means to make a lot of money. It’s like Patti Smith’s advice to young artists: “Don’t come to New York: the CBGBs, Chelsea Hotel art life is a fantasy now”. It’s the same – how do you get the young bloods in to keep it interesting, when it’s too expensive to have any free time or space to create? Still, those of us who hang on must persevere.
BL!: How has your work producing bands been going? How different is it working with other artists, not on your own material?
KS: It’s a bit more of a zen discipline: you have to remove yourself from the impulse to play it a different way. You’ve got to listen and pitch in ideas when asked, not as they strike! Which is a tough thing for me. But it’s going well – my studio Electric Duck has been keeping me busy recording local young punky bands like Life Stinks, Cool Ghouls, Useless Eaters.
BL!: While a lot of your albums are created independently, how do you transfer the material to the stage?
KS: I give an mp3 to my bandmates and say learn this! And then I shoot dirty looks at them when it’s a bit different to how I recorded it, and then learn to accept the differences. It’s different in headphones or in solitary pursuit than it is with a group. I guess it comes out a little more raw and loud. Probably a good thing.
BL!: With a catalogue of albums that stretches into almost double figures, how do you go about choosing the live set lists?
KS: It’s tough. I’m doing that now. I thought of maybe publicly soliciting my European and UK fans for their desired songs. [I’m] mostly excited about the new stuff, so that’s what’ll be featured.
BL!: What’s the best album you’ve heard this year?
KS: It’s a year or so old: Total Control’s Typical System.
Kelley Stoltz plays 24 Kitchen Street on 11th November, and his new album In Triangle Time is out on 13th November on Castle Face Records.
Words: Richard Lewis