Grocery shopping isn’t necessarily the first image that springs to mind when you think of the rock and roll lifestyle. Nevertheless, it’s one of the tricks that Mexican psych duo LORELLE MEETS THE OBSOLETE have picked up to pass the time on the road. Alberto González, the husband half of the husband-and-wife band, shouts down the phone line, struggling to be heard over the noise and bustle of a crowded Italian shopping centre. “We just wanted to find a place to shop for some groceries on the tour,” he yells, “but it’s very busy!”
The band are currently on a lengthy European stint on the back of latest LP Chambers, which will take them from Italy to France via Spain, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands, and come to an end in the UK, with the final date in Liverpool’s Shipping Forecast on 12th April. It’s an unexpected but nice surprise for Alberto, who says that they feel like stars in Europe compared to their local circuit in Mexico. “So far it’s been very nice; we’ve played in front of bigger audiences than in Mexico, like for example playing at the Liverpool Psych Fest last year: we played in front of a huge crowd and I don’t think we’ve ever done that back home.”
Chambers, the band’s third LP, mixes psychedelic influences and 70s-style prog, welded to the raw post-post-punk noise of Sonic Youth. The result is a warped and texturally magnificent assault of blistering guitars and soaring psyched-out vocals; the sign of a band who’ve really got to grips with their sound. As Alberto explains, it’s also what he considers to be their most collaborative and straightforward record yet: “This is the first record where Lorena [Quintanilla] and me have been writing most of the songs together. They came out of jams mostly. In the previous two records most of the songs were written by Lorena, and I maybe contributed a couple, but the main idea for most of the songs came from her. I guess as a band we’re more integrated and it’s like we’ve developed some sort of language between us musically.”
A lot of the influence, he says, came from the things that the band have picked up on the road; they found inspiration from many of the bands they encountered at SXSW in Texas, including psych surf band Holy Wave and many of the more punky acts on the line-up. “We listen to the CDs that we pick up along the tour a lot,” Alberto adds, “like for example when we get to know new bands and we take their CDs and listen to them in the van, that’s great.”
Once written, the album came together quickly, with the band dividing recording between small studios in Wisconsin and Chicago; just one of the many benefits Alberto says there is to being a two-piece. “I guess it has its positives and negatives. You don’t have to debate a lot of things when you’re a couple, so it’s very easy to communicate, but I guess the bad part is that we don’t have the ability to be more like a jam band because we can’t have everything going on at the same time.” Doing everything as a unit is one of the defining characteristics of the band. Having been introduced via a mutual friend while they attended university, they played in various outfits with each other throughout the years, eventually getting together and deciding to form Lorelle Meets The Obsolete. You might think it would be stressful on any relationship to spend so much time together, but Alberto is sure that it’s not the case. “We pretty much do music all day and do band-related stuff so we spend most of our time together. It’s more weird when we’re not together.”
Lorelle Meets The Obsolete are the latest psych band from a country that has a long and deep history with psychedelic music. Back in the 1960s, Mexico was governed by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (or PRI) and civil unrest was rife. This culminated in ‘la guerra sucia’ or ‘the dirty war’, characterised by a government backlash against the rising left-wing student groups, which came to a head in the Tlatelolco Massacre in which government employees shot dead dozens of students and protestors. The result of it all was a nationwide desperation for escape, for anything to take the minds of the Mexican people off the poverty and violence; it’s this desperation that Alberto believes ushered in the first wave of Mexican psych bands. “Sometimes life can get very hard in Mexico; it can sometimes get so overwhelming that maybe making psychedelic music, in the 60s and 70s at least, was some kind of protest and a way to escape from the violence and day-to-day life. In the late 60s, when Three Souls In My Mind were playing or Los Dug Dugs or La Revolucion de Emiliano Zapata, maybe it was a way [for] them to escape and to be able to communicate what they were feeling at the time. When this period of psych bands in Mexico was around, the government wasn’t a dictatorship but it was pretty close to being so, so definitely music was a sort of protest.”
Could this civil unease be the explanation behind psychedelia’s recent resurgence, not just in the UK but worldwide? Everywhere you look it’s impossible to miss Daily Mail-esque headlines decrying the state of the country, pictures of David Cameron’s waxy mug trying to look important and in touch, dole queues skyrocketing, education and health funding falling and the innumerable other components that make up the rusty, spluttering machinery of so-called Broken Britain. Psychedelia represents a way out. It’s apolitical escapism at its most pure, as Alberto suggests: “Nowadays I don’t know what exactly would inspire psychedelic bands,” he says, “but that would be an important reason. At least for us it works that way. We don’t have the same reasons to be angry about stuff or to be protesting, but I guess it is a form of escaping to your own reality and to what makes you comfortable. I think this kind of music frees your mind and it opens you to new experiences.”
After all, great art and innovation are forged in the fires of hardship, to which today’s crop of youth are no strangers. Perhaps that’s why, in some small part, psychedelic music is once again coming to define the sound of a generation.
Lorelle Meets The Obsolete play The Shipping Forecast on 12th April. Chambers is out now via Sonic Cathedral and Captcha Records.
Head to bidolito.co.uk now for an exclusive ‘Mexican Psych: Then And Now’ playlist, put together by Lorelle Meets The Obsolete.