Week in Pop: Feed, The Telescopes, WEEED

Sjimon Gompers

The sonic saints of legendary majesty—Stephen Lawrie & The Telescopes; photographed by Stephen Bland.

The Telescopes

The Telescopes live; photographed by Stephen Bland.

Amid the arrivals & revivals of all your favorite dream pop & shoegazing heroes, The Telescopes have been unfairly underrepresented in the applauded & revered repertoires of noise wielding designers of audio desires. Stephen Lawrie & the gang’s nine album strong repertoire are the lofty aesthetic long-player dream weapons on sale behind the record store counter going for exorbitant amounts, or one of their rare Creation Records pressings that a cheeky record clerk sticks in the recent arrival circulations with price tags that edge upwards of triple digit figures. With the tenth release arriving November 20 from the Roman imprint Yard Press; The Telescopes’ latest gift Stone Tape finds Lawrie drawing heavily off of Thomas Charles Lethbridge’s “Stone Tape Theory” where notions of harnessing energy storages & transfers are channeled into the artist’s own blue print that began being built in the late 1980s. Lethbridge’s theory was postulated in 1961 where the archaeologist/parapsychologist/adventurer hypothesized a notion about energy being stored in inanimate materials from electrical mental energy being relayed from living beings during traumatic or emotional events. This notion of transference is internalized on a creative & personal plane by Stephen where the long & winding ballads of the legendary band can be felt & experienced in transcendent ways beyond just the sensory of sound.

The vintage road to the beginning basics of The Telescopes timeline tread ahead on “The Desert In Your Heart” where the past 30 years can be heard dissolving into the electric ether. Stephen & the group walk in a slow lantern-burning pace like a derelict group of nomadic wanderers in an arid & dead-set environment of sand storms & harsh conditions. From the dawning of Taste, the core ethic of outsider-outlaw mentality identity remains intact as meditative reinventions on original signature sounds take on a more stripped-down & spirited take. That reflective mode is also heard on “Silent Water” that imagines sitting cross legged by a calming lake or creek with eyes closed. Stephen Lawrie trips through the energies of healing, where introverted musings become expressed in extensions of the superego that stretch to the surroundings of a nearby brook, to a cluster of stones, trees, leaves, branches & earth. The Telescopes balance expressive & earnest journeys where rather than the sound engineered to stretch outward, it implores the listener in an invitation to gaze into it’s inward glow.

Stephen Lawrie of The Telescopes; photographed by Stephen Bland.

We had a chance to catch up with The Telescope’s own Stephen Lawrie via the following interview session:

What do you find strikingly different in the music culture world of 2017 versus say 1987?

in 1987 everything was analogue; vinyl, cassette and ink, in 2017 everything is digital.

I’m interested in hearing more about how Thomas Charles Lethbridge’s “Stone Tape Theory” inspired the album of the same name & how you embarked upon the theorem to begin with?

Stone Tape Theory is a subject that has interested me for a while, something I kept in the back of my mind. I wrote the songs for the album first as a kind of exorcism of personal traumas I had been storing up, it seemed an appropriate title.

Basking in blue with The Telescopes; photographed by Stephen Bland.

New single “The Desert in Your Heart” is an enrapturing lo-fi journey to the meditational outer limits. Describe for us the circumstances, thoughts & feelings that guided you.

I wrote the song about 10 years ago after The Telescopes first trip to the USA. Audiences were expecting the old hits, “Flying”, “Celeste”, “Everso”, “The Perfect Needle”, but we played noise improvisations instead. A lot of people were angry. In Vegas they threw things at us and unplugged us. The original song was California, with the desert in your heart, but I grew to love California and so the song developed into something much more personal.

As someone who is constantly getting pegged with the ubiquitous ‘dream pop’ & ‘photo-shoegaze’ related tags—what sorts of adjectives & thoughts do you think of when trying to describe your own sound after all these years, both from then and to now?

Beyond the realm of natural vision. This is the definition of The Telescopes.

What sorts of mindsets were involved with the making of ‘Stone Tape’ for release through Yard Press?

I did everything myself on this album, except for the artwork, so it feels like maybe it’s more personal than other albums I’ve written. It was originally intended to be a book, Yard Press were a publishing house and not a label when they approached me after a show at Fanfulla in Rome, but the writing turned into songs and now they are a record label as well as a publishing house.

The original dream-gazing gentry—Stephen Lawrie & The Telescopes; photographed by Stephen Bland.

What did you personally /creatively discover in the time between 1992 to 2002?

Tried to run away from my own shadow.

What have you learned from 2002 to now?

There’s no running away from my own shadow, it follows me too well.

How have you discovered your own creative process at this point has evolved?

I don’t have any kind of set process. The kind of creativity that interests me doesn’t happen that way; it’s different every time.

An introspective moment with Stephen Lawrie of The Telescopes; photographed by Raul Divaev.

Who has your ear & heart right now?

I like the band Deceased Squirrel On The Phone from Czech Republic but my heart belongs to The Telescopes.

Thoughts on the future of rock, roll & sonic music?

It is safe in my hands.

The Telescopes’ own Stephen Lawrie; photographed by Brittany Solberg.

Closing thoughts or words of interest?

Listen to the speaking stones.

Catch The Telescopes via the following tour dates:

17 Copenhagen, Denmark – Venue TBA
18 Aalborg, Denmark – 1000Fryd
19 Berlin, Germany – Badehaus Berlin
20 Koln, Germany – Sonic Ballroom
21 Paris, France – Supersonic
22 Cardiff, UK – The Moon

The Telescopes’ new album Stone Tape will be available November 20 via Yard Press/Bandcamp.

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