Week in Pop: Emotional, OHMSLICE, The Sour Notes, Stanley

Post Author: Sjimon Gompers


San Francisco’s patron saints of dedicated DIY everything—Emotional & the entire Death Records roster; press photo courtesy of the artists.

We have barely fully digested the sonic gravity of Emotional’s release The Band, when we received word that the San Francisco group announced the forthcoming Space Jams EP. Slated for release September 4 through their label Death Records, we also are proud to present the world premiere for the shindig-grooving single “(Heavven In A) Trashcan” filmed by Colin Arlen, Jason Rosette, Morgan Morel, Creepy Joni with copious amounts of blessed VHS feedback courtesy of Morgan Morel. Featured off the aforementioned album The Band that features glimmering/psychotropic production accents from Alex Brettin of Mild High Club—the request & response to the 1967/68 satanic majesties of psych-pop art from Death Records’ flagship band is complimented with an appropriate visual companion. Having completed a wild US tour, freshly recording the Space Jams EP as a back-to-basics bedroom pop return with a little help from friends like Ganglians, Healing Potpourri, Friendless Summer & Pizza Time/Panaderia; Brian Wakefield delivers a time-warping visual artifact from the previous release that is guaranteed to trigger all of your parents’ weird hedonistic flashbacks.
Wakefield & friends approach the visualization for Emotional’s “(Heaven In A) Trashcan” with a humble heart that rises from the gutter ultimately to crash down on the stage floor. Death Records boss & Emotional leader Brian is seen having a quick bite in the yard amid a score of flyers, dried leaves, an old abandoned tire, a TV & VCR in-one setup, a Sony boombox & a Casio keyboard to start things off. A VHS labeled EMOTIONAL is popped in the player, as the trippy-analog visuals saturate everything on screen. An old psyched-out love-in/be-in, whatever you want to call it takes over in conflict with a controlling director figure. As all the players find their role, best positions & sort out all the involved choreographed blocking; the Emotional party jams on like a freak-beat band of merry-pranksters that are thankfully keeping SF & the Bay weird by championing the enlightened underdogs that blaze & mold new sonic craft by way of cleverly used analog tools of the trade(s). From fun with filters, blending/blurring & animating video overlays; certain audience members should be cautioned for strobe blasts of lights & luster that showcases Emotional channeling & charging some of their collaborative work in a maelstrom of creative fireworks & time smudging magic tricks (of the sight & sound variety). Join us afterward for an interview session with Emotional/Death Records’ own Brian Wakefield.

Emotional’s own Brian Wakefield; Polaroid courtesy of the artist.

Describe for us the host of emotions that would ultimately inform you to title your creative act Emotional. How important are the cycles of emotions for the creative process?
The cycles of living deeply involve what a song is going to be about. I like soul music because there is a song for every specific kind of scenario for love. R Stevie Moore is similar in a sense that he has a song for almost any anti-social thought you may have creeping in your mind. Recently I’ve been trying to not write songs from the first person. It helps when working for an album with some sort of theme or message. The first few album were dedicated to the classic themes like rejection & heartbreak. The Band album is about the trials & tribulations of being in a band, going on tour & when it’s all over what does it mean, why do you need to make a song? Existential crisis for the emotionally stunted rock & roll performers.
Give us all the nitty-gritty & gory details about the making of the album The Band and how Mild High Club’s Alex Brettin affected the overall vision & production.
I was very lucky to get some insight on the recording process through Alex that might have not been my intentions. I went to LA and got a bunch of dabs, it was summer time and it was too hot so the weed wax kept melting. Eventually we did get stoned and finished a few tracks. I realized that immense talent/songwriting is the most important part. Also track your drums onto separate tracks because we recorded the album live.

Emotional’s Brian Wakefield jamming out with his Casio; video still courtesy of Jason Rosette.

Give us insights too about the making of Space Jams, made post-tour at home with Ganglians, Healing Potpourri, Friendless Summer & Pizza Time / Panaderia & more.
Space Jams may be the least serious title but it is a very serious album to me. I had got back from tour with a bottleneck of new feelings. I basically stopped drinking, lost some friends, made some regrettable choices and this is my new beginning to try and set things right in a song I can’t make right in the real world. I recorded the songs in a fever then got some friends to help write lyrics/vocal melodies. Jack, of Friendless Summer, really helped with mixing and taking it to a higher level…we had a good time making it. I kept bugging David to come over and teach me how to write a hit…he tried.
You posses a unique talent like a handful of your powerhouse contemporary creatives in that you have the ability to almost summon the sounds & semblances of vintage aesthetics in an uncanny way.
What for you is the key to creating art that transcends the pigeonhole pointed conceits that indicate era & time stamped points of reference?

I don’t know if I can pinpoint it. Growing up in the 90s listening to radio, hating it because it wasn’t punk & now the digital age where any obscure gem can be stumbled upon with some clicks on YouTube. I think that the subconscious controls where songs go. I just try to make something pleasant to deliver a message, hopefully one can relate to either have fun or find solace in.
What are the challenges of embracing the analog arts in a world that is obsessed with digitally designed platforms and the like?
I definitely embrace the digital aspect but I find using analog gear makes it sound warmer. It’s a challenge to make something analog that stands the test of time nowadays because it is partially a fad but I think a lot of people do it out of necessity. MacBooks are expensive and twisting knobs is fun.

A cluster of video stills from Emotional’s “(Heaven Is A) Trashcan” visual; photograph appears courtesy of Jason Rosette.

Describe the psyched-out VHS video filmed by friends Colin Arlen, Jason Rosette & Morgan Miller for “(Heaven In A) Trashcan” and how it devolved into an instrument & food fight of sorts.
I got the idea of making a music video where I get thrown out of the band. It turned into a lo-fi feast because Morgan is very good at scrambling VHS. The stuff being poured on me at the end is only the underline the fact of my rejection.
What is the key to blending the aesthetics of sound together with visuals that further, and/or underscore the involved themes & motifs?
I think visuals and music take a new life when put together. They could have two entirely different meanings with any given context. I like to mix things that don’t seem like they go well together but create something pleasing for all senses. Music videos were really important to me growing up. adding visuals can develop a new world of understanding to a song.
Give us the latest from the Death Records stable and what’s next from friends/bandmates/labelmates/etc Ganglians, Ryan Wong Band, Tuckered Out, Friendless Summer, Healing Potpourri, Froogy’s Groovies, Gradient Fade, Casa Limon, Alexis, Lil Hanita & more.
Death Records is working on making tapes for lots of new bands and trying to get a store front where people can walk up and buy tapes and things we make. Also working on making more visuals available in the form of DBO (Death Box Office) hoping to make some sort of series to go along with this. Vinyl in 2018 for Friendless Summer & Healing Potpourri. New music from HOLY SHIT. Planning Deathstock 4 is underway! A lotta good stuff coming up.

The awesome Emotional; polyptych Polaroid photos appear courtesy of Colin Arlen.

Hopes, thoughts, prayers & wishes for the future?
I hope everyone is okay. I think we can figure it out. I pray the world doesn’t blow itself up. I wish that anyone feeling down & out can find their way.
Important arts & activism that folks should be getting involved in right now?
I think keeping in the know of what’s going on is important. Its easy to feel defeated but It feels like a revolution. For people who wished to live in Berkeley in the 60s, wanted to make a change, or be an actual radical…now is a really good time to start.
Emotional’s album The Band is available & the forthcoming EP Space Jams will be available September 4 via Death Records.