Locals: A hunger for new sounds fuels Psychic Wheels’ full-length debut

  • Photos by Meghan Ralston
By Columbus Alive
From the February 20, 2014 edition

Psychic Wheels’ full-length debut, Peripheral Drift, comes on like the work of musicians who grew up steeped in 1960s garage-rock and psychedelia.

This, at least in the case of frontman Spencer Morgan, could not be further from the truth.

Growing up, Morgan, 30, had limited exposure to music. The handful of albums he owned as a child were procured from mainstream outlets like Best Buy and a brief flirtation with a record club, and he wasn’t allowed to watch cable music video networks because, in his own words, “the world would end if [he] happened to see a Harry Connick, Jr. video on VH1.” On those rare nights his parents left him alone to babysit his younger brothers, he would record hours of VH1’s music to cassette with his Talkboy, stashing the tapes beneath his bed so he could listen to them late at night.

Like a junkie denied a fix, these barriers only fueled the frontman’s desire to track down new sounds.

“Even at 9-years-old I was always like, ‘I know there’s music out there!’” Morgan said in an early February interview at Ace of Cups, where the band will host its record release show on Saturday, Feb. 22. “And since then it’s like I keep finding new things and falling in love over and over again.”

Peripheral Drift reflects this open-armed approach, flirting with everything from surf-rock (“On a Beach”) to skuzzy psych-rock (the hazy jangle of “Flowers in My Skull,” which comes on like a long-lost gem off the Nuggets box set), like a housefly never alighting in one spot for too long.

“I think the album’s really playful, and there are almost too many influences,” Morgan said. “We love Ohio Express and the Troggs and the Kinks, and then I found out about the Cramps and that was a big deal. I was also falling in love with a band from Detroit called Outrageous Cherry — “Psychic Wheels” is actually an Outrageous Cherry song — and I got to meet [band founder] Matt Smith one time and he was totally flattered a band would name itself after one of its songs. And…”

Morgan’s obvious enthusiasm for new sounds has bled over into his outside pursuits. Last year he launched Superdreamer Records, an independent label that handled recent releases from Comrade Question (the excellent Pepe Polo) and Psychic Wheels (obviously), and he spent countless early-February hours driving to record stores across Ohio to distribute both albums.

One segment of the population that might not be quite as excited by these new developments? Morgan’s parents.

“I think these [new Psychic Wheels songs] equally piss them off the same way my [teenage songs] did,” the frontman said, and laughed. “My parents were always supportive, but my dad’s favorite band is Styx and my mom’s favorite band is Bread, so I’m not sure [this music’s] really for them.”