Memphis psych-rock collective led by Flaming Lips guitarist creates otherworldly live shows and immersive debut LP
A Spaceface live show is more than a concert. It's an interactive experience awash in color, light and sometimes a laser-shooting, space-traveling lion.
“We used to have this light-up mascot suit,” said Spaceface singer/guitarist Jake Ingalls. “It was like a lion in an astronaut suit, and we'd pick someone [from the crowd] early on, and they'd get in it and come out in the middle of this song with a double-necked guitar that we had lasers on.”
In addition to fronting Spaceface, Ingalls plays guitar and synthesizer in the Flaming Lips, a band known for its colorful, confetti-drenched live shows. Spaceface, though, creates perhaps an even more communal concert experience at the club level. Recently, the band has provided fans with a giant, multi-colored parachute to play with during the show. And while Spaceface performs its brand of psychedelic garage-pop, the band makes use of large, sound-reactive video panels.
“Basically, every song has its own theme,” said Ingalls, reached by phone from his hometown of Memphis alongside Spaceface guitarist Eric Martin. “We have a song called ‘In the Clouds' that Eric sings, and the first line is, ‘Up here in the clouds we see golden rays,' so his vocal triggers this burst of sunshine that's framing him, and then when the bass comes in these blobby, blue circles are bouncing around to this boppy bassline, and the keys come in and they're white clouds. So each visual reflects the feel of each song.”
“I had to leverage my car against a loan to buy the new setup,” Ingalls continued. “I got denied by so many banks, and it took one sneaky guy at a bank to say, ‘What was that car you drove up in?' I was like, ‘That's my Honda, what about it?' And he's like, ‘I'm trying to help you, you idiot.'”
The visual element also serves a higher purpose. “It fosters a sense of community, and it disarms you,” Ingalls said. “You walk in and it looks different. You're more willing to act differently than you would. You're less likely to cross your arms and stand at the back of the room.”
“There's nothing worse than when you're really trying to give it your all and the guy in the front row is squinting his eyes and cocking his head with his arms crossed,” Martin said.
“At the same time,” Ingalls said, “that guy will come up to you afterward and say, ‘That was amazing!' And you're like, ‘Was it? … You look like you hate everything.'”
None of the visuals would matter much if Spaceface's songs were subpar. Thankfully, the band's 2017 debut, Sun Kids, is full of compelling psych-rock nuggets you can sing along to and/or lose yourself in whether you're listening via the band's 360-degree videos or streaming them from a phone.
For the album, Ingalls and Martin wanted to go on sonic explorations while also tethering Spaceface's sound. “Eric mentioned a lot of earthy elements — that we should stay corporeal. We were like, ‘Nobody is making it seem like you're on mushrooms in the woods,' which we like to do sometimes,” Ingalls said. “I spent the next year recording stuff that's all from our lives and around the world. There's sounds of crabs from a beach in Japan. There's kids in a playground in Memphis. The sounds of a party. That's all in there.”
“We discussed creating a sort of dreamscape you want to live inside of,” Ingalls continued. “In my mind it's meant to be listened to with the windows down in the car, but we were also intent on making it a rewarding headphones listen. If you close your eyes, you should be somewhere else.”