Thundering California live act will co-headline second annual psych fest at the Bluestone
*Update: On the evening of Wednesday, March 11, organizers canceled Melted. For more information, go to Archie Fox Live.
Rarely does a music festival exude as much synchronicity as Melted Music Festival did in its inaugural 2019 edition. Stepping out of the late-winter sunshine and into the dark and cavernous Bluestone was sensory overload last March. Scads of bleary-eyed astral travelers rode the waves of feedback and reverb from a marathon of psych bands, all bathed in lasers and black light.
Those same bands were also imbibing and chilling within the venue's nooks and crannies while record collectors and poster artists peddled their wares. Even if you weren’t on something, it felt like you were on something.
Melted was also proof that Columbus had an itch for this type of event — one that organizers Bobby Miller and Tim Peacock were pleased to scratch. With year two, expectations are quite high.
“The most obvious change from last year to this year was moving from one day to two days,” Peacock said. “I wouldn't say we ‘had’ to do this, but we chose to do this. The hope is to grow Melted into an annual event where people will expect a well-curated rock n’ roll experience in or near Columbus.”For a well-curated email experience, sign up for our daily newsletter
In those two days, Peacock and Miller have stacked the lineup to bring in acts outside the realm of psychedelia. Highlights include the garage-youth of Chicago’s Twin Peaks, the bizarro theatrics of Guerilla Toss, the communal happy-pop of the Lemons, Philadelphia hardcore trio Control Top and local noise berzerker Bobb Hatt. Additionally, Detroit’s favorite sons Protomartyr will be joined by Breeders’ founder Kelley Deal on guitar and melancholic folkie Mikal Cronin promises to be “switched on'' for his performance.
But if there’s one band that exemplifies all of the outre elements that make Melted such an anticipated weekend, it’s California’s Thee Oh Sees.
Founded by John Dwyer in the early 2000s, Thee Oh Sees has been witness to the changing tides of garage rock, psychedelic music, electronic twiddling and all points in between. In recent years, though, Dwyer has shifted the focus of the band and turned it into a thundering live act, with two drummers, 20-minute jams and a sonic onslaught that seemingly attacks from all sides. Few rock bands touring today bring this much energy on one stage.
I spoke with Dwyer leading up to the band’s headlining set on Saturday, March 14, to get his opinion on, among other things, the definition of “psychedelia” and the changing landscape of underground music.
So you are playing Melted, a festival that is built under the umbrella of psychedelic music. When Thee Oh Sees began almost 15 years ago, it likely wouldn’t have fallen under that description. I’m curious to know your definition of “psychedelia,” if you have one, and what elements need to be inherent to be considered “psychedelic” music?
John Dwyer: I’m guessing the simplest explanation of “psychedelic” music is that it sounds good when you’re high. For me, that was most music, so I paint that term with a pretty broad brush. But we were definitely writing drug music. We were on drugs. No shame in that.
In that span of 15 years, Thee Oh Sees has gone through so many configurations and style shifts that I wonder, what is your compass? What points the music to where it goes next?
JD: I just go where it takes me. We rarely step into a session thinking that this is how we will start and this is how we will finish. We’ve tried that approach, but the success rate varies, as far as getting what you expected. Sometimes you are pleasantly surprised where you ended up.
You’ve released 20 albums as Thee Oh Sees. To what do you owe your prolific-ness?
JD: We get slapped with the “prolific” term a lot, but I don’t know how any band that is constantly together can’t write at least an album a year. One of my favorite parts of being in a band is the writing process, so maybe I’m just a bit of a pig when we get in the studio. We are only here on earth for a minute or two, so leave a mark.
What’s your biggest gripe about music these days compared to when you started the band? What has changed the most?
JD: I’ve never really been all that into popular music, so as far as I can tell, not much has changed. Every now and then I’ll hear a bit of pop that’s interesting and then look into the artist. It’s hard for me to look and listen to someone like Billie Eilish and her brother and not hear that she is a unique and important voice in the next generation of music. She’s taken what I consider to be one of the most worn-out and trite formats, radio pop, and made it her own and made it fresh, and even a bit spooky.
It seems you’ve always been a champion of the physical product (even releasing an 8-track box set), so how important is that to you in an age of streaming?
JD: It means a lot. I want to hold it. But I also have a huge digital archive of music. You can’t carry all of that shit on the road.
How much does San Francisco as a place define what you do with the band? You’re in Los Angeles now — has that changed things?
JD: San Francisco was a huge part of our band. We came up there and were inspired by everything about it. I was very lucky to have moved there when I did. I’d say now we are more of a worldview than local since the move to Los Angeles. I love it here, but obviously I’m not walking down the street all day or hanging. It’s a much bigger scene, both with the spread of bands and with the geography. It’s just different, I guess.
What’s next for Thee Oh Sees? Is there something you haven’t done yet that you hope to accomplish with the band going forward?
JD: Just chipping away at the new album. Writing, writing, writing. I’m very happy right where we are.