“The Brazen Rebellion of Indigo Meadow”:
An Interview with Alex Maas of the Black Angels
Words by Keith Hadad
Austin-based psychedelic rockers, The Black Angels, return once again in fine form with their latest record, Indigo Meadow. Here, on their fourth full-length album to date, their infectiously catchy, hard-driving acid rock throbs and pulsates stronger than ever.
Much like The Beatles, The Velvet Underground and many other greats, while still retaining the identity of the band, The Black Angels never seem to record the same album twice. Instead, each record tends to show an evolution. This progression however, has never been as dramatic as the growth shown between Indigo Meadow and its predecessor, 2010’s Phosphene Dream. “The music is a totally different side of psychedellia,” says singer/organist Alex Maas. “There’s still some very dark elements on this record. There are some ill moments that are unsettling to listen to, but there’s also a beautiful side of psychedellia that ended up on the record as well.”
As Maas points out, a lilting influence can indeed be felt from lighter psych classics, such as Love’s Forever Changes, as The Black Angels’ trademarked minimalist approach seems to have bloomed into a more lush and multilayered creature. This metamorphosis might be best explained by the record being, as Maas claims, perhaps the most collaborative album in The Black Angel’s discography thus far. This factor may also be reflected on the record cover, which is the first ever in the band’s history to actually feature an image of the group itself.
While the band is well known for creating smoky, sinister moods and atmospheres through their sound, possibly their most potent venom can be found within their social-commentating lyrics. For instance, their latest single, “Don’t Play With Guns”, addresses the highly controversial arms issue in a hard-hitting, yet poetic and enjoyable way. Even though this song was recorded literally days before the Aurora shooting this last summer, the band took a catchy hook and fearlessly tied it to a concern that many other artists would have rather shied away from. Maas explains, “The concept’s always been there. Guns have always been an issue, and the fact that [the Aurora shooting] had happened right after the song was recorded just reaffirmed that it is still an issue.”
Writing songs with a political message can often be a band’s dividing factor, but luckily for The Black Angels, they were able to find the balance in creating highly listenable tunes while slipping in their standpoints in a graceful fashion. On topical subjects in songwriting, Maas says, “The thing is, are you going to avoid an issue, or talk about it? Are you’re going to talk about the issue but then also appeal to those who would get turned off by that kind of stuff? That kind of stuff can turn people away if it’s too in your face.”
Beyond the new record, the band is hard at work maintaining their record label, The Reverberation Appreciation Society. The R.A.S. was developed to lend a hand to fellow psychedelic rock acts who might otherwise be unable to release a physical product. As Maas puts it, it’s a labor of love created out of a necessity for the survival of bands that they know and like.
Also out of love for other bands in their genre, The Black Angels are behind the acid rock fan’s ultimate live event; The Austin Psych Fest. The A.P.F. which will be holding it’s sixth annual event April 26th-28th, pulls in artists new and old from the world over, who are guaranteed to expand and blow minds. This year’s festival harbors a diverse lineup that includes contemporaries of The Black Angels, such as The Warlocks, Spectrum, and Om as well as legends from the first psychedelic era like Roky Erickson, Os Mutantes, The Moving Sidewalks, etc.
After this year’s Austin Psych Fest and an East and West coast tour, Maas let on that The Black Angels would then ship off to Europe for several festival dates, including an A.P.F. presented mini-festival in Angers, France. From there, they hope to reach Greece, which according to Maas, the people there might be able to relate to the band’s lyrics in a similar way as American listeners do.
The label of being a “psychedelic” band to some might be a harmful one; conjuring up clichés and the novelty of retro aesthetics. However, The Black Angels prove that it can actually be a badge of honor, as psychedelic in its truest sense means “mind-expanding” or “mind-opening”. Therefore, being a purely psychedelic musician means that their craft is totally free to the whims of experimentation and boundless creativity. With this abundance of possibility, what more could a music fan ask for in a band?
4 Athens, GA Georgia Theatre #
5 Asheville, NC The Orange Peel #
6 Washington, DC Black Cat #
7 Philadelphia, PA Union Transfer #
8 New York, NY Webster Hall #
11 Boston, MA Royale #
12 Montreal, QC Le National #
13 Toronto, ON Danforth Music Hall #
15 Detroit, MI Magic Stick #
16 Cleveland, OH Beachland Ballroom #
17 Columbus, OH Newport Music Hall #
19 Chicago, IL Vic Theatre #
20 Minneapolis, MN Fine Line Music Cafe #
21 Omaha, NE The Waiting Room #
22 Lawrence, KS Granada #
26-28 Austin, TX Austin Psych Fest
2 Baton Rouge, LA Spanish Moon %
3 Birmingham, AL WorkPlay Theatre %
5 Nashville, TN Mercy Lounge %
7 Indianapolis, IN The Vogue %
8 St. Louis, MO The Firebird %
10 Boulder, CO Boulder Theater %
11 Salt Lake City, UT The Depot %
13 Seattle, WA Neptune Theatre %
14 Vancouver, BC Commodore Ballroom %
15 Portland, OR Wonder Ballroom %
17 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore %
18 Pomona, CA The Glass House ^
19 Solana Beach, CA Belly Up Tavern ^
21 Los Angeles, CA Mayan Theatre ^
22 Tucson, AZ Club Congress ^
24 Houston, TX Fitzgerald’s ^
25 Dallas, TX Granada Theater ^
26 San Antonio, TX White Rabbit ^
# w/Allah-Las, Elephant Stone
% w/Hanni El Khatib, Wall of Death
^ w/Wall of Death