By Jordan Mooney
Psychedelic Rock is, I feel, often underappreciated. Particularly when it’s done right. By the very nature of the genre, it has to get into the head – and perhaps more importantly, the mind.
The human brain is notoriously easy to stick a tune into, but to unfold with music? That takes skill, and you can’t just pretend to be a ‘proper’ psych group – to complicate the matter even further, it’s beyond the basic idea of simply playing instruments. It takes a firm knowledge of mixing and atmosphere, experimentation and build. It’s a very convoluted sort of aim, and it, like all music, can mean different things to different people. The brain is one matter, but the mind is another. You can perfectly plan every slightest aspect your record to the finest guitar string, but it would really have no more chance of affecting everybody than one that is completely spontaneous.
Baked, today’s group, are a band with a title some might say is far too obvious. But nobody else has used it, and frankly, it fits. The music will simmer your tiny little skull into a lump of fluff.
Without a shadow of a doubt, this five-piece is a ‘proper’ psych group. They burn up and out in wisps of thin white smoulder. They’re both complex and simplified, philosophical and frank. They’ve every interest in producing a fine, precise quality of music, and deliver on that interest tenfold – but in doing so, they maintain a certain narcoleptic euphoria, a sleepy country road full of twists and turns that maintains the constant spontaneity that’s essential to their genre.
Baked are a rather compelling, smouldering concoction of three gentlemen with smashing beards, R.J. Gordon (vocals/guitar), Jeremy Aquilino (Bass and Backing vocals) and Yoni David (drums), a gentleman who doesn’t have a beard, Davey Jones, on guitar, and Isabella Mingione, a lovely lady who doesn’t have a beard, who brings keys and further backing vocals.
Their self titled EP is a beautiful piece of work that still maintains that sleepy, youthful doziness that the oh-so-mythical ‘mature’ readers amongst us may try to shirk so stubbornly. Flowing in and out with floppy, drowning, echoed melodies, beats and bass, it feels like it all takes place on the morning after in a wrecked apartment. Only the source of the smoke and smog in the tiny room provides comfort.
You might be stark naked, but you might not be. You feel utterly relaxed, numb all over, with only that bleary vision of the damp crawling up the thin wallpaper in real time acting as proof of reality.
It sounds like the speaker providing the bass is burst, bottled and slowly fizzling out underwater, perhaps at the bottom of a swimming pool. The vocals are either in a room far too small or a room far too large. The guitars feel like they’re in a firm trance, but don’t feel the slightest bit weakened or lacking stimulation. The drums are following suit. They sound a bit more sober, but not enough to disrupt the rather unique atmosphere.. The entire thing sounds like it’s in the middle of careless euphoria, effortlessly hypnotic and beautiful in its own, grimy, self-aware sort of manner. The intentional imperfections in the music make for some of the finest, evocative songwriting I’ve heard this year.
It unfolds thought, ideas, consideration and blurred visions of the future, past and present all rolled into a big wad. It’s dripping some sort of thick, dank green liquid from the epicentre. You know it, really, should be all ridiculously unpleasant and disgusting. But it isn’t. It’s at that perfect underline of man’s behaviour where all engulfs him, without a single thing touching him – and everything is at least a little bit wonderful.
Baked is like fifteen minutes of meditation. When you’ve had a difficult day at work, or have been lost amongst the endless rush of life, this leisurely record is more than capable of slowing it all down for you, allowing those few moments of reflection and thought.
This group push so hard against the grain – without trying the slightest bit too hard – that they become more than music makers. They could well provide the position of a muse on those dark, hot summer nights when you yourself are working to create.
It’s one of these, chaps. It’s something that you have to give a go at least once, just to see if it’s your thing…sound familiar..?
Cat on the Wall were lucky enough to track down the band’s vocalist with that marvellous beard, RJ Gordon, for a chat about the group and their recently re-released EP, which is now available via Forged Artifacts. Not just as a digital download, but also a (very) limited edition tape cassette – true to roots and all that. No doubt it’ll provide happy memories for most of our readers in a certain age group.
Cat on the Wall: Baked’s debut eponymous EP has been re-released by Forged Artifacts this year, just under a year after you brought it out independently. Please, tell us about it! How would you describe the album, on a purely personal standpoint?
R.J. Gordon: This cassette was the result of a long process of improvising, planning, and experimenting. Yoni (our drummer) and I started tracking the basic guitar and drums to 8er in the summer of 2011, long before we had even assembled Baked as a band. After gelling together and working out all of the sonic kinks, we eventually went back and each member of Baked put their stamp on what we had built up. All the other tracks were recorded live at Big Snow Buffalo Lodge with minimal vocal overdubs. Enlisting the help of Dan Arnes, and later Adam Reich for the bonus track Wolf, brought this EP to where we wanted it to be.
COTW: The main influence of ‘Baked’ seems to be hinted at by the name alone..! Staying away from this sort of inspiration (!), Are there any musicians you feel should be given credit for inspiring and helping to develop your distinctive sound?
RJG: We all have a deep affinity for great musicians from any time period. Some common musical influences for Baked are the late 60’s early 70’s heavy hitters of rock (Neil Young and Crazy Horse, The Rolling Stones, Harry Nilsson, etc.), with a good dose of early 90’s alternative music (Sonic Youth, Slowdive, Yo La Tengo, etc.) and some more modern acts like Deerhunter, Blonde Redhead, and Cass McCombs.
COTW: We’ve noticed that a ‘special edition’ of the release is..um…a tape cassette! We have to admit, it’s rare we see that format here…it’s a fairly unusual choice. Could you tell us about it, and the reasons you chose what so many people consider to be a ‘dead’ medium?
RJG: Yes, the re-release is out on transparent purple tapes. We have a lot of friends that have been heavy into keeping tape culture alive. Lost Boy ? frontman (and Baked lead guitarist) Davey Jones has been instrumental in giving cassettes a sentimental, modern home. It really varies from a ‘dead’ medium, to others’ favourite medium. I feel mixing the physical nature of a cassette, holding it, pulling out the J card, inspecting the art is very nostalgic and therapeutic for many fans/collectors of music. We also love analogue in all forms. But of course, still includes a download code in each tape.
COTW: Your home borough of Brooklyn, in the sprawling metropolis of New York, is known to leak inspiration from every orifice to masses of artists. Do you feel the atmosphere of your surroundings has brought things to your music you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else?
RJG: I think Baked would be Baked no matter where we were formed, lived, or played. It just happened to be here and now. But yes, we are very fortunate to have some very close friends making amazing music in Brooklyn… Titus Andronicus, Celestial Shore, Zula, Big Ups, and Bueno to name a few…
COTW: Are there any particular subjects, stories or settings weaved into your songs?
RJG: Each song tends to have its own subjects or stories. Thematically, the only similarities between all of the songs on this EP are the human condition/the human experience.
COTW: What should one expect stepping into a live performance with Baked?
RJG: A textured trek from dense, heavy rock songs, to dreamier, more far away jams. You can also expect that we’ll be enjoying every second that we’re playing and hope the same of people who come to our shows.
COTW: Do you have any big plans for the future?
RJG: In months to come we’ll be releasing our debut LP, entitled ‘Debt‘ via Exploding in Sound Records. We have a few more plans up our sleeve for the summer, but you’ll have to wait a few more weeks!
COTW: Finally, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us. We look forward to hearing more from you very soon!
RJG: Thank you!
Baked’s eponymous debut can now be purchased as both a digital format and a limited edition chrome tape cassette on the Forged Artifacts Bandcamp below. If you doubt our judgement (why on Earth would you do that?!), it’s also available for your listening pleasure.