By Peter Smith
VANCOUVER — From the depths of near obscurity as Sabbath’ian revellers immersed in the heavy underground sound of the U.K., Cambridge’s Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats are about to embark across the Atlantic for their first North American visit – a 17-day odyssey that will see them playing dates across Canada and the U.S. Since being picked up by Rise Above Records and releasing the album Mind Control in May 2013, the band’s profile has grown quickly, garnering a positive reception from a steadily-increasing fan base.
The chance to leap from the shadows of Europe to North American shores has been a pleasant surprise for Kevin Starrs, the musical brainchild and acting manager of Uncle Acid. Starrs and company are looking forward to bringing Uncle Acid’s sound to Canada, and are deeply gratified by the strength of Canadian fans’ reaction to their records, considering the band’s reputation has spread and bloomed because of their enthusiasm and support.
“Fans […] have spread the word for us,” says Starrs. “The so-called ‘hype’ around us is really nothing of the sort… We don’t have that kind of huge, over-the-top promotional force behind us because we’re on an indie label. What we have is a fan base that has been created by word-of-mouth based on the strength of the music, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
The philosophy applied is rather simple – let the music do the talking, and spare the audience a bombardment of “pointless information” that detracts from their focal point. “We still don’t really go into details about band members or talk ourselves up in any way because it has nothing to do with our music,” says Starrs.
The soundscape of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats carries with it a brooding, occult mythology, reflective of the psychedelic, heavy rock era of the late sixties. Akin to bands such as The Black Angels, though listing Black Sabbath as a more prevalent influence, Uncle Acid travels the revivalist stream, channeling psychedelic sounds of the era within a dark ethereal atmosphere, carried by fuzzy riffs and hypnotic grooves.
Noting the resurgence of the psychedelic genre and its modern evolution, Starrs theorizes on why this style has returned to popularity: “Maybe [psychedelic music] is an escape […] maybe it’s seen as a more organic alternative to the mass-produced machine music that pollutes our airwaves.”
Uncle Acid’s resistance to the machine music is immediately apparent in their musical stylings – they ply a very mainstream synthesizer sound with an ominous twist, adding the vintage sound of a mellotron in songs such as “Watcher Of The Skies” and “Withered Hand of Evil.” Starrs cites Genesis as a huge influence for such arrangements.
“It’s got a weird, old sound to it,” he says of the mellotron. “Not many people pick up on our use of synths… [but they’re] there, sitting in the background on a lot of our songs. I’ve always loved John Carpenter soundtracks, so I think that seeps through subconsciously.”
The dark atmospheres within Uncle Acid’s songs are created by more than just ambient synth and hypnotic riffery. A fascination with the macabre echoes throughout the vocals of Uncle Acid: Starrs’s lyrics and themes frequently reflect the depraved nature of the human psyche. His inspiration and curiosity comes from learning about this dark mindset, Starrs explains, citing his study of non-fiction literature about twisted souls like Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins as an example. His research has also taken him to local museums, where he has drawn influence from displays featuring artifacts and scriptures from the witch trials of the 1600s.
From commentary on the wicked ways of humankind and the dark arts to blazin’ fuzzy guitars and sonic grooves, Uncle Acid’s sound and themes have earned the group stage time in huge European festivals like Roskilde in Denmark, on the tour roster beside their idols, Black Sabbath, and finally will see them gracing our very own city.
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats perform at The Rickshaw Theatre October 7.
This article is an abridged version of a longer interview, which can be read in its entirety on www.notyourscene.caBC, British Columbia, Rickshaw Theatre, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats