East Bay supergroup Richard Bitch's debut CD feels like an evolution of that old Spacemen 3 mantra: Take drugs to make music to take drugs to. How else could these guys come up with an album title like The Really Really Jeff Hair People?
"My wife Christine made that up," frontman John Dickey explains. "It came from one night last year when we did some liquid at my house with another couple. In the week or so preceding that evening, we had identified a 'Jeff' look and attitude: long hair, skate, surf, dope, who-gives-a-fuck, good times, sloth, long-sleeved T's, etc. That evening we all begun to refer to any state of coolness, bliss, indifference, or stoned repose as 'Jeffness. '"
Amateur lingo enthusiasts, take note. "So grammatically, 'Jeff' is a proper noun, an adjective, and a verb," Dickey continues. "Maybe even an adverb. Jeff, Jeffness, Jeffed, Jeffed out, to Jeff, Jeffing, and Jeffingly: 'How you doin', man?' 'I'm fuckin' Jeffed, bro.' At one point after we'd surfed the first lush toxic wave of pleasurable disorientation, Christine uttered the phrase, 'the really really Jeff hair people.' She suggested I use that name for the album. It fit perfectly."
Like Jethro Tull or Lynyrd Skynyrd, there is actually no one person named Richard Bitch, but rather a quartet of wig-donning chemical casualties from the East Bay whose own aural alchemy of indie rock and dream pop creates a kind of hazy, West Coast, Jeffed-out psychedelica perfect for coming down to on the ride back from Coachella. RB is about to unleash one of the Bay Area's most innovative and experimental pop albums yet, in the form of the wonderfully druggy debut CD entitled, yes, The Really Really Jeff Hair People.
"I just want to make stuff that gets people completely high and makes them lose their mind," singer and guitarist Dickey admits from the courtyard of an Oakland cafe. "There have been a few shows I've attended in my life that I wish I could just guide home from the stage. Seeing Sonic Youth right after Goo -- they were like lunging panthers. They all looked so mean, but you just went to Mars with every song. That's what I want to do."
And that's what he's doing. You might have previously enjoyed Dickey in such local acts as the Heavenly States and Pie. Now, with ample help from bass player Tracy DeLuca, drummer and singer Mike Pukish, and keyboard player and singer Ken Flagg, Richard Bitch plays music so big and brutal in volume that by the time you realize you've taken hit after hit of sound barrier-breaking assaults, you'll find yourself helplessly reeling, as though your medicine bottle has been tampered with.
While most bands have a difficult time getting such a huge and layered live sound to fit on a CD, Jeff Hair People succeeds with the beautiful noise of Brian Eno-inspired astral freakouts, dive-bomb guitars reminiscent of Kevin Shields' floating tremolo, and heady six-string saturation à la Yo La Tengo. But it's not all big noise and art school: The Bitch can actually craft really catchy songs. "This Bastard Year" is one of those magical musings you can write a whole movie to in your head, especially during the outro instrumental part, where the song seems to hoist sails of static before floating out to a melting horizon. Other songs, like the infectious noise pop of "Playa Del Rey," ooze a kind of long-haired, laid-back cool that can otherwise only be found dripping from the sun-bleached locks of everyday-surfers in southern California. Throughout, Dickey's voice hits lazy falsettos that somehow merge memories of Pavement-era Steve Malkmus with Buffalo Springfield-era Neil Young -- he sings with the kicked-back cadence of a '70s head-shop clerk while pumping out solid sets of lyrical waves that triumphantly rail against nothing:
What in hell, mademoiselle? You and Giselle and fucking Taco Bell! Well, I've been spending a long time rolling pianos ... and I'm starting to fade away at the Playa Del Rey.
Overall, Jeff Hair radiates a nonchalant, natural genius that results in nothing short of an unsuspecting masterpiece. Good thing it paid off: The album took more than 24 months to make: "Yeah, the basic tracks are two years old," Dickey says. After recording those at West Oakland's Sound Wave Studios, "I dumped it all on Pro Tools and spent a year overdubbing and mixing. And then I took it to John Golden in Ventura to have it mastered, and he's like, 'Dude, the drums are completely out of phase. You had your phase reversed on the mics and it's all fucked up!' So I had to go back and remix the whole thing! It sucked!"
This labor of love ultimately birthed an album and a band that has garnered polar-opposing comparisons. If you listen to the end of "Playa Del Rey" (or if you happen to experience the tune's seizure-inducing video at RichardBitch.com), the ending guitar solo lets loose monster-sized Black Sabbath riffs. Hell, you could even sing the lyrics to "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" over that part. But it's also ambient and melodic. One admirable thing is that the band effortlessly shifts from soft rock sensibilities to more hard-hitting hessian rock that could summon the ghost of Tony Iommi (were he dead).
After all, Dickey totally cops to being raised on the radio. "It's all rooted in that time of the '70s, riding around with my mom in the Nova with the AM radio, listening to Bread," he recalls. "The thing I like about Bread is the ultimate economy of notes. There's nothing there that doesn't absolutely need to be there. It's so uncluttered. Bread is huge for me. Because when I started trying to sing rock 'n' roll I couldn't sing like Gene Simmons. I had more of a David Gates kind of voice. So it's like the mean shit, but with the soft shit over the top, singing the nice melody."
Soft shit stacked on mean shit: a really really Jeff concept.
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