In 2010, Chad Wells experienced a spiritual awakening while awaiting the birth of his second child. The result was his dynamic first album recorded under the Cricketbows moniker. The aural excursions executed on Home defied genre classification and illuminated psychedelic, Americana, folk, country and a variety of other sonic touchstones as influences. The very next year, Wells enlisted the help of Jellyfish and Beck keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning Jr. for a handful of tracks on sophomore effort Mycocosmic Transmission.
With two significant mind-benders under his belt, Wells again defies expectations for his output with his forthcoming LP, a record that owes significant debts to Roky Erickson and Syd Barrett, and delivers Krautrock-esque epics that are a far cry from the horror movie-inspired, four-chord bangers from his previous band, The Jackalopes. For Lid, Wells assembled an intimate cast of collaborators, including Andy Gabbard from Buffalo Killers and daughter Presley Jayne, to create a collection of songs that are hell bent on redefining the Cricketbows sound. This is what he told Ghettoblaster about it…
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?
The writing for Lid began immediately, just after the last album (Mycocosmic Transmission, released 11/11/11) was released. This material came together really quickly over the last year and was recorded as it developed. Initially the Cricketbows project was all about being improvisational and had a fully stream of consciousness approach and there’s a bit of that here but for the most part I wanted to capture something very specific and so writing it all down and focusing the process was key for this album.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
The song “Exodus from Orion” was probably the song that came the least naturally. I had very specific vision that I wanted to capture this sort of Zechariah Sitchin, “Ancient Aliens” kind of story all in the shape of this one song. Anyone who’s followed any of these theories and ideas knows that there’s a lot to it so I had to kind of distill the idea quite a bit. Also the music didn’t come very naturally. The last album got a lot of comparisons to the early prog movement – Amon Duul, Can, Yes, early Genesis and bands like that – which was fabulous, as I love that kind of stuff – however that’s not really the kind of player I am. I felt as though I had to try to actually live up to that vibe a bit and this was my attempt at a more structured, technical, progressive song. I think I actually landed closer to my ‘90s influences on it though. Kind of a Jane’s Addiction meets Tribe After Tribe with a sci-fi feel.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
“Sugarcube Cubensis.” The original improv that led to this song had a very Pixies kind of vibe. It was very bass driven with textural guitars. It sort of landed somewhere nearer to a hybrid of ‘80s “Paisley Underground” and “Madchester” sounds. It feels a bit like a sort of male fronted Bangles meets Happy Mondays thing or something, I think.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Andy Gabbard from Buffalo Killers sings some fantastic back up harmonies and plays guitar on the first three songs on the album and my daughter, Presley Jayne plays maracas on “Sugarcube Cubensis”. I was so honored to get Andy to play on the record and so lucky that such a talented guy lives right here in our little town. I’ve been a fan of what he and his brother Zach have been doing since they were in Thee Shams and had mutual friends so I called Andy up and offered to give him a tattoo if he’d come play on the record. He and his lovely wife came and hung out at my private tattoo studio and he put down tracks in single takes sitting right in the lobby of the studio and then he got a cool little dead buffalo tattooed on his forearm afterward. He got to be the first person to record music in the tattoo studio and I got to be the first person to tattoo him!
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
I produced it myself. My good friend Mike Day (The Stoics, Your Favorite Assassin, Floodgate Mission) has mastered every one of the albums. He and I have been collaborating on music in some form or another for around 20 years and though he hasn’t had any creative input in this project, he’s been an indispensable sounding board and cheerleader.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
The whole Cricketbows thing in general is from a psychedelic, transcendental sort of perspective. It’s also about positivity. I spent a lot of time in my formative years in very aggressive bands who often dealt with a lot of angry and dark subject matter and though I had inner aggressions to work out at the end of the day that’s not what’s in my heart. Also, in my search to understand my own mind and all those secrets of the Universe, I’ve done a fair amount of experimentation with psychedelic substances. After a series of very heavy, sort of Earth shattering, experiences in these altered states I kind of came out of a cocoon in a way. These Cricketbows songs are kind of my way of dealing with and putting some order to some things that really sort of blew my mind. So, there’s not a very obvious concept but there is a personal awakening sort of theme that stretches across all three albums.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
Cricketbows started life as just a recording project and the further along I got with it the less I could see myself going back to playing in some aggressive punk band or something like that. The albums, thus far, are me playing the lion’s share of the instruments and vocals with the exception of Andy Gabbard on this one and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. of Jellyfish (currently playing with Beck) on the last one. I’ve had a few failed starts at getting a group of people together to play the stuff due to people’s personal lives getting in the way of the music as well as just trying to get people who can take what I’ve done and honor the vision of what I’ve done but still be able to make it their own enough for it to feel organic.
So I have finally put together a phenomenal group of folks who will be helping me bring the thing to life. We haven’t put the thing on a stage yet but plan to make up for that lost time in the very near future. We’re all chomping at the bit to get the songs in front of people and see how they react. For us as a band in the rehearsal room the more driving, straight forward tunes tend to be the most fun to play but in the moments where we lock down on the droney weird stuff is where the real goosebumps occur. Friends and fans that we’ve garnered just from the recordings all have very different reactions to things and we’re really trying to stretch ourselves beyond being a band with an obvious niche or approach so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays to a bar crowd.