Texas has a rich musical history but it's not all country and honky-tonks. People often overlook the psychedelic rock connection to the Lone Star state. It all began many moons ago with Roky Erickson coining the term Psychedelic Rock and melting minds with the 13th Floor Elevators. The genre blossomed in Texas with such well-known groups as the Moving Sidewalks, Polyphonic Spree and The Black Angels.
Galveston’s own India Tigers of Texas are part of the movement and are releasing their first album on Austin’s Mas Music Records. The band will be celebrating with shows in Houston, Galveston and Austin. Guitarist and vocalist Jaron Hall describes their sound as, “A blend of classic psych sounds that people might associate with the ‘60s and modern rock, even more progressive bands. There’s atmosphere to it; some parts are pretty rock and roll and then some parts can be a little more spacious.”
Living in the small community of Galveston the group gravitated toward each other, meeting at concerts and art events. They began writing together and played their first show on New Year's Eve of 2016. Vocalist and multi instrumentalist (including theremin) in the band Mel Stone describes the call to psych, “Psychedelic music is an experience; its immersive and cool.”
The group chose their name after hearing that there are more tigers in captivity than in the wild. Stone describes how their imaginations ran wild with the thought of tigers breaking loose all over Texas, “These tigers would thrive in Texas.” she says gleefully.
The randomness of tigers roaming the state parallels the inexplicable connection of psych rock to Texas. “Being a more conservative state, it has a history of drug repression which has plagued some bands like the 13th Floor Elevators. It has a murky history but it just has a resiliency to it. I’m not sure what exactly about Texas makes psych rock thrive here.” says Hall.
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Psych rock is hard to separate from its colorful and fluid visuals, used to reflect or enhance the effects of mind altering, hallucinogenic drugs. Hall describes the psych experience: “It blurs the boundaries between what is sound and what is light. It is something in a psychedelic experience where boundaries start breaking down; you’re hearing lights and seeing sounds. Whether somebody is in the headspace or not, they should have that shared experience where it all blends together.”
For their upcoming shows they will incorporate trippy visuals by local artist the Sonic Boom Light Show, using oil, VHS tapes and digital effects. Stone says, “It’s the music reaching out and touching you, but if there are things visually or things you can physically touch it’s this whole immersive experience.”
With their self-titled album, the group intended to replicate the live experience, “We wanted it to be a good headphone ride. It’s very stereo friendly; people could just throw some headphones on and float away. There’s lots of ear candy in there, as close to the live show, but also a treat and roller coaster ride in headphones.” describes Hall.
To capture the winding, transporting effect they were looking for, the band teamed up with local Grammy-winning producer Steve Christensen. “He’s good at the technical aspect of it but also very good at making everyone feel very comfortable and making it a smooth process where there’s no friction.” says Hall.
India Tigers of Texas has already secured a steady following in Galveston, which they applaud as a supportive environment, and have solid connections in Austin, nudged along by their record label and the cities strong psych scene. “Austin has a community around psych rock, and Houston does too; that can be a double edged sword because it’s a little more saturated, but there’s also a dedicated psych community.” says Hall.
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He continues, “In Houston, it’s different, it’s more spread out and we are on the sidelines. We have to keep trying to break in, people don’t see us all the time but we are trying to play more often. It’s a little hard to be an hour away, maybe it just takes time but I think we are getting there now.”
With Mas Music Records, the band has found a home filled with like-minded individuals. Label founder, Michele Mas Martin, quickly became friends with the band after attending an event they hosted in Galveston. Hall describes her approach, “She likes to call it the DIT ethos, as opposed to DIY, it’s do it together. They work with bands who have other skills to contribute so we can do certain things in house.”
Stone explains how all five members work together to create their richly textured and layered sound, “It all comes together pretty organically. We are lucky like that.” She continues, “I think we are all pretty good at listening to each other and it feels like we are all writing it together at the same time.”
India Tigers in Texas will play their record release show with King country and Ak'chamel, the Giver of Illness Friday, May 3 at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, doors open at 8 p.m. $8