‘Raucous, velvet, vibey’ | Interview with The Things

SECRET ECLECTIC sitting here with THE THINGS. Watch our video interview with Justice Joslin (bass, producer), Lukas Neufeld (vocals, guitar), Oscar Jesus Bugarin (vocals, guitar).  Missing from the interview are Matty ‘Moose’ Pert (drums), Adam Saxxy (saxophone, clarinet), Eoh Selujen (vocals).

*Scroll down for a full transcript of the interview and to listen to their album Vicarious Catharsis*

Can you describe for me in three words, your sound? 

Psychedelic punk rock. It has a little bit of grunge and dirt. An edge in it like punk has. And then it has psychedelic like Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Starship, that’s just the bed of it. Then the blues and rock, the soul of it all. 

Raucous, velvet, vibey.

What would you say is the most exciting thing about your new album “Vicarious Catharsis”? 

The most exciting thing for me, is for people that listen to the album to potentially feel some sort of catharsis from it. That’s why the name of the album is ”Vicarious Catharsis,” because when we play live, we feel what the audience feels, and they feel what we feel. It’s symbiosis. I hope that comes across in the album. That’s really what I’m excited about, for people to actually have the opportunity to experience that because when we play live, it’s just channeling and channeling and we feel and flow back and forth to each other. That’s why we recorded it all live to tape, because it was the most organic way to really get that across. We do this for the shows, we do this for the connection people.

Carrying everybody in the whole experience, not just us on the stage. 

Well, as you said Lukas, you recorded the album on tape, most of it during live sessions. How and why did you guys decide to do this? Is it a love for vintage that drove this decision? Or did it have to do more with the sound texture, we want to know more about that? 

Well, it started with a tape obsession that I passed on to this guy over here.

He brought a tape machine to me and the rest is history. Inside that tape machine, it forced surrendering, it forced improv, and forced honesty. And I really liked how it captured honesty at the collective level. Musically, we would just get in the room and record the entire, sometimes first moment of interaction, with some people that we’ve recorded. And so once we got to this level with this band in this place, the growth of this room that held the tape machine, The Skipper Room, (more on that story), seeing how Luke is such an ‘in the moment, channeling musical rock and roll fella’ it only made sense, we’ve got to do this in the moment. We’ve got to do this outside of our own minds, we’ve got to do this without thinking so that we can make space for something else to say something. And that’s the beauty I really appreciate about these guys is the surrendering to machines. And then the machines have characters, you know, character traits if you will, they have colors. It’s got energy that this man routes, through the gear with his own hands. Sometimes the gear says, “We’re not going to record that part on accident” and we say, “Oh, that’s a bummer.” But it ends up being great, you know.  On the track ‘Goodbye’ we have Eohn, coming in on the first harmony, you’ll hear he comes in a half a beat late. And we didn’t plan that and I recorded over it. And I was like “Man, that’s a bummer move. Come on, man. You gotta pay attention. You can’t just… the focus has got to be there.” Then after the fact we heard it and the unpredictable start gives it this vibe. And that’s when the machine starts to say, “I’ve got some character, I’ve got something to say” and when you work with it, it gives you something that you can’t predict and you can’t copy, it becomes forever permanent. You know, it’s ‘this thing’. 

Yeah. It’s funny, you’re riding this ship, or this crazy horse trying to make it work, sometimes it doesn’t work at all and then it’s just “Well, this song is something else now.”  

Do you think that makes you more present in your work?

Yeah, you have to be there for sure or you’re gonna miss it. There’s no, “Oh, I recorded this in my bedroom and emailed it to you.” We have to be here to do it, which is why we all ended up just living together. Because now we can go in the other room and start playing and someone will just walk in, and now you have a song. 

You hear a little melody in the distance, you’re like “Who played that?” and come in here (The Skipper Room), and by the end of the day, you’ve got a song. Pretty special.

Open time with no pressure. You don’t have to make dates to go get your crew together, you’re just all there. And when you have this empty space, something comes into reality, like in a totally different way when everyone’s there. 

So this brings me perfectly to my next question. As you mentioned, your band lives together here in California. So of course, we have to ask how is this cohabitation going?

Good. So far, so good.

It’s pretty amazing. It works out really well. It’s something that I think that makes… (dog barks) ..everyone except for Kali. 

She’s the problem child, Kali Ma Shakti De, the pooch that may or may not bite your hand.

I think for artists it’s necessary for us to be in this collaboration 24/7. We’re constantly pushing each other and rubbing off on each other. Just sanding down the stones, you know, refining the sculpture. 

In engineering if you wanted to make a flat surface and all you had was nature… at one point, they figured out that if you rub two stones together, one will imitate the other one, but if you have a third stone, and rub all of them together, back and forth, you will end up with something perfectly flat and refined. But you need all of them to rub together. That’s what we’re doing here, man. (A rubbing dance begins)

When we started doing this, we were like “Summer camp forever!”, it’s the same. 

You guys kept asking me when I was going to stay.

Yeah, every time you’d come, we were like “Yeah, you’re not leaving, you gotta move in!”

So speaking of shenanigans, can you tell us something funny or enraging that has happened? Something crazy?

There was a moment where I happened to eat someone’s dinner.

Justice ate someone’s charcuterie board.

Shakootery? Charkewterie? Cute Shark Boards.

It’s a cheese board.

And Just ate somebody’s food, man. But it was left out.

At the time, it was the beginning of the community expanding. We had more characters here.

There’s a communal space in the kitchen where we leave food to eat in case of people walking by, you don’t want any more, you leave it in this spot. 

Someone leaves food here, like Oscar said, and I happen to get back from a long adventure or job, and I came home and see this charcuterie board sitting there. I’m looking around, I felt like a mouse looking for some snacks, and I thought I can’t eat that, is it community or is it not? Should I ask? I don’t know. And so I said “Okay, let’s do this,” assuming no one would notice. You know,  there’s enough in there I could grab. So real quickly, man, evidence gone, let’s just ignore it and go outside and I was hanging out with everybody catching everybody up and somebody comes out very frustrated.

“Who ate my dinner? Who ate the cheese?” 

Apparently that’s been going on, little bites of people’s foods going missing. It’s been frustrating, I had no idea. It was one of those moments where I wanted to just forget about it, like when you kind of fart in a classroom. I thought if I just don’t say anything nobody will know, but if he starts asking everybody he’ll find out it’s me. I told him it was me, he was alright. It was resolved ok.

Yeah, that’s a pretty good sign. So tell me people, you’ve got this amazing community here, you’ve done some performances here am I correct?

We have shows here, we had a birthday party for our friend Jeremy (Jackson). 

We have Moon Festivals.

David Hasselhoff came and shot the bow with Matty “Moose”. But what I really want to do is build a community, what we want to do is expand our community. And it’s not that we have fans, it’s that we have friends. We get to build properties and have more festivals. We get to improve life to the extent by which people can live more free and happily and express themselves. 

So with all of this in mind, what would be your ideal venue? 

Mine is my favorite (The Skipper Room/ Musical Meeting of Magical Minds) and the stages and festivals to come are my favorite. But if we were going to step outside of this beautiful world of ours the first thing that comes to my head is Red Rocks just because of the natural elements.

I would like to vicariously catharsis in that.

Some would say that rock music is not really at its peak at the moment, at least in terms of popularity. Do you people think it can manage to bounce back soon? If so, how do you see that happening?

I think it already is to be honest. 

I think we have to ask ourselves, what is rock and roll? Now it’s a genre, there’s pop rock, blues rock, John Mayer sob rock, which I’m excited about. But I see rock and roll, as I look in the past and I listened to a lot of these records, it feels very honest, warm and dynamic. It’s also a collective movement of people and friends, trying out new ideas and going in a different direction than everything else. Finding the community to do this with then inside of that, you get this person playing on this record or that record. It wasn’t black and white, it was whatever we could think or dream, and do it together. And musically let’s create a new sound.

I mean, it’s like a sonic exploration, like we as a community are exploring constantly. We barely rehearse sometimes, we just explore together and that’s what makes it really cathartic. 

So you intend to live rock ‘n’ roll and not just play it? 

That’s what we’re doing here, yeah. We live inside of it, this is what we do. It’s what we love. We’re not going to spend our lives doing something we don’t want to do. I mean, when you gotta do that, at a certain point, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, but it should be for your end goal of living your best life and becoming your greatest version. You know, we have one life and it’s very easy now to spend most of it staring through a screen and we have a responsibility to stand up and share our time with people and make art, or make our own flow and express ourselves to inspire people.

It’s just being human. I think the world right now is actually headed in this very human, organic movement and rock ‘n’ roll fits into that. And all of us rock ‘n’ rollers are building our communities like this and putting on our own festivals and being self sustainable. And that’s also another movement that’s happening in this world of sustainability. This group right here just recorded a whole analog record and that hasn’t really happened in a long time. We’ve got new people, new songs, new characters and we’re headed into the organic, into the human, into the next evolution.

Can you tell me, between everything you’ve listened to in the previous year, do you have an artist or an album, specifically that you single out?

Something I’ve been listening to is the soundtrack from the movie ‘Trip’ by Electric Flag. 

The soundtrack for ‘E.T.’ got brought in this past year. We would do yoga to it. Late nights, it was put on at both sides. First side is the movement, second side is just lay down take it. 

For me, I’ve been listening a lot to Taj Mahal. I grew up listening to a lot of blues. So I put on ‘Honey Bee’,or ‘Lovin in My Baby’s Eyes’. 

Have you thought about what you would be doing if not making music?

Traveling quite a bit. Camping, surfing, snowboarding, long hikes and disappearing in nature.

I probably would be a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army, actually.

If it weren’t for being a musician again, I’d still be in the army. Active Duty trying to be a warrant officer and fly helicopters .

I like to invent ideas and things and I’d be chasing this idea I have for propulsion technology. 

Let’s not tell the world.

A secret, yeah.

I’ll give you one more chance Lukas if you’ve got three words. Have you distilled at all?

Velvety. Ruckus. Vibey.

A little bit of rain. A little bit of thunder. Lightning. Don’t forget the wind. Don’t forget the dirt. Don’t forget the trees. 

Thank you people so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure to sit down and talk with you.

Thanks for the questions. We want to shout out to Alex for having us on this interview with Secret Eclectic, thank you. Cheers.

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