Psychedelic Horseshit’s Matt Whitehurst is done being mean. In recent years he’s made enemies by loudly spouting off about the lack of authenticity in the lo-fi rock scene and singling out certain popular bands while he did so. These days he says he’s mellowed out and moved on — the latter, a claim his band’s new album Laced backs up.
And a step away from the shoegaze-inspired rock that first got the band noticed — and saddled with the “shitgaze” label — is likely just what Psychedelic Horseshit needs. Songs like “I Hate the Beach,” which, at over seven minutes, might be the longest track the band has ever recorded, and the swirling atmospherics of “Revolution Wavers” are enchantingly disjointed. There are elements of dance music, but they’re not songs you could dance to; the bones of rock songs are visible, but that’s not it either. For better or worse, it seems like Whitehurst has become what everyone least expected: Kind of a nice guy.
Hive spoke with Whitehurst about how the future of Psychedelic Horseshit rested on letting go of the past.
On Laced, you’ve moved away from the sound on your previous releases. Why is that?
[Laced] references our old stuff and keeps the same aesthetic without sounding much like the old stuff at all. It’s born out of dance music and ambient music. A few years back I was getting bored with the whole lo-fi thing. I don’t really like lo-fi music — it’s stuff I would listen to when I was 12. For me, it’s over. I don’t care about that stuff; I like trippier music.
What about that appeals to you?
My fascination and why I like it is because there are so many different artists. I don’t buy records anymore or download stuff to get an album; I just hear music in different places — at festivals, taking ecstasy and partying. Different music started to sound better to me and sounded more truly psychedelic, which is a direction I always want to go in. When we made the [last] record, I was into My Bloody Valentine and Radiohead, and since that album I’ve started to become more aware of contemporary music. There was a period where we got heavy into Royal Trux and did that thing, probably right after 2007. We heard Accelerator and that record is an influence because it’s all sequence and samples. Around the same time, someone hipped me to Public Enemy’s early stuff and I got way into Fear of a Black Planet. I’d never been into hip-hop before and that really changed how I thought about making music, sampling and all kinds of stuff. That changed the direction of the band in a way.
But what about the whole shitgaze thing that people associate your band with?
Shitgaze started out as a joke. I think it’s funny that it’s something people toss around. You can call us whatever you want. I think that genres and labels like that are potentially dangerous because you send someone in with them, but I don’t feel tied down. If we wanted to, we could drop a hip-hop record tomorrow and it wouldn’t be a big deal. It would still sound like us. I don’t know what [shitgaze] was in the first place; it was a joke because I was so obsessed with shoegaze music and our first record sounded so shitty.
In your press materials you say that the record “has a vague concept about dreams and the hollowness of words.” What does that even mean?
In the past, there have been pointed things I was trying to say in songs; taking jabs and talking about whatever’s wrong with the world. On this record, I got a whole lot more vague and was more influenced by dreams and a disconnection from my actual feelings. I didn’t really know what it was about when I was writing it — it’s not linear, it doesn’t flow or call anybody out — the whole record is kind of like, “Where the fuck am I going with this?” because we piled all of these layers on top of each other and made these songs. We were experimenting at the time and going in a lot of directions. A lot of it was me sitting my room making it, and Brian [Jewell] would come and add percussion or keyboards or different effects. It was recorded over a long period, but recorded very quickly when it was being recorded.
You’ve been pretty public about your disdain for the scene you felt lumped in with.
You start this band and people pay a minimum amount of attention, but more than most shitty, low-fi bands get, and you learn what’s going on in the music scene real quick. It’s not all about this youthful drunkenness and just sitting in a room, and if you and your friends like it, it’s cool. The score of it changes and it made me question what I like in music. We had been pigeonholed into this very narrow area and people had come to expect something from us that I didn’t feel was us. It’s a step in a new direction. This record is very experimental and a lot of it is pretty weird.
And looking back on your more infamous rants, how do you feel now? How did that affect the band?
I talked shit and I thought it was funny and I meant some of the stuff I said, but I was a little unfair and harsh. I definitely pushed some buttons and offended some people, and I never meant to make people think I hated them. It was about entertainment. It got taken really personally by a lot of people and that wasn’t the intention. A lot of doors got closed for us because of that, but for me it had blown over the next day. When the interview dropped, I was like, “Which interview?” I don’t do this just so I can talk shit on stuff. I think honest criticism is important. Not everybody needs to be patted on the back all the time — that’s not what I would expect from my peers if they didn’t feel what I was doing. But I wouldn’t take it personally.
So now you’re beyond all of that. What’s next?
I don’t know how people are going to take this new record; it’s definitely a lot weirder and takes a little more time to get into. Some of our most successful moments are on this record. We’re going to wait until the fall to tour. We’re going to record a bunch of music this summer; I’ve already started my next record somewhere in the back of my head. I’m shaping it there right now, letting it hibernate for a bit before I start writing it down and recording it. The next one’s gonna be a total party record.
Laced is out May 10 on Fat Cat Records.