Lift to Experience made big news for North Texas music fans, especially for those who attended high school in the Clinton era, in March when the band announced it would reunite for a show in London. the trailblazing psych-tinged act, led by Josh T. Pearson, also announced plans to perform three Texas shows before jetting across the Atlantic. Among those is a return stop to the band's hometown, Denton, where they formed in 1996.
Pearson admits that the reunion shows, which includes a Denton stop on Sunday June 5, has had him experiencing a "crazy range of emotions."
The show, after all, will be the very last at Rubber Gloves before the revered Denton club closes its doors likely for good. Just to help bring things full circle, Rubber Gloves is also the location of LTE’s last local concert before their original breakup, when the group opened for reigning post-rock titans Explosions in the Sky in 2001.
But there are many other details demanding Pearson's focus at the moment. “I’m on YouTube learning how to play ‘Into the Storm,’” he admits. “We just played it last night for the first time in 14 years.”
That Pearson and his band mates, Andy Young and Josh Browning, have to relearn the song isn’t so shocking though. George W. Bush had barely been in office the last time the song was played live, and for the past many years, Pearson has been an acclaimed country troubadour focusing on rustic acoustic instrumentation, not the soaring wall of fuzz and fireworks LTE is known for.
“That’s been weird because it’s such a completely different style of playing,” he says with a chuckle. “I finally plugged in and I felt the electricity vibrating the sound waves with the reverb, and I thought, ‘This is incredible! How have I been playing this country stuff for so long?’ That stuff is boring compared to the immediacy of how the electricity shoots right through you. It was cool to have that feeling, like a kid playing electric guitar for the first time.”
Pearson is wholeheartedly surprised by how moving the reception has been. “I thought you get to a point in your life where you’re past surprise,” he says. “But I have been surprised by the things I’m feeling. The colors that come out and the flood of emotions have been a joy for me. There have been good and bad things, but it’s been a joy to discover I can feel so many different ways now.”
In a few months, once Matt Pence of the Echo Lab has finished working his magic, the re-mastered edition of the Texas Jerusalem Crossroads will be released. For Pearson, hearing the old songs with a new electric urgency given to them by Pence’s mix, along with performing them, has excited him and reminded him that, in its original hey day, Lift to Experience was something special — whether he fully understood that at the time or not. Pearson’s unafraid to accept a great deal of blame for not leading LTE in a longer run before disintegrating. He cites Explosions in the Sky as a contemporary band that kept grinding and has “kept going, kept innovating and has influenced culture.” It’s a legacy he admits his old band shared with his friends from Austin.
“I feel disappointment because I feel like there’s a flashlight on something I failed on,” he says. “You had this special thing and couldn’t get your shit together or wouldn’t work on it to make it better or anything like that. We missed a window when, in hindsight, we could’ve probably made a few more records and could’ve been influential and might’ve carved out a niche or left a real mark.”
There have already been some ebbs and flows between the three band mates in the short time they’ve been back together. Tearful confessions and even in-studio spats have all found their way into the mix of Lift to Experience 2.0. Most surprisingly, according to Pearson, he can tell that each of the guys have been “trying to impress each other, which is odd for 40 years olds to be doing.”
It hasn’t taken long for the personal reasons the band has been apart for so long to come to light, either. But the reasons the band were together in the first place and made a lasting impact together have become obvious, as well.
“It’s like being divorced and dating your ex-wife all over again,” he says. "You realize there are certainly reasons you two divorced, but you can also see the reasons you got married in the first place.”
For now, the show in London will indeed be the last — again — for Lift to Experience. There’s no talk of more shows or going back into the studio to record a new album. Pearson hints that he’s curious to see how the reissued record is received, but he’s making no assumptions. Not unlike the group’s initial lightning fast and thunder-loud run of 15 years ago, Lift to Experience isn’t here to fit into a tidy storytelling corner. Pearson prefers to write his own story.
“These shows are a chance for us to realize what we did was something good," he says. "We have messed up in a bunch of other areas, but we did this really well."
LIFT TO EXPERIENCE perform with Corn Mo, the Angelus, Dove Hunter and more, 3 p.m. Sunday, June 5, at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, 411 E. Sycamore St., Denton, 940-387-7781 or rubberglovesdentontx.com, Sold out.