Psychedelic music has become almost omnipresent. It was birthed out of the marijuana and mescaline-fueled writings of the Beat Generation, distilled into the powerhouse of surrealistic expression with the advent of LSD and the hippie movement and lives on today. The genre, it seems, will endure long after our high has worn off.
From rock pioneers Pink Floyd or funk greats Parliament/Funkadelic, to modern bands such as Grizzly Bear, Tame Impala, Texas’ own late, great DJ Screw, or Dallas-based Acid Carousel, veins of what could be loosely described as psychedelic music are virtually found within every musical genre.
From this primordial soup of psychedelia, Denton-based duo Ego Jones drew inspiration for its recently released first album, Fluoressence.
“[Psychedelic music] is hard to define by genre,” Gabe Garcia, one half of Ego Jones, says. “Where do you draw the line?”
For nearly two years, from their alma mater of Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts, to their new stomping grounds of the University of North Texas, the pair have simply called themselves "a band" and left the genre for everyone else to define.
Throughout Fluoressence, shades of folk and rock (with some of the tightest drum parts you’ll ever hear) are pushed through that amorphous lens of psychedelia.
“A lot of our songs don’t necessarily have concrete meanings,” the other half of Ego Jones, Jude Holland, says. “They’re more emotions ... to the point that sometimes we’ll even just write a general feeling at the top of the page and write to that.”
It’s this almost primitive approach to their songs and lyrics that lends them their distinct voice. Each song forms a sort of mood-painting in the grander scheme of the album, complementing and contrasting with each other to the point that the work talks to itself in a conversation of textures, mixed genres and sounds — both produced and accidentally found.
Fluoressence ebbs and flows between the real and surreal, but is almost always, lyrically at least, floating above the ego — looking inward from outside the self.
In the album’s opener, “If and When,” a song Holland says was written on a hazy day in UNT’s piano practice rooms, Ego Jones sings: "When I wake will I forget/ the moonlight trees and stars inside my head/ external space / internal threat. Glowing at the end/ always stuck on if and when."
The release follows along the same path of introspection with which it starts out. Weaving its route through the Radiohead-esque "Cycles" to the seemingly endless, downtrodden "Notre Dame" is the all-instrumental soundscape "Olympus Mons." The latter would have been spacey enough for its namesake, the mountain Olympus Mons on Mars, but is made all the spacier by the found sounds that Ego Jones places at the forefront of the track, which Holland and Garcia put together by recording friends of theirs talking to each other over the course of an evening.
Ego Jones plans on keeping the band ever-evolving.
“We never want to feel stuck doing any one thing so we’re going to change our sound and keep changing,” Garcia says.
Holland pops in, joking about the band’s listlessness.
“We’re almost tired of this record already,” he says. Shifting to a more serious tone, Holland continues, “Specifically I think rhythmically we're going to start using more drum machines and the like … modernize the sound more and more but obviously, we will still like Pink Floyd.
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"No matter how modern or classic, I want it to have a spacey, dreamy soundscape. We want it to be psychedelic.”
And so Ego Jones, like their current genre-within-all-genres itself, will continue treading the line between vintage and modern, hurtling through style and time, stopping every so often to make a record of their journey, as they did with their debut.
Listen to Fluoressence below: