Dig the Now Sound (Thursdays at 10:00 pm eastern on Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio) plays standout recent garage/psych. The featured track this week is “My Mask” by The Omecs, a garage/psych band from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Normally for these posts I email back and forth over a couple of days but I’ve been corresponding with the Omecs for several months now since I first found them on Bandcamp. Their lineup has changed a little since then, but unchanged are the two principal members Luke Bonczyk on vocals and guitar and Mike McFarlane on drums. The Omecs have a great raw sounding garage groove, and I included their track “Can’t Get a Ride” on the Turn Me On, Dead Man mix of the best tracks of 2013.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: Tell me a little about your influences.
Luke: Our primary influences would probably be 60s garage psych bands along with some newer garage bands like The Oblivians, Thee Oh Sees, and the Gories.
Mike: We pretty much love any 60’s garage compilation we can get our hands on (nuggets, back from the grave, pebbles…etc.) The Oblivians and The Gories which Luke already mentioned, The Stooges, The Cramps, The Fall, The Modern Lovers. As far as newer stuff….Thee Oh Sees, Nobunny, Night Beats. Goner, In the Red, Burger, and Trouble In Mind seem to always be putting out really cool albums. I like the fact that most of these bands aren’t really making a lot of money off their records but they continue to put on great live shows all the time.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: The Jujus are one of my favorite sixties garage/psych bands and they were also from Grand Rapids. I was curious to know if the Jujus were any influence on you.
Luke: I haven’t really listened to the Jujus besides the one song I have on a Pebbles compilation, but I guess Mike says he loves them and he thinks they might actually also be from Grand Rapids. News to me, but what I’m hearing sounds awesome.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: How did the band came together and how long have you been at it?
Mike: Luke and I started playing music together last fall, we met through a mutual friend and started playing music in our friend’s basement. Luke had a PA so we moved everything to my house and we really got started there doing our own thing. We formed the band based on mutual interest in garage and the fact that no one in Grand Rapids was really doing that. The first time we got together Luke had already come up with some songs and then he started playing “Sister Ann” by The Gories and that’s when I knew I had found the right person to play music with. We’ve been playing consistently since then, and decided to start recording with Luke adding things to the songs we already had down.
[some time went by, then Luke emailed to tell me that the band had recorded five new tracks]
Turn Me On, Dead Man: So can you tell me a little bit about the new tracks? Are you working on a full-length?
Luke: Our last practice we were just zoning it. We started making up song after song, and it sounded really cool. Mike grabbed his macbook, stuck it on the floor down the hall from where we were practicing, and by night’s end we had recordings of five new songs: “My Family”, “Another Way”, “Heart Attack”, “Something I Never Had”, and “Wanted to Do”. They’re all rough, live tracks, but we like the sound of them. I compiled them into a Demo along with a few similarly recorded tracks from before and posted them on our bandcamp.
Ultimately, we’d like to record a full-length in the near future. We know of a few guys who have recorded and released cassettes with a better quality than we could do ourselves, so that is something we’re looking into. Otherwise, there is a guy with a studio in Grand Rapids who does professional quality recordings locally. Our good friends in Haunted Leather (a Grand Rapids based psych band in the vein of The Black Angels) have recorded an album and an EP with him and pressed them into vinyl, so we know he does quality work. Either way, we want to get our music onto something that people can physically hold, and still keep the noise and the raw tone because that’s what we like.
Mike: We came up with all of the new tracks in one night. We hadn’t been able to practice much lately because of conflicting schedules but as soon as we got set up things clicked. We decided to record it and I like how things turned out. Instead of adding vocals over the track or a second guitar we just recorded it how we played it. I’m not sure if we are really working towards a full-length but we would like to at least get enough tracks to record an EP. Luke is in school and I work an entry level job so we both need to save up money to get into a studio. For now, we will just keep doing things on our own.
[At this point I asked the Omecs if they would be interested in contributing a track to the Turn Me On, Dead Man JFK compilation Conspiracy A-Go-Go. I wasn’t really expecting them to contribute a track but I thought I’d just mention it to them on the off chance that they would be interested. A few weeks later they sent me Tell Me Why, which I liked so much I decided to use it as the opening track on the comp. Like the rest of the Omecs recordings, this one has a strong groove and a reverb heavy sound that works really well. I also thought it was the best general conspiracy theory statement among the tracks I had received.]
Mike and Luke: Credits are Luke Bonczyk on vocals and guitar, Mike McFarlane on drums, and Jake Hurley on bass. It was recorded in Mike’s basement. As for inspiration none of us in The Omecs had been born anywhere near that era, but our favorite bands are either from the 1960s or at least influenced by psych music of that time. Also, just how heavy the mystery is surrounding the Kennedy assassination and the alleged coincidental assassination of his brother. It’s weird and weirdness turns us on.
[Earlier this month I checked in on the Omecs again.]
Turn Me On, Dead Man: So what’s going on with you?
Luke: Lately we’ve made some changes in our lineup in order to go in the direction we started out, back when it was just me and Mike. Since recording the JFK song, we replaced Jake, our bass player with a friend Hank McHenry because Jake lived in Detroit and had to commute on a Greyhound to practice, so it just made more sense. After that we added another guitar player named David Peters, which really filled out our sound a lot. We came up with some cool new krautrock sounding songs, but after a while Mike and I felt like we were getting too far away from our garage-psych roots. So last weekend we made the difficult decision to replace David with my girlfriend, Mara Furlich. It might seem like a weird switch, since David has a lot of guitar experience and Mara has very little. That said, she really gets the style we’re going for, (she actually first introduced me to the psych and garage genre by showing me The Cramps and The Gories), but because she and I live together and all four of us have been buds for so long we can practice way more often. Our current sound is way more garage rock, and reminds me of bands like Thee Heatcoats, The Milkshakes, and The Gories. I’ll have to get some rough recordings and show them to you.
Recently, the psych scene in our town has been coming to life. Haunted Leather has been carrying the torch for a couple years with their Wooden Shjips like sound, recently a band called Heaters sprouted up with a psych surf-and-turf, and in the past few weeks a darker garage/surf two piece called Black Fruit has come out of the woodwork. We’ve all been playing shows together, and Heaters and Haunted Leather are hosting a “Psych Night” in a house show and are bringing in some awesome bands from Detroit.
We have been booking shows pretty regularly around Grand Rapids in house venues and bars and in the basement of a pizza shop, so things have been pretty steady. I think we’re going to try and cut back on playing live for a few months to focus on recording an album sometime in April. Hopefully that will help us get some out of town shows this summer.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: OK. Keep Me posted. Best of luck to you.