The Black Angels are a trip to see in concert. The last time they played the Bluebird, they opened with "Manipulation" — a twisted love song from their 2006 cult hit Passover — in the cover of almost total darkness, with lead singer Alex Maas stalking the stage like a quietly intense warrior as guitarist Christian Bland sang the haunting verses. Then, as the group exploded into the terror-filled stomp of "You on the Run," the opening track from this summer's Directions to See a Ghost, Maas shrieked in liberation and the stage was lit up by footage of Native American tribal ceremonies that Black Angels concerts in some ways resemble.
The Austin-based psych-rock band's shows are furious and heavy, often slow-churning dronefests in the style of the Velvet Underground and early Stooges, inspired and informed by the music and lyrics of the quintet's heroes the 13th Floor Elevators, who also hail from Austin. We asked Bland about the prospect of touring with Elevators frontman Roky Erickson later this year and about the influence Erickson's band has had on the Angels.
Westword: The vision behind Directions to See a Ghost seems very cohesive and premeditated, with short, explicit meanings behind each song listed in the liner notes. What inspired the album's theme, and how would you sum up that theme?
Christian Bland: The 13th Floor Elevators song "Roller Coaster" was the inspiration. These lyrics sum up our sole intention as a band:
"After you trip, life opens up/You start doing what you want to do/And you find out that the world that you once feared/Gets what it has from you/No one can ever hurt you/But you know more than you thought you knew/And you're looking at the world/With brand new eyes/And no one can ever spoil the view.
"Come on and let it happen to you/Hey, hey, hey, come on and let it happen to you/You gotta open up your mind/And let everything come through/Open up your mind/Let everything come through."
How do you feel about touring with Roky Erickson? Will there be live collaborations?
Touring with Roky will be surreal. I've been listening to the Elevators since I was a kid, and now we get to play with the voice of the 13th Floor! It's like a dream. We'll be opening for him, and then we'll be his backing band, as well. We've been practicing with him for the past month. We're working more 13th floor Elevators songs into the set, with electric jug and all.