Ezra Pound once referred to the artist as the ‚”antennae of the race.” He insinuated that the artist was able to sense a cultural zeitgeist, critique and present it to an audience prior to it becoming ubiquitous. More importantly, their ability to expose these cultural happenings is an integral contribution to keeping society in check. Antennas of the Race is a series of conversations between two creative camps ‚Äìvisual, music, or otherwise‚Äîthat share a common relationship. They are intended to provide a more revealing look at each’s process and attitude toward creativity.
For the inaugural conversation, we have two experimental music groups: Excepter and Psychic Ills. Known for providing captivating (and sometimes unconventional) live performances as well as challenging records, each group has navigated the competitive New York music scene and come to define the richness of its palette.
Further illustrating their bond, Psychic Ills and Excepter will play a show together at 92YTribeca tomorrow. The show begins at 8pm. In addition, Psychic Ills recently released Mirror Eye on the Social Registry.
FW: Many people in the experimental music scene seem to marry the visuals with a musical aesthetic; you may see this on multiple levels: during a performance or the end product of a record. How do you feel about being apart of this movement?
Excepter: We like to put on a performance and we go out of our way to make videos, so yeah, we’re definitely into the visual. Dance is to music like gesture is to speech; it gives the audience another way to understand what we’re getting across.
We would caution against identifying our visual bent as being part of a movement or scene. If anything, we stand against the influence of the 90s indie stance, which was very anti-image. If there is a common bond between bands, it’s usually a love of records from before our time.
Psychic Ills: There are a lot of bands–there’s probably a lot of ‘scenes’. We just do our thing. We’re not so aware of these qualifiers, but we’re into a lot of things music and non-music related.
Excepter: It’s tough for intra-band influence in the experimental scene. By nature, underground music is on the outer edge of the business in general. If anybody has conceits of being a professional artist, there are limited resources and you will be forced to compete for money. You can see how resentment can run high in these situations.
Psychic Ills: It doesn’t seem so much like there is one type of thing happening, just a lot of people with similar zip codes.
Excepter: Yeah if you ever want feel out of place, play your label showcase! It’s great people have eclectic tastes these days, but then again, everyone’s a critic –it can make for some awkward experiences both onstage and back.
What I think is interesting for each of our groups and why we get along is that we come from different backgrounds. There are multiple motivations for how each of us came to the play this music. Both Clare [Excepter] and Liz [Psychic Ills] come from dance performance backgrounds; Jimmy [Psychic Ills] and Lala [Excepter] come from the classical music world; bunch of film majors in the band. What’s been so freeing is making work that is uncompromising ‚Äìat the price of giving up being commercially successful.
FW: What do you think, then, about the sense of community in the digital age? Do you think it fosters more freedom and access or further provides this wall of isolation?
Excepter: It has and it hasn’t. On one hand it broadens and intensifies the level of communication, which in turn creates a sense of community. On the other hand, it broadens and intensifies the level of criticism, which isn’t so great for freedom of creativity.
Psychic Ills: Its probably does both. Technology is always interesting. People are always gonna take of leave certain elements of it–y’know use what works for them.
FW: How do you feel about New York being so financially tough on artists/musicians?
Excepter: It’s a tightrope walk of how to build a body of work that lasts while supporting ourselves.
Psychic Ills: Musician or not, most people are just trying to survive. Sometimes you’ve gotta go to the $1 pizza spot. But, there’s something good about how it kicks you in the ass every so often and reminds you that you’re alive. I don’t think it’s going to change.