Ringo Deathstarr, a brazen three piece from Austin, Texas, craft viciously loud, dream-like sonic textures. A Love That’s Sound speaks with Alex and Elliot of Ringo Deathstarr about grunge, shoegze influences, their inclusion in the Texan psychedelic scene and about the joy of shooting fruit.
David Lacroix: Last time you were in Vancouver, Ringo Death Starr played support for Peter Murphy (of Bauhaus). Elliot mentioned in your fan mail that he is a supernatural entity, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Elliott Frazier: No-one ever saw him until stage time. He would just sort of materialize and then start playing. He never sound checked or anything.
DL: Interesting, considering how tight his band was at the time.
Alex Gehring: Yeah, they were awesome!
Elliott Frazier: They were always sound checking. Andy Black Sugar is a maniac on the guitar. Peter, who knows what he was upto.
Alex Gehring: We never really saw him until it was time for the show to go on and then it would be “oh, there he is.” We were on tour with him for quite a bit.
Elliott Frazier: We talked to him, maybe three times in a whole month.
DL: Has late ‘70s, post punk music significantly influenced your sound?
Elliott Frazier: No. No, no. I’m not into that shit. Everyone keeps saying Joy Division is awesome but you know, I don’t know if they really are. I guess you’ve got to live in England and be depressed all of the time to like it. I think what was going on in the USA in the ‘80s was much more exciting. I like ‘80s music in general.
Alex Gehring: I love the ‘80s!
Elliott Frazier: I like the Cure. That’s one of my favourite bands, they sounded cool versus all of that nihilistic bullshit. Look at Ian Curtis, where is he today?
Alex Gehring: But what about Kurt Cobain! [Laughs] You love Nirvana!
Elliott Frazier: I know. What a fucking loser. That’s all I got to say. Eddie Vedder is still around.
Alex Gehring: And Pearl Jam is the greatest.
Elliott Frazier: Yeah.
Alex Gehring: David Mathews Band is still around. Another living legend!
Elliott Frazier: What was he doing in the ‘80s? What was Dave Mathews doing in the ‘80s, that’s the question, isn’t it?
DL: Elliot, we have covered Nirvana and Pearl Jam, how do you feel about the Smashing Pumpkins.
Elliott Frazier: I love ‘em. I wasn’t really that big of a fan until we toured with them. I had only listened to Siamese Dream before that, and I had liked that album, but after we toured with them I got it and it was just amazing. Now they are my favourite band probably. Jeff Schrodner played on God’s Dream “Chainsaw Morning” and the Pure Mood song “Guilt.” He played the guitar solos in there.
DL: Ringo Deathstarr is notable for having a lot of volume, not unlike the shoe-gaze style. What’s your connection to that style? How do you feel about shoe gaze heavy weights?
Alex Gehring: I didn’t know aynthing about shoe gaze until I joined the band. I had never heard My Bloody Valentine or the Jesus & Mary Chain. But then I listened to them and I was like “wow this is really cool.” I listened a ton to the Pixies, I liked Nirvana. I had never heard of My Bloody Valentine, I probably would have thought it was a hardcore band if you told me about it.
Elliott Frazier: To me, I’m kind of a disciple of that style. Kevin Shields, Jim Reed, William Reed, they are prophets if you will. I am a disciple spreading the gospel of noise and loudness. The whole sound, it’s not really about trying to create something new, it’s just about walking the walk, ya know?
Alex Gehring: We want to do something new too though.
Elliott Frazier: It stemmed from wanting to experience this thing. “How can I experience it if I can never see those bands play?” At the time,they weren’t playing, it was before any of them reunited. In 2005 is when I started the band. “How can I have that experience of that sound in my face? I have to do it, I have to start the band.” I quit playing drums and I started playing guitar and singing. Now we are trying different things because you obviously can’t just do the same thing over and over again.
DL: Ringo Death Star is more decidedly loud, dreamy and powerful than many other Austin bands. Many of the Reverberation Appreciation Society bands are more laid back. How do you think you fit on that label?
Elliott Frazier: It’s really weird. I don’t know. We’ve played psych fest three times, the first one, the third one and in 2015.
Alex Gehring: We always thought that it was funny that we were asked to play a psych-fest thing but it was cool every time so we never said no.
Elliott Frazier: I just don’t know anymore. We are glad that everyone of those people like us but I don’t really see ourselves as a psych band or whatever. I guess loud, weird noise is psychedelic but that’s about it.
DL: Occasionally, a record has an extremely alluring album cover. Can you tell us about the cover for the Ringo Deathstarr Cover “God’s Dream”?
Alex Gehring: My friend Robert Madler took it of me in my back yard. We didn’t know that it was going to be the cover. Elliot saw the photos.
Elliott Frazier: I was trying to come up with a cover and I asked Alex to send me some pictures. I chose one for the front and one for the back.
Alex Gehring: We decided to call the album “God’s Dream”. With a title like that, you need a cover to balance it. If you did the wrong kind of cover it would look kind of cheesy. We had to counter act it, I guess.
Elliott Frazier: Guns are cool in our opinion, we are from Texas. Just put it on the cover.
Alex Gehring: Although I will say that it was just a BB gun. Whenever I’m in Europe, people always ask me about that cover, like they are upset about it.
Elliott Frazier: Lame-Os….
Alex Gehring: I didn’t kill anyone.
Elliot Frazier: Why don’t you try shooting a watermelon with a 12-gage once in a while and see how fun it is? I mean, come on.
DL: Tell us a little about the colour mauve.
Elliott Frazier: I was working at American Apparel and the colour mauvre was the colour of some clothes, like a hoodie. I wanted it to be like the white-album but mauve. Stragglier 59 has a silver album, a gold album, a red album… I wanted to go along in that vein and have a mauve album. Pink is my favourite colour, anything that is in a pink hue, I love it, I don’t know why. When you look at our stuff, there is a pink hue in everything.
DL: Being from Austin, who are some local comtemporary musicians who you appreciate?
Alex Gehring: We toured with Future Death. They are fucking awesome every night.
Elliott Frazier: We brought them on tour because we wanted to see them everyday. They are hard to describe. They are too crazy to be chill wave, they are too punk to be soft-rock but they are too psychedelic to be punk. And too fast to be a mid-templed band. I like Trail of Dead but they don’t live there anymore.
DL: Alex, what is it like to loose your suitcase in Portland? What is it like to have all of your clothing stolen?
Alex Gehring: [Laughs] It sucked at first but someone brought me a bag full of the most amazing band shirts. Future Death went and bought us cool band shirts as well. Elliot got Queen, I got Aerosmith. Someone just brought me old Nirvana shirt, Siouxsie & the Banshees shirt, Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine… Alice In Chains. At first I was like “noooooo my stuff!” but now I’m like “damn…. look at all of these shirts” Although I did lose my favourite Smashing Pumpkins shirt, I used to wear it all the time, it had a crying clown on it.
DL: Any messages for the great white north?
Alex Gehring: I hope you have us back.
Elliot Frazier: Eh, then, Eh?