Portsmouth Psych Fest trips out with Yak, Snapped Ankles, The KVB and more
Building on its previous successes, Portsmouth Psych Fest will return for a third year this weekend.
And this year is set to be the festival’s biggest line-up to date.
Spread across two stages, showcasing established and emerging artists, the mighty Yak, special guests The KVB, Snapped Ankles and rising nihilists Black Country, New Road are all set to play.
Other confirmed acts include Nice Biscuit, Los Bitchos, Sweaty Palms, Scalping, Sleep Eaters, GURU, Egyptian Blue, Japanese Television and Drusila as well as a promising array of local talent from Freya Beer to Number 9, The Howlers and Mystic Peach.
Psychedelic-rock trio Yak are currently riding high on the back of the release of their acclaimed second album, Pursuit of Momentary Happiness. The tour following their debut Alas Salvation was a hedonistic and chaotic affair.
There was also a trip to Australia to work with Kevin Parker and Jay Watson of renowned psych-warriors Tame Impala, but frontman Oli Burslem admits that they had bitten off more than they could chew. They returned home frazzled and in need of a break.
Returning to the UK broke and without a permanent home, Burslem has split his time between friends’ and benefactors’ sofas and his trusty old Citroen estate.
When The Guide speaks to him ahead of their headline spot at Portsmouth Psych Fest he laughs: ‘I still don’t have anywhere to live.’
There follows the story of his last few days and how he tracked down an ‘eccentric friend who’s like a Viking of sound’ to a pig farm in Ilfracombe.
‘We ended up in a windowless bunker listening to all of this weird music, catching up. And then when I woke up this morning and realised we hadn’t rehearsed and our tour starts tomorrow, so I’ve been driving since half-five, I don’t know where I am.
‘I think I’m two hours from Dalston.’
Oli actually looks forward to being on tour – it provides him with a framework he appears to otherwise lack if he’s not focused on his music.
‘I’m kind of lost when I’m not on tour,’ he admits. ‘I like the routine and I’m kind of healthier, I stay out of trouble more. And I like meeting people, I like contrast – London gets a bit samey-samey.’
Fortunately bassist Vinnie Davies and drummer Elliot Rawson are ‘a bit more settled.’
Davies though is relatively new to the band. Original bassist and Oli’s lifelong friend Andy Jones left the band to get married and moved to Australia with his new wife in 2017.
‘When we first started out Andy always said he was always going to leave, so he was true to his word,’ explains Oli. ‘He’s very cool – he never changes wherever he is.
‘He just liked playing – he’s never been fussed out being part of a scene or anything, he just likes playing some banging bass and caning it, like I do.
‘He’s still my best mate – we’re like brothers. He’s always been really supportive and sent me a message saying the new album sounded great. I think he wanted me to carry on and he’d go do his own thing.
‘Vinnie’s been amazing – he’s been a real catalyst for getting things going – he’s been very important.
‘When you say: “Do you want to work your arse off, travel around, always be broke and have no money, and live a lifestyle where your insides are aching?” It’s not for everyone, but it is for me.’
With the new album out, and waiting for the tour to start, listening to Oli describe his life is almost like Carry On Up The Indie Band.
‘I always write quite a lot. Even yesterday, I was just sat on a hill. I’ve got a lot of time to myself and I like that. This morning, there was all of this mist over this hill, I got out of the car to look at it, but I forgot to put the handbrake, so I ended up running after it to stop it falling off a cliff.
‘I was there by myself, but I wish someone had been there to see it…’
None of this is to say he isn’t deadly serious about his music – in fact it’s probably the reason he doesn’t have a more permanent home, every penny he gets he pumps into the music, including this album’s advance from Virgin EMI.
‘I’m always coming up with little ideas, that’s kind of what I get off on.
‘I’m always on to the next thing. I’ve been secretly recording things like conversations.
We were in Nashville recording at Third Man a few weeks ago, I was talking about turtles to the engineer over the intercom – he was from Texas – and I recorded it all. I’ve got weird recordings of lots of different things.’
The new album was joint released by Third Man Records, the label set up in Nashville by former White Stripes man, Raconteur and solo artist Jack White, and the band has been out there again in the last few weeks.
‘They’re really good with us – they just set up in the room and give us free rein, and we can do all kinds of weird things. They love it.
‘When I was growing up in the Midlands, I was into a lot of Detroit [White’s home] garage bands, and there seemed to be kindred spirits there.
‘We went to Nashville to do our thing, not to go to a country and western shop and put on all the gear and go all Americana.’
‘All that Third Man stuff, if I had the success Jack had, would I just go and sit in a mansion, twiddle my thumbs and drink beers and not do anything or would I be as active as he is? He gives it back to the thing he loves – the music, and trying to help people.’
What’s the new music they recorded out there destined for?
‘I don’t really know yet, I’m still waiting to get it back.
‘Because it took a while to get the second album out, I’d like to release something as quick as possible. Something really expressive and out there – if it’s one track it’s one track, if it’s 10 tracks, it’s 10 tracks.
‘We recorded a lot, but we only release stuff we really love, I just want to keep it going.’
PORTSMOUTH PSYCH FEST
Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
Saturday, May 4 wedgewood-rooms.co.uk