On flights of fancy with the Flamingods at Psych Fest

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After making a successful debut last year, Portsmouth Psych Fest returns in 2018 with what promises to be a bigger and better year of mind-expanding music from the fringes.

There will be three stages this year, with music in The Wedgewood Rooms, its little sibling, The Edge of The Wedge, and also in Acapulco Bar, all in Albert Road, Southsea.

With the same mix of local and global music, acts slated to appear include The Wytches, Barbudo, Melt Dunes, Lucid Rising, The Ninth Wave and Yowl. And headlining at The Wedge, are the Bahraini/British psychedelic explorers, Flamingods.

The band was founded by Kamal Rasool back in 2009 as a solo project.

‘I just made this weird music,’ he says. ‘Someone told me to put it online, so I put a few of these weird tracks on Myspace and some blogs wrote about them. Then I started to get offers of gigs and I didn’t have a band. I had just moved to the UK, and all of the new people I had met didn’t want to join in.

‘This was my first take on songwriting by myself, and it was this total chaotic mess of noise and instruments, so in the end I called my childhood friends. Then we met a new guy called KP and it went from there – it totally changed everything.’

But as Kamal, who grew up in Bahrain, happily admits, their sound is impossible to pigeonhole. 

‘We’ve come up with a lot of names for it, but nothing seems to stick. We’ve called it exotic psychedelia, lately we’ve tried international psychedelia, which I like.

‘I think the main thing is that growing up in Bahrain is that it’s such a melting pot of all these different cultures. There’s a huge south Asian and south-east Asian community which you can get immersed in, but at the same time you have the Middle Eastern imagery of my family upbringing, and then the influence of the West, because there’s a lot of western foreigners living out there. And we all went to a British school there, so it’s an amalgamation of all these cultures and sounds – and trying to take ourselves away from the expectations of what a band could and should be, and experimenting and pushing things.’

The band has made a virtue of its approach to unusual instrumentation.

'I was lucky that when I grew up my parents invested a lot of time in travelling, and seeing lots of different cultures. It started as just picking up objects on these travels, but by the time I was 18 it had evolved into instruments,  and moving to London I had a big collection of all these weird instruments and an idea of making music with unconventional instruments, and instruments that aren’t used as much as they should be. All of the members are really into that.'

And they're still picking up new instruments and incorporating new sounds.

'Our recent endeavour was that we got a saz from Turkey which is an instrument used a lot in the Turkish psych scene in the '60s and '70s. We’d always wanted one, so we finally bit the bullet and shipped one over from Istanbul. We’ve incorporated that into a few of our new songs. That’s been really fun. It’s a completely different scale, so me and Charles, our guitarist, have been trying to wrap our heads around that.

'We’ve always thought it would be more fun to pick up the instruments and teach ourselves how to play them and kind of tap into the instruments’ wonder.'

Visa problems, now resolved, kept Kamal out of the UK for a couple of years, forcing the band to live mostly on the road. But now they're working hard on a new album.

‘When there were all of those visa problems, we were rarely able to be in the same room and just jam, but now our songwriting process has changed – it’s us in a room and jamming for hours.

‘We’ve been in our practice room for seven hours a day, five days a week for about a year now, constantly jamming, letting the songs evolve.'

Kamal adds that they hope to have the new album out early next year, but in the meantime there could be some treats in store for their Psych Fest audience.

'We’ll be playing a few new songs in Portsmouth, but it’s a lot bigger sound than our last album the songs are quite epic.'

PORTSMOUTH PSYCH FEST

The Wedge/Acapulco, Southsea

Saturday, April 28

wedgewood-rooms.co.uk