Happy Hour With Acid Dad: NYC's Rising Psych-Punk Band Preps For CMJ Debut
Photo by Rick Perez
The three founding members of Acid Dad currently attend NYU, but they don’t refer to themselves as an NYU band. “We’re only there a few hours a week,” reasons lead guitarist Danny Gomez as he steps outside the DuckDuck bar for a quick smoke. They consider themselves a Brooklyn psych-punk act, and, more specifically, an East Williamsburg psych-punk band.
This is where Gomez met his band mates – singer/guitarist Vaughn Hunt and drummer Kevin Walker – in August 2014 during the drag show “Bath Salts” at local pub Don Pedro. The neighborhood is home to a few members as well as their practice space. The demeaning stigmas of a college rock band don’t lend themselves to Acid Dad, because this isn’t some shabby weekend project formed to score fans and free beer. They’re fully committed and are have spent the past year actively writing, performing, and recording all on their own. (Still, that doesn’t mean they’re not enjoying the beer.)
It’s a crisp autumn Saturday afternoon and the trio are taking advantage of DuckDuck’s happy hour special: Two Rolling Rocks for a bargain $4. Just like their boisterous music, the three musicians of Acid Dad share a lively friendship full of Portlandia references about crust punks, inside jokes on their love lives, and an appreciation for each other’s daily schedules. Gomez tells of a facetious group guideline called the “Vaughn Rule” which states they have to be careful about performing late on a Thursday due to the singer’s strenuous calculus course the following day. Gomez is the band’s de-facto music historian who perks up when the bar’s playlist lands on the Talking Head’s “Take Me To The River.” He’s also good for a quick one-liner that complements Hunt’s colorful anecdotes and Walker’s subtle leadership.
Just last night they had their first practice with their new bassist, Sean Fahey of local doo-wop garage rockers Larry & the Babes. Fahey clocks in as the band’s sixth bassist to join in a year, arriving after previous members departed due to college, other ties, or “just not working out,” as put by Walker. The revolving door in their rhythm section is another aspect to their transitional year. They played their first show together on Halloween 2014 (then billed as Twincest) and their inaugural track, “Graveyard Kid,” became available on Soundcloud by Thanksgiving.
“I wrote that song my freshman year in college, like four years ago,” says Hunt, who shares songwriting duties with Gomez. “I just whipped it out and said, 'This is where the band should go and it took off from there.'”
Leading up to their CMJ Music Marathon debut, Acid Dad released their strongest song to date: The pounding single “Grim,” which sparks with riffs worthy of a Led Zeppelin II comparison. (Fitting, for Hunt is currently enrolled in a blues class and is learning about how the classic rock titans were notorious for lifting from other bands.) Furthermore, the tune confirms their psych-rock aspirations, as the opening note reverberates between your ears well into the track.
“We start it with a heavy part, and that was an idea in a Thee-Oh-Sees vein, to do a one-note song,” says Walker of crafting “Grim.” Acid Dad would be a suitable fit on a bill alongside those contemporary fuzzy garage rockers as well as Ty Segall. Walker cites Nineties neo-psych outfit the Brian Jonestown Massacre as a heavy influence while Gomez puts Lou Reed at the top.
Hunt believes "Grim" reflects his hyperactive personality. “I think that’s because I’m really ADD and so I’m just like, ‘I’m bored, let’s do something different,’ he says.
Later he explains how he and Gomez approach their dual songwriting. “We originally started to keep stuff as simple and raw as possible. Honestly, every song is pretty much a 1-7 structure – pretty much one chord. We’re not breaking new ground and I think that's one philosophy we really want to stick with: Don’t get caught up with trying to be really intricate but lay it out with a really good foundation.”
At the onset of 2015, Acid Dad retreated upstate to Brewster, where Walker’s grandfather owns a house with a side room they made into their own recording studio. “The cabin is in the middle of nowheresville and there’s this little room upstairs where his wife, who’s an art dealer, stores all this art. It’s this room covered in instruments and really shitty art,” explains Walker. Gomez chimes in: “We’d get drunk and organize it." The trio erupts in laughter and recalls a story when Hunt fell victim to such rambunctiousness.
“There’s this big, granite sculpture up there and I was really out of hand one night,” remembers the vocalist with equal amounts head-shaking shame and delight. “I smoked a cigarette inside, got really paranoid, and tried to move this giant sculpture to prop open the door but I dropped this 500-pound granite sculpture on my foot – it was really fucked up.” Hunt and Gomez giggle to themselves about the experience but Walker is quick to bring it all back together. “It’s a pretty autonomous group,” he says.
That self-ruling spirit is aglow with Acid Dad, who are without a label or any outside assistance. Walker serves as both band manager and publicist while Hunt does all their sound engineering. So far, they've independently released four impressive songs with an EP on the way but the possibility of signing to a label excites them.
“We are DIY, but we’re super open,” says Walker in regards to hooking up with a label. “I think we’re doing really well by putting out singles on our own, but when it’s time to put out a real record, we’re not just going to put it up on Bandcamp. We’re going to do it right.”
“Stuff comes when you work hard and write good songs,” says Gomez before Walker finishes, “We’ll get as far as we can on our own.”
Realizing the opportunity, Gomez sneaks in one final quip, “And then we’ll fly to the moon.”
Acid Dad have three scheduled CMJ performances this week: Good Room on October 13, Our Wicked Lady on October 16, and The Wick on October 16. For more information, click here.
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