Brooklyn’s Weird Owl makes starry-eyed psych that combines the shamble of Neil Young with the brawn of fringe-jacket, incense-reeking ’70s hard rock. Their second album Build Your Beast A Fire (out July 26, via Tee Pee) has a cosmic lilt and smoky churn, somewhere between ritual and choogle. The closing track—one of the album’s two (!) title tracks—combines a bluesy Nazareth riff with the spirit-animal float of a trippy prog journey. Vocalist/bassist Trevor Tyrrell says the song came in an innocent moment of pure expression, but now that he looks back at it, he sees it “as krautrock channeled through the goings-on at an Ayahuasca freakout,” referencing the potent psychedelic used in South American rituals. “However,” he adds, “it also gets called by the band as that ‘Toys in the Attic’ song, which sounds way less interesting to me.”
What is “Build Your Beast A Fire I” about?
“Build Your Beast A Fire I” is about accessing and empowering the latent forces hidden in the darkness within each one of us. The Beast that we have banished to the furthest reaches of the forest, individually and collectively, must be the thing that ends up liberating us. The trees that were previously shielding us from the viewing the hidden “other self” are to be set ablaze in order to bring light to the dusty and ignored corners of our Being.
What inspired it lyrically?
The lyrics to this song, relative to some of our other numbers, are pretty uncomplicated: “Red wire arise/ Inner light sunshine/ Build your beast a fire.” While the lyrics do bear some allusion to certain occult practices, I also feel a kinship on a visceral and primordial level: the act of watching fire and rejoicing in both its creative and destructive power. The manner of singing resembles a chant that might be heard at some sort of shamanistic rite held on the moon long ago.
What inspired it musically?
The song came to us spontaneously in the practice space one night. Rather than being composed laboriously and methodically as we tend to do with most other songs, “Build Your Beast A Fire” was unleashed in a moment of pure expression. In this way, I guess you could say the song was given to us… But when you are talking about accessing hidden realms, this is typical.
What’s your favorite riff of 2011?
Most of the music I tend to listen to is not really riff-based, although from time to time I cannot hold myself from performing my patented “continually growing guitar neck” routine when I hear a particularly awesome example of riffage. That being said, I think the best “guitar moment” I’ve heard so far this year is “The First White Man to Touch California Soil” by Sic Alps. It’s totally raw, overblown magic. The type of stuff that instantly and simultaneously connects on many circuits and fries them all.
Your press release extols the virtues of the forests and the expanses of space. Do you find living in Brooklyn make it hard to be at peace with nature? What do you do to recapture that spirit in yourselves?
Your reality is what you make it, and I choose to incorporate respect for and awareness of the natural world in my reality, regardless of where my physical organism might be located at a particular moment in time and space.
How does such pastoral music emerge from such a bustling environment?
You can either choose to resonate along with all of the frequencies that surround you in a sort of passive sympathy, or you can choose to operate on a vibrational level that feels more natural to you; we choose the latter. Oftentimes, what ends up externally feeling like fields and canyons and other bucolic non-urban environments is really just a reflection of the wide open psychic chasms we’ve been exploring one way or the other internally.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve played in New York?
It’s funny you should ask that, because all of our most memorable shows have occurred far outside NYC: places like San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, etc. We seem to do better West of the Mississippi for reasons that seem intuitive. However, any time you play in your hometown with friends, people whose music you respect or both, a show can grow to mean so much more than “just another gig. I think of some of the Tee Pee Records showcases over the years with bands like Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, NAAM, Quest for Fire, Hopewell, Imaad Wasif as examples.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
For breakfast, I love this place near me called Athom Cafe. It’s an authentic French bakery in the middle of the grit and litter of Broadway in Bushwick. For dinner, I enjoy Caracas in Williamsburg for Venezuelan delicacies. If you put enough sweet plantains and avocado in a recipe, I’m down.
The Build Your Beast A Fire release show is August 5 at Union Pool.