Portland trio Skull Diver discusses their earliest musical experiences, their new album “Chemical Tomb,” and their penchant for ornate live performances.
Psychomagic started like a lot of bands. Five guys, a handful of Portland transplants and their instruments, looking to express themselves through crazy rock. The guys, Steven Fusco (vocals, guitar), Stone Laurila (guitar), Scott Page (bass), Anthony Brisson (drums, vocals), and Eddie Bond (keyboards) create an ode to art, mysticism, surfy guitar riffs, and silliness. It’s what they call “Avante Bubblegum Freak Psyche.” Each song is rhythmic, catchy and danceable, often revving up with an explosion of rowdy outbursts and raucousness, before dropping into wide interludes of psychedelia. There are also ’50s-styled sad teenager songs with pretty strums. The organ gets freaky, the drums are shifty, and the performance cuts loose. They make use of slacker choruses with plenty of “Lalalala’s,” encouraging sing-a-longs. Steve Fusco’s voice holds a lot of versatility. He vents, rants, and croons. Songs shift character with stories that channel Dracula, zombie killers, , or visiting Elvis and go-go dancers in space. It’s rock opera storytime, morbid at times, and completely fun.
They are talented at layering their songs, and continue to build their sound and connection together and with the audience. Their energy as a group and with other bands has them finishing their first national tour and releasing their second album, Bad Ideas, on Los Angles label Lolipop Records.
ELEVEN: Where is everyone from? How do you know each other?
Psychomagic: We were all guys who pretty much had a lot of mutual friends with a lot of common interests in music. None of us are actually from Portland. Steve is from the Bronx, NY, Anthony is from Minnesota, Stone is from Vancouver, and Scott is from Bend. Eddie met us through Craigslist. We had an audition for a keyboardist lined up for two guys. Eddie showed up early before the other guy and killed it. It was kind of awkward like “sup” when the other guy showed.
11: How did you guys get hooked up with Lollipop Records?
Psychomagic: We played a show with one of their artists Mr. Elevator and The Brain Motel. I was a big fan of theirs, and we ended up playing this show with them. It was kind of love at first strum. We were totally digging each other. We ended up giving him this cassette we had made ourselves, it was a really ratty recording. But they ended up loving it and playing it on the rest of their tour. Later on Lolipop hit us up and said “We want to put out music with your band.”
11: What is Psychomagic?
11: Alejandro Jodorowski?
Psychomagic: Yes. Anything out of the ordinary, all aspects…we are dancing space hippies, with lots of sea witches, guard dogs, astral projection, meatballs, seances during performance…
11: So I keep seeing this picture from the film Young Frankenstein popping up on your social media. What’s the connection? Is it because Steve kind of looks like him? I mean, you do kind of have the Gene Wilder hair and eyes going.
Psychomagic: That was the greatest compliment of my life. Once this girl came up to me randomly and said “You look like a more brooding Gene Wilder” and I got down on my knee and proposed. It was awesome. I have always had a place for Mel Brooks and Young Frankenstein and not taking ourselves too seriously. But we do take the music seriously.
11: For those who have never heard of or seen your band–how do describe what you are doing?
Psychomagic: Psycho. Magic. That’s really it! It’s psyche rock. Or avant bubblegum freak psyche.
11: Who are some of your Inspirations and influences?
Psychomagic: Alejandro Jodorowski, The B-52s, Gun Club, a lot of the contemporary bands on Lolipop, everyone at Lolipop. The sound of Albert Einstein writing, and I mean you can just hear his notes, his scribbling in German, its very stimulating. When Clowns Cry.
11: So you are coming up on your 2nd album after your self-titled debut. Is there anything new about what you did with Bad Ideas?
Psychomagic: I feel like its a maturation of evolution. The first album was just more of some guys getting together and figuring out what we were doing. This time around we had like a clear goal of what we wanted to do and what we wanted to express. We have new voices in the band.
11: Yeah I notice a bit more key work and space noise?
Psychomagic: That’s our keyboardist Eddie. Eddie was raised by martians who only knew strange sounds. His mother was named Martian Washington. The first lady of Mars.
11: What is the story behind the title track Bad Ideas?
Psychomagic: Yeah, we wanted to make a 21st century Monster Mash, played on every radio station during Halloween, we want it to covered by many, played on NFL commercials. I dont know. It’s just something that was coming out.
11: You seem to play a lot of different characters with your voice, and I heard you dabble in puppet plays?
Psychomagic: I had this weird period where I was totally into puppets, it was kind of like Lars and The Real Girl. It was very strange. I used to fabricate stuff, starting when I was working at a stop-motion animation studio. I have always been drawn to silliness. Being being surrounded by Eddie and Anthony and Stone and these guys we kind of run with that vibe. We are trying to make really good music but it’s important to keep it light-hearted. But with this album too we are taking a step, we are trying to be a bit more mature.
11: What can we expect from your live shows? There seems to be a lot of paint and costumes.
Psychomagic: Live shows vary from town to town. We are still experimenting and perfecting what we want from live shows. We are trying to work in more pyrotechnics, but we are just starting. So bottle rockets will have to do for now.
11: Um, so you guys are setting off bottle rockets in little tiny bars across the U.S. right now?
Psychomagic: Ummmmmm. Yeah.
11: Is this your first tour?
Psychomagic: It’s our first national tour, we have been traveling caravan style with the other bands, like Santoros.
11: What have been some of your favorite stops?
Psychomagic: Minneapolis was amazing. There are a bunch of small amazing places. Ft. Wayne Indiana was weird and great. They just treated us like rockstars, just super nice. They let us stay upstairs above the bar, helped us dry our laundry. They got us blackout drunk.
11: And tonight you are in Asheville, N.C.?
Psychomagic: We are in Ashville. We have an amazing tour guide. He’s our booker and he actually lives here. He is exactly like The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Hes like “Whats up dude, lets chill dude, lets do this. Have some spaghetti.”
11: He made you spaghetti? Damn.
Psychomagic: Yes he’s been hooking us up the whole time. And Stone has family here in Asheville, so he is currently off galavanting with them.
11: Steve, was it good coming back to New York City to play shows?
Psychomagic: Well, I didn’t go to the Bronx where i’m from, but we were in Brooklyn where I lived for a short while. It was nice to see some family and friends. I think most of the band had not ever been to New York so it was a whole new experience for them. (singing) Tralalalalaaa!!
11: What do you see happening in Portland’s music scene?
Psychomagic: It’s like It’s a fertile zone right now. The pieces are kind of falling apart in some respects, in regard to venues closing and stuff. But people are trying to pick them up. So we are really just trying to re-group and band together and try to figure out how to make stuff happen in the way we want. It’s really cool how Portland is very saturated with artists and musicians, it actually helps to motivate and stimulate us. We are actually hoping to see more all ages venues pop up. We need an influx of youth. Not just young people, but youthful energy at shows that’s supporting what’s going on. There can be a lot of stale shows at 21 plus venues sometimes, so we are all about incorporating all ages. Literally we would like to play for audiences that are six to sixty years old.
11: You would welcome kids to your shows?
Psychomagic: Yeah, fuck yeah.
11: What are some of your favorite venues?
Psychomagic: We love Revival Drum Shop, their new space is so crisp and clean. The Know .We love Mississippi Studios, but haven’t played there yet. That will be our “Return to Portland” record release show there on December 20th. Its gonna be rad.
11: What do you see lining up for the future?
Psychomagic: Pizza, love, and happiness for the entire world. »
– Brandy Crowe