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Virginia Trance interview with Scott Davis

Virginia Trance, the brainchild of founder Scott Davis, maybe isn’t what you’d expect from a guy who’s been involved with both Psychic Ills and Images in the past.  It’s something wholly different and separate from those things, while retaining all of the accumulated knowledge and experience therein.  I’m constantly searching for music that allows me to be at ease with the, at times, tumultuous world around me, allowing me to stay grounded and retain my sanity in a world that seems anything but.  It’s not often that you hear something like that though, something as calm and natural as a breeze passing along a deserted beach and as powerful as the gale force winds that created it, bred deep in the chaotic energy of a tropical storm.  This single has the incredible ability to make me feel like everything might just be okay, if only for a few moments, a rare and powerful ability indeed…  The titular A-side track “Your Guru” instantly sunk its faded garage rock hooks into my mind and hasn’t left since the first time I heard it.  Every time I hear the solo in “Your Guru” shivers of delirious Newcombe like acid twinges crawl up my spine like the first rising vibes of an acid frenzy.  Taking the accrued knowledge of mellowed, but not meandering or meaningless, Michael Stripe via early Warner REM and infusing it with a strong dose of Matt Hollywood-era Brian Jonestown Massacre, it’s perfectly accompanied by a warm welcoming production quality.  The decidedly mellower B-side, “Something In The Air” simply drifts like vapors of smoke on the horizon of a hazy psychedelic mountaintop in some remote location, no one for hundreds of miles in any direction, a sense of peace and absolute tranquility.  It is simply sweet salve for the soul.  Getting something to sound this mellow and well constructed while allowing the rugged edges and faded garage rock logic behind it all to show is a difficult balancing act stunningly handled by Davis on his self-released debut single.  I’m looking forward to a lot more from Virginia Trance in the future, but until then read the article below, click the link and get yourself some music and enjoy the trip!
Listen while you read:

Now I know you’ve only released the one single at this point but when I was looking over the personnel on the record I noticed that you played everything except for drums.  Do you plan to continue to work with Yoni David on drums or do you plan to utilize a revolving door of other people?

There’s a small group of revolving players, but it stops short of a permanent lineup.  It was great to have Yoni contribute to the release.  He’s a great drummer and added his distinct take on the material.  We had been playing the songs out live for a few months leading up to recording which was great.  I ended up handling the other instruments as it was the most efficient method.  Jarred Joly has been consistently on bass and will contribute to some upcoming recordings along with some other folks.

Are you in any other active bands or anything at this point or do you have any side projects going on?  Obviously you’ve been involved with some seriously killer acts in the past including Images and Psychic Ills.  Have you released any music with anyone else in the past?  If so, can you tell us a bit about that?

Only Virginia Trance these days.  There may be more Images recordings at some point but that phase might be over.

How old are you and where are you originally from?

I’m twenty five, was born in Virginia, and raised in the suburbs of New Jersey.

What was the local music scene like where you grew up?  Did you see a lot of shows or were you very involved in that scene?  Do you feel like that scene played a large role in shaping your musical tastes or in the way that you perform at this point?

I would head down to Manhattan on a train to see shows growing up.  That started to shift to Williamsburg as I grew older.  The neighborhoods shifted just like the Knitting Factory would a number of years later.

What about your home when you were growing up?  Were either your parents or any close relatives musicians or extremely involved or interested in music?

My parents would always have music playing in the house or car while I grew up.  My father played guitar once upon a time, predominantly inspired by Tacoma Records and Country Blues.  My maternal grandmother was a multi-instrumentalist and attended college.  I haven’t seen either of them willingly pick up an instrument.  I do have stories of my father with his guitar, memories of my grandmother’s baby grand piano, pictures, of her performing, and her shamisen.

What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?

I suppose that’s hard to pinpoint; potentially when I first heard either The Ramones or The Velvet Underground.

If you were to pick a moment, a moment that seemed to change everything for you and opened your eyes up to the infinite possibilities that music presents, what would it be?

Hearing White Light / White Heat and The Velvet Underground for the first time on the same day.

Why did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?

It’s a fun thing to do.

What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get that?

I first started playing bass because a friend of mine needed a bassist for his band.  I switched to guitar pretty soon afterwards.

When and what led to the formation of Virginia Trance?

I felt the music was no longer fitting within, an unacknowledged, framework that my previous project Images fit into.  Revamped the sense of self a little. 

I love your name!  Not only is it very apt and fitting for your music, but it really summons these strange images to my mind as well.  What does the name Virginia Trance mean or refer to in the context of your name?

It’s a reference to a composition written by HenryFlynt.  I was hesitant using the name, but it had the right ring.  It also helped that some people close to me supported it with “if the Stones can do it why can’t you” talk.  I was also born in Virginia and continue to have family roots there along with some point of identity.

Where are you located at this point?

New York.

How would you describe the local scene where you’re at now?

Depends on my mood, the city is a relatively large place.  Its size allows it to house a lot, though it seems to manage to always connect in disparate ways.  I like the eclecticism.

Do you feel like you’re very involved in the local scene there?  Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or anything?

I think I’m on the fringe here and there.  I don’t feel particularly aligned to anything concrete or specific, but I’m not on the outside looking in making it hard to say for certain.  I have definitely been involved in booking /presenting shows on various levels in the past, though.

Has the local scene played a large or important role in the sound, history or evolution of Virginia Trance or do you feel like you could be doing what you’re doing and sound like you do regardless of where you were or what you were surrounded by?

I would say the city has played a role.  All of the players I feel connected to live here or nearby.  I was recently living in Arkansas, right across the river from Memphis, for eight or nine months and was writing material that could have been created here in many ways.

 © Stephen Faught

How would you describe your sound to our readers who might not have heard you all before in your own words?

“Rock and Roll for the young and old”.

You have a really cool configuration of sounds going on in your music.  I’m curious who you’d cite as your major musical influences?  What about influences on Virginia Trance as a whole rather than just individually?

I suppose I’m influenced by many of the usual suspects, stuff such as The Velvet Underground, Tim Hardin, Big Youth, Charlemagne Palestine, traditional Afghani music, Silver Apples, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Mayo Thompson, and a dash of The Monkees.  I don’t think Virginia Trance’s influences would be different from my own.  The end results are just limited to the structure and tools I have available.

What’s the songwriting process like with Virginia Trance?  Do you just kind of work up an idea at home with yourself and maybe do some light demoing on the tracks to start working stuff out with yourself or do you bring in other people to play with and bounce ideas off of at points? 

I tend to work up the material on my own at home until what I view as the crucial components are in place.  More often than not, the songs are played live before sitting down to record.  Demos are occasionally worked up along the way.  The demos are usually spontaneous or one offs.  It’s also great to bounce ideas of other players whenever possible, I enjoy working with good players who are able to pick up where I left off.

What about recording?  I’m a musician myself and I think that most of us at least, can appreciate the end result of all the time that goes into making an album when you’re hold that finished product in your hands.  Getting to that point though, getting everything sounding the way you want it to, can be extremely difficult to say the least.  What’s it like recording for Virginia Trance?  Do you enjoy recording?

I’m not a huge fan of recording but appreciate well-made records.  My process varies and is often driven by the tools and people available to get everything just right.  Generally, I attempt to maintain a loose environment and not fuss over anything too much.

Do you like to take a more DIY approach to writing and recording where you handle things mostly on your own, or do you head into the studio and let someone else handle the technical aspects of things so you can just concentrate on how stuff sounds and getting the best performances out of yourself as possible?

For Virginia Trance I have been working with a close friend to engineer most recordings as of late.  I find it easiest to work with him to get everything down as efficiently as possible.

Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into getting songs to sound just so-so, every change and part of the arrangement worked out before you head in to record?  Or do you get a good skeletal idea of how something’s going to sound, while allowing for some change and evolution during the recording process?

I have the arrangements along with the skeletal idea of the sound worked out in advance.  There are occasionally small alterations to specific sounds based on the mood of that day.  Generally, the entire album is finished to a certain capacity.  I usually live with the songs and play them live whenever possible.

The very tail end of last year you released your debut 7”, Your Guru.  Can you tell us about the recording of the songs for the Your Guru single?  Who all was involved with playing on there?  Where and when were those recorded?  Who recorded them and what kind of equipment was used?  Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you recording your first solo material?

The songs were recorded at a DIY venue space called Big Snow that my close friends ran.  It served as a practice/recording space for a few of us as well.  I would trade time helping bartend, being the door person, and booking some shows, etcetera to help out in exchange for their generosity.  Yoni David, who had been playing with me a good bit at the time, lived at the space making his availability pretty consistent and easy.  I handled the guitars, a Fender XII, a 1967 Gibson J-50, Fender Jaguar, an early or mid-90’s Kay hollowbody, the bass, a Hofner Violin, and the vocals.  RJ Gordon, who occasionally plays in Virginia Trance and was the main live engineer at Big Snow, engineered the session.  We just used a couple mics and Pro Tools to lay the tracks down.  I was fortunate to have Tres Warren of Psychic Ills mix it and Matt “MV” Valentine master it.  In the past, I’ve usually been involved in post-production in some way, but it was nice to hand it off to some excellent people to complete what RJ and I started.

Does Virginia Trance have any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a song on a compilation or a demo that I’m not aware of?

There’s a one-off demo I contributed to a compilation put together for Milwaukee Psych Fest.  I’m not sure how available it is for folks to get their hands on.  So, mainly the Your Guru 7”

With the release of Your Guru several months back at this point, are there any other releases from Virginia Trance in the works or on the horizon at this point?

I’m about to begin work on a full-length that should be out sometime in 2015 or late 2014, if I’m lucky.  I’m also working up a cover of Lou Reed’s last studio album Ecstasy, though I may change my mind and do another album of his.

Where’s the best place for our US readers to score copies of the single and anything else that you might be dropping in the not to distant future?

People can purchase it directly from me, through Holy Mountain, or from a variety of local shops throughout the country such as Origami in Los Angeles, Permanent Records Chicago, Steady Sounds in Richmond, Virginia, and too many great shops around New York City to mention.

With the completely insane international shipping rate increases that just seem to keep going up and up, where’s the best place for our international and overseas readers to pick up your stuff?

Norman Records in the UK and Big Love in Japan may have copies.  Hopefully, there will be others in the near future.

And where’s the best place for our interested readers to keep up with the latest news like upcoming shows and album releases at?

There is a Facebook page that’s fairly active.

Are there any major plans or goals that you’re looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014 or 2015?

The only major goal is to complete and release the full-length album.

I know that you do play live, but I don’t know how often that is or if you travel around at all.  Do you spend any time out on the road touring or anything?  If so, what’s life like out on the road for you and do you enjoy touring?  Who do you take along with you, do you have a go-to person for that kind of thing or do you have a reservoir or people that you draw from in that regard?

I do tour and play live with Virginia Trance.  The exact lineup is malleable and is usually a duo, trio, or quartet.  This depends on people’s schedules and where we would be playing. Touring isn’t always the most fun but it is great getting to travel, see old friends, and meet great people.

If you do indeed tour one last question.  What, if anything, do you have planned as far as that goes for the rest of 2014?

No major tour plans for 2014 as I’m focused on recording at the moment.  There will be some local shows and a few regional trips into New England and down the mid-Atlantic.

You’ve spent plenty of time out on the road with other bands over the years I know for sure.  You were a touring member of the Sian Alice Group and you’ve been in several other bands that have spent some time out on the road.  Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to share a bill with over the years?

Yeah, I’ve been a brief live member with a couple groups and that’s been fun.  Some of my favorite bands I’ve seen and shared bills with are Blues Control, Genesis P. Orridge, MV & EE, and Herbcraft to name a few.

In your dreams, who are you on tour with?

Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground, Love circa 1968, Neil Young & Crazy Horse or Group Doueh.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?

I don’t have any particular moments that seem to stand outside of the usual.  There were fun times traveling the east coast of China, chasing local thugs with a bottle Jack Daniels on the rough side of Paris, and discovering pineapple/jalapeno pizza in Portland.

Do you give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like fliers, posters, shirt designs, cover artwork and that kind of thing?  Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re trying to convey with your art? 

There’s a good bit of forethought that goes into everything.  I went to a school with a strong visual art department and come from an art history and critical theory background.  There is a definite aesthetic vision but not a particular message.

With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the mediums of release that they do.  Do you have a preferred method of release for your own music?  What about when you’re listening to and or purchasing?

Yes, there are a number of mediums out there.  I don’t have a specific preference for releasing my own music, though.  I would say it depends on the material, and who’s paying for it, but vinyl is great.  I usually purchase vinyl, but don’t rule anything out.  Some things are only available digitally, on cassette, or CD.  While some music just works better one format over another.

Do you have a music collection at all, and if so can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes, I have records, CDs, and tapes for the most part.  I enjoy them.

I grew up around a large collection of music and I was always encouraged by my father to listen to anything that I might like, whether he liked it or not.  He would take me out like every weekend and just buy me random CDs from the local shops that I wanted and I fell into this ritualistic listening habit with music.  There’s something that’s magical about kicking back with a set of headphones, reading the liner notes, staring at the cover artwork and just let the whole thing carry me off on this trip.  It’s something that has never grown old to me, and I doubt that I’ll ever outgrow.  Having something to physically hold and experience along with the music always made for a more complete listening experience for me.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Yeah, I definitely grew up in an environment where physical music formats played a role.  There was a Tower Records close to where I grew up that took up the bulk of my time.  I would also head down to Manhattan when I started to become interested in more alternative musics.

There’s no denying it, digital music is here to stay.  Like it or not, the good and the bad, along with the internet digital music has long been a source of contention and at time derision in the industry but it’s not going anywhere.  Like I said, there are ups and downs to everything and digital music when teamed with the internet has done some really incredible things.  Together, they’ve exposed people to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by and it’s also allowed for incredible and unparalleled communication between bands and their fan bases.  On the other hand though, while people are being exposed to more music then ever they’re not necessarily very interested in paying for it and for a lot of people music is quickly becoming a disposable form of entertainment to be used and then forgotten about when you’re done with it.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

This is a complex issue, but generally speaking I don’t have any qualms with digital music formats.  These new formats have had a democratizing, maybe anarchic, affect on how people discover new forms of music, the industrial process of the commodification music, and how people experience and interact with music at large.  Music and its relationship to individuals and societies have been in constant flux in one way or another since its inception.   As a musician it is liberating to be able to produce and distribute music digitally as it eliminates barriers that have historically separated people of class, race, and geography.  The only thing that’s been hurt is the music machine and industry that relied on the previous structure. 

I try to keep up with more music than anyone one man probably should, it’s a consuming passion but I really feel bad sometimes about stuff that I miss out on and don’t get the opportunity to support and talk about, or in cases like this, to.  There’s seriously just not enough time to sift through even one percent of the amazing stuff out there!  Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of?

Some of my favorite currents acts are 75 Dollar Bill, United Waters, Baked, and Cloud Becomes Your Hand; I know I must be forgetting a ton of other people too.  They’re not really from a particular scene though and I’m sure many have never heard of each other.

What about nationally and internationally?

Devin Gary & Ross, Mordecai, Sun Foot, and Spacin’ are all making some great music around the US.  I’m sure there are a ton of international people.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, I know it wasn’t short and it can’t have been super easy to get done but it was awesome to have learned so much about you and I can’t thank you enough to making it this far.  I swear though, I’m done, no more questions!  Before we call it a day though, I’d like to open the floor up to you.  Is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about?

We have it covered.

(2013)  Virginia Trance – Your Guru – 7” – Self-Released (One time pressing limited to 300 copies)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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