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The Flight Reaction - The Flight Reaction (2014) review & interview

The Flight Reaction "The Flight Reaction" (13 O’Clock Records, 2014)

Not only is this debut long-player a rather magnificent achievement by one of the best groups that Sweden has produced in a very long time, it's also groovier, heavier and altogether more mystical and psychedelic sounding (in that teenage rock'n'roll way) from start to finish than almost anything else you'll have heard anywhere in this here modern world. From the point of view of discerning garage hounds and learned psych heads out there I know that's a somewhat loaded statement, but in my humble opinion it’s also a one hundred per cent truism. Of course with a lineage that stretches through names such as the Maggots, the Guiljoteens and all the way back to the Wylde Mammoths and Crimson Shadows, not forgetting guitarist / vocalist Måns Månsson's deeply-abiding passion for stellar-sounding 45s and 33s from the golden age, it’s obvious there has to be something special cooking in the pot, but this honestly goes way beyond, and certainly where my expectations were concerned anyway.
What the brain hears as this set is spinning away is a deeply refreshing, thoroughly captivating aural treat that all sharp-eared sonic soundheads out there are gonna love, especially so since The Flight Reaction have taken the time and prepared well and have utilised the recording studio facilities to their utmost advantage in which they’ve been truly inspired to create a tremendous display of seriously psychedelic sounds, the results being that those who dig for their envelope to be pushed and pulled will be thusly rewarded, and will therefore find much here to laud and praise, and to get genuinely excited about. Accordingly, this will hopefully transfer into wanting to share that profound experience with others.
Opening the first side is the strident, alluringly tripped-out acid-punk scorcher 'Falling Through Color' in which we are warmly welcomed into the party and given a potent taste of what’s to come. Each subsequent number then takes the listener further into a world where the language consists of a volley of lysergic lyrical reflections which are audibly enhanced by a diffuse array of instruments, many of which are brought forth into view via a series of jagged shapes, and shards and fragments of brittle jangle (‘Take Your Time’) and / or trebly bursts of ear-piercing fuzz (the storming ‘Running Out Of Mind’, a song with the all-out potential to be an amazing universally-got single smash), both are powerful ultra-sonic blasts that can remain whirling around inside the recipient’s mind long after they’ve entered in. Elsewhere the contrasting aura is one of sweet calm, with altogether more soothing tones rising to the fore; one of the strangest, yet ultimately strongest emanations of this particular persuasion is the beautiful ‘Love Will See Us Through’ which rings out its cross-fertilisation of original 1967 UK and US flower-psych scenes with absolute aplomb, sitar further reinforcing the a la mode eastern-style flourish and comes resplendent with full-blown kisses to the sky atmospherics.
Much ebb and flow is to be found throughout as each groove slides and bubbles, tracing and trailing like The Pink Floyd's UfO light-show spectacle before exploding in a joyous welter of sing-a-long choruses, intriguingly hollow-sounding drum rattles, the rumbling static of bass buzz, treated vocals; everything bursting forth into vibrant colour as hitherto unknown vistas break unexpectedly into a kaleidoscopic haze that serves as your field of aural vision. Yeah, sometimes it's just like that! Believe me! There’s also that gloriously captured moment of an altogether superior interpretation of their earlier single ‘Mourning Light’ - also issued on Texas label 13 O'clock Records which, in a way, is the perfect announcement of that post-peak calming glow and the beginning of the long slow descent towards ... morning … and the stark realisation that, already, another day has begun.
This, I feel, is a record which can, and will, easily stand the test of time and, in fact, will doubtless be recalled in the years and decades to come by newer generations of psychedelic music lovers as one of the very best, and most highly authenticated statements of this nature since the days when The Chocolate Watch Band, Electric Prunes, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Seeds, and The Golden Dawn… all released their cache of lysergia-dominated wonderment upon the world! It's really quite an astonishing trip all told, one that appreciators of this type of mind expanding music really ought to hear. Are you listening? So if you can, or if you know someone who should, then my only advice is to acquire a copy of this album right now while it's still young, fresh, clean and pure and hear what all the fuss is about. Albums like this one don't happen by all that often so don't pass up an opportunity to hear The Flight Reaction’s thrill-ride debut opus if you know what's good for you.

Interview with Mans Mansson of Sweden’s happening garage psychedelic group The Flight Reaction 

So can you tell me a little about how the actual formation of The Flight Reaction came about?

After The Giljoteens and The Maggots split up we decided to form a new band with the intention to play whatever we want and that is moody and psychedelic garage punkadelia with lots of emphasis on melody, and whatever happens in that direction. We rehearsed without a bass player for a while before meeting Aron, who then played guitar in a band called Les Artyfacts (playing "french" beat/mod psych/freakbeat). He never played bass before but to us the attitude, looks and the taste in music is more important and the step from guitar to bass isn't very long.

The sound that the group has had since your first 7" releases on Copas Disques two or three years back has already hinted at a more psychedelic, as opposed to garage beat feel it's true, but here (on the group's debut self-titled longplayer) and while still not losing sight of the garage side of things, you have truly embraced a wholly vintage style psychedelic feel to many of the selections would you agree?

Absolutely! It's an album and had to be thought out as an album, rather than just a buncha songs slapped together like a 'garage comp'. Flow, dynamics and all the stuff you don't need to think about as much when recording singles. We wanted to record something that has a similar vibe as the classic psych albums... 1 + 1 = 3 and all that... When I record a single I'm happy with eight - twelve channels but here we had something like fifty(!!!) channels in some of the most extreme songs (a lot of it doubled and tripled choirs, instruments and so on of course) all mixed in mono of course. A total mess, but deliberate. We like working with recordings where we have to "fix things" and so on. Too perfect isn't any fun on our planet. Fucked up is fun.

How does the initial songwriting pattern emerge for you guys, is it a case of one person does the lyrics on his own and one does the music, or is it perhaps an equal collaborative exercise between you all as suggested by the sleeve credits ... or is each composition very different in scope and origin as to render any such patterns non-applicable? Please discuss!

It differs... Usually someone in the band has a more or less rough idea that we play around with til we have something resembling a song/arrangement. The melody is always intertwined with the music but the actual words may come later. It's mostly I and Sebastian who come up with songs but Aron is on the rise as well. He contributed the last song (Your Smile) to the album and has a coupla new ones we're working on. I wouldn't say it's as equal as the sleeve credits suggest, but then again NO song comes totally finished, so there is definitely contributions from everyone. I don't know how to play drums for instance, so I can't tell Mats how he should do it.

Tell me about the songs 'Love Will See Us Through', and 'Eight Hours Ago', where the inspiration comes from and what they mean to you to have created such thought-provoking pieces?

'Love Will See Us Through'... I don't really know actually... a LOT was going through my mind when writing it... or writing... I don't know. It just came to me. I wanted to write a song with just one chord through the verses and suddenly I was playing it with the melody there. I really wanted to roll the acid Pretty Things, Stones and Elevators into one with it. I have no idea how much sense that makes. Lyrically it's about going through the hardships of life together with the one you love and realizing what a journey it is. It may also be about the higher state that love has the ability to take us to. How it may open our eyes to the wonders of the world beyond the facade that makes up society.

'Eight Hours Ago'... well, eight hours is the approximate time it takes to go through an acid trip. It may of course linger on a bit longer than that but the eventual life changing experience will happen within that time span. The lyrics are, more or less, a series of philosophical "questions" without any judgement or such... Like all psychedelia it touches the way we percieve "reality" through a filter... and how to try and go beyond that and see the world for what it really is, without any attached "morals" or "norms" or "ideas". Does it matter if you're mad or if you're sane? Who decides which is what? Who's rules should one live by? What is "sane"? Etc ad infinitum. Or maybe it's just a buncha silly words. Who knows?

Were there particular groups or records you guys were listening to prior to the birthing of this LP project. I hear the likes of The Golden Dawn and other Texas 60s groups too such as The Remaining Few and a few more obvious names... while certain garage groups with an adventurous ear are also sometimes brought to mind in a lot of these sounds? But I'd like to hear from you what names are special to The Flight Reaction?

I had a lot of SF Sorrow in my head... not really the song structures or anything like that, but the idea of the record. I mean we haven't made a concept album like Sorrow or another huge fave in the genre, Mandrake Memorial - Puzzle... but there's the idea of just not giving a f**k if you can play the songs live or not and just go mad with instruments, overdubs etc. Wreckless studio psych! The Elevators are always there as well... but we've never tried to sound like them simply because it's impossible. The influence is more on a philosophical and ideological level... and we don't try to sound like anyone else at all really. Stones - Satanic is also a big influence (as you may already have guessed from our cover of 'Citadel') It was my fave LP when I was a kid and it still brings joy to my life. Mad and hedonistic... the love for Tages runs deep as well... which makes me think of The Deep... Beacon Street Union are popular in our band, and The Freeborne did a splendid LP where they just let everything go. Of course the Electric Prunes - Underground... When it comes down to more "unknown" or "unsuccessful" bands that's an inspiration... The Mystic Tide... Lemon Fog... The Dovers ...some Swedish psych like The Outsiders, The Shakers, The Bootwigs... well just a LOT of great music. You know... it's more about "sound" than actual bands who only released a coupla 45's.  

What can you see as the hope both for you, and for The Flight Reaction as a whole, for the journey and success of this, your first LP record?

I don't know. Ride the wave and realize that nothing lasts.

Are you happy that it's on the Texas-based 13 O'Clock label and being on such a small independent do you think it can get across to the many who (I think personally) should really try to go out of their way to hear this? What are the advantages of being with 13 O'Clock?

Yay! Happy! Brian is a great guy and he works hard with the label. The first pressing of the album is sold out already... so a second press is in the pipeline now, not even a month after the first was out. We don't know about how to make people hear music or not... We just made an album that we really wanted to make. We had no thoughts beyond that and we've been happily surprised by the positive reactions. Brian didn't even have distro in Europe when we set out to record it.

It looks like that quite a lot of people are buying it. Also - and this is important stuff haha! - Brian / 13 O'Clock shares the obsession to details... sleeve, printing, label designs, extra inserts etc... 13 O'Clock releases look cleaner and more "sixties" than many others. Of course it's also a beautiful thing to release our stuff on an Austin label.

The extra-curricular sounds we hear and overall spacey (but not progressive rock) atmosphere throughout gives the whole thing a truly individual and inspirational air ... Without giving away all your secrets how did the group go about capturing some of this mysterious aura. And how much of it was down to such as the extra players, engineer Stefan Brandstorm and locations such as Longbridge State Hospital, Dustward Studios and The Living Room? Also can you elaborate as to what these names are: are they just that, or are they already established recording facilities? Or perhaps they are your own rehearsal space / garage / studio that you've put a name to. I'm curious here that's all?

Taking the inspiration from the Elevators and record/mix everything more or less backwards and upside down haha."Too much" bleeding and leakage between channels to create unexpected background sounds in "the room"... do "too much" of everything... Like all backing vocals are doubled and tripled, the mellotron is on three channels - sometimes it's just one and sometimes all three. We did NOT try to record "exactly like in the sixties" at all though... Just like no one recorded "exactly like in the sixties" back in the sixties either. They threw themselves over every new opportunity, every new technical advance, new effects etc. What we love in most psychedelia/freakbeat etc is the freedom in the sounds and the experimentation and the absence of rules! We tried to work like that. It's the end result that counts. Mastering is also really important and that was made at an old studio where there are great old compressors etc. Extra players contributed a lot to the whole. They all played stuff that we came up with, more or less, but it's still other unique musical voices in the songs and it adds extra dimensions. We deliberately had more guest musicians than there are members of the group. Now we may have to bring in someone more into the band when we play live! 

The facilities: Longbridge State Hospital is where we rehearse. It's a big bad room with stone walls, perfect for recording our music. It's located in the basement of an old mental hospital and the building is stunning. Hermann Goring was an  intern there in the 20's cause of his morphine addiction and generally being completely insane, which was of course proven beyond doubt and reason a few years later... If the walls could speak... they'd probably babble a buncha mad gibberish! Dustward is an established studio. We recorded backing tracks, keyboards, some vocals at a coupla facilities and then we transferred it all in the studio and did overdubs and mixing there. Stefan is great. A good ear for details, a studio full of incredible equipment (one of George Harrison's Vox amps, used on Revolver, is standing there for example. Being used!) and generally a great guy with a knack for experimentation and going outside the box. The Living Room is where I live. "The livingroom... the living... room... ?"

There's also a wealth of fascinating guitar sounds emanating from Sebastian Braun and yourself Mans, they can range in tone from delicately crisp porcelain jangle and nervorama tremelo, and on to wicked bursts of brain-frying needle-thin fuzz attack. What guitars and amps and effects units do you guys favour? And how did Mats Bigrell achieve that real understated, almost muted at times, drum kit sound; highly unusual and never found on any modern group's recordings. I love this sound!

We really wanna use the guitars to make all these different sounds. It's just such an orchestral instrument! All that stuff you can do with it! You can find all the colors of the rainbow in an electric guitar and then some. I play a '62 Fender Jazzmaster thru a '65 Fender DeLuxe amp. For me it doesn't get better than that. For a coupla things(feedback lead in Eight Hours most prominently) I've used my semi acoustic Gretsch and as much fuzz as I could handle. I have a '66 Tonebender that I always use for recording, but Stefan also has a few great fuzz boxes at the Dustward studio... and we also used a Vox guitar with built in fuzz/tremolo for a coupla solos + effects. I also really like my old Electro-Harmonix Small Stone phase shifter... it's from the early 70's and one of the most extreme effects units ever built. There are tape delays and so on everywhere as well. On the last song I play through an old Fender Leslie cabinet. Sebastian is playing a Guild semi acoustic through an old Fender Twin that's been remodeled from 100W to 50W (100W is ridiculous) and he's using an old Colorsound fuzz and liberal splashes of delay echo. The drum sound! Hehe it's a result of a mistake or two... the recording levels were a bit low on the drums so there's been quite a lot of work with that. But the messy recording is also a deliberate strategy. The biggest influence on how to record is of course the way The Elevators did it. LOTS of bleeding between channels... all backing tracks recorded live in the same room. The drums 'sing' together with bass and guitars, making the sound more alive and integrated and all together may even create a 'third sound'!

Mats also has a unique and cool swinging playing style that I've never really heard from anyone else (these days) probably because the garage/beat style is in his core. The drum kit is a 1960 Gretsch, which of course also matters. The old jazz kits are so damn loud and reverberating in themselves. They were built before "mic'ing up" so they were supposed to be loud instead of muted, like new drum kits are. 

If anyone wants to know how to make a bass sound good (if you don't already know it): use flat wound strings.

A while before the album came out we were already fortunate enough to hear the likes of the glorious 'Mourning Light' that you put out as a single, but with so many other tracks with great potential - obvious titles include both side openers, and, incidentally, both sheer tearaway acid-punkers 'Falling Through Color' and 'Running Out Of Mind', will we see more of these turning up on 7" or will you now turn your minds to the writing of new material?

I'd say new material is the focus. We thought it was cool to re-record ‘Mourning Light’ for the album in a slightly different way than the more 'garagey' single version. We all dig different mixes/versions of songs, but it won't turn into a habit.

Review & interview made by Lenny Helsing/2014
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