A Quiet Evening with Anthony Evans of ‘black sand’, by Jenell Kesler
Floating in from New Zealand, ‘black sand’ deliver a hypnotic series of fuzzed out sustained neo-psychedelic songs that are heavily washed in reverb and effects to enrapture and waste away any evening.
Jenell: Tonight I have the pleasure of sitting down with Anthony Evans who ‘is’ black sand, with a new collection of songs entitled Endless Blue … Anthony thanks for taking some time.
Anthony: No problem, cheers.
Jenell: You ‘are’ black sand, interesting that you would approach basically solo outings flying under the flag of a band?
Anthony: I love the concept of a band and black sand sounds cooler than my name!
Jenell: I’ve got to tell you this, and to those who don’t know your work, your number “Brightest Star” lays total waste to my head, as does “How Do You Feel?”, but then, laid back couch-bound tripping is where I’m at. What inspires you to write these very inward intoxicating, yet expansive numbers?
Anthony: Thank you, that’s very nice to hear, to be honest, I’m writing music that turns me on, couch bound tripping is a good description; it’s where I’m at too. Late night, headphones on, it’s magic!
Jenell: Your material seems to have actual age to it, as if it were recently discovered in some half-forgotten vault, yet that being said, it’s all totally new and vibrant.
Anthony: That’s cool, I am trying to create something timeless, I love the idea of someone discovering my music and trying to place when it was made.
Jenell: Then again from the new album, “Lord I’m Doing The Best I Can” seems an insightful nod to both Spacemen 3, along with “Oh! Sweet Nothin’” by the Velvet Underground, though I’m probably the only one reading this old enough to have lived through those connections.
Anthony: Yeah, that song is totally Spacemen 3 and Velvet Underground, I love the repetition they use, 2-3 chords, fantastic!
Jenell: With that being said, who are you listening to, who’s music’s laid waste to your head?
Anthony: I was listening to Velvet Underground’s Loaded in the car the other night, what a great album and I’ve just got the new Spiritualized album, that’s sounding really good.
Jenell: Let me bend a couple of questions together here: Are you classically trained? What instruments do you actually play?
Anthony: I’m not classically trained; I’ve had no music lessons. I had a couple of friends growing up who played the guitar and they showed me a few things, basic chords and simple solos you know but I really just taught myself. I can play guitar, bass, drums and really basic keyboard – and tambourine and shakers!
Jenell: For the musicians reading, what effects and pedals do you use to develop the rich lush sound you ride with?
Anthony: I’ve got a couple of pedals I use a lot – one is a basic multi effect pedal that has a really great Tremelo on it that is all over my work, there’s a Boss distortion pedal and a Danelectro Reverb pedal I use as well.
Jenell: You’ve been rather productive this year, with both of your releases having taken up residency next to my player. What’s your writing process like?
Anthony: I’m always writing and recording, I have an acoustic guitar in the lounge at home, I pick it up when I can and have a play, figure a few things out. When I’ve got the bare bones of a song, I disappear into my little studio and start to record it.
Jenell: With your style being that of a building process, is it possible to get too dense?
Anthony: It is possible to get too dense! Man, I’ve left a lot of songs because I was just building track after track and just got lost. Keep it simple, it works better that way.
Jenell: Do you find yourself to be a perfectionist, in control, or do your ideas lead you, taking on a life of their own?
Anthony: I find my ideas lead me most of the time. I’m not a big perfectionist, there’s mistakes in my music but they seem to fit and work and don’t detract from the song.
Jenell: Your vocals don’t stand in juxtaposition to the music, but seem to be enveloped by it … it seems a comfortable place to live. Was this an easy aspect to come by?
Anthony: I’ve never been a fan of my singing voice so I’ve always tried to keep it in the background and make it an instrument, blend it all together.
Jenell: Your voice floats in a low-keyed manner with a bit of swagger to it, and over your four releases seems to have gotten more intimate and more refined. Have you been working on your vocal presence?
Anthony: That’s probably true, I am getting more confident as a singer now though I’ve always been a fan of non-singers for want of a better word – Ian Brown, Bobby Gillespie, Jason Pierce, even Johnny Marr on that first Healers record. Their voices just work with the music so that’s what I’ve always aimed for; my voice isn’t the focal point, I just try to make it fit in with the song.
Jenell: Do you enjoy the aloneness, or have you others to bounce ideas off of?
Anthony: I do enjoy the aloneness although there are times I’d like someone else’s input and feedback. I’ve done a few online collaborations and they’ve worked well but I like getting my own way so working by myself is good!
Jenell: What makes for a good psych song for you?
Anthony: A song that takes you somewhere else and can alter your mood.
Jenell: Some bands delight in making the music, while others delight in playing it live, where do you stand? And to that end, are you playing live?
Anthony: I don’t play live at the moment. I might try to do something in the new year, I want to try out a loop pedal and layer my guitar up, I think it could sound cool.
Jenell: Most people feel that psychedelic music is an extension of what they can ingest, and while that can certainly enhance the experience, would you suggest that psych music in and of itself can be the experience?
Anthony: I think if the song is good you don’t need drugs, it’ll take you there anyway but yeah, great songs on drugs definitely enhance the experience.
Jenell: I grew up with what we called Progressive Radio back in the 60’s and 70’s … do you find the lack of radio and other airwaves to be a hindrance, or have you found ways of working around that (laughing) to bring light to the masses.
Anthony: I grew up listening to radio in the late 70’s and 80’s, I can remember as a kid my Dad listening to Casey Kasem on the radio, mad that that was on in New Zealand but yeah, I don’t think it’s the same anymore. We have a good student radio network here in New Zealand that’s really supportive of music that won’t get played anywhere else.
Jenell: As you know from my reviews (see here), I appreciate the sonic atmosphere and sounds you’ve managed to bring together, with all of the material on your last two outings being incredibly strong, not one half-baked filler … might we find you releasing a formal vinyl package?
Anthony: Vinyl would be great but it’s expensive to make from this part of the world, if someone wants to back it then let me know!
Jenell: With your dreams coming true, what guitar would you like to be holding in your hands?
Anthony: I’d like a 12 string Rickenbacker in black please!
Jenell: And since we’re down that avenue, might we expect to hear you broadening your sound with the use of other instruments? Or even other voices?
Anthony: I’d like to include piano, I’ve got a couple of ideas floating about but they won’t be a big departure from what I sound like. I also like to do some more acoustic guitar stuff but without it sounding too hippie!
Jenell: I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on your album artwork as well, interesting concept of geometric shapes and ideas working together. How did that come about?
Anthony: My partner can take credit for that, she’s a graphic designer. I come up with the concept which is usually some vague idea of what I’d like it to look like and she works on it and comes up with the amazing artwork. She does an amazing job. I like simple, colourful art, shapes moving around, it stands out and looks cool and I think it fits the music.
Jenell: Having been so raptured by your musical imagination, I’m looking to compete the picture and find your lyrics. Are they available?
Anthony: No not at the moment, I never thought anyone would be interested but I might change that now!
Jenell: I was in both Australia and New Zealand earlier this year, you all have a fine psych scene going on. Please, who are you favs?
Anthony: Here in NZ I really like Ghost Wave, there’s an Australian band called Black Cab I really like too.
Jenell: Much thanks for the time. Is there anything I’ve missed, anything you want to say? And please, where might we find you on the world-wide web.
Anthony: Thanks very much! I’m pretty amazed and flattered that people like the music I make way down here in New Zealand. There’s a lot of pretty crappy stuff going on in the world so hopefully my music can make people forget about it for a while.
– Jenell Kesler