Sacri Monti | Interview | New Album, ‘Retrieval’

Uncategorized June 14, 2024

Sacri Monti | Interview | New Album, ‘Retrieval’

Set to embark on their European Tour this summer in support of their upcoming album ‘Retrieval,’ Sacri Monti continues to redefine the boundaries of progressive heavy psych music.

Hailing from Oceanside since 2012, the quintet has solidified their place among San Diego’s renowned psychedelic scene, earning a coveted spot at Roadburn Festival’s ‘San Diego Takeover’ in 2018 alongside peers like Arctic and Harsh Toke. Their third studio album, ‘Retrieval,’ slated for release on July 26th via Tee Pee Records, promises a sonic journey marked by intricate compositions and mind-bending riffs. Leading with the single ‘Maelstrom,’ Sacri Monti blends the nostalgia of 70s prog rock with modern sound, ensuring each track on ‘Retrieval’ captivates with its unpredictability. Fans worldwide can catch them live at various venues across Europe, including stops in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and the UK, and more, promising unforgettable performances that resonate long after the final chord fades.

Sacri Monti is consisting of Brenden Dellar on vocals and guitar, Thomas DiBennedetto on drums, Dylan Donovan on guitar, Evan Wenskay on organ and synth, and Anthony Meier on bass.

Sacri Monti | Photo by Sam Giles

“We’re all just musicians who love jamming whenever possible”

It’s been quite a journey since your last Psych Baby interview in 2014. How does it feel to be releasing your third album, ‘Retrieval,’? What has the journey been like from your self-titled debut to now?

Anthony: It’s been long overdue, and it feels great to finally release this third album of ours. It’s crazy to think we played our first show at the end of 2012 and now here we are in 2024. It was nice to release a live record last year and let that build up to this third studio release. The journey has been a lot of fun; we’ve done some great European tours, a few West Coast runs, and even a tour out to the East Coast. It’s cool to take part in different rock festivals where the fans really care. Playing Roadburn was a bucket list moment for us that we had in mind when we started the band. We’ve had the opportunity to play many cool shows with all sorts of bands and met a lot of great people along the way. With this new album release, we are focused on touring more in Europe in 2024 and 2025 and need to build more of a presence touring the states. It seems like we are more psyched about doing Europe tours and have forgotten about the states or something. We are due for a good West Coast run and a trip out East soon, though.

Your new single ‘Maelstrom’ hits with the ferocity of a 70s prog rock juggernaut. Can you walk us through the creative process behind this track? What inspired its swirling, chugging riff and organ-fuelled energy?

Anthony: This song came about using an old riff idea Brenden and Thomas had in their old high school band, Green House. We wanted to create a short, high-energy track for the new record. A few years ago, after practice, Thomas put on an old live recording of a Green House show from around 2010 or something, and the song with the ‘Maelstrom’ riff came on. I thought it would be great to incorporate some of their old ideas and rearrange them into a Sacri track. I always loved the original track when I watched their band play live. Everyone was on board with the idea, and we worked things out in the studio, and ‘Maelstrom’ was born.

Can you share some further details on how your latest album, ‘Retrieval,’ was recorded?

Anthony: The songs on ‘Retrieval’ were super spread out as far as writing goes. We were toying with different ideas for a few years here and there until they eventually came together. ‘Intermediate Death’ and ‘Desirable Sequel’ were the first two that were finished back in the COVID-era. We were playing those two songs on our 2022 Europe tour, and they even made it onto the live album as a preview of ‘Retrieval.’ ‘Maelstrom’ came together quickly once we started working on it. ‘More Than I’ and ‘Brackish/Honeycomb’ both took some time and involved feeling out different ways to play them. We would work on bits and pieces here and there when we got together once a week for a good while. ‘Moon Canyon’ was a cool acoustic track that Brenden had in his bag and brought out the day of in the studio. We were thinking of recording here in San Diego but then couldn’t decide on an engineer and studio and got recommended by Ethan Miller to record with Eric Bauer at Discount Mirrors studio in Los Angeles. It’s owned and operated by Eric and John Dwyer and turned out to be the perfect fit for us. There’s a band apartment connected to the studio, and we were able to stay focused there and get everything done in one week.

The name “Retrieval” suggests a return or reclaiming of something. Is there a specific story or theme behind the album title? What are you hoping listeners will take away from it?

Brenden: It’s kinda playing with how on certain paths in life you can follow them, and often they can dead-end or become something you didn’t expect, so you have to go back and follow another way, but you pick things up on the way back. The title came after everything was done. It’s not like we started with that. So, there are all sorts of themes everywhere on the record, but we thought retrieval was a good all-encompassing word and title for the record.

Your sound has always been a melting pot of influences, from the majesty of ‘Machine Head’-era Deep Purple to the spacey vibes of Hawkwind. How do you balance these classic inspirations with your own unique twist?

Evan: We’re pretty critical of trying to sound original or at least not ripping anybody off. Several times while writing, we get to a riff and go, ah damn that sounds too much like this song that already exists and shut it down. For the most part, we know what we want. We get to a section and almost all agree what it should sound like without really saying anything to each other. All those amazing places in a song that bands like Hawkwind and Deep Purple take you to, we try to get there.

Tee Pee Records has been your home for a while now. How has your relationship with the label evolved, and what role have they played in the development of ‘Retrieval?’

Anthony: Tee Pee Records has had our backs and supported us from the beginning. They have always let us do our thing and don’t try to control us or change our sound or anything like that and seem to believe in what we are doing. They have been a huge help with getting these four records done and out into the world.

You’re hitting the road again for a Europe and UK tour in August. What are you most looking forward to about getting back on stage, and can we expect any surprises in your live set?

Anthony: We’re definitely looking forward to the festivals on this next tour. This will be our third appearance at Sonic Blast Festival in Portugal, one of our favorites. Spending two days there this year will be fun, hanging with friends from all over Europe who attend the festival. Palp Festival in the Swiss Alps has been on our radar, with its stages nestled in stunning mountain scenery. Volcano Sessions in France, set inside a dormant volcano, sounds intriguing, and we’re excited for the open-air vibe of Hoflaerm Festival in Germany. Returning to England for club shows and ending at Cosmic Vibrations fest in Sheffield adds to the excitement. Our last European tour in 2022 with Kaleidobolt was incredible, setting a high bar for tour experiences. We’ll play tracks from the new album and mix in favorites from our previous releases; as for surprises, you’ll have to come see for yourself.

Gearheads would love to know: what kind of equipment and instruments did you use on ‘Retrieval?’ Have there been any new additions to your setup that have shaped the sound of this record?

Anthony: This was our first time not recording straight to tape. We experimented with a new mixing process that allowed for detailed overdubbing and proved less stressful. Despite plans for a mix of digital and analog, a broken tape machine early in the sessions pushed us entirely digital.

Brenden’s Guitar: 1972 Marshall Super Lead with a 1990 61 reissue Gibson SG for live and overdubs. For other overdubs, a Blackface Fender Super Reverb with 80s Tokai Stratocaster. Effects included Earthquaker Palisades Drive, Earthquaker Spires fuzz tones stacked with drive, and EHX Small Clone on low settings. Acoustic: 90s Gibson Dove and Dylan’s Seagull nylon string.

Dylan’s Guitar: 70’s Musicman HD 210, early 80’s Marshall JCM 800, custom-built Fender Stratocaster by Fred Stuart with Lollar pickups, Fender 2004 Japanese Antigua Reissue Stratocaster with McNelly Pickups, Les Paul Standard 50s Reissue Gold Top, Fender Jazzmaster 60s reissue (slide guitar), and various pedals.

Anthony’s Bass: 2006 Rickenbacker 4003, 1967 Ampeg B-15N Portaflex 25 watt 1×15 bass combo, Ibanez ST9 Super Tube Screamer, Ibanez CP-835 Compressor II.

Evan’s Keys: Hammond B3 1969 w/ Leslie 122, Mellotron Micro, Roland Juno 60, Roland SH-3A, Rhodes Seventy-Three, Echoplex EP-3.

Drums: 1970 Gretsch Drum set (22” 16” 13”), 70s Paiste 2002 hi hats and crashes, Paiste 18” signature crash, Paiste 24” 602 medium ride.

Sacri Monti live

Your self-titled debut album ‘Sacri Monti’ (2015) introduced your raw, psychedelic sound to the world. Reflecting on that record, what do you think defined its essence, and how do you feel it set the stage for your evolution as a band?

Anthony: Before our first record was made, we spent years jamming with each other whenever and wherever we could find a place to make noise. I used to record a bunch of jams with a handheld Tascam and have hundreds of recordings. Those years helped shape us and made us comfortable with improvisation and stretching out songs that we played live from the first album. Many of the early songs had structured parts with plenty of room for improvisation, which made our live shows exciting because things were always changing. I think it’s important to have that freedom and a good mix of structure and controlled chaos, which you can hear on the first album and in some of our live recordings.

In 2018, ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’ took your sound to new heights. What were the main influences and experiences that shaped that album, and how did it differ from your debut in terms of creativity and production?

Brenden: I feel like with ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’ we finally started to grasp who we are as a band and how to collaborate effectively. We became more adventurous in our writing process and aimed to expand our sound, giving us the freedom to explore new directions moving forward.

What led to the decision to release a live album, ‘Live At Sonic Whip 2022?’

Anthony: Actually, it was the festival’s idea to record our set at Sonic Whip, and though we were aware of it, we hadn’t initially planned to release it as a live album. I had the concept in mind and put together a set list that showcased a mix of our repertoire, including two new songs and a cover of Iron Claw’s ‘Winter’. We managed to squeeze in “Sacri Monti” at the very end of the set, but it ended up being too long for the vinyl release, so it’s available digitally only. Releasing the live album bought us some time and gave fans a taste of what was coming next. I thought Scott Heller did a fantastic job with the final mix. Despite him being in Europe and us being elsewhere, the collaboration over email notes ultimately paid off, capturing the essence of our live performance.

How is the San Diego scene currently doing?

Anthony: The San Diego scene is ever-changing. My favorite era was in 2018 when there were enough local bands who were all friends from San Diego to have our own category at Roadburn Festival in Holland called “The San Diego Takeover.” The festival organizer flew out about thirty of my friends, and all our bands played multiple shows at the fest and stayed there for five days. Many bands have either broken up or are on hiatus, and a few that were part of a similar scene are still active, I guess. There are some new bands starting up and things brewing, though. Hopefully, some of the older bands can regroup, and younger generations will form new bands and start playing a ton of shows. Out of that group of San Diego takeover bands from Roadburn, Sacri Monti and Earthless are still trying to carry the torch.

Side projects and musical explorations often bring fresh perspectives. Have any of you been involved in other musical ventures recently? If so, how have these experiences influenced Sacri Monti’s latest work?

Evan: Most of us have been keeping busy with other bands like Birth, Spit Vipers, and Saguaro. Sacri Monti remains our main focus. We’re all just musicians who love jamming whenever possible. Dylan genuinely plays guitar for hours every day; that’s the biggest influence—keeping active creatively. Watching our friends’ bands progress and try new things also inspires us to keep pushing ourselves and improve.

“We still have plenty more we want to explore and experiment with”

Reflecting on your evolution since 2012, how do you feel the band has grown both musically and personally? Are there any key moments that stand out as particularly transformative for Sacri Monti?

Evan: Despite all these years, we haven’t changed the “Sacri Monti Sound.” Our approach has remained consistent, and we haven’t felt limited. Since we spend a lot of time together, we’re influenced by the same music at the same time, which helps us evolve together. Our studio has been crucial over the past three years, enabling us to put in extra effort to refine our songs. We still have plenty more we want to explore and experiment with.

Sacri Monti live

Underground scenes and the DIY spirit of the 60s and 70s still resonate with many today. How do you see Sacri Monti fitting into this legacy, and what do you hope to contribute to the modern psychedelic rock landscape?

Evan: In our early years, we were surrounded by so many bands we admired and were just trying to catch up with. Then, around the pandemic, for various reasons, we found ourselves among the few left standing. It was like looking around and wondering, “Where’d everybody go?!” There used to be great bands everywhere you turned in San Diego. Over time, we lost some venues and some people lost steam, but we’re still here. We’re still trying to measure up to our favorites who inspired us to do this in the first place.

You’ve always had a strong connection with your fans. What has been the most memorable fan interaction or piece of feedback you’ve received since starting out?

Evan: Fans are friends! That’s how it feels, at least. We know our fans personally more than as strangers who happen to like our music. On every tour, we already know which friend will be at each show in each town, who to expect to hang out with and have a good time. We feel incredibly fortunate to have made so many friends along the way.

Anthony: One of our most memorable interactions was hearing from Alex Wilson of Iron Claw, who raved about how thrilled he was that we covered their song ‘Winter’ in the past. Iron Claw is one of my favorite bands, and Alex plans to come to our show in Liverpool with his friends on our next tour. You can hear our cover of the song on our ‘Live at Sonic Whip 2022’ album.

As a band that thrives on experimentation and pushing boundaries, what’s next for Sacri Monti? Are there any uncharted musical territories you’re eager to explore in future projects?

Brenden: Absolutely! We’re open to everything. We want to keep trying new things, learning different ways to play, and finding new avenues for self-expression and enjoyment. I don’t know what’s next, but I’m excited to dive into it.

Evan: We’re all hungry for more and can’t wait to explore new ideas! With everyone playing multiple instruments, sharing gear, and jamming together, we’re each other’s teachers. That’s a recipe for stumbling upon something fresh and exciting.

Anthony: It’s thrilling to think there’s so much more music to create in the future. I’m eager to push out more ideas from this brain of mine. Right now, everything is uncharted for the next phase.

Who are some of the most important players that influenced your own style and what did they employ in their playing that you liked?

Anthony: I’ve always admired the groove and feel of Geezer Butler and Bill Ward’s connection. They laid down such a solid rhythmic foundation and knew how to lock in and unleash. I also appreciate Jack Bruce’s improvisational skills during live Cream concerts, and John Wetton’s heavy, fuzzed-out bass tone with King Crimson and other bands. Greg Mayne’s bass playing in early Pentagram tape recordings was also a big influence on me; he wrote incredible bass parts that deserve more recognition. Another standout is Hideki Ishima from Flower Travellin’ Band—his versatility, innovative approach, and melodic hard rock style on guitar are truly inspiring. Lemmy’s powerful bass playing with Hawkwind, although not technical, was a driving force that complemented the band’s space-rock vibe. These are just a few; there are many more.

Brenden: I was particularly into UFO throughout the writing of this album. Michael Schenker’s playing can be fast, brash, and menacing, yet switch to beautiful, warm, and dynamic licks in an instant. John Du Cann from Atomic Rooster and Hard Stuff also left an impression on me; his solo albums delve into a glam space-punk realm. There are so many great bands and players out there, but those are the two that come to mind now.

Evan: Recently, Joe Walsh’s organ playing has been a huge influence on me. We loaded up this record with as much Mellotron as possible, thanks to King Crimson.

What are some of the latest records you’ve listened to or bought on vinyl?

Anthony: I recently picked up the new album ‘Double Dog Dare’ by White Dog, an awesome Texas band playing ’70s-style southern rock with double guitars and organ, akin to Allman Bros and Bubble Puppy. I’ve also been enjoying ‘Nell’ ora blu’ by Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats , which took me by surprise with its concept-driven cinematic soundtrack vibe, and ‘Expanding Majesty’ by Mammatus is another rad record.

Brenden: Our friend Jake from Mondo Drag gave me a copy of ‘Through the Hourglass,’ and it sounds incredible! I also bought ‘Live in Brighton 1975’ by Can a while ago; I love the city, and you can feel the salt, rust, and beer in the air during the performance.

Evan: A few years ago, I got into Premiata Forneria Marconi after picking up a cheap copy of ‘Live In U.S.A.’ (technically Canada). It was a game-changer for me with its charging, beautiful synth and organ sounds. Recently, the new Danava record blew my mind—it’s a must-listen for anyone into rock. Props also to Elder and Delving for their killer tunes.

Lastly, for those just discovering Sacri Monti with ‘Retrieval,’ what do you hope their first impression will be, and what message would you like to send to both new and long-time listeners?

Evan: It’s great that we’ve been labeled as stoner doom/psych rock adjacent, but give us a listen—you might be surprised by the genres that come to mind. We’ve had some interesting feedback on what people think we sound like, and it’s always intriguing. We’ve been around a while, so give us a bump!

Anthony: I hope their first impression is positive and that they want to hear more. ‘Retrieval’ is our most mature album yet, and I encourage people to check out our self-titled debut and ‘Waiting Room for The Magic Hour’ to see our growth. Don’t forget our ‘Live at Sonic Whip 2022’ album too.

Brenden: I just hope you enjoy it and take from it whatever it gives you—it’s yours.

Sacri Monti

Thank you for your time. The last word is yours.

We’re grateful to anyone who made it this far in the interview. Looking forward to returning to Europe and the USA in 2024 and 2025, as well as releasing a new album. We’re open to touring other parts of the world too if the offers come in. We’re in it for the long haul and will keep making music until the wheels fall off. Big shout-outs to Tee Pee Records and Swamp Booking too.

Klemen Breznikar

Headline photo: Sam Giles

Sacri Monti Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp
Tee Pee Records Official Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube

Sacri Monti interview with Brenden Dellar, Dylan Donovan, Anthony Meier, and Evan Wenskay

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