Names are always crucial when starting a band. They instantly and subconsciously tell people if they should be interested in you while also giving listeners a precursory clue to what they should be expecting to hear. You know precisely what you’re going to get with, say, Cradle of Filth. You’re not exactly going to invite them to play at your gran’s 70th or your cousin’s christening, are you? Well, you might, but that would make you a sadist.
But Acid Glasses, the by-product of Memphis youngster Nick Burk, offers exactly what his moniker says on the CD cover. In the same way that beer goggles might make a fairly ordinary looking girl appear like Natalie Portman circa Garden State, Acid Glasses takes ordinary pop melodies and channels them through a psychedelic kaleidoscope, creating a hazy and euphoric cascade of jangly guitars, overlapping vocals and twinkling percussion.
I understand your reluctance – it’s hard to get away from the swarms of ‘bedroom producers’ popping all up in your Twitter feeds lately. In fact, it would probably require Soundcloud to be down every single day, and not just a few hours every week as seems to be the case right now – and then you’d still have Bandcamp to avert your eyes from. Remember when Arctic Monkeys got to top of the charts and the evening news started speculating that it would replace the whole music industry altogether. Well, that didn’t happen and Myspace is all but long gone – just a sad shell of its former self, evoking weird mixed feelings of nostalgia and pity, like coming across a former girlfriend who’s now homeless and living on the streets.
Well now it’s the turn of the more electronic-leaning acts. Now it seems everyone can download some really expensive home studio software via a couple hours’ worth of Mediafire downloading, and then hey-presto, you got yourself an EP. Even movie-making software is readily available, meaning a nice accompanying video can be knocked up for just about anyone (we’re not even mentioning any names so you can’t sue for defamation, Lana!) by some coffee-fuelled freelance director for about the same about as Rick Ross would spend on just an hour’s cameo from a single of his hip-hop honeys. Thus we’ve been left with a saturated market, where it’s so much easier just to ignore and potentially miss out on something great than sift through MP3 after MP3, finding maybe one of two gems in the general blog marsh of nothingness.
But Acid Glasses is definitely someone you should be taking note of, if you having been already. Not purely a solo ‘bedroom producer’, Burk enlists a mystery member to help write tracks and another to go on tour. His music is just as much a mystery, each completely diverse from the one before it – with the only common thread running through his entire work being this strange and warped sense of eerieness, like the ghost of pop culture’s past. He plays the Binnacle festival at the Old Blue Last this coming weekend (15-16 October), part of a bill tagged as “a micro festival of future sounds”, so you’ll all be able to check him out then.
Luke Morgan Britton speaks to Acid Glasses about his first trip across the pond, his art and, er, his break-up inspired mind-boggling remix of 90s pop hit ‘Steal My Sunshine’.
What does it mean to be able to travel all the way over to the UK to perform for people who want to hear your music?
It’s a pretty amazing feeling, to be honest – the kind of thing a lot of people dream about. I almost can’t believe it’s actually happening for me. I do feel incredibly lucky and entirely grateful that I get to experience this. There’s definitely plans for some serious US touring in the pipeline and hopefully future adventures here too. I really hope to hop the pond again!
At Binnacle you’ll play as a two-piece but it’s still going to remain very much a solo project when it comes to the recordings, right?
Yeah it’s pretty much a solo thing, but with another secret member involved with the writing and recording aspect. But he isn’t the person playing with me live at Binnacle – that’ll be Andrew from my other band, Kruxe.
This is your first UK show, while for a lot of the others on the bill it will be their first ever live show. How much have you played live as Acid Glasses in the past?
Well, I’ve been playing as 3d Acid Glasses, which was the original name – now cut down by a few letters to just Acid Glasses, for probably 2 years now. It has changed a lot over this period though; the songs, the way we play live, the people involved, all of these have consistently been varying. But things seem to be settling down a little now. I’ve been playing in this current set-up, the way I’ll be playing over in the UK, for about a month now. It’s a pretty different arrangement to anything I’ve done previously. These shows will be basically the first live performances of it ever, not counting a few local shows.
So what can we expect from this new-look set-up?
Porous jams, some stuff you may have heard, and stuff no one has heard except for me, Andrew and a few friends back in Memphis.
Binnacle is getting some pretty decent buzz for putting together what can be seen as “all the bands you may have read about but not got the chance to see”. Are there any of the other acts on the bill you’re excited at the prospect of catching while you’re over here?
I guess it’s down to the fast-paced nature of modern music and I don’t know if it’s bad on my part, but honestly when I looked through the list of performers playing I realised that either I was barely familiar with their music or vaguely recognised them at all; and most of the other bands I had never even heard of. I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way when they see my band’s name, though. But I’m almost more excited this way because it’s going to be this totally pure absorption of new music all at once.
You mentioned Kruxe, your other project and garage band. Is this still going alongside Acid Glasses or has it been put on the back-burner for the moment?
Kruxe is definitely still going strong! We’ve been playing a lot recently, even while all this has been going on. In fact, later tonight we have a show with our dudes, the band Woodsman, and then we have another show later this week that’s a Gonerfest Afterparty at our friend’s Bake Sale’s house!
Do you see both projects – Kruxe and Acid Glasses – as fulfilling different kinds of creative urges you have?
Totally, they are on completely different planes. I started doing 3d Acid Glasses at least a year before we started Kruxe. And now both are co-existing together, Kruxe have been playing live more and more, while slowly recording our 4 track 7 inch coming out on Trevor from Woodsman’s label, FireTalk.
Do you feel being an electronic musician allows for a lot more freedom than being part of a band? Do you prefer to create music on your own?
To be honest, I think Acid Glasses is slowly getting less purely “electronic”, though still deep with the synths and samples and percussive elements; but slowly more and more guitar and live drums and percussion is sneaking in there. I’d say that soon it’ll be in some oval of some venn diagram between “electronic music” / new wave/garage band, though its not going to become some punk or straight up rock thing. I’m definitely staying to the left, in the explortory realm of things.
Seems like a lot of electronic musicians these days are people who would have previously formed a band, but the emergence of home-studio software has opened them to a different kind of sound. Have you always been into electronic music?
I’ve never been a DJ or anything, I just started doing experimental stuff that eventually morphed into what Acid Glasses is now. I’m constantly gathering influences from all different kinds of music for both bands and always have been. The way we will be performing in the UK, and at the shows following that, is in a more “bandy” sense, though still not quite a “band” in it’s purest, traditional four-piece form. Can a duo ever really be considered a band?
Tell us a little about Nick Burk, things non-musical. What are you doing/living currently, what’s your normal daily routine like, for example?
Well, I live in Memphis, I like to get stoned with my friends, I spend most of my time making music, and I spend the rest of that time working on art, videos and flyers. I have a girlfriend who is one of the most fucking astounding people I’ve ever met and makes really awesome heavy-duty art.
I’m guessing a lot of your tracks are created late at night in your bedroom with your laptop and equipment, do you think this allows music to expand more purely without the pressures of renting a studio and having a set amount of time to create things?
I make music at all times of the day and night; but there’s definitely some kind of magic sweet spot in recording by yourself really late, until the sun comes up then going for a couple more hours in the fresh morning light. And yes, I hope to never have to rent studio time, if I have someone else record me in their studio, it’s a friend so we do it on our time, no pressure.
Being a self-facilitating kind of artist, do you ever get stuck for inspiration and motivation or are you someone that is endlessly creating new material?
I try to constantly make things; like every day either start working on something new or continue work on a longer term project. But I definitely don’t put out everything I make.
A lot of your tracks – especially ‘My Pale Garden’ – sound like twisted pop hits, like the soundtrack to some creepy high school dance in an episode of ‘Goosebumps’ or the like. Do you take all of inspiration from the poppier aspects of things?
I began making more experimental sound collage structures that never really had beginnings or ends, and would rarely try contain them to one recording, just constantly playing around with these textures. I’m actually thinking about compartmentalising a few of them and putting them out on a tape and maybe calling it ‘Testures’. But then after a while I started making more ‘song’-like creations, which I guess is what pop is – super compartmentalised with the music and the melody, the hooks, the beats, the secret magic, all that…
I recently came across your 10+ mins reworking of Len’s ‘Steal My Sunshine’, it’s definitely something else. How did this come about?
A then-girlfriend cheated on me, and I was really bummed for a while, then I heard that song come on the radio. It’s only like 3 minutes long, and I was like ‘Man, I wish this song could last for a hour’, so I decided I was going to make a 60 minute remix of it. I had started it, then one day I hear this old 70s song come on the radio, and all the sudden in the middle of it, is the beat to ‘Steal My Sunshine’! It was like an omen; so I found the song and made my own sample of the sample Len took for their song. This gave me a whole new dynamic on changing the song around. I got to about the 10 minute mark and decided to leave it there.
Are you interested in remixing other people’s tracks? Or even more of these bizarre re-warpings of 90s guilty pleasures?
Yes to both, definitely!
What current musicians and fellow producers are you into at the moment?
I really love Dolphins Into The Future, Rene Hell, Lucky Dragons, Sun Araw, Woodsman, Julian Lynch, Blank Dogs, Total Control, most things GONER puts out, a lot of things Hozac comes out with as well. I also listen to a whole lot of non-current music, more than half of what I listen to is older stuff. You can hear a selection of some things I’m into in the Binnacle mix I did (streaming at the bottom).
Binnacle festival will almost seem like a cyber meet-up of musicians who are “big on the web”. How much has the internet helped you as an artist so far?
I think the internet has mainly helped me to get my music and art out there rather than affecting the art itself. Although it has certainly helped me find more varying artists that influence my music.
‘My Pale Garden’ is out now on Stroll-On Records. Acid Glasses plays the Binnacle festival at London’s Old Blue Last on the 15-16 October .