“You hear the word ‘emerging’ quite a lot and it just excites you”, admits Jack Goldstein of Oxford’s much-discussed psychedelic quintet Fixers. ”You sometimes wonder if people are listening to the same music you’re making!”
More people are listening now than ever, and Goldstein is more than aware of his band’s hotly-tipped status, which seems to reinforce his hesitance about it. “I don’t think you let it affect the way you make music”, he says. “You should just look at the people that like what you like and instead of justifying yourself and validating yourself through them you should look at them and say, ‘Are these the people that I made my music for?’ Nothing can be taken for granted here – it’s all quite touch and go, and it’s quite ruthless and cut-throat.”
If Goldstein sounds pre-occupied with validation and perception, it is perhaps natural given the critical juncture Fixers find themselves at right now. Formed just over a year ago from the ashes of a number of “older bands, much heavier bands,” their progress has been swift since then, with their dizzying psych-pop compositions earning them praise from around the web. Following on from some sporadic dates in February, the current run of Fixers shows represents the band’s “first significant tour.” It is their gig at Stoke’s 400-capacity Sugarmill which provides our chance to talk.
Goldstein is not relucant to admit his feelings about touring. “I don’t like touring, but I understand it’s something I have to do and I fully embrace that. I try not so sound ungrateful because even like five months ago I didn’t want to do anything more than go on a tour. Every band wants that opportunity, and we were all like that. But without trying to sound ungrateful, for me it’s like life out of balance. By about the third day my soul becomes so drained it’s like existence out of balance.”
Fixers live and Fixers in the studio are two very different entities. While Goldstein says that the project is “ultimately…a band – we’re not a live band, and we’re not a recording band,” he does acknowledge that he gets nervous before shows and that the studio environment is where the band members feel at home.
“You’re completely and utterly cemented to the floor when you’re in a recording studio. You’re not there for half an hour and then you’re off. The representation of your band is not you sat backstage… the representation is you there thinking with a lightbulb above your head coming up with ideas and putting them into effect.” That said, the lightbulb moments in the Fixers sound are still evident at the Sugarmill show; a song like ‘Crystals’ still soars, but in a crucially different way.
That song, a dense confection of throbbing beats and a synth line which ducks and weaves playfully across the stereo spectrum, opens the new EP Here Comes 2001 So Let’s All Head for the Sun. What’s behind that curious title? “The entire EP is loosely based around the Unarius Academy of Science, a kind of weird non-profit UFO religion that kind of started to bubble up in certain areas of California in mid-50s. I think they believed that in 2001, a fleet would come down and bring some sense of world peace to Earth. It’s a weird kind of space age vibe we’ve been trying to channel in the EP. ‘Uriel’ is about one of the founders, and ‘Passages’ is inspired by our fascination with Scientology and the Church of Dianetics. We listened to a lot of Power of Source by L. Ron Hubbard’s jazz ensemble which is an incredible, crossover album.”
As fresh as it sounds to us, to Goldstein the new EP is “very stale”, a thing of the past, a flawed document of a bygone time. Even if the band aren’t entirely happy with the songs, it is at least a source of lessons for the future: ‘Uriel’, for example, the song from which the EP’s title is taken, “is meant to be a pop song. There’s way too many guitars on that, it’s too heavy. I want it to sound like pure Japanese pop. It sounds like music I’m not familiar with, bands I don’t listen to. But I think that will appear on the album because I want to nurture the sounds. What I’ve learnt from the EP is to not worry about exuberance.”
Learning about the bands Goldstein does listen to helps to make sense of his acceptance of labels like “psychedelic,” and even an “avant-garde take on the Beach Boys”, the latter coined by the NME last year. “Our influences are very broad but I love a lot of very unashamed pop music, people like Mariah Carey, early Whitney Houston, stuff like that, and Kylie. But then I love a lot of experimentation and avant-garde music – Lamont Young, Steve Reich. A lot of the bands we are likened to I’ve never heard; there are two ends of the spectrum and you have to know where you want to be and we don’t know that as a band yet.”
For Fixers the future holds more tour dates, debut album pre-production – which in truth apparently means to “sit around in our bedrooms and listen to all the scratch demos we’ve been making” – and a few slots on the festival circuit. But as the questions run dry, Goldstein keeps coming back to the band’s identity, and he ends on an almost ominous tone. “We’re getting all these avant-garde comparisons but we’re not validating ourselves through that. If people have called us an avant-garde band they should get ready for us to bring it.”