Brooklyn based psychedelic outfit Evolfo recently released their new LP, The Last of The Acid Cowboys, on April 7 via Royal Potato Family. With it they make serious strides – the entirety of their discography is a euphoric, flavorful bite of something stellar; think comfort food, but for the ear. The band conjures up a variegated, refreshing approach to garage funk that has already turned more than a few heads, and is bound to continue doing so. Each member of Evolfo’s alluring seven-piece puzzle is an essential asset of the band’s eclectic, flavorful curation of sound and genre. An electrifying assemblage of instruments and warm, smooth vocals are just two catalysts of the well-rounded, mind-bending journey that Evolfo brings their listeners on. Rock ‘n’ roll cowboy from an alternate dimension is unquestionably this summer’s look, and Evolfo is all over it. Take a peek at Rafferty and Matt’s thoughts on which ingredients make the experience complete, and don’t forget to catch their record release party at Alphaville on Saturday.
In general, your music is a colorful blend of genres. Did it start out like that during your initial practices? How did you come to master this sound?
Rafferty Swink: Over years of playing together, we have started to refine our sonic references and have grown a unique and compelling style all our own. The sound you hear on Last of the Acid Cowboys is the product of us using the recording process to express our diverse interests as a band in a cohesive manner. I don’t think of it as “mastering” a sound, I think of our sound more as something forever in a state of growth. Hopefully people who enjoy our record will be open to journeying through more sounds with us on future releases.
Matt Gibbs: Even in those initial practices I felt overwhelmed by the amount of music that inspired me. I didn’t want to decide on one genre or narrow down our variety of influences. Most every band ever has struggled with this same thing I’d bet. It seemed like such a bummer to have to define the music and keep it in one genre. However, I totally understand how annoying it is when bands are like “ya know it’s kinda like a Tom Waits thing with a samba bridge but like a garage-glam-punk bass line going into the outro, which is actually a total rip-off of some righteous Bach.” That was Evolfo for the longest time; a band just cramming too many stark influences into one song. I think it was by making the songwriting process more collaborative that we were able to get our hands around few essential influences and start making some sense of it all. Even so I don’t like to make hasty decisions on what genre we do or don’t play. I like to think we can still define our sound while keeping an open mind.
What is it like to have a large group to play with, as opposed to a smaller group? How does this affect your sound and performance? Are any of you able to compare this experience with past experiences in which you might’ve played with a smaller band?
RS: Playing in a large group like Evolfo is very exhilarating. The sound created by all seven of us completely fills any room we play and surrounds the audience (whether they like it or not!). It can easily get chaotic with so many of us on stage so the way your part fits into the tapestry of the song is far more important then how awesome your individual part is. In a small band setting, there is more flexibility in what you can do individually and how it relates to what everyone else is doing. Because we have seven people onstage, we have a lot more textures available to us when we play. Our horn players all double on other instruments as well as sing. I think our sound and performances are what they are because of our lineup.
MG: We all play in, or have played in, smaller bands and we totally realize that a 7 person band on tour sounds like hell on wheels to most contemporary musicians. In fact most music folks don’t miss a chance to remind us what a difficult path we’ve chosen for ourselves in an industry where people who perform as a solo artist or as a duo are generally the ones who can afford to tour. We, as a 7 piece, get constant reminders of how unlikely it will be for well known bands to invite us to open for them. I’m just over here like, “Good for you! We’re definitely a 7 piece band and that’s our thing, thanks!” I think the major positive of performing with a large group is that it’s a great spectacle; there are so many great dudes to look at! And then the major drawback is stage space; you won’t see me doing any helicopter split jumps at Alphaville, unfortunately, unless the crowd clears a space for it on the floor.
Your latest EP, Last of the Acid Cowboys, has an infectious, psychedelic sound– each song has a different flavor. What was your vision for this record, and what did you all need to do to follow it through? What did you realize during its production while going through the entire process, and how did this change the EP’s overall sound?
RS: The EP was a way of starting over for Evolfo. It was the first recordings we’d released in nearly three years and the first since we shortened our name. The songs on the EP were a condensed representation of the sounds we were pursuing in the studio. Although we had enough tracks recorded to release a full length, we waited and released the EP first to tease our listeners and to test the waters without prematurely dropping a ton of tracks.
MG: The initial goal was pretty straightforward. We needed to find our recorded sound. We started by writing way more songs, and I mean like a TON of songs, than we knew we could record and then narrowed it down to the 10 – 15 tracks that made the most sense on a record. The second half of your question is super interesting because it was the production that evoked the concept of the Acid Cowboy. The tracks we chose for the record all loosely fit into the world of the Acid Cowboy and then each little piece of the record that came together afterward further defined this world. Rafferty put it best one time when talking about our collaborators, JJ Golden (mastering) and Reuben Sawyer (album art). Rafferty mentioned how JJ & Reuben both immediately got the vibe and they each brought a unique touch to their contributions. Their ideas really moved the Acid Cowboy theme along.
How did Last of the Acid Cowboys blossom into a fully formed LP? What steps did the band need to take in order to build on the EP? What was your plan for incorporating new songs alongside ones that have already been released? Are there any major differences between the LP and the EP?
RS: Last of the Acid Cowboys (the LP) really got going when we started meeting with Kevin from Royal Potato Family. Incorporating new songs with songs from the EP was at first a concern for me, but after we got a new track list together, I wasn’t as bothered. The context provided by the new songs and the flow of the record makes any familiar tracks take on new life. When I compare the EP to the LP it’s the difference between a picture and a short film.
MG: The short answer is, the 10 songs on the LP belong together. The EP was there to grab people’s attention and generate some interest, while the LP is the full statement; it is the whole project as it was intended. I wouldn’t specifically call it a “concept album” but it does have a beginning, middle, and end. If I ever learned anything from David Bowie, it is that all albums should end with a sad song. “Peachy,” the last song on Last of the Acid Cowboys, has become our favorite song amongst the band. That one is not on the EP.
How are the experiences of each record different– are there any messages listeners can take away from the LP that they cannot from the EP? How do both releases differ from your past music– would you say your sound, as well as your group’s dynamic, has matured? Does this maturity exist even within the months between the LP and EP?
RS: I think the LP adds additional layers of understanding to the title. We didn’t make a concept album, but there are thematic ties that flow through the entire record from beginning to end. On the EP we could only hint at these things. Our dynamic and sound most definitely have matured since that last time we released music. I think now we have a sound all our own and the Last of the Acid Cowboys LP and EP serve as an opening statement we will continue to refine and improve as time goes on.
MG: I answered a bunch of this in my response to the previous question, but to reiterate: the main difference is that the LP is the whole Acid Cowboy story. The EP was there to generate interest using some of the bangers on the LP but the EP won’t take you on the trip that the LP takes you on. And then of course there’s the fact that the LP was remastered, it has a little more bombast and roughness around the edges than the EP. Also the album art on the LP is insanely cool and you can own it on vinyl! There’s a universe of difference between this album and our previous attempts at recorded music. I don’t think that the words mature and Evolfo belong in a sentence together (see track #6: “Luv Like a Freak”) but I can talk about what we learned about recording. Mainly we learned to take our time. There would be no point to rushing this album, so we took time to experiment and collaborate with our producer Joe Harrison. We learned a lot from him, he added a ton of taste & style to the music. If it wasn’t for Joe this might be an entirely different album. The album art might have been a toilet or something.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Is it different for each band member? What visuals come to mind when you are creating music? Person, place, or thing? Artists from the past or present? All of the above?
RS: Band members draw inspiration from their own experiences, taste, and feelings. For me personally, inspiration can come from anything. It can be a dream, the sound of a snare drum, a phone call with my Dad, a good movie, getting yelled at on the street, being sick, or even my cats.
MG: As related to music, lately I’m inspired by the musicians, songwriters, and performers who take risks, the ones who trust themselves and their ideas enough to do the crazy shit. Like Moondog dressing like a Viking or David Bowie doing weird Bowie stuff. You know they had a million people around them being like “hey that’s too much, people won’t get it, why do you need to do that, can’t you just play the music without running around in a Viking helmet?” But they trusted themselves enough to go through with their ideas, and that’s super impressive to me. Within Evolfo, we have an infinite variety of influences. At the moment we’re in agreement that we are into this acid western thing. Currently we’re all on that page together. We still love for people to dance and mosh and move but those songs, which inspire people to move, come from that western place at the moment. I’m thinking like “El Topo” or “Dead Man” for movie inspirations.
– Matt Gallipoli