Currently comprised of founding and primary members Tres Warren (vocals, guitar) and Elizabeth Hart (bass) along with a rotating cast of collaborators and friends, New York-based psych rock act Psychic Ills have developed a reputation over the past decade for following wherever their muses take them. The band’s recently released fifth, full-length album Inner Journey Out is the culmination of three years of playing shows, touring, writing and recording, and interestingly enough, the album finds the band expanding upon the sound and aesthetic that first caught the attention of the blogosphere as the band incorporates country, blues, gospel and jazz to their psych rock sound. Additionally, while the band’s previously recorded efforts found Warren overdubbing himself to create a massive, widescreen sound, Inner Journey Out focuses on Warren’s and Hart’s collaborations with an array of renowned and accomplished guests including Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, touring keyboardist Brent Cordero, Chris Millstein, Endless Boogie’s Harry Druzd, The Entrance Band’s Derek James, Charles Burst and a host of friends and associates, who also provide pedal steel guitar, horns, strings and backing vocals.
Thematically speaking, the new album’s material explores the interior and exterior lives of its narrators and the difficult pathway that unites the two. And as a result, the material on the album, in particular the album’s first two singles “Baby” and “Another Change” sounds as though it draws from The Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” and Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky” — but with a lonely, plaintive ache beneath the shimmering, country-leaning and moody psychedelia. With both “Baby” and “Another Change” each song’s narrator is yearning and desperately longing for connection to someone or something. And yet there’s a recognition that such moments of actual connection can be fleeting. Interestingly, both songs manage to be emotionally ambivalent. “Baby” suggests that after a lifetime of seeking love and connection that its narrator finally found it but it also manages to possess a bittersweet recognition that the connection and understanding he has so desperately yearned for could end — and that he could be alone, desperately longing for that person and not quite knowing what else to do. Possessing an equally gorgeous and shimmering, country-leaning twang, “Another Change” features a narrator, who seems uncertain and fearful of being vulnerable and being hurt, and yet feels himself slowly and inevitably moving towards something bigger than himself.
Directed by New York-based filmmaker Jason Evans, the cinematically shot videos for “Baby” and “Another Change” were designed as two parts of an extended short film, shot in and and around New York and at Cowtown Rodeo in New Jersey. The videos form a portrait of a young cowboy, desperately longing for something he can connect with, a desire that becomes clearer by the end of the second video. Throughout both videos, the viewer follows its male lead John Reddy, who actually grew up on as a rodeo rider in Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, as he smokes in his tiny room, gets dressed, commutes back and forth between suburban New Jersey and a backbreaking job in a restaurant in the City and runs errands. And from the way he walks and dresses, the videos protagonist doesn’t quite fit in anywhere — and from his expressions our protagonist carries a profound sadness and loneliness that’s old-fashioned and proud but with a masculine vulnerability. When he encounters a lovely young woman in a local bar, there share a simple yet profound moment of connection over their shared loneliness and heartache, and it’s shot with a subtly golden hue that suggests it’s those small moments that remind us of our humanity.
The second videos follows our protagonist to Cowtown Rodeo, where he watches fellow cowboys ride horses and he quickly falls in love with a beautiful white horse that he immediately connects to — and as he connects to his horse, he find himself with the young woman at the bar.
As Evans explains of both films, “There were certain visual ideas I tried to incorporate. Listening to ‘Baby’ and ‘Another Change’ on repeat, I knew I wanted to draw on the 70s New Hollywood aesthetic of films shot with long zoom lenses. It’s a softer look, that allowed us to mix voyeuristic moments, set in real environments, with more private, reflective moments. There’s a real feeling of longing to the album not just for love, but a longing to be understood and accepted. The story I built out is about a kid, who’s a bit of an outsider, someone out of synch with his environment. Johnny was perfect in the role, so much of how he communicates is non-verbal.” And as a result, Evans has created one of the more beautiful and achingly lonely videos I’ve come across in quite some time.