Chris Schlarb is a Long Beach, CA-born and-based singer/songwriter, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist, best known for being the founder and creative mastermind behind Psychic Temple, a recording project/cult. Since the project’s founding back in 2010, Psychic Temple’s sound has shifted from avant-jazz to folk and soul and psych rock while featuring a rotating cast of collaborators that includes Tabor Allen (lyrics, drums). Avi Buffalo’s Sheridan Riley (drums), Minutemen’s Mike Watt (bass), Kiri Tiner (trumpet) and countless others. During that same period, Psychic Temple has shifted its creative process to more adventurous songwriting.
Psychic Temple’s Chris Schlarb has long believed that “there is no double album that would not be improved by removing its worst songs and making it a single album.” In 2016, Schlarb opened BIG EGO, a commercial recording studio in the same Long Beach neighborhood where he grew up. Within its first year, Schlarb produced albums by Terry Reid, James Gadson, Swamp Dogg and Jim Keltner — and by the following year, he began working on Houses of the Holy, his attempt at solving the double album puzzle.
For many the double album stands as the ultimate creative indulgence, an instance for an artist to make a grand statement on four sides of vinyl. But most of those double albums feature a song — if not more — that fans and critics consider filler. Schlarb’s solution was to take four different bands and lead them into the realm of Psychic Temple. And the end result is Schlarb’s double album Houses of the Holy with Cherry Glazerr, Chicago Underground Trio, The Dream Syndicate, and poet Xololanxinxo.
Acclaimed Los Angeles-based act Cherry Glazerr teamed up with Schlarb for Side A. Recorded in the Joshua Tree desert, Cherry Glazerr’s side, titled Songs of Love! Tenderness! Madness! Suicide! features five, whiskey-fueled songs touching upon love, madness and suicide. Side B, which is titled Songs of Family! Music! Poverty! Dreams!features the recently reunited Chicago Underground Trio playing songs written by Schlarb, Jerry David DeCicca and James Jackson Toth. Side C, which is titled Songs of Rebellion! Isolation! Hope! Escape! finds Schlarb teaming up with The Dream Syndicate, who have managed to released some of the most forward thinking and trippiest material of their collective, lengthy catalog in the past couple of years. Side D, which is titled Songs of Spirit! Triumph! Unity! Reflection! features cosmic street poet Xololanxinxo backed by a full orchestra, double rhythm section and gospel choir.
The album’s first single, Psychic Temple’s team-up with The Dream Syndicate “Why Should I Wait” is centered around a forceful, motorik chug, soaring organs, a steady backbeat and a shimmering, reverb-drenched and expressive guitar solo and a soaring hook. Sonically, the song finds the two acts in a Vulcan mind-meld in which both acts create something that sounds radically different than anything they’ve done before — but while rooted in their individual idiosyncrasies.
“I think The Dream Syndicate are one of the great rock bands of our time,” Schlarb says in press notes. “Plugging myself into their circuitry was an otherworldly experience and a privilege that I don’t take for granted. The more I listen back to what we recorded, the more I learn.”
Houses of the Holy is slated for a September 25, 2020 release through Joyful Noise Recordings.