I couldn’t write about Psychic Heat without including myself in the narrative. Those guys are more than just a great band, they’re some of my best friends. I’ve known singer-guitarists Evan Herd and Tanner Spreer for about four years now. I’ve seen Psychic Heat develop into the ripping psych rock act they are today. I remember their first Replay show in 2013, Evan’s wild stage presence was just as exhilarating as it is today, though he didn’t have that unruly hair to toss around. It seems like just the other day Tanner was telling me about the trials of the recording process when they were working on their debut full length. Last summer, we celebrated their signing to High Dive Records and in May the Bottleneck hosted the release show for that first LP, Sunshower. Since I’ve known Tanner and Evan, Psychic Heat has undergone several rhythm section changes (the current one consists of James Thomblison and Mark “Rockwell” Osman of space punks Arc Flash), they released an EP in 2014, and a 7” in September via Replay Records. According to Evan’s exhaustive note-taking, they have played 161 shows. Through all this hard work Psychic Heat has grown to be one of the most popular bands in town. Anyone who frequents the music scene in Lawrence knows what a blast their shows are. They’ve gone on several lengthy tours, spreading their gospel of hard rocking psychedelia, and on October 14th they’re exporting it to the Golden State for their first West Coast tour with Ohio punks Leggy. These hard working guys are very deserving of their success.
I sat down with Tanner and Evan to talk about the past few years.
What has the music scene in Lawrence taught you? What is unique about it?
Tanner: It has changed since we first started playing. When we first started a lot of bands that had been playing for awhile had just stopped. Bands like Mouthbreathers and Jabberjosh had just quit. Things change quickly here because it is a college town.
Evan: It has taught me a sense of community. Lawrence isn’t big enough to have separate scenes, so everyone supports each other regardless of genre.
What was your favorite show?
Evan: The album release show was a fun one because we made it more of a spectacle. Paper Buffalo and This Is My Condition opened for us and they always put on a great show. Also, we had the devil and a gimp introduce us.
Tanner: I mean we go to have our friends AJ and John McCain dress up as the devil and a gimp for that show. We were talking the other day about how being in a band is 10% playing and 90% setting everything up. That turned out to be a great show because we put a lot of effort into setting everything up.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming bands?
Tanner: The whole thing I said about how being in a band is 10% playing music and 90% everything else – answering emails, the artwork, and the direction you’re heading in and everything like that. You need to find excitement through those things and it makes everything so much better.
Evan: Yeah. It’s fun having a project to work on. It takes tons of work, but you have to realize that its just a labor of love type thing. There are times when you wonder if all of this hard work is even paying off. You have to remember that this is a really fun thing and it is defining in a lot of ways. That helps to keep it going forward and getting through all the hard times.
Is their any band who’s career you admire?
Evan: One of the big influences that got me to want to move around a lot and put on an energetic show is Ty Segall. I saw him in High School and he put on an amazing show to just a few people. Not only that, but he continues to redefine himself from album to album and is always recording and playing in other bands. Same with John Dwyer from Thee Oh Sees.
Tanner: They never rest on their laurels. As soon as you release something as an artist it starts to decay. I mean, it’s your baby, but if you have just that to point to you’ll start to hate it. You have to keep moving and reinventing yourself. Those guys work very hard. They’re true artists.
How have you matured as musicians over the years?
Evan: I’ve gotten a lot more confident. It’s still scary sometimes to get up and play in front of people. I used to hide behind my hair more, but now I think I am better at connecting with the audience. I also used to find it hard to say “no” to anybody, and now I’ve found a way to say, “We can’t play that show, but here’s some other options.” This project has taught me how to be more assertive.
Tanner: Playing music has made me a better person. Like, I’m putting together a resume right now and being in a band is on my resume. The best qualities of my skillset come from being a musician. It makes you a better person in a lot of ways. There are so many facets to it.
Evan: Also, it has given me a better outlook on humanity, if that makes sense. Going out and playing shows is most of the time such a positive experience. You find the good in people, like strangers who are willing to put you up in their house. You play a show where there’s hardly anyone there but there’s that one guy who buys a record and is really nice. Its those moments that have given me a better outlook.
Come see Psychic Heat off at the Replay Lounge on Friday, October 14.