Album Stream + Interview: Guillermo Sexo ‘Dark Spring’ // 09.29.13 @ Middle East
 
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e first got a taste of the new Guillermo Sexo record, Dark Spring, in the dead of winter. Three tracks emerged in the form of the self-released Bring Down Your Arms EP, led by the blistering fuzzed out battle-cry “Echo Out My Call.” Turns out, all that was just a tease, and a sign of a massive leap forward for the Boston quintet. Dark Spring, out Tuesday off Midriff Records, is a pretty complex album, almost human-like in its tendencies and attitudes. It’s at times moody and distant, and others warm and consoling. There’s a textured emotion to the entire thing, swallowed as a whole, and that’s why Vanyaland is honored to premiere Dark Spring as an exclusive stream from our friends at Midriff.

We’re teaming up with Illegally Blind to present the record release party on September 29 at the Middle East, which also features Marconi’s last show, DJ sets from Infinite Jeff, and two of our site’s favorite Massachusetts bands, Doze and Boogie Boy Metal Mouth. You’re pretty much required to call in sick rocked the following Monday. There’s also a listening party at ZuZu this Sunday, as well.

In the meantime, stream Dark Spring below, and as it takes you away, read through the Vanyaland interview with Guillermo Sexo’s Rebuen Bettsak and Noell Dorsey. We tackle the band as animals, touring with Ghost Box Orchestra, the evolution of the band, and why there’s a little Guillermo Sexo in all of us.



Vanyaland: If each member of Guillermo Sexo were an animal, which would they be? And why?

Reuben Bettsak: Elliott Anderson, our bass player, is an eagle. He’s a quiet guy observing things, but is also tough and handy. Dude can see the prey down below, and claim it without a sound. He is a special eagle that loves vintage Volvos, and jazz.

Noell Dorsey: I would say Elliott is totally an eagle or a falcon. He is a quiet guy but he is very observant and has the ability to size up situations and be on target. The strong silent type that can pretty much fix anything. Mechanical? Check. Electrical? Check. Upholstery, Dry Wall, yada yada? Yes! Plus he can open up a beer with a doorknob.

Bettsak: Ryan Connelly — our drummer is the owl. He is wise and likes the night time. He’s the type of owl that is fond of red wine and oysters.

Dorsey: Ryan is actually a bear to me. He brings so much force and creativity to the drums. He has a strong presence when he plays and I like to imagine his honey jar with duck pate and sparkling gamay on a tiny tray beside him as his reward once he is finished.

Bettsak: Noell is one of those singing, dancing birds-of-paradise. She’s colorful, has a great voice, and likes to dance around. Perhaps, she’s more dark like a sparrow though… she’s a singing bird-of-paradise by day, and a sparrow by night…

Dorsey: People have mentioned the bird reference to me a few times. Blackbird was a nickname I actually had back in the day. We actually have a song on the album called moonlight sparrow. Though it’s definitely not about me. Ha. I like to think I’m more feline though. Probably of the tuxedo variety. Where do you think the main source of “Meow Metal” came from?

Bettsak: Richard Murillo is still new, and I still need to figure out what kind of animal he is… maybe an orca?

Dorsey: I have been giving this one a lot of thought because Richard is so new to the band. In the end it was between an iguana and a squirrel. I went with the squirrel. He is so well prepared and ready for anything. On tour we called him our Director of Hospitality. He is nimble and such an excellent guitar player. Plus he loves games. You can see him building a checkers board out of acorns or something.

Bettsak: I’ve always liked foxes… so perhaps I’m a fox… or a turtle.

Dorsey: Ha! Ruby loves turtles. He is such a dynamic creative force though so I would say dolphin. The man has an arsenal of songs! Plus dolphins are sweet and silly like him. On looks alone though I would have gone with a koala. I love Ruby’s animal picks! It’s interesting that we were all birds except for Richard and himself.


For years GS has been lumped into the psych scene, but you might be the least psych-leaning band of that particular crew, at least over the past several years. Was the association built mainly on band friendships and social circles or do you guys identify as a psych band?

Dorsey: We personally don’t identify as a psych band though the musical influence is definitely there. Especially in our latest record with “Balboa” and “Coyote” it’s pretty apparent that’s the type of song we are writing. So much of our song-writing is organic. We are often surprised when we start writing where the song ends up after weeks of work. “Balboa” actually took no time to put together but “Coyote” took six months.

I honestly never expected that one to be our “psych” jam when we first embarked. I also think we used to get looped into the more shoegaze category as well and that was also not quite right. One quote I love by Laurie Siegel is on the back cover of her album Expanding the Universe in a mini interview with herself. She says: “How would you describe your music? I wouldn’t.” People often ask me to do that, and it seems impossible. Music isn’t visual or conceptual. I try to get as close as I can to certain qualities, and I find these in a variety of styles. I also find they don’t require any known styles.” I feel Jinsen [Liu] and Deep Heaven Now is responsible for getting all the local pysch and shoegaze bands together and creating a mini scene a few years back. Since we have always seemed to fit in between those two categories there we were. This could also be where the association came from.

Bettsak: I love that line by Robert Pollard where he describes his songwriting as the four P’s: pop, punk, progressive rock, and psychedelia. I think Guillermo Sexo has sailed on with a similar approach. I don’t think we sound much like Guided by Voices. It’s hard for me to pin down who we sound like, or what style we fit into the best… I can say that I love songs with awesome melodies, I love incorporating psychedelic layers and the energy of ’60s psychedelia, alternate tunings, and the whole ’90s fuzz/shoegaze sound.

I like to think that we use these bits of influences from different genres to create our own little Guillermo Sexo music language. And yes, we do identify and like to play shows with bands like Creaturos, New Highway Hymnal, Ghost Box Orchestra, etc., who perhaps are more psychedelic leaning than we are. We are drawn to playing with bands that write awesome songs, and it just so happens that a bunch of these bands have a rad psych sound thing. It’s like cooking. I try to use the ingredients that fit the specific songs the best. One song might have psychedelic burger flavors, and another a macaroni a la Brian Eno…


And with that, tracks like the title cut and “Balboa” on Dark Spring do have a mystical, psychedelic feel to it. Whereas in the past I thought of the band as more of a high-octane indie rock band, these seems to fit the psych bill, with a lot more ’60s influences apparent on this new record. Have you been hanging too much with Ghost Box Orchestra or something?

Bettsak: [laughs] Well, we did just do a tour with those guys, and Jeremy from Ghost Box did have us make a pit stop at the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors for some trippy Alex Grey Art. I love ’60s psych stuff. I adore the Kinks, I love the sound of the Zombies, Odyssey and Oracle, and am always trying to get those drum sounds in the studio. So many great albums from the ’60s. I also love other psych stuff like Spacemen 3 and early Spiritualized. I’ve always incorporated the sounds, and songwriting ideas from that era into this band; it might be more apparent now that we are experimenting more, and trying more things. I also think that my time in Future Carnivores, has influenced me to work more with repetition and layering. Also, listening to a lot of CAN. Our engineer, Justin Pizzoferrato, posted that he used the most Pro-Tools tracks/layers he’s ever used on “Balboa,” and “Dark Spring.”


Guillermo Sexo has had a couple of lineup shuffles and “re-births” here and there. At what point did this lineup crystallize and you thought “This is it”?

Bettsak: Noell has been in the line-up for a very long time now. When Elliott came on as bass player, it was definitely the right fit, and I knew we were closer to the golden line-up. The addition of our drummer Ryan Connolly definitely sealed the deal. He’s been in the band for two years now, and I think our live show has become way stronger, and we created what I think is our best album. So yeah – I hope this one stays interact for a long time. We recently added a new guitar player, Richard Murillo (formerly of Autochrome). He’s not on the album, but is making it a lot easier to play all these tracks live.


Let’s get a little into the writing process. Three of the songs here were released as the Bring Down Your Arms EP back in January, including the very excellent “Echo Out My Call”. Did you have the rest of Dark Spring in the bag at that point, or was the EP this first chapter in a really great writing trip? There seems to be a real jump in confidence since 2011’s Secret Wild, like a band that really hit their stride.

Bettsak: We had most of the album recorded when the Bring Down Your Arms EP came out except for “Balboa,” “Carried a Golden Heart,” and “Fall Lens.” The songs on that EP are three of the first songs we worked on with this line-up, and I thought it was a good idea to get them out there. These songs fit nicely on Dark Spring, but it’s an album that also has some longer songs, and some moodier stuff. The aim for Dark Spring was to make a great record — one you can listen to on headphones,and be impressed with.

I agree that there has been a jump in confidence. We worked longer on this record, and this lineup has so many ideas, and we work very well together. I always have an arsenal of the shorter, catchy songs like “Echo out my call,” and “Bring Down your arms.” “Fall Lens” is another one like that on Dark Spring, but songs like “Coyote” and “Meow Metal” have so many interesting things going on, and are extremely fun to play live. So, it’s good to have a variety of sounds that make a cohesive album.


There’s a song on Dark Spring called “Meow Metal.” My cat Lola has already declared it the Song of 2013. First, congrats on that incredible achievement, and secondly, is this a viable sub-genre for metal moving forward?

Bettsak: We are very honored! I’m glad Lola is digging it. I really do think it could be the start of a viable sub-genre. I mean, cats freaking rule. Combine that with Slayer, and you have head banging cats. This is the future. This powerful combination could very well be what saves rock and roll.


Lastly, give us the real dirt on the name, Guillermo Sexo. Who is he, does he wear a conquistador mask, and has he ever attended a show?

Bettsak: That’s funny that you mentioned a conquistador mask. The song “Balboa,” on Dark Spring is kind of based on Vasco Nunez de Balboa. He was the European/Spanish Conquistador who discovered the pacific ocean and Panama. I was born in Panama and they have coins named Balboa with his face on them.

I was born in Panama, but people don’t really believe it because I’m a blond-haired, blue-eyed white boy. My grandparents are German Jews who escaped Germany, and ended up in Panama. Although I still speak Spanish, I’m so damn American cause I’ve lived here so long. So, Guillermo Sexo is sort of my little Latin person/ego inside me who always speaks Spanish, likes to button down his shirt to proudly show chest hair, actually reads novels by Bolano, Marquez, and Borges in Spanish, and can dance merengue with cigar in hand all night. But, it is important to note that Reuben is not Guillermo Sexo. Noell Dorsey has a Guillermo Sexo, Ryan Connelly has a Guillermo Sexo, everyone has a Guillermo Sexo. Even Lola the cat has Guillermo Sexo when she thinks she’s a real tiger.

Dorsey: Ha! I believe Jess Barnett was the person responsible for jokingly calling Reuben Guillermo Sexo and it stuck. That was the original inspiration, his Panamanian alter ego. However the Guillermo Sexo name had a more “Ramones” vibe to it than. Jess was Gatita Sexo, Nick was Nico Sexo, Alan was Foto Sexo, you get the idea.


GUILLERMO SEXO + DOZE + MARCONI + BOOGIE BOY METAL MOUTH + DJ INFINITE JEFF :: Sunday, September 29 @ the Middle East, 472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge :: 7pm, 18+, $10 :: advance tickets :: facebook event page

Guillermo Sexo Flyer

guillermo sexo album cover

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