Speaking With PSYCHOWARD: An Interview with Evan Whitford and Jordan Left

Psychoward, a band consisting of Evan Whitford and Jordan Left, speak about their influences, their work within and outside of music and their recently released EP, Black Lagoon, Inc. 

You can visit the band’s website here! – https://www.psychoward.band/

I have known Evan Whitford in the same way that I know the majority of my artistically inclined friends – through movie forums in Facebook a few years ago! And so, considering that we were both barely teenagers when we met online through these groups, it has been interesting to see how we both grew and changed over the last few years. Evan and I even made short films around the same time, both dabbling with filmmaking with our very different influences – his mainly being John Waters and Harmony Korine, mine being Steve McQueen and Kenneth Lonergan – but of course, Evan’s interest in music was also always present, even if mine took much more time to develop (I only really started giving my time to music in early 2019, which feels like five minutes ago to me!). Some years have passed, and now I have taken more to writing, and Evan has taken even more to music than before, and so… a conversation felt appropriate! So, without wasting your time or my finger movement typing this any further, read on for an interview with PSYCHOWARD!

THE INTERVIEW!

Reece Beckett: Seeing as this is a first time interviewing two people at the same time, I figure I may as well tailor my questions to that – as bandmates, do you share a lot of the same inspirations? Or is there one member of Psychoward who really points the sound in a certain direction?

Evan Whitford: Our musical inspirations have a lot of overlap but also a lot of different territory, but since I write most of the songs you’ll probably see my style peak through a little more often. Most of our overlap comes from groups like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and Rush, but we’re constantly introducing each other to new music. I suppose Psychoward is a melting pot of everything we love, and whenever we discover something new either from each other or on our own, it’ll find its way somewhere in something.

RB: What about influences from outside of music, too? There always seem to be some odd ones that show up for this question!

EW: Films definitely. I think as tight budgeted punk EPs go, Black Lagoon, Inc. ended up feeling very cinematic. Not to mention 3/5 tracks were directly inspired by different films. Outside of that though, I think our day to day lives influence what we’re feeling in our music.

RB: It does have a consistency to it that a lot of other EPs lack, and the artwork also obviously supports that general feeling of chaos! There is definitely an organisation beneath that chaos though – how do you go about selecting specific ideas for the music or the lyrics? Do they tend to come together easily, do you all huddle together and talk about different ideas until making some progress or do these finished tracks come from a lot of trial and error experimentation?

EW: All the songs came together at very different rates. Some tracks made sense very early on and the structure felt automatic. Others took a while to make sense of. Benny And The Video was especially. Our producer was so confused why it had constant random tempo changes out of nowhere, and I had no reasonable explanation other than it was what I was feeling.  The lyrics I wrote entirely, and most of the process was rewriting and adjusting to what sounded more interesting and unique. The topics were in motion from the start of the song; it was all about phrasing.

Jordan Left: Me and Evan have actually been good mates since the 7th grade. We ran a film club together at our middle school and it’s certainly our most commonly opinionated interest. We officially started Psychoward in freshmen year of high school with an alternative horror punk aesthetic that the kids really seem to like. I’ve always made the suggestion/joke that we should be called Psyc Howard because if people asked Pink Floyd which ones Pink, they’d ask us who’s Howard. I usually find myself combining classic rock and jazz elements into our music to push the sound into a league of its own. Such as when we added keyboards to the record. Like none of us had ever touched a synthesizer before six months ago!

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Evan Whitford (left) and Jordan Left (ironically, on the right) performing.

RB: I was actually surprised to hear the keyboard in the background in the EP considering how fast paced the rest of the sound is, so it’s good to hear where that came from. I know that Evan has also made films before and you can spot fragments of them in the album (as well as that general film influence throughout the record that we already spoke about!), so do you guys play around with other art forms, or stay focused in on music at the moment?

EW: Funny enough there’s only keyboard in the last song, and even then it’s only there in the last two minutes.

I write film reviews once in a blue moon on Letterboxd but I’m not the most skilled filmmaker. I think all I need is exposure, but I feel pretty comfortable sticking with music at the moment. Play it by ear!

RB: I mean I would imagine that the EP could quite easily take off with a kind of cult fanbase seeing as it is such a short energetic burst of that inspired hard rock from the 70s and 80s – I imagine if it were to find the right people they’d love it! Evan, do you have any plans for directing music videos in the future for the band, or is directing something you’re choosing to leave on the back-burner, at least for now?

EW: We actually had plans to make a music video for the song “Trash Humpers” but it sort of fell apart due to COVID tensions and whatnot. It would’ve been pretty simple stuff, nothing too ambitious. I think some of the leftover ideas will be put towards a video for one of our upcoming singles.

RB: Good to hear! I have to admit that that kind of lower budget DIY work is always exciting to me – does this new single represent the first stages of a new EP? Or even a first album?

EW: The development of Black Lagoon, Inc. was very complicated so over the next few months you’ll see a single show up every little bit. I’d love to get another EP in this year, but the upcoming singles will determine exactly how that would work.

RB: Is this because you’re entering another experimental phase? Or is it COVID just making production more difficult?

EW: Everything moving forward in the near future would be self produced by myself, so I’m more just experimenting with what I can do as our own producer and mixer. In addition, all the songs we’re working on wouldn’t work thematically on another EP, so it makes sense to us to let them be in their own little worlds.

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RB: And do you have any kind of ultimate plan or vision? Or is the music just going where it fits for now?

EW: It’s a little ambiguous since Jordan and I are still in high school and college is on our horizons. I suppose we’re working in the moment. Only time will tell what we end up making.

JL: Or it was going to each other‘s houses and trying to teach each other riffs and sometimes even how to use new instruments/pedals. So over the years we’ve had a lot of song material. Best case scenario we’re still able to put out some music together during college.

COVID wise, Los Angeles is the fucking worst. Not only bad with the rates but it’s really challenging to find flexible collaborators. Like everyone, we just hope to be done with this shit and playing shows once again.

RB: Yeah I think Covid, at least in terms of entertainment, has probably hit music the hardest of all as there is such a reliance on live shows since streaming pays so little. 

If you, as a band, were told that your next project could have whatever budget and collaborators you wanted, what would you go for, and who would you try to get involved?

JL: We’re definitely both music gear nerds so I think Evan would rather gold top Les Paul and I prob be playing an 8 string bass by Evan’s request! It’s definitely not something that we would ever want to limit us. But there’s definitely a lot of inspiration with achieving a certain sound.

EW: I’d probably write a rock opera. A good one requires a huge budget, and I’d love to have a big name producer and drummer to do get it sounding massive.

JL: Over a year ago we had different drummer who kind of just lost inspiration. So we’ve been using a studio drummer to get the punk sound we really desire.

EW: Yeah he’s been excellent in the sessions. We’d love to get someone full time but for the time being he really rips it. He has a very Travis Barker style to his playing which really suits us.

RB: I think mainly, of course, the guitar really stands out along with the vocals but I can imagine the gap in the sound without the drumming – I was planning on ending with some quick-fire questions, but before that, is there anything you guys want to say to anybody reading this?

JL: All I have to say is for other people reading this is, Say your prayers and your vitamins!! And if your mom and dad are around, tell them you love them.

EW: Same here, vitamins are good for you!

JL: Please let us know if we should support this message by making our own brand of Flintstone gummy vitamins. Instead of Wilma and Barney shaped gummies we’ll have an amp and guitar headstock bill for $400!

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QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS

Favourite Kanye West record?

EW: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

JL: Kanye definitely has made countless bangers. His new music I vibe with but only when I see him perform it in concert. Favourite album has to be a close tie between My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus. I was listening to a lot of Death Grips and Yeezus when me and Evan were forming Psychoward so those have been a large influence. 

Best Beatles member?

EW: George Harrison

JL: My favourite Beatle has got to be Paul ‘cause he’s not only a killer bass player, but just a really positive guy who won’t stop his creative endeavours until he drops.

Favourite movie?

EW: It’s Such a Beautiful Day

JL: My personal favourite movie is A Clockwork Orange.

Best Metallica album?

EW: Ride the Lightning

JL: Master of Puppets

What is the one venue where you most want to do a show?

EW: In the foreseeable future, The Smell. In the long run, something like Wembley Stadium.

JL: I would absolutely love to do a really large outdoor show in Amsterdam. I don’t exactly know any great venues there but if I had to name any specific venues, definitely either of the Filmore’s.

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Favourite song recently?

EW: Land of Sunshine by Faith No More, or Five Years by David Bowie.

JL: Recently I’ve been bumping the October 2000 live at Brixton Academy version of Motörhead’s You Better Run. Great bass solo in the beginning.

What is an album that you really like from a genre you typically hate?

EW: There’s not many genres I hate honestly, but I’ll say Birth of a New Day by 2814. Electronic is a bit hit or miss for me but I absolutely adore that album and never really expected to. 

JL: I really kinda hate disco. But ever since I picked up record collecting again I started listening to more disco records. And if there’s one, I gotta say I actually dig more of the funk side of 70s disco like Parliament Funkadelic’s Mothership Connection. 

Name a book you really love!

EW: Watchmen.

JL: I really love the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Hunter S. Thompson is an absolute goat.

Who is your dream collaborator?

EW: Rob Cavallo

JL: Dream collaborators personally as far as music would have to be Frank Ocean, Daft Punk, Jack White, Justin Chancellor, Les Claypool and BADBADNOTGOOD.

If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?

EW: Shapeshifting could be really cool. I could always ask for Batman’s superpower and just ask to be very very rich!

JL: Teleportation is always a necessity

Favourite Up and Coming Musician(s)?

EW: Creeper, clipping. And 100 Gecs come to mind.

Favourite jazz record?

EW: Torture Garden by Naked City

JL: It’s gotta be Red Clay by Freddie H. One of my favourite basslines of all time. 

Favourite hiphop record?

EW: I already said My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy for my favourite Kanye album. Without naming more Kanye albums, my others would be Licensed to Ill by the Beastie Boys, There Existed an Addiction to Blood by clipping. And The Slim Shady LP by Eminem. 

JL: Favourite hip-hop record would have to be Madvillainy from MF DOOM and Madlib. This album doesn’t miss a beat. Psychoward sends their condolences to DOOM, he will be missed. 

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Favourite animated movie?

EW: It’s Such A Beautiful Day, Mary & Max, Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion, Pink Floyd: The Wall, Perfect Blue, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, Akira and the Nightmare Before Christmas, to name a few of my favourites.

JL: My favourite animated film is Pink Floyd: The Wall. I know half of it’s animation, but I still fucking love it. Maybe Spirited Away or Akira for close runners-up.

Favourite director?

EW: Stanley Kubrick, Ingmar Bergman, David Lynch, Harmony Korine, Paul Verhoeven, John Waters, Terry Gilliam and Don Hertzfeldt are a handful of my favourites.

JL: Stanley Kubrick’s the man for both me and Evan. A lot of inspiration in doing what we do is derived loosely from Stanley’s work and Stanley as a person. 

Which one food would you have for every meal for the rest of your life, if you had to choose?

EW: Without worrying about health benefits, I’d probably go for epic prime rib dinners for the rest of my life. 

JL: I require a very symmetrically laid out plate of thinly sliced cold cuts, artisan cheeses and crab flavoured wheat thins for all my square meals. If a venue doesn’t greet us with this specific food plate within five minutes, we’ll do the responsible thing by bringing our plate, lacing it with rat poison, and passing it around the crowd.

One track that really inspired you?

EW: Jesus of Suburbia by Green Day, especially when I was younger. Music inspired me all the time, so that pick is one of many. 

An instrument that you’d love to learn to play?

EW: Drums and violin.

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Another genre you’d love to play with in your music?

EW: I’d love to be able to get to the point where we change genres all the time, sort of in the fashion of Ween, Mr. Bungle or early Queen. I’d love to play around with Death Metal soon, but the horizons are endless.

One artist you want to meet?

EW: Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance for me. 

What would you title your autobiography?

EW: I’ve never thought about this, but maybe “The Third Testament” would be kind of cool. That would imply that my life story is the next instalment in the Bible. I think Mormons have a third testament or something similar, but I’m not sure if that would be an issue.

And finally – where did the band name come from? 

EW: We just threw out a bunch of band names and Psychoward kinda stuck. We needed something open ended so it could flow between punk, pop, metal, alternative rock, et cetera. While it’s by no means the greatest band name in the world, it seems fitting given the style of what we want to do. 

Psychoward’s debut EP, Black Lagoon, Inc., is available on most any streaming service you can think of (Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, SoundCloud), and is also available to purchase digitally on Bandcamp. Listen to it below:

https://www.psychoward.band/music

You can also rate/review the EP here – https://rateyourmusic.com/release/ep/psychoward/black-lagoon-inc/

Tracklist

1- Chanel Hell

2- Trash Humpers

3- Benny and the Video

4- Beyond the Cellar Door

5- Hard Candy

Vocals, Guitars, Keys, Lyrics, by Evan Whitford

Bass Guitar* and Backing Vocals by Jordan Left

Drums and Percussion by Sam Ward

Produced by Psychoward and Sean Lee

Engineered and Mixed by Sean Lee and Evan Whitford

Mastered by Ben Schrier

Cover art by The Other Well

Released independently by Psychoward

*Excluding Benny and the Video; Bass Guitar by Evan Whitford

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