I spoke with Psychoward member Evan Whitford about the band’s most recent single, Grilled Cheese, now available on streaming platforms.
You can listen to the single here: https://soundcloud.com/psychoward-band/grilled-cheese-edwins-song
Psychoward also have an upcoming online live show, information to be found here: https://www.psychoward.band/post/psychoward-to-play-their-first-virtual-show-on-may-29th
Reece Beckett: This single, in style and content, seems quite different compared to the songs from your EP – was this intentional? Is Psychoward going in a new direction?
Evan Whitford: We wrote the single around the same time as the earliest Black Lagoon tracks (Hard Candy and Chanel Hell), but we intentionally put it off because we knew from the beginning we wanted to execute it very differently. The mental image we wanted to get across was a bit lighter and jammier than the horror centric focus of the EP, so we thought it made sense to separate them. I say this as the direction of this track was planned from the beginning, so for all I know the direction hasn’t completely changed.
RB: I’d say it definitely feels different to the style of the EP, but it also sticks closely to the image that I personally had of Psychoward as a band overall. How would you define Psychoward, for people who aren’t familiar (yet)?
EW: In it’s current state, it makes sense to describe Psychoward as a punk rock band with a heavy emphasis on chaos, humor, and classic metal style guitar arrangements. That said, I don’t think we’ll be restricted by that in the future.
RB: Are you actually planning to diversify stylistically, or are you more waiting for the right group of inspirations to come along and shift you at any point?
EW: The next couple of singles will be us moving in a more metal centric direction, and a whole new bunch of influences and ideas will come with all of that. I think we’re planning to sound a little bit different across our work, though we’ll have basic fundamentals that’ll make our sound identifiable.
RB: Well, this track certainly marks an early success with the idea of shifting style but remaining recognisable! Do you already know which genres you plan to dabble with, or is it more just seeing where the music takes you organically?
EW: Oh yeah, definitely more metal and all sorts of its subgenres. I want to put forward some power pop stuff but I’d love to get around to adding everything from new wave, jazz, funk, experimental, and progressive rock. I’m not sure how much of this will be work I do with Psychoward versus a solo project. Throughout the past two years or so I’ve fallen in love with bands like Ween and Mr. Bungle that pursued any genre they could think of, and that’s definitely influenced my current stance on what I want to do in the near future.
RB: Is Psychoward acting as something of a temporary outlet in that case? Or would you do both solo work and work on Psychoward projects?
EW: There’s no saying honestly since college is going to introduce a lot of new situations that’ll impact us. Especially since Jordan and I will end up on different sides of the country for college, it’s a bit of a blur. I think we want to squeeze as much as we can out of Psychoward until we just can’t anymore, but I think we’re both getting more into the ideas of solo projects.
RB: College could also easily something that’ll alter your sound too – a lot of new experiences to be had there! Getting back to the new single… why Grilled Cheese? Is it as simple as it being a personal favourite or is there meaning to that choice? I’m assuming the former but I’m ready to have my mind blown!
EW: I should’ve expected this haha. The whole thing is a joke Jordan came up with, but then the joke became a feasible entity over time. Jordan and I have this friend named Edwin, who’s this huge hippie who loves scouting for obscure DVDs across LA. We all love film a lot but he was never strong with music or whatnot. Anyhow, whenever we would grab food at a restaurant, grilled cheese was his signature dish, and it didn’t matter how high end the restaurant was. He’s have no issue asking the trendiest restaurants for a grilled cheese sandwich. Jordan first came up with the title, and than wrote the chorus, which remained intact from it’s first iteration to the recording. The song is a total satire of his daily life, as well as what Jordan thought was secretly Edwin’s life; being a hardcore stoner. He didn’t buy it that this guy with poofy curly hair, a Cheech and Chong tie dye shirt, and an undying love for grilled cheese sandwiches and Burt Reynolds wasn’t a closeted stoner.
RB: It goes deeper than I expected! I was expecting the blank-faced “I like it” in response, so I’m glad to find there’s a fun story there. Again, I also like seeing the intertwining love for movies, music and underground art generally. I wouldn’t say it’s fully underground, but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas also influenced the song (evidenced by the cover, which is great!) – is there mutual love for that film with you & Jordan?
EW: Oh yeah, Jordan and I are big fans of Thompson. When we needed a cover I came up with the idea to do the Fear and Loathing tribute. Everyone loved the idea and execution of it.
RB: Do you prefer the book or Gilliam’s adaptation?
EW: Gilliam’s but I’m just a hardcore Gilliam fan. It’s obviously be not as strong without Hunter’s initial vision, but I love how Gilliam nails the portrayal of psychedelics on screen.
RB: I remember actually when you put me onto Brazil in 2015 or 2016 come to think of it! The Gilliam love goes way back! Something I’m curious about – how are you guys feeling about playing live now? Is that something that seems possible soon-ish, or does it still feel a while away?
EW: We’re working on something right now actually, we’ll announce it soon. But as for live shows, we’re very close to being fully vaccinated so once we’re good we’re going back to shows as soon as possible.
RB: How did you find being a band during COVID? Did it make it a lot more difficult, or for the most part were things running as usual? I remember you explaining that it made a music video plan fall apart, but other than that, did it allow you to really focus in on creativity? A lot of artists seem to have either found lockdown massively inspiring or it blocked their creativity completely!
EW: It made me personally want to focus on recording since live shows weren’t happening, which I’m totally thankful for. It’s very different skillset and it opened more doors than what we could do live. It kind of sucks that so much of the community around shows were killed though, but I think the process of bringing that back has begun.
RB: I guess it’s a small silver lining that it kind of forced you to switch focuses and apply your attention to recording – how have you found it being a largely online group during that same timeframe? Does that bring any challenges?
EW: Jordan and I meet up in person whenever possible, but his primary job is to murder the bass parts. I put everything else together, like mixing and comping his performances and recording my own. How much we can do is naturally a bit limited due to the weird scheduling, which is what I’d say the biggest challenge is. I have a huge agenda and getting enough of it done is always hard.
RB: How have you found/are you finding advertising online and getting listeners?
EW: We’re in a stage where we’re trying different things to see what works. We got the song on a handful of playlists, but no clue if anyone has become a fan yet. I think as soon as we find the right way to put the music in front of people, many people would be into it.
RB: I feel like the general rule is really that a certain percentage of any group will be into what you’re doing – no matter what you’re doing – so it really is just a matter of landing in the right spot in terms of an audience. Something I’m curious about – which of the tracks you’ve made is your personal favourite so far?
EW: Trash Humpers I would say. It came together really naturally and is super replayable. That said, I think Grilled Cheese was the most fun to make. The EP production felt infinite to the point we were tired of it, whereas Grilled Cheese was a silly song we got together in a few months under a limited budget.
RB: And finally before some bonus, short fun questions – tell people where they can hear the single!
EW: Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, YouTube, Amazon, etc.
RB: The Beach Boys or the Beatles?
EW: I’m a Beatles guy myself, mad respect to The Beach Boys though.
RB: Favourite living musical artist?
EW: The boys in My Chemical Romance and Green Day, as well as Brian May and Mike Patton. I could totally name a ton of artists but all those guys are consistently influential to my work.
RB: What is your favourite record of 2021 so far?
EW: I’m sure the best album is yet to come, but so far it’s between Ok Human by Weezer and Forever In Your Heart by Black Dresses. It was definitely a breath of fresh air for Weezer. Even knowing they won’t be becoming a chamber pop group or anything, it was super cool seeing them go against expectations.
RB: Favourite movie of 2021 so far?
EW: Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but I’ve seen maybe 5 or something. I love Snyder for the most part. I really think he understands the spectacle of superhero films.
RB: Vinyl, CD or digital?
EW: I listen mostly on digital, but I love collecting vinyl records. There’s totally a different experience to vinyl, but it sucks how expensive it usually is. It’s not easy to produce so I get it, but I would have a lot more if they were cheaper.
RB: Most anticipated record at the moment?
EW: The sophomore 100 Gecs record, as well as the upcoming Ghost album that’s supposed to come out this year.
RB: What is a sub-genre that you think is underrated?
EW: I’ve been very inclined to say Funk Metal lately. The majority of it was extremely experimental and everyone sounded very different from each other. It was super great at conveying surrealism and humor in a very impactful and influential way, and I think the ambition of the sub-genre is what a ton of modern rock could use moving forward.
RB: What is your favourite movie comedy?
EW: Monty Python And The Holy Grail, with Pink Flamingos following up closely.
RB: Finally — can you give us 5 records that have influenced you/5 of your favourites and tell people a little bit about why they’re so special to you?
EW: I remember when I was a Freshman, I wanted to impress people by listening to extreme metal so they’d think I was edgy or something. Transilvanian Hunger by Darkthrone ended up becoming my first black metal album due to that silly philosophy, but it remains a favorite of mine to this day. Some people I know have complained that the record is too repetitive and goes nowhere, but I always saw it as this really cold and evil experience. It’s sounds like it was recorded in a lo-fi torture chamber, and the tones of the buzzsaw guitars are filthy. I love it to death. It was the first record to really get me on board with black metal, and I got into groups like Mayhem and Burzum soon after. It really painted a picture with its chilling atmosphere that stuck with me.
The Mollusk by Ween is one of the most special records to me. The album juggles between tons of styles and moods, but it’s all unified by this overarching nautical theme. Some songs bring me pure joy while others genuinely break my heart. It’s absolutely magical.
One album that’s been a close favorite of mine throughout the past year has been The Used’s self titled record. I think getting into an album as vulnerable and ballistic as that one has helped a ton during the constant off and on depression from the pandemic. The swing between dissonant and scream driven post-hardcore and lush emo-pop harmonies and melodies really hit it home for me. It’s one of the gold standards of the emo movement in my eyes.
With the theme of therapeutic music, I’ll mention Pinkerton by Weezer which at one point was the only form of therapy that worked for me. In early Psychoward shows we actually played the opening track Tired Of Sex at the beginning of our sets. There’s something really charming about hearing a guy treat his album and audience like his therapist, but he doesn’t slack off on the massive noise pop riffage that rules the record. Music is such a wonderful tool for helping people feel better about themselves, and although Pinkerton’s morals are unbelievably strange, it’s an affirming work that tells the listener that feeling like a horrible person is a human trait. There’s not much else like it that is so unfiltered and nasty yet passionately broken.
And for the fifth record, I’ll go with an album I’m very new to but am adoring; A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window by Cardiacs. I was introduced to their album Sing To God a few years ago which I adored, but I probably prefer this one. Cardiacs’ songwriting and production is so complex, bouncy, and eclectic it’s often hard to make sense of any of it. Their level of experimentation is unmatched.
I tried to name some albums I haven’t had a chance to talk about in Psychoward interviews yet. I’m extremely vocal about my favorite records in general, but these are just a random few.