Amid all the activity at Volar Records these days, we tracked down Tropical Popsicle's frontman Tim Hines to discuss today's psychic channelled sounds from the band that hates your surfy crap beach party music. While word of the upcoming Trop Pop full length record percolates in rumors, Volar Records are about to re-release their first single “Beach with No Footprints” ahead of their “Ghost Beacons” single. Tim and I discuss all this and more at length as we entered the #hashtag darkness with inquisitive minds.
People like throwing the goth-y tags around with you guys but I feel like it's a cop out. How does Tropical Popsicle define themselves without press tag-lines?
Yeah the goth tag is something that I wasn't really thinking about or equating to when I was originally crafting the initial songs and sound of the band. Just like most artists and musicians these days, its often difficult to define your sound or style, or quantify it into any particular genre. Especially if a band is eclectic in any sense. I'd like to think that the Trop Pop catalog as a whole, is pretty eclectic. I am constantly influenced by a lot of different styles and genres of music as well as many other things. Narrowing that down to a few tags is necessary for the general public and press as a short cut to thinking. But ultimately we dont mind the goth tag, goth is cool shit. So we'll just use this: Psyche/Goth/Post-Punk/Minimal Wave etc etc. See, this list can just keep going on!
Probably the least favorite question but are there any anecdotes about the band name that you all are not sick of talking about yet?
Yeah, here's the story on that: I was spinning records at a local club a few years back, the promoter asked if I had a DJ name. I of course didn't because Im not a DJ, just an occasional music selector who spins my favorite deep cuts for anyone who cares to listen. The first thing that popped in my head was Tropical Popsicle. I think this was a jab at all the surfy beach music crap that was going around at the time. A local weekly in San Diego printed a week later something to the effect of, 'Tim Hines of Lights On, my old band, has a new side project call Tropical Popsicle', which wasn't the case at the time. I was working on all these songs in my bedroom, and when I had a small bundle, did a Facebook band page and called it Tropical Popsicle, for lack of a better name. That and not really giving a shit. So it just stuck by default.
Despite the 60s horror-beach party hype, your sound for me resurrects the new wave and actually makes it new, re-channeled and wired for today's audience. From the analogue crackle to the keys, production and the attitude, what is the secret to making timeless music?
I think the key to making timeless music is really taking all the raddest elements, from all of your favorite bands and styles of music, regardless of what's 'buzzing' at the time, and somehow interpreting that into your own thing. Harness all the swagger and tenacity that those artist put into their craft, and perfect your own. We all know that there's nothing new in the world of music, i'ts all been done and we're definitely not inventing anything new. But if you can properly intoxicate your self in the spirit of everything that's good in the last 100 years, you've got a leg up.
“Ghost Beacons” has an ambient synth quality you can get lost in. How do you approach making music that evokes both the familiar while being fresh at the same time?
I think I kinda answered this with the last question. I'm hoping that our enthusiasm while recording the tune helped a bit with that. We felt we had something pretty cool when we created the bare bones of that song, with all of its minimal qualities, and big sections of sparkly synths and guitars.
A lot of artists these days are obsessed with creating psychic channelled sounds in the mix, why do you feel that music is turning more toward capturing metaphysics on record as of late?
Yeah, that is interesting isn't it. I think alot of people are phony when they project that actually. There's been a real fad lately of using upside down crosses, pentagrams, Baphomet and all that. It's a cool factor these days to be anti- Christianity. It really makes me want to recoil from that in fear of being lumped in with the poseurs. I grew up in the psychic and metaphysical world primarily from my Mother who has been practicing that stuff since the 60s. Tarot, numerology, astrology, the occult, clairvoyance, astral projection etc. I study and practice certain elements of this. I use it in writing lyrics and tones cause I think it's just a different slant than the usual trite BS that people often write about. Its almost anti-climatic, but very mysterious and can convey several meanings, just like the Bible or the Quran.
What is the state of DIY San Diego these days?
Everyone's DIY everywhere I think. Its the only way to get anything done. No one will do anything for you these days, unless they see that you're really willing to work hard and do things for your band. I think it's probably the same here as everywhere else.
First time I ever caught you guys was your gig with Matthew Dear at this year's Noise Pop. Did you guys and Matthew have any cool, creative or other exchanges back stage at Public Works?
No not really, just a quick 'Hey man, really cool stuff, I dig your sound' kind of banter. He's got alot of stuff going on. I wouldn't expect any more. That guy had a whole team of lap tops in the mezzanine operating his projections and lighting, like seriously. That show was alot of fun though, we had a great time.
You make great use of light effects in your performance and I was wondering if you could choose to have a series of films spliced up and projected on you or above you during a live performance which flicks would you choose?
Thats a good one, and a hard choice! The first that come to mind would be: Eraserhead, Brazil, Altered States, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dune, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to name a few.
We are pretty excited from coast to coast for the upcoming albums from both Tropical Popsicle and Window Twins on Volar. How has the arranging, recording, mixing and mastering for the long player been?
It's good. The tunes are already recorded and mixed, we're just in the process of mastering them now. I record everything in my basement studio, so I usually go at my own pace. “Ghost Beacons” was recorded at an actual studio called Electric Orange by a friend Andrew Montoya.
How close is it to completion, if not already in 'the can' so to speak?
It's in the can, minus the mastering, title and artwork.
What's artists/albums/tracks have been crucial to you guys for tour van entertainment and general enjoyment?
Oh man, there's too many to mention. I discovered a few albums on tour that really stuck out, one was a Peruvian Psyche comp call Roots of Chicha, and another African Psych comp. My bass player Chase had all kinds of cool/weird podcasts with interesting playlists.
What showcases, events, and are artists are you all looking forward to at CMJ or anywhere on tour this year?
We decided were not doing CMJ again this year. We're playing with Psychedelic Furs at the end of the month, pretty excited about that. We also might be playing a cool festival in Mexico with a bunch of cool emerging Mexican Indie bands. They have a cool scene down there.
Year end plans in case the 2012 apocalypse comes or doesn't?
Try to squeeze in another small tour, keep working on writing and recording the next record, chill hard and hopefully have a good Thanksgiving/Christmas before the whole shit house goes up in flames. Last year sucked…
Tropical Popsicle's first 7″ “Beach With No Footprints” b/w “Always Awake in Shadows” is being reprinted in limited color 45 batches while await the “Ghost Beacons” 7″ and future full length.