Melbourne psych trio setting the controls for the heart of the sun, in our MAY 2023 issue of Uncut, available to buy here.
When Uncut speaks to Tim Wold, guitarist for Aussie psychonauts Brown Spirits, it’s coming up to 10pm in Melbourne but it’s still 41 degrees outside. “It’s not worth leaving the house, to be honest,” he tells us. “You just sort of fry.” Nevertheless, the Coburg suburb where he and his bandmates reside is a hotbed of musical activity. It’s currently the stomping ground of the absurdly productive King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “They’re about as big as it gets in Australia, I’ve never seen anything like it” – and their record label Flightless, home at various times to Tropical Fuck Storm and Amyl & The Sniffers. Courtney Barnett’s Milk! label is also headquartered nearby: “Her record shop is just up the road; it’s a real focus for a lot of new bands.”
But despite the thriving scene in north Melbourne, it’s taken a while for Wold and drummer Ago Soldati to perfect the heady brew of krautrock, psych, funk and avant jazz that makes up Brown Spirits. “We’d been kicking around in punk bands since we were teenagers: The Russian Roulettes, The Specimens, Modvigil,” says Wold. “But we always listened to lots of different stuff. Personally, very little of what I listen to is rock – it’s jazz and ambient. I love The Necks. But we always loved deep funk and Afrobeat and krautrock in particular, and we were always talking about forming a band where we could jam out all of these influences and make them all intersect. Just before lockdown we started Brown Spirits as a kind of bedroom project, recording to tape. Then Covid hit and we carried on recording remotely. We were only a few blocks from each other but we couldn’t see each other. That’s when we really started experimenting with breakbeats and krautrock rhythms and trying to venture into our version of jazz.”
One of these bedroom recordings made its way out into the international psych underground, where it caught the ear of Go Kurosawa, drummer with the legendary (and now sadly defunct) Japanese band Kikagaku Moyo, who encouraged them to get a live band together so they could support him when he came to Melbourne. With the addition of bass player Ash Buscombe, a fearsome live trio was born.
“Live, it’s a lot more ‘kick out the jams’,” laughs Wold. For confirmation check out the sundry live clips of the band on YouTube, where you can witness Soldati seemingly possessed by the spirit of a lysergic freakbeat Ginger Baker. Now, after a couple of singles on Soul Jazz quickly sold out, Brown Spirits are set to release a new album that sees them charting a vast musical universe, from Hawkwind to Funkadelic via Fela Kuti and Can.
“It’s a dream for us to be releasing records on Soul Jazz,” says Wold. “We’ve all discovered so much music from the label, though if you look at our record collections we probably all have different favourites.” One slightly unexpected influence is that of celestial jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby, hymned on album highlight “Ode To Dorothy”. “Ago and I are huge fans,” Wold enthuses. “That track doesn’t sound anything like her though! We were inspired by the groove of one of her singles, and also a bit of Jackie Mittoo, and I guess it developed into our own thing.”
Wold and Soldati have toured Europe in the past in various punk, psych and soul bands, but are eager to come back to the UK as Brown Spirits. “I’m really proud of this band, and I feel like we’re only just getting started,” says Wold. “The new record feels like the best thing we’ve ever done.”