The mere existence of Lavender Flu makes me feel like garage rock is back in the rightful hands of those who deserve the recognition, even if there’s little to be found in that department in 2020.
2018’s Mow the Glass was awesome. 2020’s Barbarian Dust is a masterclass. If we’re all alive in 2022, maybe the rest of the world will catch on to what many of us already know to be true: Lavender Flu fucking rules.
I caught up with The Hummingbird Whisperer (Scott Simmons) and Gresham Ocarina (Chris Gunn) to learn more about their latest album.
Where does the album title Barbarian Dust come from? Drugs?
G.O.: At band practice one day, sound and visions invaded, merciless knocking and yelling at the door. All signs pointed to a part time post post post post post new age crust punk kicking our door down to berate us mercilessly with the Nurse With Wound list. Said list was scrawled in classic punk font on a 10 foot scroll wielded and unfurled as some sort of fabric whip. This costumed warrior would yell at us to “Do Your Homework” and READ THE LIST!!! Turns out it was just the Hummingbird Whisperer banging on the door. He’d had an epiphany. The title has to be “Barbarian Dust” he said. No questions asked. We went from there.
HW: Smart drugs
Who did the artwork and where did the concept come from? The color scheme is awesome. I feel like if it was black and white It would almost look like an anarcho punk bands LP.
HW: That color scheme was inspired by a sick Rosemary’s Baby poster that I had and punk had nothing to do with it. Maybe a little bit of Emory Douglas….
G.O.: Thanks! We ARE an anarcho punk band. It’s interesting that the images are strangely relevant to current events. The album layout was put together a year before the end of life as we knew it. Our muse (pronounced MOOZE) is always Michael Anthony related and we follow that for better or worse. The Rajneeshees on the inner sleeve can tell you a lot. I used to live a few blocks away from their old fire bombed hotel.
So this is the first proper studio recording for Lavender Flu, What was that experience like? Anything you did there that you “couldn’t” do before?
HW: It was cool to record where Nu Shooz recorded. Always had a soft spot for Poolside. Otherwise it was pretty much about getting good drum sounds. Was nice getting to fuck around with the vibraphone too. But really, Justin Higgins could record us anywhere and make it sound cool.
GO: It was fun but reminded me why I don’t really like recording in proper studios. We were really just using the room to get bigger sounds then our last record which was recorded live in a one room cabin. Justin was still recording us on the same tape machine as the last records. We used a bigger mixing board this time. We were able to fully maximize the gong recording as well as the expertly played Thunderlube.
I gotta say, this album still feels pretty free, maybe even more free than Mow The Glass? You went into the confines of the studio to really get free?
HW: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”
GO: Sometimes you have to put on nice running shoes to truly dance like water.
“No One Remembers Your Name” might be the prettiest LF song I’ve heard. Can you talk about that track a little bit?
HW: That one came together really quick and instantly had that Big Star / Real Kids ballad feel.
G.O: Thank You. “Just Like Darts” and “Common at Noon” are foundational for me. I am constantly hunting for the way those songs make me feel. “Don’t go downtown to the record stores cause all your friends stop and stare.” Have you ever realized that Thurston Moore ripped off John Felice’s vocal style? We try so hard to go backwards and backwards. Like Neil Hagerty said “Just can’t Depend on those Memories.” It seemed fitting to talk about these themes in a very traditional songwriting style.
Was it intentional to leave “Mow the Glass” off the album of the same name?
G.O: The album was inspired by the song that hadn’t been written yet… To explain further, we were forced to open a show for Thurston Moore a few years ago and my brother was convinced Steve Shelley was an imposter. He still does not believe that was the real Steve Shelley and I am starting to think he is on to something.
At what point did you realize you were gonna put the Burzum (read as Venom, I pose) cover on the album? What’s the history there?
HW: We started playing that song not longer after we started playing live. Originally we were gonna put it on a 7″ but since those are stupid expensive these days, by the time we were working on the album, we thought it fit with that batch of songs. Gresham Ocarina got obsessed with that song at the warehouse he used to work at.
G.O: Its actually a Venom cover. There is a deep twisted history there and I am glad you asked. I worked in a warehouse for 8 years where you walked in circles all day lifting bottles and cases of wine. There was one stereo system and it was extremely important because whatever music was being played was either salvation or made the shitty situation nearly unbearable.
We were in there for 17 straight hours sometimes. You had to work until the orders were done. I have seen grown humans near tears in that warehouse because of Victor Wooten being played… again. I have seen grown humans nearly fight each other because some “jazz fan” decided to play Mahavishnu Orchestra… again. Into this hell walked a giant of a man who shall remain nameless. He was about 6 ft 6” and 350 pounds of bronzed muscle. He used to change out of his workout clothes on the loading dock which really confused the truckers delivering wine. A giant naked bodybuilder lurking in the corner of a warehouse is an unexpected sight.
This guy was my friend and I miss working with him a lot. He could lift three cases of wine like they were feathers. He kept trying to get me to try ‘Roids. “How old are are you Chris?” he would say “36? Its all down hill from here. Let me get you some Testosterone. Its gonna fucking change your life!!!” Anyways, this guy played the 7 same albums on the communal warehouse stereo on repeat. Each album multiple times a day. Metallica- Kill Em All, Alice in Chains, Black Sabbath- Master of Reality, TOOL, Primus, and Venom- Black Metal. He especially loved to play “In League with Satan,” over and over and over again.
I had never heard that song before but its SOO fucking great. I was so happy to hear it instead of TOOL or Alice in Chains or fucking PRIMUS. So I was always ecstatic when “In League with Satan” was played on that stereo and it meant a lot to me because of what it was not and what it was. The Clockwork Orange experience of the music forced onto me in those 8 years has seeped into Barbarian Dust for sure.
Who are some of your favorite lesser known musicians from the Pacific Northwest? Past and present is chill.
HW: From right now I would say Mope Grooves has a bunch of great pop songs. Michael O is MO and Virginia from the Mantles with some friends. Great songs and he has an album out under that name that is a total sleeper. Regarding older stuff. In the mid-late 90’s there was a scrappy all over the place band called Irving Klaw Trio that morphed into Hochenkeit. Their best stuff only came out on CD. The song “GIve Me The Message” by the Neo Boys stands with any late 70’s Rough Trade single. The Whines “Hell To Play” is a great album that came out at the wrong time.
GO: Current: MouthPainter, Barry Walker Jr. Sunfoot, Mope Grooves, Michael O, Gen Pop, Lucas Gunn, Tenses. Past: Tim Hardin
Can you talk about the poem on the inner sleeve of the record?
GO: Its the lyrics from a song from another one of our records. It was vaguely inspired by an unwritten Phillip K. Dick book about aliens that have no ability to hear music but want to experience it desperately so they plant their consciousness into a human in order to have ears. The symbiotic relationship allows the human to gain all sorts of new abilities as well. The lyrics have nothing really to do with this but they were written on a bus ride through Albany, Oregon.