Go to an overgrown, abandoned alley, light an electric guitar on fire, and proceed to smash it against a brick wall. Do this for five minute straight in slow motion, until nothing remains… except a music video, of course.
The Hendrixian pyrotechnics might not constitute a feat of rock and roll originality, but it’s sure as hell a lot of fun to watch. We’re talking about the music video for “Spooky Something” by Petal Head—a trio based out of Long Island. Michael Guidice (guitars and vocals), Brendan Cox (drums), and Andy Laurino (bass) churn out sludge-heavy, stoner-meets-shoegaze textures that rend the ears into hypnotic territory. Lost love, drugs, decaying mental health, and sci-fi weirdness coalesce into an experience that’s equal parts hip and stoned.
BTR sits down to talk with Guidice about the band’s sound and influences.
BreakThru Radio (BTR): Tell me a little bit about how you guys first came together.
Michael Guidice (MG): Around 2012 I started writing a bunch of shoegaze-y songs in my free time and recording them just for fun. I was also playing in a similar sounding band with some of our other friends. After that ended, I stayed writing songs to hold onto for future projects.
Around the summer of 2014 I started jamming with Brendan, our drummer. We got a song or two down then we asked Andy if he wanted to play bass for us and we starting getting together. Really one of the only reasons we stayed a trio is because we figured the less people in the band the easier it is to come together and play.
BTR: Playing in a trio definitely demands each musician to really step up and help build the greater whole; there’s nowhere to hide. What do you enjoy most about performing in this formation?
MG: For the most part, our songs are pretty simple so we never felt like we needed more than what we already have. The bass and low end is probably most important to our sound so it’s nice as the guitarist and singer to just kind of fall back into that and fill it in with noise.
BTR: What’s the songwriting process like for Petal Head? Is it individually-based, or more of a group effort?
MG: Usually I’ll write all of the guitar and bass parts for a song and bring it into practice and we’ll just get it down. Brendan and I have been playing with each other long enough that with him adding drums to the songs we just know what works and whole songs come together very quickly. We can be really fast with writing. A good half of the album was written over a period of probably three or four months and the rest were kind of just what we accumulated collectively along the way.
BTR: How about some of the creative influences, musical or otherwise, that inspire the songs?
MG: All of us have been part of the Long Island hardcore and punk scene for some time, so I think that comes into effect when we’re playing together. It brings a rawer element to our sound I think. When we first started as a band we questioned a lot if we wanted to be a more poppy shoegaze band or a heavier stoner metal band, so that confusion definitely helped define our sound and I try to add a mix of both when writing songs. Also just being from Long Island influences our music more than we even realize. I think that every band from Long Island has a special sound that comes from living here.
BTR: The band name seems to fit the heavy, psychedelic, yet dreamy texture of the sound. Is there a story behind how you guys came up with it?
MG: We released our first demo under the band name Vape–which we quickly realized was unfortunate timing due to the nature of the word these days [laughs]. Although some people have told us they still really like it, and we had been playing shows under that name, we felt it was time to move on.
We started thinking of a new name around the time we began recording “Raspberry Cough.” We couldn’t think of anything for weeks, if not months. We often just spat out whatever names we could think of and eventually I think I just mentioned Petal Head. We weren’t crazy about it at first but we went with it. We announced the name change at the same time we did the album, which we thought was a good move for us and helped pave way for the sound and image of what the band is today.
BTR: Tell me a little bit about the making of “Raspberry Cough.” What was that process like?
MG: We recorded “Raspberry Cough” with Phil Douglas at his home here on Long Island. Phil plays in a pretty well-know punk band and has been in the recording game for awhile. Getting to work with someone that had been such a big influence to our band–that meant a lot to us.
The process of recording the album went pretty quick and everything seemed to just click when it came time to get into the studio and record. I love recording because you always go in with a general idea of how it’s going to come out but then along the way it just evolves into something you’d never even thought was possible
BTR: What’s your favorite song off the record and why?
MG: My favorite song off the album is probably “Heavysoft.” I wrote the song maybe a week or two before we went into the studio to record the album. It was sort of a weird and stressful time in my life, so I would drive around lot to try and clear my head. One night I was driving and the opening vocal melody kind of just popped in my head and the rest of the song came shortly. I don’t get to sit behind a guitar as much as I’d like, so I write a lot of our songs in my head while I’m on the go and sort of transpose them to guitar when I get the chance. Although short, I think “Heavysoft” defines everything we are as a band and best displays our sound as a band.
BTR: The music video for “Something Spooky” is pretty badass. What was that like filming it, and do you guys have plans for more videos?
MG: When we started filming the video for “Spooky Something” we had no idea what we were doing or what direction we wanted to go in. We had our friend Colin come to a few practices and just kind of filmed us playing and doing other weird shit. I had an old guitar I knew I wanted to smash for the video. When it came time to film we decided to set it on fire and smash it against a wall and somehow this became the focal point of the video.
We want to make as many videos as possible. We have a few ideas for new videos in the works that hopefully we can get out in the next few months.
BTR: Plans for 2015?
MG: Our main goal for 2016 is getting off Long Island and playing out as much as possible. We also recorded four new songs a couple months ago we’re still working on a little and plan to release that as an EP sometime this spring.
To hear more from Petal Head, check out their bandcamp or tune into BTR’s very own In the Den.