When you play in a band that's dubbed itself "humorcore," and have made fans across the nation simultaneously mosh and laugh to songs about serious topics like beer and sandwiches, finding new ways to perpetually be funny, and shred at the same time, can be a daunting task, like climbing the comedy-metal version of Mount Everest. That said, Psychostick have made that trek, reached a new zenith, and returned alive, without having to eat any of their personnel.
The Phoenix, AZ-based quartet came back from their latest creative voyage armed with Space Vampires Vs. Zombie Dinosaurs In 3D, their new full-length record, and promise to deliver everything Psychostick fans have come to love about the band, and then some. The album is bursting with even more laughs per beat than previous efforts, and contains the most precisely crafted songs the group has composed to date.
"In the past we sometimes got too crazy with musicianship—we focused too hard on that, and not enough on the comedy, so we're going back and focusing a little bit more on the comedy this time," says singer Rob Kersey. "Obviously the music is there, too, but I think it's the funniest thing we've put out. We didn't hold back."
Psychostick—which includes Kersey, guitarist Josh Key, drummer Alex Dontre and new bassist Matt Rzemyk—formed in Phoenix in 2000, and released their first album, We Couldn't Think Of A Title, in 2003, which was re-released nationally by Rock Ridge Music in 2006. The band's life as a national touring act began that same year, which was kicked into overdrive in 2007 when the song "Beer!" became a cult hit, grabbing a coveted spot as the No. 1 single on XM Radio's Liquid Metal show for seven weeks. Psychostick then took that momentum into the studio for their second full-length, 2009's Sandwich, before embarking on another two years of touring behind the release. Over the years the band has shared stages with Green Jelly, Nashville Pussy, Three Days Grace, Hell Yeah, Nonpoint, Buckcherry, Five Finger Death Punch, Hatebreed, Chimaira, Machine Head, Shadows Fall, Pennywise, and many, many more.
After touring tirelessly in support of Sandwich, the band returned home ready to create again, resulting in Space Vampires. But since their last album was a collection of songs written over a six-year span, this time around the effort was considerably different. Space Vampires was written on a clean slate, so there's little filler; the album showcases Psychostick as a lean, mean comedic machine, giving the record an intensity that never wanes, from the first track through the last.
"One thing in particular about this new album that was really different for us is we didn't try to cram in as much stuff as possible like we'd done in the past with some of them," says drummer Alex Dontre. "We didn't want to turn around and go totally overboard and write way too many songs. We pretty much wrote everything when we were putting the album together, as opposed to writing it over the past couple of years like we've done with the other albums."
Spending most of their time writing and recording in Kansas City, MO, the band started work on Space Vampires from scratch, mostly tracking straight into Key's laptop. It was a new process for the band, who decided to start with lyrics and topics first, followed by music suited to the overall themes of the songs. The end result was smarter song-craft, and musical moments that enhance the hilarity happening within the words.
"With this new one, we literally just sat down and said, 'Ok, what do you want to write a song about?' We'd never done that before, and there's a lot of pressure, but once we started going it was also a lot of fun," reflects guitarist Josh Key, who also produced and engineered the album. "Usually we'd write music and then say, 'Ok, this song sounds like it could be about fill-in-the-blank,' and put lyrics on top of it. This album was totally different: We started with the lyrics and we wrote the music around the lyrics, which makes a lot more sense for what Psychostick does. The music supports what the song is about, instead of having an already written song, and making it about something."
One track sure to garner laughs, while simultaneously making listeners cringe, is "The Root Of All Evil," a song devoted to spending time with everyone's favorite healthcare practitioner. "It's about going to the dentist," explains Key, who wrote the song, unfortunately from personal experience. "I got a series of dental work done after neglecting my teeth from six years of touring, so I ended up in the course of a few months having a tooth pulled, a root canal, and seven cavities drilled. I wrote it in pieces driving to and from the dentist—I just sat there with my little voice recorder on my iPhone. That song was very genuine; if you're going to write a song about going to the dentist, what better time to write it, than on the way to the f***ing dentist?"
"One of my favorites would probably be 'Sad Face Emoticon,'" adds Dontre. "It's all about basically people who get on Facebook and go all overboard with it, and take it so seriously. We created a song about how we want to block everybody, and not pay attention. Hopefully they'll realize how ridiculous they're being, and maybe take a step back from Facebook and actually live a genuine, actual life, as opposed to living online."
The band also take some time to skewer the unbearable romantic comedy film genre, which creates a false list of expectations for love, for both guys and gals. The track "It's Just A Movie, Stupid" dispels such delusional notions, of course with classic Psychostick humor and flair.
"It's a song basically declaring war on chick flicks, like, 'Ok, romantic comedies, that's all good and well, but it's bullsh*t—that's not the way real life works and it's not the way real relationships work,'" notes Key. "Love at first sight, all that stuff, it makes us think there's something wrong with our real relationships. It's kind of a bittersweet song, and I think it's f***ing hilarious. These movies create this whole unrealistic fantasy that can't be achieved. You can miss the point: You're supposed to enjoy a girl's company, and she's supposed to enjoy yours. That's all there is to it."
Psychostick plan on shooting multiple videos for the tracks on Space Vampires, since visual representations of their special brand of musical comedy are a no-brainer, followed by massive touring in support of the new album. Although it's not always easy for a band as unique as Psychostick to find a bill they fit onto, once they're on stage the group are truly in their element. As crushing recent performances in front of large crowds a la the Mayhem Festival prove, Psychostick have evolved into a live force to be reckoned with.
"We're trying to get out with bands like Gwar and Every Time I Die—bands that have a comedic edge to them. We're making small baby steps toward finally nailing that big tour, but I'm confident we'll get there," says Kersey, adding that Psychostick continue to grow both as individual musicians and as a unit, only enhancing their prospects for the future. "A lot of bands start up and they don't quite understand that it does take quite some time for your band to mature as far as playing together, and playing shows. It took a long time to get to this point, but it's worth every minute."