Jake Ingalls couldn't help being a little late calling me for our interview — he got hung up trying to survive sound check with the Flaming Lips at the Major Rager festival in Augusta, Georgia, where strong winds threatened to topple the stage. (I'm sure all those amplifiers, pounds of confetti, facsimile UFOs, and other Lips paraphernalia didn't help either.)
Ingalls, along with band mate Daniel Quinlan, called me not just to discuss the perilous nature of festival stages, but also to dish the dirt on Memphis-based Spaceface's new full-length record, Sun Kids (self-released). The sunny psych-rock band formed in 2011 or so with just Matt Strong, Jake Ingalls, and Eric Martin. Later, in 2012, Peter Armstrong, Victor Quinn Hill, and Daniel Quinlan joined the psychedelic trio. In time-honored Memphis tradition, the band shares most of its members with another local act, Strong Martian, and Ingalls, as previously mentioned, is a full-fledged member of the Oklahoma-based, Grammy-winning group the Flaming Lips.
Ingalls was inducted into the Lips in 2013 as a keyboardist and guitarist. By then, the Flaming Lips had already ridden a series of quirky hits like "She Don't Use Jelly" and the synth-heavy, psych-pop of "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, pt. 1" to stardom. The band released their 14th studio album this January, and, of course, Ingalls was credited on it (as were guest vocalists Miley Cyrus and Reggie Watts of Comedy Bang! Bang! fame). Membership in such a band opens doors — doubtless, Ingalls never expected to one day collaborate with Miley Cyrus — but it also creates interesting wrinkles in other plans. Scheduling, particularly, has been difficult for the sun kids in Memphis.
Spaceface recorded Sun Kids over a period of almost two years in three different studios. "That's how Spaceface tends to have to work anyway," Ingalls says, "with my being out of town all the time." The band worked when Ingalls wasn't globetrotting with the Lips and when they could make time between work, life, and Spaceface concerts.
The band recorded at Ardent, in their rehearsal space under Minglewood Hall, and at the Grove in Cordova. The circumstances in which the Memphis rockers tracked their debut album stood in stark contrast to the bright sounds that define it. "A bulk of the record was recorded all between the hours of midnight and four or five in the morning, in the dead of winter," Ingalls says. "Which is pretty funny because it's a pretty feel-good, springtime record."
Sun Kids is definitely a feel-good record, psychedelic in its spirit of sonic exploration, but firmly grounded by a tight rhythm section and occasional acoustic guitar hooks. "We all wanted to have a sort of earthy quality," Ingalls says. "I know our name's Spaceface, but we talked extensively about wanting to make something that sounded like it was from this plane of existence." With shimmering, clean guitar lines and high-and-lonesome vocals dancing over the aforementioned rhythm-section groove, Sun Kids has more in common with MGMT's Oracular Spectacular or Dr. Dog's Be the Void than with any of the sprawling jam bands who currently wave the tie-dyed flag of psychedelia. Most of the songs on Sun Kids clock in at around four-and-a-half minutes and have been tooled to pop precision.
Sun Kids feels fated to become the soundtrack to many Frisbee-themed trips to Shelby Farms. It's an album that implies a narrative, hints at a story, and the story is a little wild, a little weird, and quintessentially Memphis.
The band has previously released a handful of live and studio EPs, and their cover of King Crimson's progressive-rock classic "Moonchild" is not to be missed. Sun Kids is Spaceface's longest release to date — and their most lush and cohesive. Essential tracks include album-opener "Parachute," "Cowboy Lightning," the dark groove of "Spread Your Head," and "Time Shares," which features Julien Baker as a guest vocalist. "We knew she would kill it," Quinlan says.
Spaceface is packing up their phaser pedals, confetti cannons, and their giant parachute for a West Coast tour beginning this May, with dates in Los Angeles, Denver, Vancouver, and points in between. Sun Kids is available at local record stores and on iTunes and Spotify.