Interview: Isaiah Mitchell discusses Golden Void, the Bay Area’s best new psych band
November 19, 2012
Written by Ben Van Houten
Even though “supergroup” would be an accurate descriptor for San Francisco’s Golden Void, the label obscures the close relationships at the heart of the psych-rock band. After Earthless’ Isaiah Mitchell moved to the Bay in order to be with his now-wife and now-bandmate, Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound‘s Camilla Saufley-Mitchell, he reconnected with old friends Aaron Morgan and Justin Pinkerton, both of Roots of Orchis and Eyes.
Together, the foursome have pooled their considerable talents to create the Bay Area’s most exciting new psych band. Out now on Thrill Jockey, Golden Void feels like a lost seventies classic — raw, heavy rock and roll driven by extremely tight musicianship.
Golden Void celebrates the album’s release this Friday at the Hemlock Tavern, and we e-mailed Isaiah Mitchell to find out more about how the band got together, Mitchell’s role as vocalist, and the latest on activity from Earthless.
The Bay Bridged: How did Golden Void initially get started? You’ve known some of your bandmates for a long time, right?
Isaiah Mitchell: Golden Void started with me moving up to the Bay Area to be with my now wife Camilla who plays keyboards in the band and me contacting some old friends to make some racket. We started writing songs and then recorded a 7″ for Valley King Records. I’ve known Justin and Aaron since junior high and it was great to hook back up.
Musically, what attracts you to the band? Does it feel connected in any way to the music you’ve done with Earthless, or is this exploring a completely different section of your musical interests?
What attracts me are the songs. Justin writes most of the material then we work with them at practice. I get to explore more with melodies and lyrical content than I do with other projects. There’s similarities and differences between Golden Void and Earthless. I’m still the lead guitar player and get to fill that role with a similar palate but Golden Void consists of 5-7 minute songs whereas Earthless consists of 45 minute songs with more than 50% of those 45 minutes being an improvised jam.
Your guitar work on the record is amazing — were you aiming for any particular sound or drawing inspiration from a particular feel?
Thank you for the compliment! If the song was angry I went for an angry sounding solo. A few of the songs wanted the solo to play the vocal melody. On “Jetsun Dolma,” I wanted the solo to sound like Robert Fripp when he’d use controlled sustained feedback with his wah wah. That was the most thought out solo approach on the album.
What was the studio experience like? Was recording a lot of the album live-to-tape an aesthetic choice?
It was a fun time recording. We had some gremlins show up and slow the process down but we finished the album. We all wanted to record the bass, drums, keyboards and guitars together live for a collectively “inspired” take. We wanted it to sound live and raw.
Having collaborated with him before, what’s your working relationship like with Phil Manley?
Phil is a great friend and I love hanging out with him as well as working with him. We have a lot of fun in the studio together.
What’s it like being the vocalist as well as the guitarist here? Having been known for so much instrumental work, I’m curious about the challenges and rewards of becoming a lead singer.
I love singing. I’ve sang and played guitar since high school times. I guess Earthless has never really showed that part of me so it seems new to people that I can sing. The hardest thing about singing is not being able to sing what I want. I don’t have a crazy vocal range, but I figure out what works/sounds best in my comfort zone and stick with that. Sometimes you have to split your brain in half and pay attention to the rhythm of the vocals and marry them with a totally different rhythm of the guitar. Just takes practice.
What are some of your favorite psych rock albums? Can you recommend one great under-appreciated album for our readers to go check out?
There’s so many. Blues Creation – Demon and Eleven Children, 13th Floor Elevators – Easter Everywhere, Chrome – The Visitation……….
How have you found living in the Bay Area to be? Are there any local bands you’ve been digging?
I love it here. It’s a very special place. So many great bands are rooted here such as Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, Hot Lunch, Drunk Horse, Carlton Melton, Lecherous Gaze, Howlin Rain, East Bay Grease, High on Fire……
Finally, should we expect anything new from Earthless on the horizon?
Yes. Earthless is touring Australia in December and we’re wanting to make a new album soon.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for reaching out and I hope you enjoy the new Golden Void album! All the best!