It's kind of ironic that the normally tranquil, lush hills of the welsh countryside has served as the home base for the mighty psychedelic / space rock sounds of Sendelica, a band that has been steadily gaining momentum throughout the underground scene since their inception around the beginning of the new millennium.
Centered largely around founding members Pete Bingham (guitars and electronics) and Glenda Pescado (bass), what initially grew out of informal jam sessions between the duo and a few friends has slowly over time seen the band expand and grow into more of a collaborative collective.
After a few self financed releases Sendelica came to the attention of the Russian indie label R.A.I.G. (Russian Asscociation of Independent Genres) who have handled two of the bands recent studio albums Spaceman Bubblegum And Other Weird Tales From The Mercury Mind (2007) and The Girl From The Future Who Lit Up The Sky With Golden Worlds (2009).
I recently caught up with Pete and Glenda just as they were putting the finishing touches on their new EP Screaming And Streaming Into The Starlit Night (available as a free download from R.A.I.G.'s Accessory Takes imprint), as well as both a new full length studio disc and a movie, which will be included in a limited amount of copies of the forthcoming album. The new year definitely looks like it's shaping up to be the busiest one yet for the group, so without further adieu I'll let Pete and Glenda bring SoT readers up to date.
SoT: For those who might not be aware, could you please share with our readers how Sendelica came to be?
Pete Bingham: I'd been playing in a couple of very poppy electronic bands in the early to mid 2000's and I wanted to play my guitar a lot more. Sendelica literally started as just a few people getting together on Sunday afternoons to jam and it sorted of just gained a life of its own. I'd vaguely known Glenda for a few years and a friend of mine suggested I ring him, which I did one day. We got on really well because we had a love of the meteoric beat and weird bands from the sixties and seventies [laughing]. Here we are several years later.
Glenda Pescado: I'd known of Pete for a while through his work with the band KALD and we'd met once or twice at parties and stuff. Then one day he phoned me up asking if I fancied getting together with him and a couple of other guys to try some stuff out. I wasn't doing much at the time and so I went along.
SoT: Sendelica is primarily an instrumental band, however you did entertain the idea of having guest vocalists in the beginning. What precipitated the move away from that and the decision to pursue the all instrumental path?
Pete: Really it was simply a case of the fact that we had no 'game plan' or any plans for Sendelica at all. At first we had a couple of vocalists working with us who performed with us at our early gigs and on the first EP and debut album. I think they disappeared as our songs got longer.
Glenda: When we first started we had a couple of vocalists that we worked with and we did some great stuff with them, but it became clear quite early on that a lot of the stuff we were writing wasn't in that verse/chorus mode that vocalists seem to like. It was more exploratory and kind of more based around an interactional way of playing.
SoT: If I'm not mistaken your first couple of albums were self released is that correct?
Glenda: It just seemed like the obvious thing to do. I think that's what most bands do when they get started, especially these days when you can do all your own promotion and stuff on the internet.
Pete: We released our first EP THEOWLSHAVEEYES on our own FRG label, I think we hand-made about thirty copies. Our first album Entering The Rainbow Light was also released on our own label in 2007. There's one track on that album "12 Shades" which I guess was probably the forerunner of things to come from us. It gave Sendelica an identity, and it certainly made a few things happen for us on a wider basis.
SoT: RAIG released your last two studio albums. How did you first hook up with Igor, and did it seem kind of surreal at first that here you are a band from Wales and your albums are being handled by a Russian record label?
Glenda: Absolutely! I mean we never imagined when we first started playing together that within two years we'd have a deal with a label in Moscow and be touring in the States. Actually, when we first started playing together we didn't really expect there to be much interest in what we were doing anyway, we just wanted to play the sort of music that we enjoyed playing.
Pete: Well that became quite a surreal time for us in many ways. There we were merrily releasing stuff on our own and then two labels came along, TidyLike Records in Wales and RAIG Records in Moscow. We really were discovered by Igor through our Myspace page. Igor befriended us; we exchanged a few emails and a deal was offered. The whole thing though was a series of threads coming together. It was right at this time that we hooked up with producer Colin Consterdine, who was in many ways the final piece of the jigsaw of what we were suddenly trying to put together. He has really become the third constant member of the band along with the two of us. He's helped to produce our RAIG releases.
SoT: What has the band been up to since the release of your last album The Girl From the Future Who Lit Up The Sky With Golden Worlds? I understand you have a few irons in the fire so to speak.
Pete: Well we have had a very hectic but fulfilling six months working on our new projects and last weekend we finally finished of our new album, EP and movie.It's been a very productive and exciting time as we've had a lot of great musicians from both sides of the Atlantic working with us including Nik Turner on flute, Virginia Tate on flute, guitars and keyboards, Geoff Chase (The Bentmen) on drums, Nemesis-vocal loops, Lee Relfe on Sax (ex-Nik Turners All Stars), Craig High (Psychos Mum) on clarinet, Ed Guild (Psylab) on electronics, Joshua (Dreamworld) on theremin and alien synths. To top it all off one of Glenda's sons, Ollie, played drums on a couple of tracks, so it was quite a gathering [laughing].
The next few months will begin to see the fruits of our endeavors with the release of an EP called Screaming and Streaming Into the Starlit Nite which is being released as a download on the 26th of February through RAIG Records' Accessory Takes imprint. This will be a free download as a big thank you for making 2009 such a successful year for us.
This will be followed by the new album Streamadelica She Sighed as she hit the Dream Mangler Rewind and a new movie Triilian Eight, as physical releases in the spring on RAIG Records, so it's exciting times. Our projects seem to become more and more multimedia events/happenings and we have a pretty groovy video to tie in with the EP release.
Glenda: We've had a pretty good year since the last album was released and have actually just finished the next one. We had some amazing sessions with some of the basic tracks recorded outside in the summer. We set the gear up outside looking out across this beautiful wooded valley in the foothills of the Preseli mountains, and we played under the skies, right out in the open air. It was brilliant; well you can hear the results on the new album. We've had loads of guests from both sides of the Atlantic playing on the tracks, including my old mate Nik Turner who came and played a bit of flute with us. So all in all it's been very exciting times.
SoT: This new track "Screaming and Streaming Into The Starlit Nite" is a really fantastic, atmospheric composition and in my opinion is bit of a departure for the band. Will this one also be included on the new record?
Pete: Definitely! This is the lead track on our forthcoming EP and will be featured on the new album too. I am particularly proud of this track. I decided to use a lot of different guitars on this album to prompt me into new directions of playing and writing. The guitar riff came about when I was jamming around on a Strat. I loved the droning sound of the guitar motif which just seemed to inspire and set everyone else off on the journey that becomes very intense, yet dreamy.
Glenda: Yeah, it's definitely on the album, and it is a bit of a departure for us in as much as it was written and is played on a Strat (although it has to be said, a Strat with the neck pick-up selected, giving it as close to that Gibson sound as you can get with a Strat), it was written at a studio session where there were a few guitars knocking about, although ultimately the session was abandoned. We had the rest of the album recorded and by the autumn we were getting a bit short on time and didn't have any studio time available so we decided to use a mobile rig and just set up and record in the open air. It was a great way to record. The drummer, Oli, hadn't played with us for a couple of years, so he brought a real freshness to the session. Not to mention Lee's soprano sax playing on "Screaming .." is just fantastic .
Pete [laughing] I'd forgotten then about when we wrote that song. It was early last year in a studio that really didn't work for us and it became a very frustrating few days. That song was written during the chaos and I think my wailing guitar solo at the end captures the angst I felt about it all. Just goes to show that every cloud has a silver lining.
SoT: The eighteen minute live version of "Manhole of The Universe" is absolutely scorching. Are there any future plans to release further live recordings from those 2008 shows or any other concerts you might have in the vaults?
Pete: Well I'm glad you love it so much. Our tracks often develop live and this was a particularly adventurous performance. It's nearly twice as long as the studio take from The Girl From the Future album. We try to record a lot of our gigs and rehearsals as they throw up some interesting twists and turns. It's also nice to release a live offering for people who have never seen us live before.
Glenda: The eighteen minute "Manhole ..." was recorded live in a rehearsal studio as a three piece, just bass, drums and guitar. It was actually the first time we tried the track with Geoff (Chase) when we arrived in America. Unfortunately we had problems with the guitar amp that day so most of the rest of the session is unusable. We released a limited CD-R of the Knitting Factory gig on our own label after we came back from the States.
SoT: On the topic of things evolving more towards the multimedia side of things, it seems to me that while this is a natural progression for Sendelica, it's also a bit ironic in a way because I think overall your music does a great job of creating these vast, aural landscapes within the listener's imagination, so in that sense I think the visual element is already inherent in your music. That being said, how do you see this merging of sound and vision shaping up for you in the future as far as both concerts and forthcoming projects are concerned?
Pete: [laughing] Yes it's a double edged sword. On one hand I very much like the idea of listeners making their own visuals up in their imaginations while listening to our music, but I have always been interested in the marriage of music and visuals. That whole Velvet Underground/ Andy Warhol stuff; those EPI shows must have been such an engulfing experience. I love those sixties/seventies art movies where the music was such an integral part of the movie experience. We see ourselves as continuing that tradition with our multimedia work. Our label manager Igor also loves that idea and actually, I think, he sees the future of modern psychedelic music embracing the DVD medium more and more. Perhaps listeners want more stimulation, want more out of the 'product'. It's an interesting discussion.
Glenda: No sure, you can beat those images your mind creates and for most of our stuff that's great. Trillian Eight was originally conceived as a whole conceptual piece with a bit of a narrative to it. As it developed we realized the storyline was becoming so specific that we needed to tell it and the best was to do that was as a movie.
SoT: Speaking of the new forthcoming album and movie Triilian Eight, is the plan much like with The Girl… in that the movie will be included as a bonus in a limited amount of copies?
Pete: Definitely. Fans responded really positively to The Girl album and SleepWalker Fever DVD package.
Glenda: Yeah, exactly.
SoT: Can you share some details about what Triilian Eight is all about?
Pete: Well I guess that one is down to me to answer as I was much more actively involved in the movie visuals this time as I did storyboard and edit the movie. I don't want to give too much away as people can, and should read their interpretations of the visuals. It deals with a few interlocking threads and ideas. We live in a very 'magical' part of Wales, we are literally surrounded by burial mounds, stone circles, ruined castles and megaliths, and much of the movie is shot within these structures. I have always been fascinated by the feeling of these ancient places and why they were built where they are. It is a magical landscape and I sometimes wonder if there is a link to the past through them. The movie also touches on love, life and everyone's journeys through them [laughing]. Well it all makes sense to me. There is a lot more to it but I hope people get their own experience from watching it, or just simply enjoy the pretty pictures.
SoT: How did the collaboration with filmmaker Grant Wakefield on Sleepwalker Fever film come about, were you admirers of his work?
Pete: Some of our early gigs had movies being projected onto us as we played along with oil wheel projectors, so we were always interested in the visual side of performing. Grant Wakefield's brother played drums on the Spaceman Bubblegum album and he gave me a show reel of Grants work which I really loved, especially the time lapse footage. Anyway we approached Grant about doing a few loops that we could use as projections which he said he would love to do. In the meantime we had been recording a very ambient album called SleepWalker Fever for the label TidyLike Records and I had sent Grant a copy of it. To cut a long story short, Grant really liked the album and suggested using it as the basis of a movie and he did. It was fantastic and he captured the ideas of the songs brilliantly. The movie was shown at a few film and music festivals and last year RAIG Records gave it a limited edition DVD release. That was rather satisfying.
SoT: You did some shows on the east coast of the US in 2008. Tell me a bit about how the shows went down and what the reaction was like? How did the collaboration with American musicians Geoff Chase and Ed Guild come about, as well as the decision to record the bulk of the material for The Girl at Brown University in Rhode Island?
Pete: It was great fun and such an adventure. The New York show at the Knitting Factory was in particular a very well received gig. First gig we did was just outside Boston and Ed was playing with one of the other bands who had a guitarist called Brian. We got on really well with Brian and it turned out he was a studio engineer at Browns University, and he wanted to record us at the end of the tour, so how could we refuse?
Glenda: It wasn't much of a decision really. A mate of Ed's worked in the studio at Brown University and basically offered to engineer a session there for us if we fancied it. We just rolled up there one day and pretty much recorded the live set we'd been gigging along with a couple of jams. It was nearly all first takes and we were probably done in less than five hours.
Pete: We then brought the master tapes back to the UK, added some bits and pieces and Colin mixed the album in Wales and voila.
SoT: Are you planning any shows for this side of the pond this year?
Glenda: Most definitely. We had such a good time last time we were over that I've been looking forward to coming back ever since.
Pete: Definitely. There are a few offers already on the table for September so watch our site for updates. (http://www.myspace.com/sendelicapsyche)
SoT: As far as your own individual musical influences what music inspired you when you were growing up or starting out that created enough of an impression or made such an impact on you that it ultimately sent you down that path towards becoming a professional musician?
Pete: I was the youngest of five children and I guess my parents had seen, and been through it all with my siblings, before I became a teenager so I guess I had quite tolerant parents. When I was about thirteen I went on a great adventure on my own to see Pink Floyd live. I can still remember it so vividly, not just the music but the whole feel of the gig. All of your senses were engaged, and I can still remember the smell [laughing]. Soon afterwards I had also seen Gong, Global Village Trucking Company, Hawkwind, Camel. Yes, Gryphon, Sabbath, Groundhogs, Heavy Metal Kids, Tangerine Dream, Robin Trower, Crawler, Steve Hillage, the list is really almost endless. I was addicted and life would never be the same. It still pulses through my body and I still smile at the memories of those bands. I was hooked and naturally I craved and acquired a guitar.
Glenda: I've pretty much always wanted to play music as long as I can remember. I got my first guitar when I was nine and not long after that started experimenting with microphones and tape recorders and stuff. I was thirteen when I joined my first band as a bass guitarist, and have been on that path to becoming a professional musician ever since. Actually I gave up trying to be a professional musician when I had kids about twenty years ago. When we started Sendelica we had no idea anybody else would particularly like what we were doing, we just wanted to play the sort of stuff we wanted to play. It was something to do on a Sunday afternoon really.
SoT: Was it during this time Glenda that you first became interested in Musique Concrete? You went on to study this style of music further in school did you not?
Glenda: Yeah, pretty much, although I didn't so much study it at school as investigate it really, it wasn't actually part of the syllabus, we just touched on it in a lesson one day and that just set me off. I'd kinda known there was a lot more to music than the three minute pop songs I'd been hearing on the radio for a while so it was quite reassuring to have that sort of musical boundary to put it into some sort of historical context.
SoT: Going back to visuals, I'd like to get your feelings on how the music medium has changed over the years, and more importantly how the visual aspect has been drastically reduced from the glory days of gatefold vinyl albums, to CD , to where we are now with digital downloading. Do you still see the importance of projecting a strong visual presence as much as possible with your physical releases? Glenda I know your other band The Surf Messengers released an absolutely gorgeous package last year with the album Lovest. The elaborate design is not something you see a lot of these days. I've had this discussion with Igor and he is definitely someone who understands the emotional impact that sound and vision can have on the listener.
Pete: When I was a kid there was a second hand shop run by a young hippy girl in my hometown. She often had second hand records that really were way out there, the bands were always way off the mainstream map [laughing], but the covers were just fantastic and I would make purchases based purely on the covers. I had no idea whatsoever at the time who Mighty Baby, The Flock, Principle Edwards, Dr Z, Wildman Fisher or Tudor Lodge were but I bought their albums because of the covers that encased them. I sought out anything on the Vertigo label purely because of the intricate fold out sleeves. Luckily quite often the music lived up to the covers. So perhaps now we have to engage the listener/consumer in some other visual way.
Glenda: I suppose most of us growing up in the 70s had that affinity with what we were hearing on the turntable, and that piece of artwork we were holding in our hands as we listened. It was a big part of the experience for me and, really, a lot of those albums back then, the sleeves were works of art. I remember getting the first Faust album, the one on clear vinyl in a clear sleeve with an x-ray of a fist on it. That was almost as much of a thrill just having it, as it was listening to it. Then their second album came in a plain matte black sleeve, but with a whole portfolio of pictures, one for each track, it was just brilliant. It's important to me that we don't lose that side of it.
SoT: Thanks guys for taking the time to do this, any final words of wisdom?
Glenda: Well I'd like to take this opportunity if I may, to give a big thanks to all our supporters and fans in the States, as well as the rest of the world, for all the kind words and encouragement you give us. We look forward to getting back over in the autumn and meeting some more of you.
Pete: Yes, I echo exactly what Glenda has just said and I'm so looking forward to playing over in the States again in September. I'd also like to say a big thank you to all those musicians and bands that excited me as a youngster for opening up a whole new world to me. I'd like to say an even bigger thank you to my mother for buying me that first guitar all those years ago, what an incredible journey she bought for me.