Evolfo on Their Contemplative Storytelling & Psychedelic-Fueled Soundscapes
The psych-tinged garage rock seven-piece Evolfo breakdown their latest LP that's soaked in fresh and hazy sounds, while bringing in more vivid conceptual subject matter.
Evolfo's music carries a wide range of freaky jams that's soaked in fuzz with cosmic soundscapes incorporating at times mellow, oddball grooves, big rock crescendos and crate-digging spiritual funk all to the fullest extent. Hailing from Brooklyn, the septet consists of vocalist/guitarist Matthew Gibbs, vocalist/keyboardist Rafferty Swink, vocalist/guitarist Ben Adams, bassist Ronnie Lanzilotta, drummer Dave Palazola, saxophonist/noisemaker Jared Yee and guitarist/trumpeter Kai Sorensen.
Following 2017's debut album Last of the Acid Cowboys, Evolfo's sophomore effort Site Out of Mind, released back in June, shows the seven-piece still warping a genre with an experimental flair, but now in the case of a thematic space rock record that pulls from science-fiction and a collective psychedelic drug trip. Whereas their debut was filled with their fuzzy "rat rock" roots from scuzzy garage-punk to garage soul chillouts, Evolfo's latest feels like a blissfully tripped out jam session that reaches far beyond the expectations.
Breaking through the haze, we chatted with Gibbs and Swink about the recording of their mind-bending sophomore effort and the lyrical themes they explore.
How did you all meet and form Evolfo? Also, where did the name come from? What's the significance of it?
Matt Gibbs: We found one another in the dimly lit, sweat soaked underground of Allston, Massachusetts. We were getting together and playing for hours in these scuzzy basements where we bonded over a mutual love of funk music in the Parliament Funkadelic and James Brown styles. The root of the name is shrouded in a bit of mystery, different band members will cite different origins. First time I remember seeing the name it was in a report online about a new species of an amphibian they had found in Florida and labeled it Evolfo Bufonidae. I noticed that Evolfo spelled backwards is "Of Love" and I greatly enjoyed that.
What was the band's vision when forming?
Gibbs: To be clear, this is all just from when the band was forming, and I'm much more open minded now, but at first, it was very important to me that people dance and move at our shows. In our ideal world being at an Evolfo show would be equally fun for dancers and moshers. We wanted the shows to be scrappy, fierce, and fast from note 1 and I wanted us to be a big spectacle on stage. I loved the idea of it being a big party up there and would invite tons of people to play with us. Sometimes we'd have as many as 12 or 13 musicians on stage, tons of horns/singers/guitarists. I believed if we made a party on stage it would be reflected in the audience. I believe these foundations are still evident in Evolfo. There's definitely truth in that.
How would you describe your music and lay on me some of your biggest influences?
Gibbs: Eclectic and unpredictable. Wild and sometimes unhinged but always pocketed, we make cinematic jams that run the vibe range all the way from urgent and skuzzy to fried out and pretty. Biggest influences include Shuggie Otis, Can, anything from Daptone Records, the Kinks, and the Brazilian Guitar Fuzz Bananas comp.
What's it like playing music as a seven-piece?
Gibbs: It's like being a part of an intelligent machine. We know how everything is supposed to go but we have 7x unpredictability and spontaneity multiplied by all the unpredictability already inherent in live shows. Unpredictability is the most exciting thing in the world to me. In my experience, it's that variable factor that allows shows and recording sessions to be elevated to the transcendent level. I only take part in projects where some things are left to chance and unpredictability, that's where the magic happens. So having seven-pieces creates this massive margin for spontaneous magic.
What's your main focus as a band? The songwriting, the instrumentation or production value?
Gibbs: I hate to be so predictable, but the truth is we really are equally as committed to both songwriting and production. However, we did have to learn to respect the production process. When we first started recording, it took us a long while to find our footing because we thought we could just write songs, play a bunch of shows, then go in and play exactly how we do live. What we realized is that in order to capture the essence of what people like about the live band, one must respect the studio and the stage as generally separate environments. Certainly, they inform each other, and each requires good songwriting, but in the studio, we use different techniques than on stage to convey certain feelings.
Your latest album, Site Out of Mind, explores the eclectic and heady garage-minded side of the band. Take me through the recording process of the new album and what was different about recording this one compared to your debut?
Rafferty Swink: The primary difference between recording Site Out of Mind and the debut album, Last of the Acid Cowboy, was our desire to experiment and write in studio. It's a different mindset than rehearsing material to go into a sterile professional studio and efficiently track everything in a few days. We needed the freedom to improvise and make mistakes while not feeling like we were burning through a budget that didn't even really exist in the first place. We decided to take matters into our own hands and record in Matt's attic apartment. That openness allowed us to sink deeper into our own sound and figure out what we had to say and why. I think that cohesion and interconnectedness in the music is a byproduct of taking those steps away from traditional studio spaces and into our own zones.
Were there any cuts that particularly stood out to you during the recording?
Gibbs: "White Foam" and "Let Go" were big departures for us. I am proud to say we committed to these new vibes with enthusiasm. We introduced new styles like folk and more distinct storytelling on these songs. And I believe that keeping our minds open lead us to create an album that bares repeat listens and really feels like a trip, it's not just background music, it's an experience. I have personally always been a big fan of albums that are eclectic and feel like an adventure.
What are you hoping listeners take away from this new album? Are there any lyrical themes attached in the songwriting?
Swink: I welcome any and all take aways from our new record. One thing I love about finally releasing these songs is being able to see how strangers interpret and respond to lyrics and melodies that were once just for me and the other members of the band. People come up with stuff I'd never considered about our music all the time that illuminates it in new ways for me and it’s great. It's all valid. You never know what’s going to resonate with someone or what lyric will connect to a personal experience completely separate from your own that's just a poignant and intertwined with the music. I know what the lyrical themes mean to me, but I will leave the interpretation up to the individual.
What's been the most challenging aspect of the pandemic and the lockdown for you? Did it impact the planning or recording of the new album?
Gibbs: For me, the most challenging aspect of the pandemic and lockdown was the worry and existential dread. I was feeling OK about my personal life, but I was so worried about my friends and family. I also just had this fear that any day the world as we knew it was going to collapse and we might all be cut off from friends and family in a big way. For me, these personal worries eclipsed any band or music related bummers. We did most of the recording for this album long before the pandemic, from about 2018-2020. The release was actually meant to happen in June 2020 and regardless of the pandemic, I'm so glad it did not come out then. The year's delay allowed us time to think more about the album cover and music video potentials. If we hadn't waited to release, we would not have hit up Roberty Beatty for the transcendent cover art. We also would not have had time to make the video for "Give Me Time" with the artist El Oms. That cover and video have really come to define the project almost as much as the music. I'm so glad we had the time to do these things.
What fellow Brooklyn artist or band would you collaborate on a split 7" with?
Gibbs: Wow there are just so many artists with whom I would LOVE to split a 7'! The bands Babyfang and Stuyedeyed jump to mind. I'm leaving out a million killer bands, but the Muckers, Miranda and the Beat, Guerrilla Toss, Sunwatchers, and Godcaster are some dream collaborations.
You recently had your record release party at TV Eye in Queens County. What songs here are you most excited about bringing to the stage?
Gibbs: I am looking forward to the challenge of marrying the mellow vibes, like on "Let Go" or "Broken Hills" with the more mosh ready tunes such as "Strange Lights" and "Orion's Belt." I would love for people to find themselves moving comfortably between getting the feels and moving their bodies around. And speaking of those tunes, I am VERY psyched to play "Orion's Belt." That one is ready to rip a hole in the space time continuum. It will mark our foray into the on-the-spot improvisation in a big way.
Site Out of Mind is out now via Royal Potato Family.
Stream the new album below.