Ladies & gentlemen something magickal is stirring in Austin, Texas. A tribal cacophony of drums & guitar. The warbling of a shaman with the sweet sounds of angels banging on tambourines.
& they are coming to town near you.
I had the luck to chat with Brandon Burkart (shamanic warbling & bass-basher) & Dahveed Dubois (cosmic strings).
People of the World, I give you The Saint James Society …
Q1: Hey TSJS, introduce yourselves and state your psychedelic aural mission to these unworthy scallywags …
BB: The band is Dahveed Dubois, CandiceBertalan, Elza Burkart, Jeremy Hayes, & Brandon Burkart. We’re all travelers. From NY, CA, Louisiana, & France, we all came together in Austin, TX, started hanging out, and playing acoustic in our living rooms. We decided plug in, book a few shows, record an EP, and keep going. If there’s a mission to be found in there, I’d say the common one is To Use Our Creativity To Create Value. And be compensated accordingly… We want to get gone & stay gone. Road road road. Otherwise, what’s the use of all this leather?
Q2: The Saint James Society is not your usual rock moniker, where did come from?
The Biblical fisherman and patron saint of Spain? A love of rum?
The name came from an article I found about the history of heroin in the US. After the Civil War, when myriad veterans were hooked on morphine. Heroin was invented and viewed by some as a synthetic means to kick the morph habit. So, around the turn of the century, a group of philanthropists called The Saint James Society would deliver free heroin to the doorsteps of known vet junkies. Aside from the blissful irony, the name also rang well with our interest in the western mystic traditions and secret socieities like the O.T.O & Golden Dawn. It just fit, man. It fit.
Q3: When I first heard your track The Ballad Of The White Horse and saw the vid, the Love-era The Cult came to mind.
The hallucogenic shamanic style of both the music and the imagery seem to recall a bygone-era.
What influences your music and why?
Who do you listen to, to get gone?
It’s funny you mention The Cult, actually, simply because, having been a kid in the 80’s and having my face jammed up against MTV whenever I could, I remember being frightened/fascinated by the faceless, black clad figure in the beginning & end of the video for She Sells Sanctuary. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered Southern Death Cult, which was at the height of my Bauhaus, Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy, Speci-Men lust and really adopted that era’s sentiment and feel, while also really trying to study the song structure of bands like T. Rex, The Kinks, and The Seeds. Simple arrangements with subtle variations. I really can listen to T. Rex only for days at a time. I have actually. Elza and I drove across the states in a limousine blaring Electric Warrior on repeat for at least a week at one point.
Q4: How important is a band’s image in this time of Youtube and its five-seconds-of-fame culture?
I think it’s incredibly important. Especially when it’s genuine. All those bands I mentioned before had a look that’s burnt into their sound so deeply, that I personally can’t hear any of them without the tunes evoking the sights I associate with them. I love that. It lends dimension to the experience. Sights to compliment or, in some cases, complete the sound. With our band specifically, we want you to feel like you’re right there with us. Both videos that we’ve done, Reflections & Ballad of the White Horse, are invitations more than they are demonstrations. Get to the club, get in the van. It’s a Society. Our’s and yours. Image is another way to convey that.
Q5: You have an E.P. out now on iTunes.
Tell me about your approach to the writing process.
How much is chance and gamble?
Have you ever felt as if the music was just writing itself?
DD: Ninety percent chance and gamble. What can I say I’m a gambler (laughs). I like to let the outside forces write through me and/or access the depths of my subconscious. Preferably the supraconscious in which there is a wonderfully ENDLESS amount to draw from and be directed by. I tend to automatically turn off my mind and let things just channel. Once something seems to feel right then there is usually a ‘go back over and polish’ process in which I clean things up (hopefully without losing it).
Q6: As a form of communication, music can transcend languages/cultures and take us on inner journeys.
Where do you think your inspiration comes from?
I often find my inspiration in somewhat dark romantic themes; in the tension and confusion of the divine. As far as the statement of music transcending languages/cultures and taking us on inner journeys, this might explain why a lot of the world is so fucked up. There is sooooooo much stupid music out there. Especially from North America. It seems most of the music I personally am bombarded with in the good ol’ U.S. of A. nowadays is very oppositely intended to be an inner journey. I remember the first time I listened to the Beatles and The Doors. It felt like the first time I ever heard music. Real music. It took me on that inner journey. So yes, that idea is very much important to us in this band.
There is so so much waste all around us, for every sense in every sense. Its hard to see through.
Q7: I see a lot of bands looking backwards for inspiration and giving the spooky vibes a modern twist.
Bands like Witch, Castle, Blood Ceremony, Earthless, Witchcraft et al.
Which modern bands do you guys listen to, and do you feel any sort of connection?
BB:I hesitate to name specific bands because I’m so affected by my surroundings that my personal influences change constantly. But, at this very moment I’m listening to Uncle Acid &The Deadbeats (Yeah, baby ! – Ed.) at top volume. I recommend doing the same, sir.
Q8: You mentioned a passing interest in the “occult”.
Do you touch upon the Dark Arts in your lyrics?
What about literary interests? How much does reading affect the band’s outlook?
Lyrically I feel that our EP and upcoming album are more of a grimoire than anything else. Running themes that tie back into one another and manifest certain elements through repetition. Reading is a big part of this band. Everyone in The Saint James Society is a reader. From rock & roll biographies, to the dream fiction of Haruki Murakami, to Robert Anton Wilson, Burroughs, essays of Genesis P’Orridge, Austin Osman Spare, JG Ballard. Anything with integrity and guts, really. Literature definitely affects our course in navigating this band. I don’t know… Are we a tight knit rock & roll group, or the worlds shittiest-run Book Club? 60/40 split, probably.
Q9: Constant touring seems to be the only way for bands to survive these days.
And, to be honest, it never did Motörhead or The Fall any harm with their longevity.
Is this the way it should be?
What can people expect from a TSJS live set?
DD: Of course! What really impresses me is how a lot of the bands from the late 60’s/early 70’s took more drugs than ones’ local pharmacy and they are still reuniting and playing in big venues all over.
Perhaps that’s why?
Simply put people should expect sex, rebellion and mysticism from a live TSJS set. The point for us is to change/stir/awaken something deep and wonderfully dangerous within you. That’s our job. Thats why we wake up in the morning (or late afternoon).
Q10: I believe you’ll be heading into the studio soon to record your debut full-length.
Which direction do you see the recording process taking the band?
Well, as I’m getting this question TSJS has literally just finished recording and mixing it’s first full length LP. the process yielded amazing results: an album with songs that had enough room and potential to become something bigger & more powerful once we put them down in a professional studio with our engineer Erik Wofford (Cacophony Recorders). We always leave space for the songs to evolve from and in the recording process. I have yet to not be amazed every time.
This album just continues to blow me away as I listen to the mixes. It moves from dark dance to heavy and crunchy bulldozing rock n roll to midnight desert heroin dreams, all the while staying dangerously gut-lusty and sexually tortured. No lie. And at the same time its super easy to listen to. So, yeah, get ready.
One more thing, and I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about it yet, but there is a song on the album called ‘Get Cold’…
…You will be hearing a lot of this song. There is something very simple yet incantational about this song. You’ve been warned.
Q11: So, tell me what does the future hold for TSJS?
World domination? Tours to Venus? Death by firing squad?
BB: The future is bright, man. First LP is finished and we’ve already began writing the next one. Ideally, we’d like to put out another EP in between this album and the next as a split 10″ with another Tee Pee Records band. We’re working on scoring a short film with director Juan Azulay in Los Angeles, planning to move to LA for a year or so, do a couple of regional tours in the States, then Europe for a month hopefully around April. We’ve actually been tossing around the idea of moving to Spain and maybe make a movie while we’re traveling. A freaky Desert-Glam, psilocybin road movie. Anything to stay busy inspired, and hopefully avoid that firing squad for at least another couple years…
2 thoughts on “Music – Getting Real Gone with The Saint James Society by Jason Michel”
Great interview. Great music.