Walter Schreifels has one of the most enviable resumes in underground rock. While still in his teens in the ‘80s, he became the founder and songwriter for Gorilla Biscuits AND the fifth bassist in Youth of Today. In the ‘90s, he formed the still-extant label Some Records and led the killer post-hardcore unit Quicksand. In the 21st Century, he founded the indie band Rival Schools. The guy seems charmed—he’s been evolving for 30 years, and doing interesting work at every step.
The latest evolution happens to be some pretty sick acid rock, which amused me a bit, given his early associations with straightedge bands. His new band, Dead Heavens, is populated with other lifers who emerged from the hardcore scene of the ‘80s. Drew Thomas was the drummer for Youth of Today, but wasn’t actually in the band at the same time as Schreifels. Guitarist Paul Kostabi’s band Youth Gone Mad was a transplant from the L.A. scene, and he’d later play in White Zombie. Bassist Nathan Aguilar, of indie bands Census and Cults, may seem like the only member without HXC lifer cred, but even he has a connection: Cults’ singer Madeline Follin once sang for Kostabi’s Youth Gone Mad.
We reached out to Schreifels to ask about his journey from the hippie-hating hardcore scene to a psychedelic band. (I fully realize that hardcore musicians embracing hippie tropes go back to at least 1984, with Meat Puppets II and Hüsker Dü‘s cover of “Eight Miles High,” but whatever, it’s still interesting to me.)
I’m a child of the 70’s, we’re the most psychedelic generation ever, have you ever seen our cartoons? The first movie that made an impact on me was Yellow Submarine. The first record I bought was a 45 of “Eight Miles High” by the Byrds. I love many different styles/genres of music but it’s always been the psych music of 65-69 that’s most inspired me and has informed everything I’ve done. Playing lead guitar with a wah wah is new to me but I feel very at home with it because when you boil it down “psych” is about musical experimentation which is something I’ve always found appealing.
Makes sense—apart from the bands he was in as a teen, his work has hardly been doctrinaire thrash-and-chant hardcore, and Dead Heavens’ music—all four songs you can get of it—grooves really organically and satisfyingly. There are shades of the late ‘90s stoner rock moment present here every bit as much actual ‘60s psych—really, the debts they owe seem best paid out to the likes of Blue Cheer, Witchfinder General, and the ‘90s Palm Desert scene. The band’s discography is so far constituted in its entirety by a pair of singles, “History in my Hands”/“36 Chambers,” released in February, and “Adderall Highway”/“Hyacinth,” released last month on Jesse Malin’s Velvet Elk label.
DM is pleased to be premiering the video for the band’s second single. “Adderall Highway.” On making the video, Schreifels offered the following:
We had a blast making this video, was all friends with cameras and we played live which is a relief from the weirdness of lip-synching, the projection was done by BA Maile who’m we’d met just a few weeks before but has since become a quasi 5th member of the band. We’re inspired by early Pink Floyd clips and all those old Beat Club videos that are so amazing, basic effects and live sound. We had played our best live show to date just the week before so it was great timing to capture us playing “Adderall Highway,” think I might even like this version even better than the recorded version, that’s not bad to say, is it?
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Jesse Malin on ‘New York Before the War’ and his early days with Heart Attack: a DM interview
Over 35 years later, the first ‘hardcore’ record gets a music video—with tap dancing