“I’ve always loved the art of the era,” says artist Frank Suchomel. “The music, posters, album covers, and how they capture the psychedelic experience. The art takes you on a trip, somewhere other worldly and there are no limitations or set boundaries in the creative process.”
That’s the brief he set himself when he started work on the box, poster, labels and all that, packaged together for your utter delight, is part and parcel of 7 & 7 Is, the Fruits de Mer singles box set that Spin Cycle has been taking such a leisurely stroll through this summer. A stroll, sniff sniff, that comes to a tearful end today.
For the box is out, the ears are filling, the toes are tapping – and the spirits are traveling, as Suchomel continues. “I wanted to create the feeling that you’re embarking on a journey, taking a trip to where ever the music inside takes you.”
Which, across seven singles, eight bands and fourteen songs, is a lot of remarkable places. Sendelica, the Chemistry Set, the Seventh Ring of Saturn, Bevis Frond, Black Tempest, Gathering Grey, King Penguin… Love, the United States of America, Spirit, the Byrds, the Grateful Dead, Clear Light, Moby Grape. Which is seven by seven. But if six was nine, then eight is eight and the Higher State’s take on the 13th Floor Elevators might well be the freakiest, fuzziest, funkiest furball in the entire package. As the band’s singularly named Mole explains.
“When we were asked… to contribute, and knowing [Fruits de Mer’s] collections always embrace psychedelia, we figured the Elevators would be the perfect choice, having been group faves from the word go, and personal faves before there was such a thing as The Higher State, stretching back nearly 30 years!”
If you know Higher State already, it might well be from that dynamic take on the Hollies’ “Don’t Run and Hide,” gifted to another FdM project, Re-Evolution: FdM Sing the Hollies. Or maybe it’s their contributions to the Garageville series… or any one of the four freakbeat monster albums they’ve unleashed over the years.
In fact we’re talking a band with some serious history here, which means we shouldn’t be surprised to discover they have form with the Elevators, too. “You Don’t Know,” one half of their contribution to 7 & 7 Is is a song they used to play “many years ago in a pre-Higher State covers group, The Sheds, so it was nice to revisit that and finally do it justice. We kinda mangled it a little before.”
At the same time, however, “we figured we’d still want to do the songs in our style, rather than do something completely unrelated to what we’d normally do as a group. So finding something that swayed slightly more towards the melodic, harmony-laden end of things was our main consideration.”
One thing they were immediately agreed upon was, “we definitely did NOT want to emulate the group’s unique jug sound.” Which is why they chose “Wait For My Love.” It has no jug! But it does have great harmony vocals, and it’s a lot less obvious than another cover of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” or “Reverberation.”
“I’m not sure we bring anything unique to these tracks,” Mole muses modestly. “After all, our whole ethos is trying to authentically recreate music that was made over 45 years ago!!! But I think we imbue them with enough of our natural sound, if that makes sense.
“Possibly the main thing we bring is a deep love and understanding of the form, having worshipped at the altar of this incredible group for so long.”
And we have worshipped at the altar of this incredible box set for a long time too, tracing it from a distant spot on the horizon to the hefty box that just fell through the letter box, and which threatens to monopolize the phonograph for… how long does it take to play seven singles, both sides? How long does it take to play them again after that? How long does it take to then dig out the originals, and play them back to back with the box set?
Well, there’s only one way to find out….