Psych-rockers prep release of 12 Songs To Haunt You
It’s raining outside and the sounds of reverbed guitar and steady drumbeats are emanating from the walls of a blue-trimmed house. The room’s walls are covered with kaleidoscopic carpet designs, and the ceiling is masked by hanging solid-coloured bed sheets.
Five individuals in black are equipped with their instruments of choice. They’re all members of one of Edmonton’s prominent garage psych groups, Betrayers.
A man with a haircut resembling a young Beatle strums a chord drenched in feedback and leads the introduction to the next song.
“Come into the future, on the wings of a fly …” he sings underneath a ‘60s occult rock sound that would pair nicely with an experimental horror movie. The song is “For The Kill,” a single off Betrayers’ newest album, 12 Songs To Haunt You.
“You can be haunted by someone or something that isn’t even a ghost. It can be your strange memories, supernatural occurrences, religion, or basically anything,” vocalist and guitarist, Travis Sargent says. “Those things seemed to keep coming up when this album was being made.”
“For The Kill,” has a black and white music video the band filmed with 20 or so of their musician friends participating in an eerie ritualistic seance. During the video, one of the Betrayers’ friends had the bright idea to spray hairspray into his hands and set it on fire.
“Despite me telling him it was a terrible idea we had one take. He thought the hairspray would burn off and not burn his flesh, but of course he burned all of his skin off the top of him hands,” Sargent says.
Bassist Justin Zawada adds, “But it was a great shot.”
“Talk about suffering for art,” Sargent says.
Betrayers began after Sargent moved back to Edmonton from London with a few songs. Along with close friend Zawada on bass, the two recruited Scarlet Welling-Yiannakoulias on drums and later Blake Betteridge on guitar and Joe Stagliano of The Lad Mags as a second drummer.
“It was just me [on drums] at first,” Welling-Yiannakoulias says. “We wanted a fuller sound and Joe just kind of fell into our lives. I’ve learned a lot from him too.”
A few songs Sargent wrote years back made it onto 12 Songs To Haunt You, the most notable one being “Belong Here Raga,” an Indian psych-rock hybrid that continues to build louder and louder until it fades out with into dissonant bliss.
“It’s a raga-style song I wrote when I was wondering whether or not I was meant to come back home,” Sargent says.
Betrayers sound has always been one that stems from that ‘60s psych-rock vibe, but unlike many bands who try to replicate, the Betrayers tunes standup.
“I think a lot of bands doing throwback ‘60s stuff never quite get it right. We made more of a conscious effort for that sound with this record,” Sargent says.
Even the cover of 12 Songs To Haunt You, with the classic black and white band photo, block letter font, and three-colour palette looks like something you would find in a ‘60s record store.
“I want some kid to find one of our records in, like, a Goodwill 50 years from now and be completely confused whether it’s from 2017 or 1965,” Sargent says. “I want to trick them.”