FLYING THE COUP Most bands move out of our city, but the Philadelphia-born Sand Reckoner have established Boston as a home base while attending college here.
Since the 1960s, bands classified as "psychedelic" have been caught in the endless pursuit of trying to expand the senses beyond pure aural stimulation. The genesis of this sprawling galaxy of sight, touch, taste, and smell is a band's specific sound — the journey through sonics becomes a freeform expression in which diverse elements combine to create a single musical headtrip. The auxiliary bits orbit the band's creative identity, amassing a vibe that goes beyond mere music.
Sand Reckoner latched on to this aesthetic after crystallizing as a neo-psychedelic project in 2010. In March of last year the three Northeastern University students positioned themselves in their school's renovated house of worship, the Fenway Center, for what they dubbed the Sensory Exhibition. Surrounded by artists, designers, kaleidoscopes, video installations, and swirls of colorful creation, the multi-instrumentalist trio performed and recorded 38 songs over four hours. More than 200 people took in the experience.
"The idea was spurred on by the fact that we love reverb, and wish we could play all our songs in a church," guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Lesh said last week in Allston, a few blocks from where Sand Reckoner will release their debut full-length record tonight (April 5) at O'Brien's Pub. Drummer Benjamin Hughes says the performance had an even wider scope, in line with true psych-rock ethos community spirit: "As more artists became involved, it carried a greater appeal for everyone else."
That sort of inclusiveness is essential to the story of this trio of 21-year-olds. Hughes and bassist/vocalist Matt Rhodes — the brainchild of the Sensory Exhibition — had been playing together in their hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, since age 11, and were joined by Lesh about five years later. The band's new record, a nine-song, homonymous album clocking in at 35 minutes, is a pinwheel of psychedelic sounds rooted in folk, blues, and '70s classic rock, with as many trippy, loud songs as gentle, dusty Americana numbers. But all the tracks, from the grunting guitar crunch of "Morning Star" to the folksy, spiraling hymnal "Veil," have the same sort of dirty, desert-trail vibe.
It's a noisy cohesion that works well, and immediately meshes with our city's ever-growing psych scene. The trio had been in town about a year as fresh-faced college students before Boston's psych scene — and bands like Ghost Box Orchestra, Quilt, and December Sound — took them in. Rhodes, in particular, has strong ties to Philly as a member of space-rock outfit Asteroid #4, but the band have found a true community here in Boston. "We moved here for school and then got serious with Sand Reckoner, so we really have no involvement in the Philly scene," Hughes says. "Coming up here has been a really welcoming experience."