Early in 2012, the Memphis quintet Sex Cult played SXSW and impressed the hell out of the great Ty Segall, who agreed to produce their debut album. In between that show and the release of their album eight months later, the band traveled to San Francisco and cut tracks at Eric Bauer’s studio in Chinatown, where Sic Alps, Thee Oh Sees, and pretty much every other San Francisco band have recorded. They also changed their name: Faced with a cease-and-desist letter from a New York label, Sex Cult converted to Ex-Cult. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of touring with Ty and having praise heaped upon them for their ability to mix their punk aesthetic with obvious British influences, like Wire. Snarling vocals, a whirling dervish of a rhythm section and guitars set on stun combine to make the kind of band that we lust for.
As they prepared to launch their first west coast tour, vocalist Chris Shaw talked to our newest writer, Alexandria about live on the road since the release of their album.
Alexandria: What made you decide to record your debut album in mono?
Chris: A lot of our favorite records are mixed in mono so we tried mixing it like that and liked the way it sounded. Ty and Eric agreed that it sounded cool, so we went with it. Going with a mono mix of the recording just made sense for the sound we created. We all have shitty stereos at home, set-ups where only one speaker works or you have to twist the knob just right to make something happen. This causes us to search out MONO records in shops, and obviously there are plenty of amazing punk records recorded like that. Basically, you don’t have to own anything nice to enjoy our record.
Alexandria: Ty Segall produced your debut album, which was recorded in Eric Bauer’s San Francisco studio, where Thee Oh Sees, White Fence, and the Moonhearts recorded albums in the past. How was it having such influential people behind you?
Chris: We were just stoked to be recording our album, and Ty and Eric were cool to work with. Chris had talked to Ty on the phone several times about what recording was going to be like, so everything was kinda how we expected it. We like the bands you mentioned, but we weren’t really thinking about who else had recorded there by the time we got into the studio. The album was written in Memphis, not San Francisco,a lot of people misinterpret that.
Alexandria: How did you go about getting signed with Goner?
Chris: They asked us to do our first album with them in January of 2012 and we agreed. It wasn’t very formal, we’ve been friends with those guys for years so it seemed natural to work with them. It’s nice to work with a label that’s run by your friends and located ten minutes from your house. We were the first band from Memphis that Goner had done an album for in a long time, which made us stoked that they were really into what we were doing. We’re excited to be working with them.
Alexandria: You share a label with Bay Area punk band Nobunny. Have you ever seen him perform live?
Chris: Yeah we’ve played with him twice. He usually comes through Memphis when he’s on tour. Nice dude.
Alexandria: Tell me more about the Memphis punk/garage rock scene.
Chris: There’s a small group of people who play in multiple bands, and an even smaller group of people who run bars or clubs and are interested in supporting local music. Most shows have an attendance of around 25 people, unless a touring act with some kind of draw comes through town. But with such a small amount to work with, I think Memphis has one of the best garage/punk scenes in the country. Goner has done a lot to put some new Memphis groups on the map, and there are also bands that have made a name for themselves through other labels or just doing it on their own. It’s always nice to see our friend’s bands getting attention. We recommend checking out True Sons of Thunder, they recently released a single on Goner.
Alexandria: Who are your biggest influences right now?
Chris: Walter Kaufmann, Arthur Rimbaud, The films Mr. Freedom and 1000 Clowns, “Stations of the Crass” by Crass, The guitar solo on the song “LSD” by the Authorities. The Can “Soundtracks” album. God? Records.
Alexandria: How was your SXSW experience this year? What was your favorite show you played?
Chris: SXSW is always a blur, but we had pretty good time again this year. Our show at the Hotel Vegas Volstead stage was awesome because our friends from San Francisco, Nashville, Memphis, New York City, New Orleans and Saint Louis were all in the front row. That kind of thing only happens at SXSW.
Alexandria: At the Dallas show, you sang for one of Ty’s song during his set. Was that planned, or was it just a spontaneous performance?
Chris: I think Ty was sick or something and asked me earlier in the night if I would sing 3 or 4 songs with them. I told him I didn’t think I should, especially since it was a sold out crowd, so we ended up just doing “Pretty Baby (You’re so Ugly)”… I figured people would rather see him sing his songs than me, but it ended up going over pretty well I guess. In Memphis, Ty covered our song “Shot the Beehive” and in New York City we did a bunch of songs together, mostly due to how much we’d been drinking.
Follow Ex-Cult on Facebook!