You’d never expect for the worlds of psychedelic rock and spaghetti Westerns to mix—but to the members of the band Spindrift, they go hand and hand.
The group will be performing and showing their new film Spindrift: Ghost of the West at Rock Formations II on Saturday, Aug. 23, at the Palms Restaurant in Twentynine Palms.
Spindrift formed in 1992 in Delaware. With influences such as The Doors, Hawkwind and My Bloody Valentine, the band was a heavy experimental rock group with a sound that was a far cry from that of their current incarnation.
After losing two original members in the early part of the last decade, the group rebranded.
“In the 2000s, we moved from Delaware to Los Angeles,” said frontman Kirpatrick Thomas during a recent interview. “At that point, we obviously had lineup changes and (a change in) playing style as well. We went from the experimental East Coast version of the band to the Western psychedelic version of the band. The journey itself from the East to the West Coast was relevant with our sound and experience.”
So how do spaghetti Westerns influence psychedelic rock?
“You have to realize that spaghetti Westerns were made during the ‘60s, during the same time as the psychedelic era,” Thomas said. “As far as the Italian cinema is concerned, you wonder about Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach and all those other guys, and what they were going through at the time. You can kind of see it in those films, because they’re pretty far out. There’s no doubt that the whole thing crossed over. You definitely get a psychedelic element from the 1960s spaghetti Westerns.”
Guitarist Thomas Bellier agreed that spaghetti Westerns go hand in hand with psychedelic rock within the band’s sound.
“We kind of re-create Italian interpretations,” guitarist Thomas Bellier said. “So you have an American band doing an Italian west interpretation. That’s more Sergio Leone than it is John Wayne.”
Spindrift has also embraced the world of film. In 2008, the band took part in the film The Legend of God’s Gun, which Thomas co-wrote; he also had a starring role. The film featured a soundtrack that included Joshua Tree’s very own Gram Rabbit.
The band just finished the film Ghost of the West, which will be playing at Rock Formations II.
“Since Spindrift moved to L.A., we’ve become more involved in working with indie-film directors,” Thomas said. “The Legend of God’s Gun … kind of boosted things in relevancy as to how people view Spindrift.”
The director of Ghost of the West is Burke Roberts, who nicely captures Spindrift’s persona as the band performs old cowboy classics such as “Cool Water,” “The Ballad of Paladin,” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” in locations across the West.
“He grew up on a cowboy ranch,” Thomas said of Roberts. “He grew up ranching and has that cowboy mentality. His family owns the Roberts Ranch, which is (one of the) largest cattle ranches west of the Mississippi. We knew that we had something collectively to where we should work together.
“When we made the demos, we thought it would be really cool to take this on the road and film ourselves performing these songs all over the West. We said, ‘Well, we have to get Burke to do this; he’s the cowboy of the bunch.’ So immediately, I called up Burke Roberts, and he said, ‘Oh, wow, this is amazing. We’ve got to make this movie.’ Burke is a great director; he’s done music videos and many other features, and he’s got a lot under his belt, including a lot of awards.”
Bellier said the movie shows the band performing dream sequences. “It’s a surreal visual experience.”
Spindrift has proven adept at utilizing social media, and used a Kickstarter campaign to fund an album. With some bands deciding to forgo funding from record companies and just do independent releases, Kickstarter has become commonplace in the music world. However, Thomas said it’s something the band doesn’t plan to use again.
“I think every artist should try something like Kickstarter once, but you know, it’s for charity,” Thomas said. “You’re asking, and then you’re giving. Do it once; do it for a good reason—and you better make that the one and only time you do it. I don’t think anyone should do it more than once, given it could become a crutch for everyone. I think it’s important to be very attentive and understanding of living within your bounds as an artist.”
Spindrift’s members are no strangers to the high desert. In fact, there’s a history with the Joshua Tree Inn and the suite that Gram Parsons overdosed in: Spindrift wrote an entire album there.
At Rock Formations II, the group promises a good time and is looking forward to performing with Jello Biafra.
“We’re going to do some collaborative efforts live onstage together,” Thomas said. “Also, Jesika Von Rabbit is going to join us onstage for a duet, which will be Spindrift backing Jello and Jesika doing a duet. I love Jesika, and she’s been great. We’ve been cohorts for a long time now. The Joshua Tree area has kind of become our second home.”
Rock Formations II, featuring Jello Biafra and Spindrift, takes place starting at 4 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 23, at the Palms Restaurant, 83131 Amboy Road, in Twentynine Palms. Admission is $10; a limited number of advance tickets are available at CVIndependent.com. (Full disclosure: The Independent is sponsoring the show.) For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.