Gabriele Fiori (center, shown here with his band Black Rainbows) is the founder of Heavy Psych Sounds Records.

An appreciation for the desert music scene has been growing outside of the valley for a number of years. Sure, bands like Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal went worldwide and garnered huge fanbases—but a love of the desert specifically has spread across the globe, as our little dust bowl has been a birthing place for a number of different metal and rock subgenres.

Different European countries have hosted the popular stoner-rock festival called DesertFest, for example, and the Heavy Psych Sounds Records label has been showcasing its roster of doom, psych and stoner-rock artists at festivals in various countries. Now the label is bringing the fest to Joshua Tree.

Heavy Psych Sounds Fest California will take place on Saturday and Sunday, March 25 and 26, in both San Francisco and Joshua Tree. Windhand, Weedeater and Brant Bjork are headlining the Joshua Tree lineup, which will also feature a few local outfits, including Whiskey and Knives.

During a recent phone interview with Gabriele Fiori, Heavy Psych Sounds’ owner (and a member of Black Rainbows), he discussed the humble beginnings of the label.

“I started by myself, so I did all the jobs, from the press to the logistics—packing, stickering and booking bands by myself,” Fiori said. “When things started to get bigger and bigger, I got the help of a friend, then another one; then we hired a press company. At the end of the story, now we are, like, eight or nine people working for the label.”

It all started with a compilation album that showcased pillars of the scene.

“It was a do-it-yourself thing, and slowly I started releasing vinyls for my band, Black Rainbows,” said Fiori. “I had the chance to work with a lot of bands because of touring and organizing shows as well. I started releasing mostly EPs and re-presses for bigger bands, and brand-new albums for smaller bands. I started learning the job, and since then, I’ve always been learning. … It’s fun, and it keeps you really busy.”

The world hasn’t always paid much attention to the stoner-rock scene. As other rock and music genres dominated the ’90s, many stoner bands gained, at best, underground popularity.

“This scene has been really dedicated and supportive since the beginning,” Fiori said. “Since, really, the early days with Kyuss and Monster Magnet, they have always been followed by a niche. Really, just a few people were into the scene; compared to the punk-rock scene, it was so small—but it was constant. I believe the golden era of this genre and this scene is now, and has happened in the last seven, eight years. … I’ve been a fan since the first minute, and we lived in a black-hole audience for, like, two decades. I think the comeback started back in 2014 with the new comeback of vinyl, because this scene is so connected to the vinyl sales—and also the weed thing helps it a lot.

“In this scene, you have so many shades. You start from doom, and heavy doom, (and go) to psychedelic rock. It’s all different shades and really different types of genres—but it’s all together under the same roof.”

Fiori said many of the musicians under that aforementioned roof share the same attitude.

Compared to the punk-rock scene, (the stoner-rock scene_ was so small—but it was constant. I believe the golden era of this genre and this scene is now, and has happened in the last seven, eight years. Gabriele Fiori, Heavy Psych Sounds’ owner

“Something more than nice about this scene is that the audience and the bands … they are the same,” Fiori said. “The bands playing, they’re not divas; they are really in connection with the audience. You don’t feel this distance, because you don’t see bands becoming mainstream. These bands are not doing this thing to become superstars. The best you can achieve is to sign a contract and maybe play good festivals, but it’s not like you become a huge metal band.”

Fiori long admired the desert music scene from afar, but he’s finally been able to see its faces and places.

“I know all the folks who invented and have been the godfathers of this scene, and I understood how it has been shaped similar to many other scenes—except for the fact that it’s in an incredible location,” Fiori said. “You have a big piece of nature involved, the desert, and from the outside, we see this like a myth, a mythology kind of thing. … Kyuss released Blues for the Red Sun when I was 13 or 14, and it blew my mind. It was a game-changer. I was a grunge-band fan, but (Kyuss) was more underground, and you could feel something. I remember very, very great feelings listening to that vibe. It’s like a mythological area and scene.”

Fiori’s love for desert rock is coming full circle with the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest—and a little help from Brant Bjork.

“Black Rainbows played, like, 6 or 7 years ago in the desert, when (the festival) Stoned and Dusted was happening,” he said. “Brant Bjork and his manager invited my band, and we played at Pappy’s. I spent a couple of nights in the desert, and it was really amazing. Before the pandemic, we were setting the festival up in Los Angeles, but it became tough to organize shows and work with promoters and venues. It’s not so comfortable to organize shows there, so I was in touch with Brant. … I’m so lucky to be friends with him, and he said, ‘Let’s try to move this to the desert,’ and he was super-right—because that location, with that lineup, looks so incredible.”

Heavy Psych Sounds Fest will take place starting at 1 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, March 25 and 26 at the Hi-Desert Cultural Center, 61231 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree. Tickets are $55 for a one-day pass, or $99 for a two-day pass. For more information, visit

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Matt King

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...

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