The Warlocks 2015 Tour Poster


The Warlocks LSD poster by Darren Grealish© 2015


The Warlocks 2015 Tour Poster


Formation and signing to Bomp![edit]

The Warlocks 2015 Tour Poster.

The band was founded in 1998 in Los Angeles by Bobby Hecksher, adopting a name used by both The Velvet Underground and The Grateful Dead in their early days.[7][8] At the age of fifteen, Hecksher moved to Los Angeles from Florida with his family.[9] Hecksher’s first instrument was cello, eventually moving on to bass guitar.[9] Hecksher’s grandfather owned a radio station.[10]

In the years preceding the formation of the band Hecksher was busy with a number of other projects in Los Angeles, including Charles Brown Superstar, Don Knotts Overdrive (Hecksher left DKO in 1995 and the band eventually changed their name to Headset due to legal threats from the actual Don Knotts), and Magic Pacer, played bass with Beck on the Stereopathic Soulmanure album and also with The Brian Jonestown Massacre for a brief period.[11][12][13][14]

The Warlocks played their first gig on July 4, 1998. Receiving comparisons with White Light/White Heat-era Velvet Underground and Spacemen 3, the band signed a two-album deal with renowned indie label Bomp! in October 2000.[5][12][13] Supposedly signed in Hecksher’s blood, the contract with Bomp! yielded the band’s debut release in 2000, the mini-album The Warlocks.[12] This was followed by the release of their first full-length record, Rise and Fall, in 2001. Rise and Fall received a four-and-a-half-star review from AllMusic, with Bryan Thomas describing it as a “solid effort”.[15] Hecksher worked as a games tester for DreamWorks until at least 2001.[16][17][18]

Birdman and Mute contracts[edit]

After the release of Rise and Fall the band split with Bomp! and signed with Birdman.[15] The EP Phoenix was released by Birdman in 2002 and was followed by a full-length album of the same name, which was also released in 2002, to positive acclaim.[19][20] Phoenix included a collaboration with Peter Kember (Sonic Boom), of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, on the song “Hurricane Heart Attack”.[21]“Shake the Dope Out” and “Baby Blue” were also released as singles. The group toured the US and overseas with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Raveonettes and Interpol.[9]

Following Phoenix, The Warlocks signed to Mute and released Surgery in 2005, produced by Tom Rothrock.[9] The record represents a departure from their earlier psychedelic sound into dreamier pop territory, while retaining the band’s hard-edged brand of rock. The songs on this record are shorter and more structured than some of their previous work.[22] The band has criticized the final production of the record as having been too clean and polished in comparison to the original work the group had presented to the label with intent to release.[citation needed] The recording of Surgery was fraught with pressure from the label to produce a more radio-friendly album.[citation needed] “Come Save Us” was released as a single. Surgery received a mixed reception from critics; A PopMatters review by Stephen Haag rated it at 6 out of 10, while a Pitchfork review gave the album only a 1.7 out of 10 rating, with Nick Sylvester describing the album as “A mopey bunch of trite sap O.D.-type tales almost as unstomachable as the band’s former crapothecary hymns.”[22][23] Prefix gave the album 8.0 out of 10, describing it as “far more approachable” than their earlier releases.[24] The album’s lack of commercial success led to the end of their deal with Mute.[25]

The Warlocks 2015 Tour Poster

In the years after Surgery, the band toured internationally and sustained changes to the lineup, leading up to the 2007 release of Heavy Deavy Skull Lover on Tee Pee.[25][26] The album was, according to Hecksher, recorded over a single weekend, with the band members quitting afterwards.[26] The album is considered darker than their previous work, with the band exploring a more experimental direction.[27] A review in Spin described the album as “funereal” and “sluggishly unrealised”, while AllMusic called it “uneven”.[25][28] Heavy Deavy Skull Lover was recorded as a four-piece and marks a brief hiatus from the band for founding member John Christian Rees, who later returned before work began on their 2009 album, The Mirror Explodes. The Mirror Explodeswas released in 2009 via Tee Pee.[29] Production of the record was assisted by Joey Santiago of the Pixies.

The years following The Mirror Explodes saw two online releases by the band, available through Bandcamp, as well as a reissue of Rise and Fall via Zap Banana/Cargo in October 2010 which included previously unreleased rarities and artwork by Darren Grealish. The first of the online releases, the highly experimental EXP, was released on January 1, 2010 and was recorded by Hecksher alone.[citation needed] The second, Enter At Your Own Skull: Unreleased Volume One, a compilation of B-sides, demos and outtakes, was released on June 9, 2011. Besides the online releases and Rise and Fall reissue, the years after The Mirror Explodes were filled with intermittent touring and more line-up changes, resulting in the band solidifying as a five-piece.

The band announced their first commercial release for several years in 2013 with the Skull Worship, also via Zap Banana/Cargo (distribution). Skull Worship was released on November 26, 2013.

The Warlocks’ seventh studio album, Songs from the Pale Eclipse, is due to be released on September 2. A single, “Lonesome Bulldog”, was released in promotion for the album in June 2016.[30]

Musical style[edit]

The band’s music has been described as psychedelic rock.[20][26] In 2008 Hecksher said of the band’s sound “…even though it’s seemingly chaotic, achieving our sound is a really specific process. We need all these big, hollow-bodied guitars going through old Fender amps with reverb, or it won’t work.”[26]

In 2007 bassist Jenny Fraser described the songwriting process: “Hecksher writes the skeleton of the songs and everyone writes their own parts. He always draws the picture and we paint it in.”[27]

Hecksher acknowledges influences including The Velvet Underground, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized and The Jesus and Mary Chain.[31]