Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted on Nov 14th 2011 4:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
Luckily, Rowell's fiancé's father stepped in and offered to give them a lift -- a kindly gesture that might not make for all that compelling a story were it not for the fact that Rowell was engaged to marry Hollie Cook, daughter of legendary Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook.
"We're all panicking, and he's like, 'I'll drive you guys up there,'" Rowell says, chatting with Spinner during a recent trip to New York City. "I was like, 'Wow, this is crazy!' Obviously, we were really grateful. He drove us to the van place, helped us rent the van and then drove us three hours to Nottingham."
That's not all. Cook helped them load the van, and later, he even got the band lunch at a gas station.
"This is such a surreal and strange situation to be in," Rowell remembers thinking as he rode shotgun beside the punk icon. "Everybody should be put in that situation at some point."
Rowell seems to thrive on strange situations. He has another to thank for his latest album, 'Dreamers,' a collection of dark, woozy, synth-driven art-pop tunes he recorded as a duo with Hollie, who's now his wife. The pair, known as Psychic Dancehall, made the record during a cold, rainy stretch in January 2010, when they hunkered down in a seedy part of San Diego and took their first stab at cohabitation.
During their stay, they fell in with a group of local misfits and spent their nights hanging at area gay bars and the avant-garde theater space they lived above. They felt compelled to write songs -- the first they'd ever attempted together -- and the strange cast of character worked its way into the music. In one instance, a transsexual named Lexus even came up with the melody for 'White City,' the record's leadoff track.
In the spirit of their surroundings, Rowell and Cook adopted new personas -- rechristening themselves Dorian Wartime and Sylvia Innocent, respectively -- and recorded in their apartment, on the cheap. They used little more than a keyboard, laptop and 12-string guitar, never thinking the material would see the light of day.
"It was really nice to go to a place where I was totally out of my element," Rowell says of their walk on San Diego's wild side. "It was nice talking to people who weren't in a band or weren't associated with music. They were just regular people, and for a lot of them, this was their place to come and be free. This was their 'Cheers' or something."
Eventually, Mario Orduno of Art Fag records convinced Rowell to put the record out and share with the world the eerily sexy jams that he and his wife had created.
While the songs reference everything from '60s pop -- check out their cover of the Phil Spector-produced girl-group classic 'He Hit Me (It Feels Like a Kiss)' -- to '80s New Wave, with touches of '70s post-punk and Suicide-style synth-abilly creeping in here and there, one of Psychic Dancehall's key sonic touchstones seems to be dub reggae.
This isn't Rowell's first dalliance with dub. On their last album, 'Sleep Forever,' Crocodiles moved beyond fuzzy, gothy garage rock and incorporated textures they'd picked up from such Jamaican studio wizards as Lee "Scratch" Perry and King Tubby. Cook, too, boasts a reggae background, having played in a latter-day version of the pioneering dub-influenced female punk band the Slits and released a self-titled solo album packed with bouncy island riddims.
"It's visceral," Rowell says of dub. "There's no affectation about it. It's quite off the cuff. It's being created almost as it's happening, which is similar to the record [Hollie] and I made."
Psychic Dancehall have yet to play live, and while Rowell says he's intrigued by the idea of presenting the songs in some unique way -- say, with a string section -- he's not sure what the future holds for the project.
"I'm kind of torn," he says. "I feel like some groups, when they record, are creating something that's fully realized. It's a plant that's going to grow, and it's out there for everyone to look at and admire. The songs we made are sort of like a seed. That's where it began and ended. I'm a little wary about taking it any further, because I think more often than not, it's better to exercise some restraint and leave it at a place where it seems best, rather than fattening it up and forcing it into something."
At the time of Rowell's New York visit, the couple was readying a move to the Shepherd's Bush section of London, close to Hollie's family. While recreating the magic of 'Dreamers' might prove difficult, if not impossible, there's at least one reason they should consider making Psychic Dancehall a proper touring outfit: They wouldn't have to look far for a van driver.