On Losing Your Shit & Finding the Inner Light of the Higher Mind
We all marry narratives. You get an idea in your head that you’re this type of person, that we make this kind of music, that you’re going to marry that guy, that your existential dread will be mollified this way. It’s comforting to have a macro-story—points of reference for the data analytics of your life. I know that’s my history at least. As of 2013, I was going to live and die as a moderate, nomadic, protestant folksinger with a steady partner, a faithful minivan, an easy family life, and a trusty banjo.
None of those stories are true about my life today. After years of grooving across a veiny atlas of interstate, I trashed the Kerouac dream for a humble bungalow in a deep urban pocket of Indianapolis. After a stack of old books and a decoupaged spirit photo album of American travels, my mind cracked a lot wider open: my politics skewed a lot more progressive and the floorboards of my religion rotted out. I tangled my minivan on a Kentucky guardrail. I started listening to hip hop and medieval chanson music. I fell in love with rock guitar and sold my banjo online. I got into herbal remedies and adopted a cat.
Basically: I realized that the self-concept is fluid, evolutionary, illusory. And then my friends and I made a record about that. It’s a record where I hash out the cognitive dissonance of years of tough spiritual questions, allowing myself to settle into new paradigms of disbelief and ambiguity. I focus on praxis. I talk about important people in my life by their real names. The songs don’t all take an upturn at the end to conclude serenely. Long patches of sound collage link movements and chaos is confined just barely to the edges of the disc. The songs are meandering and ephemeral. I know it sounds funny, but I’ve been at this for a decade and this is the first time I had the gall to swear on a record. (Thrice!).
For almost two years, my little cat watched me struggle with an OP-1 and a VolcaBeats, write and thrash a million poems, loop guitar sounds for dazed hours. I started thinking of the collection as “PSYCHO/TROPIC” because a lot of stoney textures were manifesting, and I was intoxicated by the idea of pushing our sonic boundaries as far away from folk as I wanted. Unmarrying those narratives. Not worrying how my parents would hear the record, or the people with whom I grew up in church. The word “psychotropic” denotes something that can affect your thoughts and behavior, and I wrote my spirit life and my world politics into the record in a way that might sway the willing subconscious of the exploratory listener with the nuance of a meekly considered new rhetoric. And I knew that a lot of people that had also married the idea of that straight-laced folksinger from Florida would think I’d gone off the rails. Or, (I thought) cleverly: people from the tropics will think I’m psycho.
But maybe you can’t go off the rails if you do away with rails. We used to be called “Joshua Powell and the Great Train Robbery” because I needed a line between my person and my brand. With “PSYCHO,” that line is gone, and so is the moniker. I learned to love the transitory version of Joshua Powell that made this time capsule of a record and to embrace the poles of my humanity; I did away with the polished and presentable version to deliver a much more holistic incantation in the hopes that others might relate to this more inclusive story. And if not, shit. I still think the record is a banger. Maybe you’ll like the next one.
Favorite Record Store
Wax Tracks – Denver, CO
Favorite Concert Venue
The Hi-Fi – Indianapolis, IN
Joshua Powell is an artist from Indianapolis, IN, who handcrafts a strangely literate brand of psychedelic indie rock that manages to be simultaneously socially conscious and spiritually turbulent. With over 700 shows in over 40 states under his anachronistic studded belt, Powell blends the narrative richness of American folk with a heavy dose of hallucinatory swirl and a ghost note of ‘00s-vintage bedroom indie, all highlighted in ethereal falsetto by his purposeful, kaleidoscopic poetry.