Interview: The Physics House Band
The Physics House Band have released their second album, Mercury Fountain and it’s causing reveries of stupefaction and awe.
In an age where Harry Styles is crowned the next David Bowie, the onus is on the true innovators to reconfigure what music and art should really be about.
This Brighton based three-piece have been busy exploring the possibilities of musical experimentation and they have created a body of work that excites and discombobulates in equal measure.
Having now released the second album, we caught up with guitarist, Sam Organ to discuss future projects, their accredited Stewart Lee stamp of approval and being confused at a Lady gaga concert.
Q. Hi Sam, how are you? Please paint us a picture. Where are you and what have you been up to today?
I am working in a recording studio in Brighton and currently shifting loads of crates and boxes of beer. We managed to get lots of beers for a really cheap price and now we’re stashing them in the studio – the best place for them.
Q. You have been lauded for your ground-breaking and experimental music. What were your collective ambitions when starting up the band?
We all met at university and that place was rock and pop focused and session based - pushing into a world of music that didn’t really speak to us. We’re from quite odd backgrounds and we were coming from classical and jazz so we all just naturally gravitated towards each.
The main focus of what we wanted to do was to ensure that whatever we did would have no boundaries or limitations – make it as full-force as possible. As a three-piece we wanted to make the noise of thirty people.
Q. You are known for your experimentation and flirting with the unquantifiable. Following the band’s logical progression…what does a Physics House Band album sound like in 2027?
What we do could take on any number of structures or sounds. It will be exactly what we’re interested in sounding like. It could be something completely surreal. We’d love to do something with other artists and mesh together different sounds and styles – from pop to Motown to maybe something bizarrely shocking like playing as a backing band for Gary Barlow haha!
But really, we’d always look for new challenges and would be interested in going into someone else’s world that we found interesting and something we felt we could expand on – not in a traditional collaborative sense but something bigger, stranger and exciting.
Q. You’re about to bring out your new mini-album Mercury Fountain which seems to be an epic tale of self-discovery, insanity and the need for hope. Can you tell us a bit about your ambitions in creating this album?
The way that we’ve worked on our records is to write as we go along rather than following the structure of a traditional concept album. We enjoy using concepts and themes but not in a definite sense. Concepts and albums that use a planet or over-arching stories have been done and to repeat that would be kind of dull.
In terms of defining the meaning of our work I think that’s a kind of tenuous concept. Interpretation comes from each and every individual and they all bring something to the work. I appreciate that diversity of thought rather than putting a template of understanding on our music. It is whatever it is to you, personally and no matter what I say should influence your appreciation or hatred of what we do. I find that very interesting rather than giving a subscription to assist people in understanding what we do. If you like it, great. If you don’t, that’s fine and if you don’t understand it then we can’t help you with that.
Q. Mercury Fountain comes on the back of the critically acclaimed Horizons/Rapture which took a lot of people by surprise. What was it like touring that album and what were the specific challenges of playing YOUR music to new audiences.
We were playing in Brighton to quite diverse and passionate audiences and in an arts community in which we were comfortable and knew quite a lot of people. We tended to appeal to an older audience – people have said we have that old prog-type of sound and not many people have that sound anymore.
When we’ve gone away outside of Brighton it’s been quite interesting. It sort of depends on the shows we’re doing. We supported alt-J in London and we could see these people in the front two rows really enjoying our music and then after them were rows of people really not enjoying it which was quite funny – just rows of shocked faces becoming increasingly angry about what they were watching!
We’ve become almost a wild-card for bigger bands to have as a support act and the reaction is almost different every time we play.
Q. You’ve been given a fine press release from comedian, Stewart Lee. What were your thoughts on what he said about you and how did it come about?
I was quite pissed one night and I emailed Stewart Lee’s agent saying how much I loved Stewart’s work. He did a very concise review for us but it was the best review I’d read because he’d really got what we were trying to do. It was a very open and honest review which basically said he liked our music, didn’t quite understand it but he was excited to learn more about it.
Off the back of that review I emailed Stewart’s agent and said that we’d love him to do our press release for us. I never heard back and then two months later I got an email directly from him saying ‘ok, let’s do it’. He was just so receptive to our work and appreciated the process we were undertaking – a mutual allergy to compromise.
Q. We are living in tumultuous times – Brexit, trump, may, war etc. What’s the role of the artist in such times. Please discuss.
It seems to be to continue to create things. Not as distraction but as a contribution to the appreciation of the good and beautiful things in life. I don’t feel a need to become angsty or to rile people up. I love music as a thing that brings joy to life – that could be joy in the reflection of your own anger or something that opens your mind or feeds your understanding of things.
I’m suspicious of those overt acts of ‘campaigning’ through music and I wonder what those people’s motivations are for doing so – is it for it’s true value or is it for publicity.
Funnily enough my dad works in music production and through that I ended up at a Lady Gaga concert. She speaks about very political topics but to me it’s all a bit mixed and insincere and I was mostly just confused at what was going on and what was being said. The way people speak out about certain topics does heighten their profile and then it becomes a little insidious when it’s tied to their own self-promotion.
Q. Give us a three song playlist that sums up your journey as a band so far.
Wax Simulacra – The Mars Volta
I hate to choose The Mars Volta because people always say we rip them off! But they’re kind of in the same position as us and they have a refreshing attitude to compromise – which is to not entertain it.
A Reflecting Pool – Steve Hauschildt
This is an ambient piece and he’s such a brilliant ambient producer and was in the band Emeralds. I think this music reflects the relief and the beauty and the madness – these are all concepts that we like to incorporate into our music.
Electric Counterpoint – Steve Reich
It’s one of the best pieces of repetition and shows how repetition can take you into some very interesting places – it shows how you can enjoy the same thing in so many different ways.
Q. What does the rest of the year look like?
Lots of festivals across Europe but, as of last week, we have started writing the new album. We hope to have it done by August – right now that seems impossible and ridiculous!
We had four years to perfect the last album so if we can put four years work into four months that would be great! But there’s good examples of people getting stuff out there all the time – such as King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard who are churning out stuff all the time. We want to get into the position in which we are prolific writers and just battering people with our work!