Lumerians' Cosmic Dances and Death Rays
"Festivals have to be approached differently, as it's usually a much more chaotic experience," says Lumerians' collective consciousness (no single member responded to The Stranger's questions for this interview).
"In our position, set times are generally shorter, you're lucky if you get any sound check at all, and it's generally a different sort of audience," Lumerians' universal mind continues. "For us, a festival set is a precision attack. We take aim and fire our cosmic dance/death ray and leave before assessing the situation. Hopefully, this all happens before we blow the venue's power out, which has now happened on more than one occasion."
And there you have it. That response partially foreshadows why Lumerians will likely be the highlight of this year's Capitol Hill Block Party—even with their inauspicious Sunday afternoon time slot, nestled between unkindred spirits Lisa Dank and Campfire OK.
The other evidence comes from the Oakland quintet's debut album, Transmalinnia, which is named after Eugene Von Bruenchenhein's Voyage into Space series of paintings. The nine tracks therein evoke the hypersurreal, interstellar-overdriven imagery of Von Bruenchenhein's work, refracted through five occulturally omnivorous, 21st-century aesthetes' sensibilities.
In other words, Lumerians take psych and garage rock to distant, alien realms, giving you a full-on mind/body high. For proof, take a listen to "Calalini Rises," which gradually zooms out of earth's gravitational field with menacing momentum, as guitars, bass, and keyboards replicate the sound of demonic howls, unhinged squeals, and malfunctioning engine sputters, while a tambourine valiantly, frenetically keeps time. Other tracks like "Melting Space," "Longwave," and "Atlanta Brook" also wave good-bye to mundane concerns while setting your brain ablaze.
The group came together through a common interest in "unexplained phenomena, wing-nut fringe pseudoscientific theories, insect mega-colonies, the occult, science fiction, and horror." They also share a love of "Afro-funk, krautrock/kosmische, minimalist music, ecstatic world music, horror-movie soundtracks, and early electronic music." Given these predilections, it's no surprise that Lumerians have manifested such a potent, otherworldly sound.
There seems to be an affection for both kitsch sci-fi and the more serious study of outer space among Lumerians' members. Perhaps it's the combination of lowbrow and highbrow that makes their music such a blast. When listening to Transmalinnia, you may also wonder if drugs play a role in the band's creative process. Or you may conclude that their music is geared to be the drug that alters your mind. "Music is the drug," Lumerians concur. "That said, a good bit of drinking and smoking usually happens to shake off the day before entering a collective musical trance. After fairly exhaustive research, we have concluded that music has the ability to take you higher and further out than most other means of psychonautics."
Speaking of "psych," what do Lumerians think of the term "psychedelic" music? Is it a lazy signifier and something that's become too cozily familiar, or is it a legitimate descriptor for what they're doing?
"It's only a lazy signifier when used lazily. When used to describe something that causes the loss of a sense of self while simultaneously discovering the unknown from within, it is not lazy. When it's used to simply mean 'weird,' 'different,' or 'music with tremolo, delay, and wah pedals,' then it is lazy. It was unfortunate when the word narrowed to only evoke a retro aesthetic, and tragic when it lost any meaning at all. We don't want to reclaim "psychedelic," but we would like to force some new descriptors into use."
Toward that end, Lumerians have donned masks and cassocks for live performances, possibly to go against the cult of personality or to create the illusion that they're a religious cult. Or maybe it's to further the otherworldliness of their sound and visuals.
"All of the above [is accurate], to an extent. We have done the masks and cassocks five times. We won't say we will never do it again, but repetition can become empty and gimmicky. If both band and audience could become a single entity, however briefly, that would be pretty special, wouldn't it?" Yes, even at Block Party, rancid BO and all.
Jazz iconoclast Sun Ra famously asked, "Do you find earth boring, just the same old same thing?" Could Lumerians' intention be to launch listeners out of the banal and thrust them into an alternate reality?
"Maybe not an alternate reality, but an augmentation or retrofitting to the coexisting realities present at any given show. Earth is not boring, but you have to break your reality open and allow a bit of cross-contamination for things to get interesting."