Lift To Experience
Lift To Experience couldn’t be making music anywhere but Denton, Texas, and at no time but the dawn of a new century. But, like all the best rock’n’roll, their sound is both steeped in their immediate surroundings, their everyday lives, and utterly out of time. There’s something elemental in this music; the same primal charge that rattles through The Pixies, The Birthday Party, The Gun Club; the heady incantations of Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’; the dreaming, visionary soundscapes of My Bloody Valentine; the haunted, starlit swirl of Slint. Lift To Experience don’t really sound anything like these bands, but they do share their spirit. This is beautiful, evangelical, unexpected, intoxicating music, sure, music to surrender to – but it’s also a call to arms. Singer Josh Pearson rages as the night gathers around him, in his right hand The Book Of Revelations, on fire.
Josh Pearson and Josh Browning had played in several different bands in the mid ‘90s, and they came together in 1996 in Denton, a small college town located just north of Dallas. While Browning pursued education, Pearson “wrestled various angels and devils of rock-n-roll and religious faith, not wanting to bring the soundtracks of such feuds to the public until they were worthy of praise.” In 1997 they recorded and released a four song eponymous EP with a mutual friend playing drums. After a few months that friend left to play guitar for fellow Texans Mandarin. Andy ‘The Boy’ Young joined soon thereafter, and the line up was set. (“We called him ‘The Boy,” remembers Pearson, “cos he couldn’t even get into the local bars we frequented so often at the time.”)
Josh Pearson grew up in pentecostal church; his father was a preacher. He sang in the choir, and “listened to endless sermons on fire and brimstone, speaking in tongues.” At thirteen, he started playing guitar when a friend showed him “how to play one of them heathen songs by that band U2 called ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday, I went around the house for days playing those first four bars and never really stopped playing them.”
In the late ‘70s, Pearson’s father became involved in “this faith movement in Texas that had convinced him that he did not need to earn a living working. He could speak things into existence. He needed faith alone. My mother soon left him behind and raised her two kids on her own working two to three jobs at a time to keep food on the table. My father didn’t pay child support and I never forgave him for it. He preaches the gospel and I play the devil’s music. At 19, what I had known to be the presence of God physically left my body and now the music that I play on my guitar is still the only thing that brings me to him.”
Pearson didn’t choose music, he says, “it chose me”.
Like Pearson, bassist Josh Browning’s first experience of music was in church: “I still love some of those old hymns.”
Drummer Andy Young grew up in New Orleans, his mother a classical piano player, his father a preacher too. “ Jazz and breakdancing seem to be early memories.” He studied jazz at college, but moved to Denton for the English program, with the knowledge that there were great musicians in town. He felt “burnt out on jazz and needed to try something I felt related to a more diverse group of players and listeners. Pearson and I met about a month after I had moved to town. The night he asked me about it, I said ‘Let’s practise tonight,’ …the rest is history.”