Psychic Markers – consisting of Alannah Ashworth, Lewis Baker, Steven Dove, Leon Dufficy and Luke Jarvis - are a hodgepodge bunch made up of members of various other bands and with a geographical backdrop that stretches countries as well as counties. So it makes sense that their music would be eclectically emblematic of such sprawling backgrounds.
The last few years for the band have been spent playing with the likes of Ulrika Spacek, Morgan Delt, Homeshake and Girl Ray, touring the UK and playing a series of festival slots, including a knockout set at 2017’s End of the Road Festival.
Part of the reason their End of The Road set was such a success was because it caught the band in a state of transition. Settled comfortably with their first album, Scrapbook No. 1 (Marshall Teller Records), behind them and ingrained to DNA level but with their second album, Hardly Strangers, freshly finished and the creative spark that led to it, still very much alight. The energy and intensity of the week-long session they spent holed up in Devon, with producer Iggy B, was still fresh in their minds and in their playing, as was the fact that they had just created their finest work to date.
The resulting Hardly Strangers - much like the band themselves - is an assorted affair. 50’s-tinged doo-wop nestles up alongside lush cinema-influenced soundscapes; whilst flashes of neo-psychedelia take pop hooks and stretch them out into hypnotic and elongated jams befitting of 1970’s Germany before pushing them into further cosmic realms.
Psychic Markers are not a genre band but instead one that is driven by a collective psyche, where the rule of friendship and instinctive democracy trumps any forced idea of aesthetic. “It’s more of an unwritten understanding between ourselves,” Dove says, expanding on the song writing process. “If something doesn’t feel right for the band, we lose it.” Dufficy, the primary songwriter along with Dove, echoes this, hitting home the intuitive nature of the group. “I think we’re more of gang now, our inner psychic link has increased. We can kind of see which road one of us is heading down and sort of meet them there.” Jarvis (bass) further emphases this too. “I’ve never really considered this to be a band in a typical sense, i.e. a group with preconceived notions of how we should exist or project, but more like five kindred spirits, cosmic cowboys - and girl. The music and everything that surrounds it seems to come quite naturally as a result so it just becomes about pals making music, being creative and enjoying ourselves while doing so.”
And that road that a group of cosmonauts have embarked on has led them to this juncture: a second album that owes as much to Joe Meek as it does Conny Plank or to David Lynch as it does Mark Rothko or Steve Reich; an album overflowing with ideas and ambition or, as the band say, something that is “cohesive yet diverse.”
Yet despite the collectiveness of this record and it’s a mutual expression of a desire to simply make radiating cosmic pop music, it still retains a sense of individual personality that comes through Dove’s lyrics that waver between the personal and the metaphorical. The sweeping, sliding and euphoric ‘Fields of Abstraction’ for example, being about Dove’s personal relationship to his own brain. “It’s about memory and how sometimes it can let us down or distort the view of something you once saw so clearly. I find both great joy and sadness in focussing on old memories, I’m a very nostalgic person and a fading memory is a bereavement we all have to deal with.”
It’s this realisation and lyrical expression that is arguably a blueprint for this album and a representation of the band as a whole: a group in love with the sounds and accomplishments of the past but not being so unimaginative as to trust and rely on those memories and thoughts of past glories and so instead have created a sonic hybrid that touches upon history’s great musical achievements whilst looking firmly to future ones.