Having a double album foretelling the coming of the apocalypse released once is impressive. Getting it released twice is near biblical. But Lift To Experience aren’t some haircut band doing handstands; they’re three Texas boys who were just minding their own business.
Originally born into the world back in 2001, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads foretold the return of Christ and ambitiously declared Texas as the new Promised Land to an exhilarating sonic cacophony which could make Kevin Shields weep. At the time the record was greeted with little fanfare and shortly after its inception, the band temporarily parted ways. Whilst the trio were ‘on a break’, the album slowly gained a rabid cult following and became rightlfully recognised as a masterpiece. Last year the band finally emerged from the shadows to play their first show in 15 years at the Guy Garvey curated Meltdown Festival.
Always dissatisfied with the original mix of the record, last year also saw Josh T Pearson, Andy Reginald Young, and Josh 'Bear' Browning returning to The Echo Lab studio, where the album was originally recorded, with new engineer Matt Pence to right some wrongs. Working off an Adat tape of the original recordings (the masters were lost) Pence and the band went about elevating the tracks to the heavenly highs they’d always envisaged them to reach, and making them a true reflection of the band’s visceral live show.
The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads had its second coming last month when the new mix was released complete with pimped-up artwork courtesy of Texas-based graphic design studio, Pen & Pixel, famed for their 90’s Southern gangsta rap album covers. The new mix surpasses all expectations as the music finally matches the power of the Godly narrative to make the album the immersive journey it was always meant to be. The swoonsome swirl of Josh’s guitar through his trademark Leslie amp engulfs ‘Waiting To Hit’, the previous understated finite interplay between Andy’s drums and the Bear’s bass is now brought to the fore on ‘Falling From Cloud 9’, and the new mix of the already epic finale ‘Into The Storm’ has never made the apocalypse feel so good.
Calling Josh T Pearson as he makes his way to a friend’s art commune in Dallas, Texas he’s talkative and playful. After seven years of sobriety he’s no longer riding shotgun on the wagon and the night before celebrated the album finally getting released in America (the original release never came out stateside) with a heroic fifteen double whiskeys. Never one to skim on words he talks at length about how he always found the original rushed mix “heartbreaking”, if him and his boys will make new music, and why Donald Trump has finally given him a hit record.
DiS: How are you?
Josh T Pearson: I’m drunk...I’m sorry I drank a truly staggering amount of whiskey last night…I think fifteen doubles. I wasn’t trying to and I don’t normally get drunk anymore.
I thought you didn't drink?
Yeah, unless there’s liquor around. I was sober for seven years or eight years and then I started last year again. I started drinking a glass of wine with each meal.
What made you decide to start drinking again?
The seven years of sobriety, that’ll do it - seven of the worst years of my life. I was in Italy on tour and they say seven years is a lifetime...let’s see if we can do it. It was cool, one glass no problem with each meal. Now I’m having 25mls a day...The recovery time is exponentially worse the older you get. It’s been ok so far; last night was an exception, because the record finally came out in America for the first time ever.
Why did you decide to release new mix of the record now?
Because we could. We weren’t there for the original mix for complicated reason. No one wanted to touch the record originally and then Bella Union - we stumbled into them and they didn’t have any money - were like: “Look we’re glad to put it out over here but we can’t pay for the studio time already for the recording of the record and we can’t pay for the mixing”. They were getting evicted and losing all their stuff, but before they were evicted they had their studio for another week and a half. It was like: "OK, let’s do it". No one wanted to touch the thing as it was a double-disc concept album by an unknown band - it was not the easiest pill to swallow.
They put it out and it was quite successful for a post-rock band over there, but the mix didn’t sound like the band did. We wanted it to sound like it did live, so we got a local guy [Matt Pence] who’d seen us several times back in the day. He understood the band and he’s been doing it for 20 years, so he’s really good at his game right now.
What exactly did you want to get out of the new mix?
The visceral impact of the band impartation as we really left a mark when we played live - it was a physical catharsis. The original mix has more of an emphasis on the narrative with a storyline focus, which is ok but that’s just one aspect of what I was doing with the thing. You kind of wanted that to be more subversive or a subtext, let the music tell the story. This one I hope and think the music is more conducting the story with it rather than the evocative nature of the lyrics - they were distracting before.
I think they’re both pretty badass for what they are. This is meant to be more like the band was live and, since we haven’t played any shows for 15 years, unless you’ve seen it live it’s lost on you, unless your ears are really tuned to hear the music.
I love the album and was apprehensive when it was announced that you were releasing a new mix. Were you concerned about touching an album people cherish?
Thank for your encouragement with the kind words there, but no-one’s heard this album.
I’m sure they have, you played a headline show at the Southbank Centre for Guy Garvey’s Meltdown festival last year.
Well, a few British people and some European people but it’s such a tiny, tiny fringe – it’s like a fringe of a fringe, like underground, underground. That London gig was all our fans and it wasn’t even sold out.
It’s a different mix but I think they’ll be ok with it… I think they’ll be gracious. Most of those people who saw it live and I think it’ll only enhance the experience. It wasn’t a definite question, “Should we touch it?” The answer was “absolutely”.
It wasn’t mixed like we wanted it. I though it was the right thing to do as it’d always bothered me, the whole band, and other people. The fact of the matter is the recording did capture it but it was remixed more like a pop record, which we were definitely not...we’re pretty punk rock, gut music. It’s not discounting the old mix...but it didn’t quite land where we wanted.
I don’t think [the new mix] is a disservice; I think it only enhances it and brings out the fine nuances that were there, especially with the drumming as Andy’s drumming is nuanced and good solid craftsmanship and it was buried in the mix. Technology has advanced too, and you can go in and bring some of those colours to life. I would've had no problem with it had it been a better mix, but it wasn’t. Man, it sounds like our balls got cut off.
Was that how you always felt when you used to listen back to the record?
Totally. It was heartbreaking but no one wanted to put it out. Simon [Raymonde, owner of Bella Union] God bless him, he hasn't done [mixing] every day for 20 years...it wasn’t our first choice, it wasn’t our last choice, it was our only choice. We’ll put it out, we can mix it here and there, there wasn’t a lot of time for someone who tinkers. I’m really thrilled and honoured to now have the opportunity and it’s really because we stumbled upon an Adat version of the tape. Bella Union lost the masters.
Where did you find the Adat tape?
A friend of a friend they had a copy of a copy. Adat was a format that was used for five or tens years; it’s funny even to talk about where we got them as that’s like an eight track tape. “Man, we’ve got an eight track tape, we can mix it off that”. Basically, digital information recorded on Adat tape is notorious for degradation as after time they lose their quality. It's what we were worried about the most, that some of the parts wouldn’t be there.
Bella have always sworn they can’t find [the masters]; I’ve never known if that’s true. [Simon] always knew we weren’t happy with the mix, but it’s ours and we should be able to do what we want to with it.
I’m thrilled, I’m honoured, and I think it does the music justice. The amount of time and work we put into the record, it really was a lot of muscle, I think people will be OK with it and that’s not to discount the few fans from 20 years ago and it’ll hopefully open it up to a new audience. Since we haven’t played any shows it was my heart’s intent to try to make it more accurate to demonstrate what the band was about and the interplay between the musicianship.
I like the rawness of the original mix, but the new mix enhances it and as you said makes the music match the narrative. It makes it a completely immersive experience.
Thank you for taking the time, I’ve thought about it from my perspective but not others. I haven’t had any feedback other than from less than ten people like the guys in the band, Matt who mixed it, Peter my manager, and the label. The recent posts in the last few days where people are saying, “Wow, the new mix sounds incredible”. It’s first feedback we’ve got it on it at all. It hadn’t even dawned on me...I mean I thought about it as far as ideologically if I had issues with touching something that long ago, but the opinion of others...it’s nice to hear. It does enhance it and I hope other people like it as much as we do as I think the music’s deserving.
You worked on new mix back where you originally recorded the album at The Echo Lab in Denton, Texas. What made you decide to do the mix there?
We sent out the mixes to ten different people around the world – I don’t follow music like I should, so I’m not so up on the who the hip mixer is. Between the band and Pete and maybe a couple of label suggestions we sent it out as a shoot out and wasn’t really feeling it on any of them.
A buddy said, “You should try Matt out here in Denton”. He was an old friend from 20 years ago from a band called Centro-matic and we used to watch him play back in the day. He’s just been doing it since then, straight all the time, every day. I kind of dismissed it only because it was someone we knew and it’s normal nature dismissing your friends due to the familiarity. We sent it to him and he sent back this badass mix of ‘Cloud 9’. Immediately, as soon as I heard it I was in tears, and that was the first time I’d heard anything like the band felt live.
I was excited, it was fortuitous and a lucky coincidence that it just happened to be the only one where we went “this sounds awesome, this sounds like what we felt like”. I was thrilled to finally find the right guy for the job, because it is sacred to us, the three boys in the band, and it needed to be special. The other [mixes] were really good, but his sounded more timeless and the other mixes sounded like part of that particular time; we needed it to sound more eternal and punk rock. It was a treasure to go back to the original studio and time travel; that was interesting.
How did that make you feel now looking back on the period you were together?
Sadness, really. It reminds you how special the music was and the connections between us. It was more heartbreaking because it reminded us we didn’t do anything else afterwards.
It wasn’t a break up, it was a long separation.
I say that jokingly. I like to consider it a trial separation
You were on a break...
Yeah, we could date other people, which really is healthy as it makes you appreciate and realise how special this really is - the love of my life. I’ve looked around and this is as good as it gets, this is top of the game. There was never any "We’re breaking up" or "I hate you, don’t talk to me ever again." We were kids and passionate and good bands break up; that’s what they do. We never cared about money and those issues were when we started having problems; “This is your job, this is your living, we’ve got a deadline to get this shit in”. This is Denton, Texas in the late 90s; there was no thread of success as a band; it was just the love of the music and the love of the game.
It was more heartbreaking because you could see how unique and special the connections were between us. What a joy to be able visit it again and with perspective; we’re all men now and life kicked the shit out of us enough to not carry that much ego or baggage. To be able to play that show that Guy [Garvey] put on, what an honour. They treated us like kings the people at Southbank, and were so sweet. We had a light show and a crew to move the amps - this is awesome, this is really special. I used to joke that this was why we fell apart, because we got sick of moving all the amps around and that’s why I switched and went country - no load out. After you pour your heart out onstage it’s just the worst; "OK, load out, we got a disco band at 12 o clock. Fuck." It’s more the principle; if you can’t pay some young kid 50 bucks to move your amps every night that just means you are not a success.
The last tour we went to do over there is the one I think would have put us in pop culture in a way and it got cut short because of reasons beyond us. We were never realised as far as a success, so to go there and play that show and be treated special was really neat for all of us.
Will you be playing any more shows?
I don't know. Honestly, there’s no agenda, we’ll just see how it goes. There’s nothing booked...there’s talk of a SXSW show. It’s more the practicalities, as you’ve got to fly the drummer down and take a couple of weeks off work, the bass player he’s raising a kid and he’s got to take off a couple of weeks to practice and go down there and play – the logistics of it all. If there are legitimate offers, man that would thrill us no end as we’re like kids in a candy store, because we just really like playing. It’s just a pain in the dick to have to move the amps and get them serviced.
So far we’ve had a couple on Facebook where the guy says, “Come play in Sheffield at my garage and stay at my Mom’s house”. Sheffield’s a great town but it’s more logistics of dudes with jobs and families. Once you pay the tour manager, manager, taxes, the hotels, backline (rigging the gear is expensive), three flights for three dudes and food that shit adds up. None of it’s for the money, otherwise we would have put out records. I would have put out records. This is not easy listening stuff; these are songs that are at the minimum five to 20 minutes; it’s definitely art for art's sake, and it really felt like we made a contribution...
It’s not like it's a cultural landmark for people - it’s a niche that I’m honoured to be a part of. It’s great having spent that much concentrated energy and specific labour intensive work putting details within details, building a cathedral with little corners and crevices that have intricate working parts. It’s really not a part of the music vernacular. It never came out in America and people have this misconception in the UK, I’m glad that they do and think it’s sort of rock star stuff, but man it was never available in America. You couldn’t buy it in Texas and if you did it was a double-disc import for a local band. My friends couldn’t fucking afford it as it was like $30 and for a college kid back then 30 bucks meant getting drunk for a week.
This was a unique time and even then with the Internet, it was just so off radar. Unless it was explained to the person or someone said: “Dude you need to really visit some time with this album”. That original mix wasn’t as compelling, so you had to have good ears to hear it, like hearing Pet Sounds the first time; “Ah it’s pretty good”. “No, dude you need to spend more time with it”. After two or three times running through the record you’re like: “Holy shit, this is a unique gift to man”.
The album is abundant with Christian references about the coming of the apocalypse. How do you feel listening to the lyrics now, in particular ‘Into The Storm’, in light of the current political climate in America?
I’m pro-Trump because I’ve got the record for it. I’m kidding, of course. It does seem like a timeless piece and I wrote it as such. It was part of what was discouraging when Bush was in office because it wasn’t quite time, like "This isn’t for now, he’s fucking with my metaphor." It infringed itself upon my work and I didn’t like that. As most good prophetic stuff is, it was about 20 years out. Your ear’s to the ground and it’s not that you’re gifted, but you’re listening intently to what’s going on and where we’re headed in the world and climate. I didn’t do it on purpose, it just happened to work out politically that we’re in crisis mode. Man, it’s getting kind of crazy.
I was in the UK for Brexit. Man, that was really interesting on the street...the vibration was crazy. You didn’t know who was for you or against you, especially as a foreigner and I’m white, I can’t imagine what people would feel.
You’re back living in Texas, a state that voted predominately for Trump.
Texas is split down the middle demographically as the rest of the States, but it’s just a little more rural than the others so it leans towards that; four or five main cities and nothing but land in between. Those people really don’t get out much; they’re pretty secluded, they believe what they’re told, they’re family orientated, their survival's right in front of them, they want to raise their family, get food on the table and they're hardworking. America always tends to vote reactionary and switch between the parties left to right, big government or small government, and every eight years it cycles and they pass the baton. It’s incredible; it’s a perfect storm similar to Brexit. I thought it was a joke, as an outsider it’s completely absurd to leave the common market...
Holy shit, I thought it was a joke when Trump started running. I saw an interview out in the countryside where I live, where I have lived for a lot of time, 15 years or so in-between tours, and I know the people well and as soon as I heard him speak he just tapped into it: “This fucker is going to be our president." He had so much momentum with this bully attitude and the Republican party had to nominate him as otherwise he would have split the party line and they would have lost. The same with Hilary, as Bernie Sanders totally could have won, absolutely could have won, and she bought him off with whatever, because these are empires these people are controlling. She should have never been the left-wing candidate and he shouldn’t have been the right. Anyhoo, we’re ok because we’ve got a hit record. We might have a thousand new fans after this.
Have you played or recorded any new material together?
No, nothing. We did a new jig for the gig, you know: "We should give them something new," and it was just fun. If there was some I would say resurgence but there was never a surgence to begin with...is that a word? If all of a sudden people were going ape shit over it then nothing would make me happier than being able to lock in a room with those dudes and beat up some songs for a couple of months.
It would also have to be politically viable and relevant, and maybe now’s the time. I haven’t felt any calling from the Lord or anything to touch on those issues; maybe in a couple of years it might be a metaphor to give credence or comfort to people. I don’t know how crazy it’s going to get; there are checks and balances, but it’s really like America wilfully stepping down as leader. Maybe it’s time? Maybe we shouldn’t be king shit of fuck mountain anymore? All empires fall and fail.
Are you going to do any more solo material?
Yeah, I’m ready, let’s do it.
I saw you at St John’s Hackney in 2015 and you had new songs then and you buggered off again.
I’ve gotten really good at buggering off. I’m a pro.
Stick to a normal two-year album release cycle? No, ten-year gap.
I don’t play by the rules, he says as he makes his own game. I turned 40 recently; if anyone asks I’m 39 and holding. There’s something internally that seems to be shifting in my clock where it’s normal DNA, where you want to leave a mark and where you want to leave a record. Before it was more performance art, as for about 10 years I just toured and lived show to show. I’m still living show to show, as an impetus to play live. Something’s shifting where I want to leave a more physical record as much as we can in a digital age. I don’t know; we don’t have much longer before the robots take over. It’d be nice to have a family, settle down and do all that, and you need to be a part of the system to do it.
Is this when you’re going to sell out?
Yeah, buy in. Let’s do it.
You’re going to be like Father John Misty.
Totally. I’ve got the haircut and I’ve got a handsome moustache now, let’s cash in. Cashing in my own good looks. I’m checking out of a studio right now in Dallas. True story, parked out front, I’m ready. Show me the money. I may have dollar signs on the record cover.
You could have a suit printed with dollar signs
At least a dollar sign tie with American hundred dollar bills. Some gold pimping boots, wing tips and stuff. I’m ready, where do I sign?
Thank you for your time…
I just want to say that I can’t stress enough how I’m honoured people care at all - it’s a real blessing and we don’t take it lightly at all. Sorry again when you asked that first question about touching a record that’s sacred to people, it’s not to dishonour and no offense, but it’s misconstrued over [in the UK] - I don’t exist in America. It’s though my life hasn’t happened, I have to explain to every person I meet what I do for a living...I can’t get a gig in America to save my life and this is not a cute little thing I like to say, this is a reality. My commute to work is crossing an ocean and you have to have a few shows to pay for the ticket.
I’m in Texas and no one has heard of this record. Less than a thousand saw it back then from playing around Texas and it’s not rewriting history. It doesn’t affect the greater world with the decision to remix the thing as it’s underground as it can be. Someone said in a review: "Lift To Experience did a money grab remaster"; there’s no fucking money to grab, dude!
It’s not from a lack of respect. I’m grateful for every one of our thousand fans. I wish there was money to grab, but this is for the love of the art. This is a precious thing to us and we wanted to more accurately demonstrate what it was about as it was a real punk rock gut band. I’m grateful for the interest, it means a lot and we don’t take it for granted.
The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads is out now via Mute Records, and Lift To Experience will also be playing SXSW on the 16 and 18 March. For more information about the band, please visit their official website.