Thursday, April 30, 2015


On May 8th, The Acid will be bringing their uniquely affecting neo-R&B to the El Rey. The Acid’s debut LP, Liminal was one of Origami Vinyl’s favorite LPs of 2014 and received wide acclaim for its minimal, stark, yet naturalistic take on electronic soul. OV's own, Thomas was lucky enough to sit down with Adam Freeland, one-third of the multi-national genre-defying group (also featuring Ry X and Steve Nalepa) and talk about his celebrated career as a DJ and producer, The Acid’s amazing live visuals, and his love affair with a certain taqueria here in Los Angeles. 

What's the origin of The Acid? How did you guys meet?

Steve and I have been friends for several years. Ry and I met at Dugan O'Neal's birthday party – Dugan's the guys who's directed a lot of our videos. I've had a nearly twenty year career as a solo artist and I'd just spent a year completely removed from music, a sort of reset. I bumped intro Ry and we started talking and we just sort of decided to try something out. It was a really nice, spontaneous thing. We went to the studio as an experiment and a few days later we had the first Acid EP.

What were some of the past projects you were involved in?

I got into making music through DJing. I've had a DJ career since I was young – I put out my first DJ mix in 1996. I used to work for this legendary Belgian techno label called R&S who more recently put out the first James Blake record. Whilst I was Djing I was working for them as an A&R scout and then I ended up setting up my own label called Marine Parade. I was in various collaborations and bands along the way, toured non-stop for 16 years and realized I needed a break. In that time I really found I didn't want to be in clubs at 5 in the morning. For me, The Acid represents the transition into a new era. Its nice after 16 thinking I had done it all to then start a new thing – I think its the best stuff I've done.

How has your work as a DJ influenced what you do with The Acid?

On every level. Knowing how to manipulate a crowd's energy – how to build tension and then release. The dynamics of our record are influenced by the dynamic range of a DJ set. The patterns of peaks and valleys you'd find in a 90-minute DJ set we try to instill in our songs. Sonics and sound craft is really my thing. Ry is a great songwriter – I'm not. I think more in terms of palette and sonic texture. Steve is more of a producer, a beat builder. The three of working together creates a nice push/pull.

Was there an agreed upon direction that you guys started the band with? Was it very different than the music you play now? How has you sound evolved over time?

It was such an experiment - we really had no idea what we were doing. I think normally you meet, you talk, you play each other music, you philosophize about what you are trying to create. A lot of the stuff I'd done personally had taken a lot of thinking about and self-questioning whereas this was very spontaneous – we just did it. We didn't play each other any music. I think that’s part of the beauty of it. We didn't have time for self-questioning or to plan and think about what we were making. We quickly established this role in the studio that if two of us like it, it stays, if two of us don’t, it goes. We wrote those first four tracks in about 4 days. It was a really fresh, exciting process.

What are some other influences your sound is rooted in? Musical or otherwise.

I just bought some land in Joshua Tree so that’s really influencing everything I'm doing right now. I'm spending quite a lot of time out in the desert. I'm really into using my hands and treating the land as a canvas with everything I create there. I have a solo rig being installed this weekend, so I'll have a studio setup out there. My heart is in Joshua Tree right now. It's sort of bizarre – the nearest building to my house is Pappy & Harriets and tomorrow night I'm seeing Caribou there. The next weekend its Jamie XX, John Talabot, and John Hopkins. To be able to live 5 miles up a dirt road and still have all that cultural stimulation is kind of too good to be true.

Musically, I'm influenced by basically everything Kompact puts out. They're just so consistent.

The desert seems like a fitting place to write and record for The Acid. Your music is rooted in open spaces and finding beauty in sparse melodies and arrangements.

Ry grew up in Byron Bay, Australia which is a beautiful surf town. He grew up on the land, kind of living off the grid. I’ve always like the desert inspire, psychedelic end of rock music. In my work I’ve always tried to bring in those influences.

What is it like performing this restrained, minimal music in front of big crowds? Do you get freaked out being so sonically exposed?

Yeah, we have to be quite careful about our set times. In a world where everything is so maximal and loud we’re pretty sparse and intimate. It’s weird though: we went to Australia to play this festival called Splendour In The Grass, which is kind of like the Coachella of Australia. We played this massive tent and rocked it and we just did what we do in a small room, but there was just something about the sound system and the enthusiasm of the audience. I mean we often play the songs a little quicker than on the record – a little bit – but its pretty true to the recordings.

I think the next record will be a bit more high energy than the last one, which is definitely inspired by our live performance. There are certain moments on our first album which just don’t translate well live, but having said that we’ve been really lucky with the gigs we’ve done – we’ve really been well received.

Visuals are a big part of your live sets. Can you tell me about the visual aspects of your performances?

Well we’re all quire aesthetic people. We wanted to bring in organic visuals to our sets. I feel like a lot of the visuals you see at shows are very digital, especially in electronic music and we all hate that. We wanted to use things we film like ink in water and a lot of natural elements. We’ve filmed this stuff called ferrofluid which is basically a liquid metal that you can run magnetic currents through to create different shapes. We played our tracks through it and it created all these amazing forms.

I have a pet peeve of when you see a show and the visuals are out of sync with the music and we all felt like it would be a good idea to do something which is synced up. We didn’t want to play to a click so we developed this visual system with a couple friends of ours which actually responds to what we’re playing. For instance on one track the kick drum will blur or distort the lens or a flower will open in response to Ry’s voice. It’s quite subtle how we’ve done it and I don’t know if you’d notice unless you were really paying attention, but we’re trying to create this all-encompassing experience. We’ve put a lot of time and pretty much all of our record deal money into making it work.

What was your first favorite band or musician?

I wanted to be Jimi Hendrix. I used to sit in my room as a kid and just make guitar feedback. I couldn’t really play, but I could make really cool feedback sounds. [laughs] I think I’ve always just been into the textures of sound, even as a kid. Before any of my friends I got a job as a paper boy so I could buy nice speakers and I used to just listen to all of those incredibly nicely produced 80’s pop records. I guess that’s still my thing. I don’t really think in terms of lyrics and songs, whereas Ry grew up listening to Elliott Smith and Steven was into all that Industrial stuff.

You definitely can hear all of those influences in The Acid. What was the first record you bought?

The first record I ever bought was the Muppet Show album. [laughs]

How has that one influenced you? Ever thought of doing a Muppet Show remix album?

If you really want to spill the juice on embarrassing things, I used to open my DJ sets with excerpts from the Muppets. It was those two guys, those critics. I can’t remember their names. [Editors note: Adam’s talking about Statler and Waldorf.]

So what’s next for The Acid?

We’re working on our next record. We’ve got a Phil Selway and a Young Magic remix coming out pretty soon. It actually looks like we’re gonna be doing a film score for a documentary. I don’t think I can really talk about what that it yet, but that’s pretty exciting. We’re all working on our own solo projects.

Alright now for the final hard hitting question: what’s you favorite taquería in LA and why?

There’s a place on Hillhurst called Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, and when I lived in Los Feliz I would go and eat there every day. So much so that I became good friends with the owner, Joseph and he doesn’t let me buy tacos any more. I just go in there and he lets me help myself. For my last solo record, I actually called one of the tracks “Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada” because that album was pretty much fueled by those tacos. We ended up doing an album launch party there – I actually did a stage dive off of the taco stand. I wanted to enter myself into the Guinness Book of World Records as the first person to ever stage dive off a taco stand [laughs]. I might be – I don’t know.

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