A rock band that’s been together for over a decade might seem like one well-oiled machine. But as guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Green of Oakland’s Lumerians noted in a recent conversation, sometimes it’s all about how a group handles it when things inevitably go wrong on stage.
“Sometimes you’ll have gear failure,” he says with gentle amusement. “A kick drum pedal will come detached. But we’ve gotten so comfortable with the parts that we can stretch something out and it seems like, ‘It’s totally part of the show! We’re just exploring the section!’”
Even a quick listen to their albums makes it clear why Lumerians have a reputation for exploration. Since their self-titled debut EP in 2007, the quartet has taken a deep dive into all areas of psychedelic and experimental rock 'n' roll. Their live performances often feature blasts of zoned-out feedback and mysterious, murky synth trips that make the old '60s term ‘space rock’ make sense all over again.
After a four-year hiatus from releasing music, Lumerians return on June 22 with their newest studio album, Call of the Void, out on London’s Fuzz Club label. The quartet consists of guitarists and multi-instrumentalists Green and Jason Miller, as well as Marc Melzer on bass and synth and Chris Musgrave on drums and percussion.
Lumerians recently debuted a moody, brawling punch of a lead single with “Silver Trash," but the whole of Call of the Void is an involved listen in all senses of the word. Tracks like “Space Curse” and “Clock Spell” are rife with unsettling electronic melodies and droning layers, as if a series of alien transmissions were captured from the back of beyond.
Unlike many bands grappling with Oakland's rising rents and shortage of rehearsal spaces, Lumerians have been in their studio for nearly a decade. But our conversation naturally turns to the city's ongoing affordability crisis. It’s a cycle they’ve seen before; they were priced out of San Francisco in 2009.
Miller and Green speak at length about how having a stable space in Oakland has given the band members the freedom bring in new instruments to experiment with different approaches. The band has a communal kitchen space where they talk about movies and share recipes for vegan tuna sandwiches, and they say that many of their ideas begin there before making it into the recording studio.
As Miller describes it, “We can get into our insular pocket world and go out into some strange direction and see how alien things can become.”
As for what’s next, West Coast dates are starting to gel for later in the year, but Miller and Green are already looking forward to a European tour. They chat about the last time they crossed the Atlantic, and share a very Spinal Tap-like story about how the spent the night in a seemingly abandoned building without blankets, sheets or heating in the middle of winter.
“The best part was the next day when we all woke up after somehow finding our way to sleep, and not sleeping very well,” remembers Miller. “One of the doors that had been locked opens, and there’d been this old woman that ran the place who had been sleeping there the whole time!”
Lumerians clearly aren't afraid of adventure, and that openness comes across in their experimental approach.
“There’s that old joke: learn everything you can about music, then forget about it," says Green. "One of my favorite things is to have no plan and just go, ‘What is this going to sound like?’”