Elliott Frazier loves My Bloody Valentine, and he doesn’t care who knows it. The guitarist for Austin, Texas–based trio Ringo Deathstarr also has a major thing for the Jesus and Mary Chain, Lush, and just about every other major British band that ever got slapped with the tags “noise rock”, “dream pop”, and “shoegaze”. But it’s MBV that Frazier clearly owes the deepest debt to, given his predilection for the whammy-bar-heavy “glide guitar” technique perfected by that Irish group’s frontman, Kevin Shields.
Reached en route to a show in Houston, Frazier audibly shrugs off the suggestion that Ringo Deathstarr is leaving itself open to accusations of sonic plagiarism.
“No one’s ever said anything to our face,” says the guitarist, who shares lead-vocal duties with bassist Alex Gehring. (Drummer Daniel Coborn rounds out the lineup.) “Sometimes you see people on the Internet, like, leaving comments on things, saying we’re rip-offs or whatever.” Then he adds, with a self-deprecating laugh, “They’re probably right, you know.”
Ringo Deathstarr’s debut LP, Colour Trip, is indeed a convincing replication of the band’s influences, all whirlpool guitars and washed-out harmonies. As they prove on tracks such as “Do It Every Time” and “Tambourine Girl”, though, Frazier and company have a knack for crafting hooks sharp enough to pierce through the haze. That’s a quality that should allow Ringo Deathstarr to weather the constant comparisons. Not that Frazier is about to apologize for wearing his influences on his sleeve.
“Sure, Kevin Shields might have invented the whole bending of the dissonant chord with the tremolo on a Jazzmaster, but not very many people do that. We do it. We play a similar kind of music. To me it’s just the same as when you play blues music; there’s thousands of blues guitarists who all have the same tricks up their sleeve.
“So, sure, we sound like bands that we like,” Frazier continues. “We wanted to, because we wanted to experience that kind of live show. We wanted to experience it for ourselves every night that we play. We don’t want to just sit around waiting for these bands to play. At the time, My Bloody Valentine wasn’t even back together yet, so I thought I’d never, ever get to see them.”
Like MBV, Ringo Deathstarr values a wall of sound over vocal clarity, which is a characteristic that the people manning the mixing desks at venues don’t always appreciate. Frazier says the band has a solution to that: “We try and keep all of our equipment set to the same level from gig to gig, and just try and make it something that we can control. We don’t want to turn down just to have the vocals be very audible. As long as you can kind of hear ’em in there, then that’s all we care about. We’re more about the loud guitars.”
Ringo Deathstarr opens for ”¦And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead at the Electric Owl on Tuesday (June 21).