Barely old enough to drive themselves to their own shows, and long from being of legal drinking age, the Cleburne, Texas trio Fungi Girls are, upon first listen, quite reminiscent of a long line of “teen punk” groups such as the Shaggs, the Pratts, and Silver—those oddities that balanced on a fence of spontaneous invention and haphazard naivety. Recorded on a digital camera, then converted to audio files (how’s that for shitgaze?), Fungi Girls Psilo Demo is the germ in the discovery of what’s likely to be a prolific and interesting adventure through the front lines of lo-fi. Blame it on MySpace and youth, as no longer do kids need a proper education to start a band; they just click through histories and discographies, chugging it down like a Sparks. Songs like “Into the Cosmos” and “Crystal Roads” are, once you get past the blaring fuzz, stuffed with hard-to-shake hooks that prove they are listening intently to their contemporaries. Admittedly over-hyped, the band was recently crowned by Psychedelic Horseshit as “the greatest band in the country” and have planned to get the fuck out of Texas as soon as school allows. With a ton of new releases on the horizon, it’s likely this will not be the last time you hear this name. Just imagine what they could become once they actually start cajoling with actual naked women (on psilocybin) as their name implies.
First I need each of you to identify yourselves with your name, what you play, your age, and where you are from originally.
Skylar Salinas: I'll be answering all the questions. I'm 14, but am turning 15 very, very soon. I mainly play drums, but also sing and play guitar on some songs as well. Jacob Bruce (blue jacket, pointing) plays guitar, sings, and is 16. Deryck Barrera (little girl’s sweatshirt and trumpet) plays bass (funks it up) and is 16 as well. We're all originally from Cleburne, Texas, but I grew up in California, Nevada, and other places.
I’m sure you associate yourself with the Denton scene in some capacity, but it also says you’re from Cleburne, Texas. What’s the difference? What’s it like there? Are your surroundings in any way indicative of the music you play?
SS: We play a lot and hang out as much as we can in Denton. It's about an hour and a half away from where we actually live, which would be Cleburne. Denton is a big music town with lots of friendly people and house venues. Cleburne is a small town with upper middle class pseudo-rednecks and a large Mexican population. I wouldn't really say our surroundings are indicative of the music we play. In fact, the music we play is more so inspired by other places rather than where we live.
A lot of what I have already read about you stresses how young you guys are. Have you encountered any problems because of your age? Is this your first musical project, or have you been in bands before?
SS: Yeah, from what I've gathered, people are mainly so surprised that decent music is made by such young guys, or they think we're just some terrible high school band. No problems so far besides not being able to drive ourselves to shows. None of us are able to drive yet, so we have aunts or whoever can take us to do so. We've been in a few loose bands before this. One improvisational noise rock band and one math rock band.
I have to harp on the name, which I like. But are you afraid at all to be associated, and lost in the shuffle, with all the other “Girl” bands that are around these days?
SS: We're not afraid to be associated with the “Girl” bands out there, by any means. Several of them we like, particularly Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls. They're really reviving the whole shoegaze/twee sound we love. But I mean, we came up with our name mid-summer in 2008, before the whole “Girl” explosion. The name came from Deryck's mother referring to us as ”girls’ rather than “boys” as a joke all our lives. The fungi part was added because it sounded cool. I hope we don't get “lost in the shuffle,” but it's possible it could happen.
The lo-fi thing is obviously a misnomer in your case—at least for now—since I can hear some great songs on the demo. But of course, it’s a demo, so it’s almost necessity to sound the way it does. When you do get around to putting out a proper record, do you have any grand plan as to how you want it to sound?
SS: The lo-fi thing started out because we had nothing else to record on. All the “Psilo Demo” tracks were recorded on a digital camera. It was tough. We had to strategically place the camera in a certain spot in the room, move instruments around, and whatever else just to get everything to sound nice. It took us hours on some occasions. We’re recording our first album in two weeks with Jason Kelly of the bands Fergus & Geronimo and the Wax Museums. Our plan is for the recordings to sound more “raw” rather than extremely fucking lo-fi.
You mention one of your influences as beach pop, and that’s something I’m just not hearing yet. Can you elaborate a bit more on that influence?
SS: Beach pop? Are you talking about us listing the Beach Boys as our influence? If so, then yeah, we all like the Beach Boys. Sugary sweet pop melodies. The only thing to elaborate on is that we want and absolutely love sugary sweet pop melodies.
You also mention Times New Viking and I can really hear that influence. Did their existence have anything to do with yours?
SS: Times New Viking are highly energetic and fun while still being a pop band. We strive for that, I guess. When we originally started out, they and Psychedelic Horseshit were our biggest influences. I don't listen to TNV as much as I used to, but Jacob and Deryck still listen to them quite a bit.
When you did decide to start a band, what music were you listening to that inspired the music you ended up creating?
SS: Like I said, Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit originally. We dug the whole lo-fi thing and still do, but we've kind of moved on to more shoegaze and garage rock-esque sounds. We love our fuzz pedals and a shitload of reverb.
Please fill in the blanks: In 10th grade I was listening to ___ in the ___ doing ___ with ___. All I ever wanted to be was a ___.
SS: Haven't been in 10th grade yet!
It’s nice that you’ve allowed anyone who wants your demo a free copy. Are you surprised at the amount of attention you’ve received from just that demo and a MySpace page?
SS: Yeah, it's kind of surprising, because we think it's pretty shitty, besides “Crystal Roads” and “Into The Cosmos.” Both of those tracks will be re-recorded for the new album. The MySpace page thing is great. Whether people think so or not, if you're a decent band, you can easily get popularity through MySpace. I'm not sure if that's a bad thing or not, but it's effective and makes things easier.
Do you have any official records coming out soon? Explain.
SS: The new and currently untitled full-length LP, a split 7-inch with Natural Numbers on the label Neon Aztec, and then later on during the summer we have some splits coming out with several bands including Reading Rainbow, Idle Times, and Hype Williams. If you haven't heard any of them, definitely check them out. Hype Williams, in particular, are doing some really cool and different stuff for the current time.
I assume that what’s heard on the demo is what you do live? How do you hope to expand on that?
SS: All of the stuff on the Psilo demo is live, yeah. Expansion has already taken place. Those recordings were made in early fall of 2008. Since then, we've acquired an amazing bassist, several fuzz pedals, a strong love for reverb, and a better sense of what we want to sound like. We sound sooooo much better now than on those recordings. ?
Where do you sit on the Psychedelic Horseshit vs. Wavves fence? Any opinions of either?
SS: Psychedelic Horseshit are our buddies, are really nice guys, and make really great music. Their new stuff is fucking great. They're awesome live, as well. They have this strange ability to go from straight-forward, energetic pop songs into psychedelic noise jams and back without you even realizing it. It’s likely we're actually touring the West Coast with them late summer, but it hasn't all been confirmed yet. We all like some of Wavves songs—“Sun Opens My Eyes” is probably my favorite. But, after finding out he records all his stuff on GarageBand, or whatever that program is, then just adds the fuzz, I find it pretty silly. Another thing that sucks about them is not being able to replicate the sound live.
Anything you’d like to say to the world and our readers about the Fungi Girls before you leave us?
SS: Buy the new LP and come see us this summer on the West Coast! Please, babe?