Modesto-based indie rock label Devil In The Woods was founded in the late 80s by indie rock loving teenager Mike Cloward, and over the course of the next two decades, they would release a slew of superb releases by artists from around the world, as well as records by future luminaries Grandaddy, Death Cab For Cutie, and Bright Eyes. The label would expand into a print magazine that was well loved for being on the cutting edge of the indie-rock scene of the new millennium. But like many labels and print outlets, the digital age buoyed the label, and changing times required a time-out for a rethink.
Several years later, a trip to Mexico City and a dip into their vibrant underground psychedelic rock scene reinvigorated his passion and a new enthusiasm emerged. In the same way that hearing his talented friends drove him to start a cassette label in the late 80s, hearing these new sounds left him with a desire to share this culture with the rest of the world. (It’s a fascinating story of redemption, one you can read about in greater detail by visiting our website, devilinthewoods.mx.
But that was then and this is now, and Devil In The Woods is proud to announce its return with three very fine yet three very diverse acts. The first release for the revamped label is a single release from veteran singer/songwriter Nik Freitas. Offering two sophisticated piano numbers, “Aviso Amor” c/w “Normal #3,” these tracks will appear on his ninth album, due this fall on Park The Van.
The second and third singles due this fall hail from Mexico and share a handful of members, but they offer contrasting listening experiences.
Espectroplasma will release their new single, “Monster” c/w “Pyramids,” on October 18th, and this new record offers a vibrant and amazing expansion of their sound. While their previous records recalled Man…Or Astroman?, they’ve turned in a new sound that is pure space-rock, offering up two songs that are heavy on the rock, even slipping into an unbelievable-but-absolutely-accurate Tangerine Dream-meets-Sweet psychedelic space boogie that must be heard to be believed. These two numbers come on the heels of a new full-length album. We will be presenting the band live in concert on October 19th in Mexico City, at a very special album performance. It’s guaranteed to be a one-of-a-kind experience.
Though they share DNA with Espectroplasma, Twin Tones is an entirely different beast, a fluid collective of musicians performing traditional music with a definite twist. Rooted in rock, Cumbia, and Morricone-style soundtracks, they defy genres with every release. For this single, “Agua de Coyote” c/w “Sibalaume,” they offer fuzzed-out organs and guitars, a mariachi section, a Theremin, and instruments mysterious and unknown. Twin Tones are also working on a new full-length album, which we plan to release in 2020.
And speaking of 2020…
In addition to the aforementioned full lengths from Espectroplasma and Twin Tones, we will be releasing an EP from Mexico City rockers Ikkarus and a Jason Lytle-produced EP from Los Angeles singer-songwriter Aaron Beckum. Also in the works is a compilation of contemporary Mexico City psychedelic rock bands, as well as many other treats and delights that we can’t tell you about just yet
We are excited about this new journey, and we hope you join us for the ride!
From a short interview conducted by Joseph Kyle for The Recoup:
Devil In The Woods was a rather active and recognized independent label throughout the late 1990s and early 2Ks, but then it unceremoniously seemed to disappear. What happened?
The label and magazine’s disappearance was a direct result of what was going on in my life at the time. I hit a wall, I got severely burnt out, I felt weak and lost and my quick fix was to just check out in what, in hindsight, was a fairly precarious and borderline unprofessional manner. I think I spent my first year away from music walking nearly every mile of San Francisco and putting the pieces back together. Then I started dipping my toe in Amoeba on Haight Street in San Francisco and I slowly started re-engaging with music and then with friends I knew from music. Over the last few years I’ve been helping here and there on projects and the stars finally aligned for a re-launch.
The most noticeable thing about the new iteration of the label is that it has a definite Mexican theme. How did this come about?
Over the last couple of years I’ve found myself drawn to Mexico City and with each subsequent visit my circle of friends there, who primarily reside within the music scene, has widened considerably. I just love the energy there. It reminds me of San Francisco in the 90s with the bustle of New York City. As I’ve built the label team, all of whom reside in Mexico City, it’s only natural that the label is heavy influenced by their touch. I tend to sit back and let creative folks run with their ideas and then add input where it’s needed, if needed. The theme is definitely thanks to the growing DIW crew.
Was there one band in particular that you heard that gave you that eureka moment, one that made you say, “I have to let the rest of the world hear this awesome music!”
At first it was my initial interaction with members of Twin Tones which lead me to to their other bands Epectroplasma and Sonido Gallo Negro. It wasn’t necessarily a single band per se’, more like a group of artists who were churning out amazing work and I just had to get involved. So much energy, so much talent, coming from truly great people to hang around with. It became clear at that moment I needed to get back into it.
Considering the current political environment, do you envision your label to serve as a bridge between two distinctive cultures, and how do you feel the music communities DIW is representing can help do so?
Any bridge I can help assist in building that facilitates a greater connection between various musical communities, regardless of country of origin, you can count me in. Saying that I’m not extremely pissed and disappointed in the current situation the exists with the current U.S. administration would be a severe understatement, so I will push on and hope the tide will change soon. A line on a map should not separate like minded people.
Of course, those who know of Devil In The Woods as a label also know the label as being the parent of a print magazine, DIW. As you have returned to releasing music, will we also see a return to the print medium as well?
I own a dry erase board that hangs in my office. In a small circle in the upper right hand corner it is written, “Magazine $$$”. So yes, I’m piecing together the puzzle and I hope 2020 sees an idea emerge into physical form.
What do you feel is your vision and your mission for Devil In The Woods 2.0?
We definitely want to carry over our theme of working with good people and to continue the mandate of being an artist development label. The feeling of stumbling upon something through the process of discovery is an amazing feeling—we want to facilitate this process as much as possible. DIW 2.0 is definitely going to have a much more diverse roster that V.1. I personally still love sensibly made guitar driven rock but my tastes in music continue to expand/evolve as does those of the folks around me and the DIW roster will be a reflection of that.