"THAT'S WHY I don't trip anymore. I'm even hesitant to take acid these days because I've got so much on my plate." John Dwyer's voice is echoing off the walls of a Texaco bathroom somewhere between Birmingham and Atlanta. His band, Thee Oh Sees, is halfway through a two-month tour, and taking a whizz during an interview sometimes arises out of necessity. Dwyer is telling me how Thee Oh Sees has become a consuming force in his life—so much so that he's stopped indulging in lysergics. "I don't think it's something to be toyed with if your life is chaotic. With me personally, it would tend to really direct the trip, you know?"
That statement might seem a bit unusual coming from the frontman of a band so indebted to the LSD-fueled aesthetics of early psychedelic garage pioneers like the Monks and the 13th Floor Elevators, but Dwyer is awfully busy right now. With his band being touted as the head of an international garage resurgence, Dwyer has become more or less a mouthpiece for the revival, which has grown even more popular than its first incarnation back in the mid-1960s. And he's having the time of his life. Thee Oh Sees are at the top of their game right now, in the midst of their busiest and most successful year ever.
He wouldn't have it any other way. Dwyer likes what he does, and the pressure to perform only drives him to work harder. For him, being in a band beats working a regular job any day. In fact, he hasn't held a steady one in 10 years—Thee Oh Sees are a full-time gig now. "I finally realized the dream that I was going for as a kid. I recognized pretty early on that I hated working, or somebody else's working anyway." All his prior jobs were shitty: housepainter, cook, bike messenger, weed dealer. "Actually, weed dealer was okay, because I got to be my own boss, and I've always liked marijuana and stoners." Sounds like fronting Thee Oh Sees affords him the same luxuries.
But like Dwyer says, he has no short-age of work to get through. The man has a punishing work ethic. When he's not on tour, he's making records. His band put out nine or so LPs in the last six years, with Dwyer writing and recording most of them himself. Castlemania, released just six months ago, was practically a solo record, and he says, "It was mostly an afterthought that anybody else was on it."
You might expect him to weary at some point, but it seems that word isn't in his vocabulary; Thee Oh Sees' new record Carrion Crawler/The Dream—named in part for a creature in AD&D's Monster Manual (Dwyer admits he is a "secret nerd")—showcases the already bombastic band flying higher than ever. Much has been said of the record's frenetic, live feel, and there's ample reason for that: The group is touted as one of, if not the most, energetic live bands in America right now. The addition of second drummer Lars Finberg is a nice touch, too, contributing a taut intensity to the band's careening, extended workouts.
With his band busier and more popular than ever, Dwyer's already planning to record some mellower stuff he's been working on, plus new demo tracks for Thee Oh Sees. You can bet it won't be long before Dwyer returns to lead his band of freaks on another unforgettable trip.