TO SAY that Portland psych-garage-punk trio Psychic Feline are meticulous is an understatement. Their ability to rattle off exact dates of when they first rehearsed or when they first recorded is a negotiable barometer for their collective fussiness. What's non-negotiable for them is the precision of how they go about facilitating their music.
"There's a lot of editing," says guitarist/vocalist Bob Desaulniers. "We throw out a lot of songs. We don't want anybody to have a song that they hate to play."
The band—rounded out by drummer Sydney Roth and guitarist Curtis Muenze—has fine-tuned a repertoire of noisy rock jams that owe just as much to proto-punk crews like the Gories and the Cramps as to the feedback-drenched anthems of Sonic Youth. With their new 7-inch, "White Walls" (with b-side "Non Dot"), slated for release via local label Water Wing Records, and a full US tour in May, Psychic Feline are poised to move beyond the constraints of their creative process, and just play.
Following the demise of Portland garage group the Caldonias in 2009, Desaulniers (who also plays in Hornet Leg) and Roth envisioned a project that focused more on the substance of the music rather than on a visual and rhythmic focal point, as had been the case with the Caldonias. Muenze was recruited after Desaulniers had heard some of Muenze's solo recordings through mutual friend Robert Comitz of Frawg Pound Studio (Comitz also engineered the new "White Walls" recording).
With the lineup established in October 2009, Psychic Feline began writing, tossing songs away, rewriting, and eventually amassing a sizeable portfolio of live shows. In a short amount of time, the band's introverted performances, sans bass guitar, yielded a loyal local following. In January 2011, the group released their debut tape recording—Tape—and later the excellent follow-up 7-inch EP, Blood Dolphin. That exceptional EP is a suitable briefing on the enchanting wail of guitar trickery executed by the Desaulniers/Muenze tandem. Opening instrumental track "Blood Dolphin" articulates warm, surf-y electric guitar and splashy drums with a vocal-less attack that's fitting for the unassuming nature of the band.
"Having vocals came out of necessity," says Desaulniers. "Nobody else was there to do it. I don't like singing at all; I hate it. In high school I listened to Fugazi a lot and I really liked how they had instrumentals on the record. Those were always just as interesting as the [other] songs."
The organic architecture of the songs, often facilitated by building from a single riff, posits a noticeable collaborative trend in Psychic Feline's output, too. A song like "Non Dot" takes on a hypnotic vibe of interlocking melodies, beholden more to a grimy post-punk piece rather than the slicker, artsier drone of earlier songs such as the foreboding tribal stomp of "Little Boats" on Tape.
"Each person brings their own take on something," says Desaulniers. "So if I bring in something that sounds a lot like Swell Maps, by the time it's done, it sounds different because nobody else is thinking about it that way. I can rip stuff off and then have other people change it."
A full-length release is within grasp for the group, but it could take awhile considering the harshness with which they discard their work.
"That's probably our most serious goal," says Desaulniers. "We don't wanna rush it. We wanna actually give ourselves some things to choose from."