Additional reporting by Carolyn McCoy
PSDSP is a band with an uneasy relationship to technology.
Ask singer and guitarist Eli Carlton-Pearson how he feels about digital technology and he doesn’t hold back. “Fuck the internet, fuck tech, fuck Google, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram. Fuck all the greedy-ass shady-ass businesses commodifying our minds, replacing innate wisdom and intuition with cheap skills, replacing cultures with trends, shortening our attention span to the point that the greater issues, the heritage of our problems, of our solutions, is incomprehensible because it’s too many characters long or too many seconds long.”
However indifferent their social media presence may be, it seems to acknowledge that they might have some fans online.
At a time when musicians are making platinum records with Pro Tools in their bedroom, PSDSP launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a 100% analog album that they hope will sell a few hundred copies. That album, Luddite, is out now on several streaming services and CD/vinyl for contributors.
Physical Suicide Deterrent System Project (or PSDSP) is Michael Pinkham on drums, Brian Wilkerson on bass, and the above-mentioned Eli Carlton-Pearson on guitar and vocals. They play what the band describes as avant-grunge music: heavy Nirvana, Primus, and Black Sabbath influences, but with unmistakable jazz undertones of Django Reinhardt, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis. This is especially noticeable at their live performances with long, crashing instrumental solos.
PSDSP at Sweetwater Music Hall in 2018 (photo: Carolyn McCoy)
Conversations about music go much deeper than their feelings toward social media. “Music is magic. Music is like an external organ for the collective body…that processes emotions, especially pain,” says Eli. It also tells stories and preserves cultural wisdom. It transforms things, processes things, like an organ does. It makes bad shit safe. It connects you to everything — to your ancestors and to everyone’s ancestors, who, after all, are also your ancestors.”
In late 2019 Eli, Brian, and Michael raised $6,819 to fund an album “about soul and all the inalienable beauty of the human soul, in all circumstances. It’s about the absurd and comical contradictions we all live with. It’s about being a hypocrite. It’s about failing utterly, yet succeeding in some secret way.”
Luddite was recorded with Tom Deis at Pineapple Room Studio in New York’s Hudson Valley. “I wanted to work with Tom because I trusted him. I trusted him musically and I trusted him personally,” says Eli. “He gets it. He gets that music is a spiritual entity you access through the physical world.”
It’s clear that the process for making this record was not simply a musical exploration, but a cathartic one as well. “I guess this whole recording was way more intense and vulnerable than I’d like to admit. I trusted his understanding of how to use technology to capture the spirit of things, and to understand how to make things rock without sounding dumb, and his stellar work ethic. I was already well aware of what a wonderful engineer and producer he was, but after Luddite I am honestly beside myself.”
PSDSP on stage at SoundFest 2019 (photo: William Wayland)
The process involved multiple trips to New York State, the purchase of analog equipment specifically for the album — plus, oh yeah, a global pandemic that delayed the release for almost three months. The result is an album that is both raw and mystical with layered instrumentality that is at one moment quiet and introspective and then heavy and raging and probably best at full volume.
Was it all worth it?
The only regret that PSDSP has is underestimating the cost. Eli says, “I wish we’d aimed a little higher