Some of these people aren't really in the band.   Photo by Gina Michael.
Some of these people aren't really in the band. Photo by Gina Michael.

Aural Reports

KO and his band Tea Shades think it's time to once again kick out the jams, motherfuckers.

What does the name Tea Shades refer to?

It's from a Hunter S. Thompson quote from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. One of the things to tell a dope fiend is that you'll know because he's wearing tea shades.

That seems to fit with the drug aesthetic to some of your songs and artwork. Is that what your band is about?

Well, not to self-incriminate . . . it's not a lot of what we do, but it helps. [laughs] Sometimes it's a confrontational thing; sometimes it's about being upfront. It's more or less one song. Our other songs don't put it out there as much. It's an element of youth culture that's really hated on by society. It's done, and people do it, and it helps them creatively. We're not a one-note band. It's kind of a countercultural movement that we're trying to get to, and that's one of the aspects of it. Society says, "These are the bad things you can't do," especially drug laws and things like that. You do it, and they say it's wrong, but you're not harming anybody, and you should be able to do what you want with your own body. We're trying to start a revolution, not only in the mind, but also political, social, whatever it comes to—opening your mind and expressing yourself and just being free.

Some of you were in hardcore punk bands before this band. Listening to your songs, it seems like you can't decide if you want to be hippies or punks.

Yeah, we even have a beatnik kind of song, too. Really, we're just trying to experiment and not back ourselves into a corner. We were playing in punk bands, and it was kind of the same song and dance: Go to the show, and it's the same kind of people with the same kind of cliques. It wasn't really about what anybody was saying. It was about being seen and being in the scene. We just tried to get away from it. We didn't want to label ourselves as anything. We just wanted to do what we thought was good music.

That explains the songs with hand drums and reverb-drenched psychedelia.

Exactly. We were actually playing with the idea of a concept album. That's where the song "I'm Down" came from. The first song was kind of like a guy upset with his life and seeing the effects of this über-capitalism, the holes in his shoes, and hating the way things were. If you listen to the next song, "I'm Down," it's like he's buying a bunch of acid—so much acid he wanted to escape reality, but the irony is that he couldn't come back to reality. We're still playing with a bunch of ideas.

Will you come back to the concept album?

We're still thinking of a bunch of different ideas, narrative stories and stuff like that. We're all influenced by different genres of literature, whether it's the Beats, the Lost Generation, the new journalist style, Wolfe, Kesey, Thompson. It's a bunch of like-minded dudes getting together and trying to create something new.

As much as your songs vary stylistically, there seems to be an abrasive quality to most of them, even the mellower stuff.

It might be along the lines of Flipper, where if no one is gone by the end of your set, then you didn't do your job. Our last show, we had a tape recorder with a bunch of loud, abrasive sounds, and we dropped everything and stuck the mic on it and walked off. But I don't know that we have a game plan or anything like that. The whole concept for us is that we're trying to make this a better place.

You mentioned revolution and counterculture. Is there a specific agenda?

The whole concept of our band is egalitarian or communistic. We all play different instruments, and we all put into the band what we have. Our different talents and efforts coalesce into one thing. I have my own different political opinions from everyone else. I'm more of a Trotskyist. Other guys have their own ideas, but we're open to the whole idea of making things change for the better.



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