Described as the “SPOT-on sound for the NOW crowd” and DIY indie psychedelic guitar pop with a ‘60s garage punk attitude, Fantastic Purple Spots consists of the Austin, Texas duo Barrett Jones (vocals/ guitar) and Dave Junker (vocals/guitar/bass drums). The two met in a class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when they were both undergraduates. It was the ‘80s, the height of the Paisley Underground.
They were fans of local bands like Plasticland, 27 Various and Liquid Pink. Throughout their twenties and onward the pair both played in bands, Jones in Scorpio Rising (on the 1989 Madslab compilation) and Junker in The Romulans (Prospective Records, Susstones Records), whose cover of the Deviants’ “Billie the Monster” earned time on John Peel’s radio show. By the 2000s, Barrett was in Washington, D.C. and Junker was living in Austin, Texas, where a mutual friend Gunnar Hedman (Isolated Sniffers) had a studio. The two recorded several epic jam sessions at his studio over several years, which was released as The Rrreverberationsss on the 267 lattajja label. Sometime later, the pandemic hit and the two found themselves exchanging musical ideas online: song fragments, guitar riffs, a bass line, a drumbeat – a new world of bedroom music/DIY psychedelic guitar pop possibilities opened, and Fantastic Purple Spots was born. Their current release here, a self-titled debut Fantastic Purple Spots, includes all original songs and was mastered by Travis Bell at Verso Studios, Westport Public Library, Westport Connecticut.
The first track “Veterans of Future Wars” has this fantastic, dirty live sound (and I’m looking forward to hearing more like this) that I was immediately hooked. The way the guitars sound, the sloppy feel of the snare drum, the free form style of the guitar solo, all sounded so great together. This matchup reminded me of the Velvet Underground, with a bit of Link Wray, the Troggs and other garage rock/psychedelic bands throw in. “Homo Sapien Times” flips things around with a cleaner, “folksy” sound. Featuring the acoustic, tambourine and some fine vocal harmonies. The bass and drums – softly played – join in a bit later. I’m really liking these guys a lot – I think I found my next summer soundtrack! Next up is “Blasting into the Sun” and it offers a unique two to three guitar textures. The snare has a cool sound too – I think it was recorded in some echoing garage. Style wise, I thought this number focused in on an indie pop sound. I also liked the break at the end where the guitars drop out and then return with more distortion – very cool. “All the Blonde Guys” gives the listener lush sounds of a full acoustic guitar, warm bass tones and more gorgeous vocal harmonies. There is also some extra percussion, (bongos I think) and some low-end flute sounds. “Confessions of a Former Glacier” made me think of what the Pixies might have sounded like if they had a more chilled out/trippy sound, rather than their early screamy, alt-indie/post-punk stuff.
The band gets into a twistin’ rocking groove with “Sorry ‘bout Falling into Love with U” in this fun, ‘60s pop punk tune. Moving on is “Rebels of the Hive Mind” – a trippy song that features, “warbling” sounding vocals (where I could only understand the title of the song being sung), a couple of cool guitar textures and a more focused drum rhythm. The highlight for me was the melodic bass lines and the trippy keyboard parts – groovy.
“Land of the Dead” has a great mix of moodiness and mystery. “In the summer sun – that’s where I’ll be” sings Junkeyr or Jones (not sure who’s voice is whose) in this ultra-trippy tune that reminded me of early Pink Floyd and such songs as “The Crystal Ship” and “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors. The duos’ last track is called “Please Come In” and it rides along with a gentle drum rhythm and dynamic guitar parts – one feathery and light, the other distorted. Lyrically, words are sparse – “please come in” – is all that’s said. The band has a sort of surf pop ‘60s vibe here, for example if the Beach Boys were more like a band who played a few repeating notes on Pet Sounds, rather than all the complicated arrangements from Brian Wilson’s mind. But don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Pet Sounds – and I love this band, too. If you’re into a raw, garage rock, DIY sound, I think you’re really going to enjoy Fantastic Purple Spots.
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