Arts Desk

“What’s the Question, Again?”: A Trippy Interview with Ganglians

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There are two questions Sacramento, Calif.'s Ganglians say they're asked all the time: Is the band named after ganglion cysts? (Those are gross and kind of cool, frontman Ryan Grubbs said Tuesday, but no.) Also, what's it like to trip on ayahuasca?

Grubbs said he loves talking about psychoactive drugs almost as much as taking them. But he and his bandmates have never ingested that particular one, which is hard to find outside of South America. (Not that he wouldn't, he said.)

"We definitely talk about acid experiences a lot," said Grubbs, whose band opens for Wavves tonight at the Rock & Roll Hotel. "I think it was Rob [Enbom] of Eat Skull who told some guy from The Agit Reader that when we were on tour with him we were finding psychoactive stuff along the road like ayahuasca and ingesting it." Which is true, Grubbs said, except for the ayahuasca part. "Our bass player Adrian [Comenzind] is a botanist. He’s like the hippie of the group."

Well, more like the hippiest. Grubb's openness about drugs isn't particularly shocking, unless you've never seen the band (young, spaced out, and mostly bearded) or heard its latest record, Monster Head Room (out now on Woodsist), which isn't so much the latest iteration of this decade's freak folk as it is a direct tapping of poppy '60s psych acts like The Millenium and Love.

There's one final ingredient, according to Grubbs: The Beach Boys' radiant vocal harmonies. "If you're ever at the point [in an acid trip] where you’re hearing angel voices," he said, "we definitely try to replicate that."

Around the time Ganglians recorded Monster Head Room, Grubbs said, "there were a lot of mushrooms and acid, but we didn’t take it and record stuff. I would just take it and come up with ideas. Mainly we would just smoke weed. And we haven’t had a chance to do it lately."

When you're on tour, Grubbs said, "you have to be on the ball."

Which is still a challenge, to hear Grubbs tell it. The band was detained last week by U.S. Customs and Border Protection while trying to cross into Canada for a gig. They were held for several hours, Grubbs said, after a border agent discovered rolling papers in bassist Comenzind's wallet. The entire time, Grubbs said, he was high from a pot brownie: "It was totally insane, like Nazi Germany."

Grubbs is both an exhilarating interview subject (he is enthusiastic and utterly without guile) and an amusing one. Several times during our phone conversation, he asked me to repeat a question even though he already had spent several sentences answering it. (To be fair, neither of our phones had great reception.) When he told me that Monster Head Room is a coming-of-age epic structured like an acid trip—"it has a climax, it comes down, there’s the second climax and it comes down at the end"—I asked him what the post-bildungsroman Ganglians will sing about next time they record an album. Has the band cornered itself into adulthood?

The question puzzled Grubbs, and excited him. He said he needed to talk to the band about it, and get back to me. "Can I text you the answer later?"

I have yet to hear back.

Ganglians perform tonight at the Rock & Roll Hotel with Wavves and Tennis System. Photo courtesy of Ganglians' MySpace page.

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