Seattle’s Sister Psychic goes against the grain of grunge



By Steve Newton

From the heady, hook-filled pop-grunge soaring off Sister Psychic’s debut CD, Fuel, you’d think the members of the Seattle power trio had been together for years, honing their skills with their chosen instruments until the time was right to unleash that sound on the masses.

But when the group came together a year and a half ago, singer/guitarist/songwriter Andy Davenhall had been playing drums for 10 years; drummer Ryan Vego had been fronting his own band and hadn’t touched a drum kit in months; and Christian Fulghum—a guitarist by choice—had to make the switch to bass.

Talk about playing musical chairs.

“I think that’s almost part of the success of the band,” says Davenhall, “that all of us are kind of placed at the edge of our ability. I think technique alone is boring, and it comes across in the recordings and live performances that we’re not relying so much on technique. We have to rely on sheer emotion to convey our songs and ideas.”

Besides its ambidextrous instrumental skills, there are other elements that distance Sister Psychic from a lot of today’s popular rock bands—especially the ones from their home town of Seattle.

“There are parts of the stuff that we do on Fuel that are kinda grungy,” says 30-year-old Davenhall, “but I just wanted to kinda start a new scene, and support pop music, you know. And I’m not ashamed of it. Grunge is here, and it’s got its place, but I just wanted to go against the grain, just to be myself. I thought it would be the best thing to do.”

Being less grungy than other Pacific Northwest bands—and having more in common with Soul Asylum than Soundgarden—might have kept Sister Psychic from attracting heavyweight labels like Geffen (Nirvana) and Sony (Alice in Chains), but Davenhall says that being on the independent Restless Records has its bonuses, too.

“I’d say, artistically, we get a lot of attention from Restless. They seem to support our ideas, spiritually as well as financially, and we really couldn’t ask to be in a better spot right now. They have U.S. distribution through Relativity, and Cargo in Canada, so if you look for it, you can find it. There aren’t many copies in the store, but we seem to have sold enough to merit another release.”

Sister Psychic recently went into an Emerald City studio with hotshot “Seattle sound”-man Jack Endino (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees) to record five tunes, three of which will show up on their next recording. Two tunes, including a version of Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam”, which has been a staple of the band’s live show, will be released as singles.

Davenhall—whose band visits the Town Pump for a Saturday (January 9) gig with local acts the Juice Monkeys, There’s No Mona, and 6 Inch Maria—says Endino didn’t put any restrictions on the band. He wasn’t looking for the next Nirvana.

“He was very excited about working for us, because we weren’t your typical garage, key-of-D hell-maker. And I think it’s kind of refreshing for him. And I think it was kind of neat that the godfather of grunge worked with the kings of pop here and created this new thing.”

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