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Los Angeles based band, Mystic Braves are facing squarely up to the world and striding confidently off
in a whole new direction. Now, after a decade at the top of the West Coast psychedelic rock scene, they
have returned with a stripped back line-up and a dazzling fifth album, Pacific Afterglow.
With their line-up now the permanent duo of Julian Ducantenzeiler (vocals, guitar) and Shane
Stotsenberg (guitar, backing vocals), it is easy to forget that only a short while ago the band nearly
walked away from the music business altogether. But now the pair are finally able to look to what is on
the horizon for them - shrugging off the challenges of also being in an enforced Californian quarantine for
much of the last couple of years. Having retreated to the Malibu ranch of producer, engineer and friend
Kyle Mullarky’s (The Growlers, Allah Las, Babe Rainbow, Abigails), the two began what Julian describes
as “hanging out and throwing paint at the wall until we could begin to make a record.” The ranch itself
had a wild past, once owned by nudists and with a previous use as an adult movie filming location in its
The duo approached this new project with no interest in revisiting anything that they had created before.
Gone were the days of the band playing each track live and adding on overdubs. This time round, each
track was built from the ground up with additional elements added one by one. “In the past, we would
just write and record a song and that would be it,” explains Julian, “But here we could hash it out and
perfect it.” Mixed and produced entirely in-house with Kyle too, the absence of additional voices, as well
as the natural isolation, breathed new life into the band. “It gave us a chance to become a new band,”
explains Julian, “With less clashes of ideas and opinions, there were less cooks in the kitchen and it was
a lot easier to create this.”
It would have been understandable, expected even, for a band at this stage of their career to keep
making slightly different versions of the same record but Mystic Braves have never been ones to sit still.
Even by their restless standards, Pacific Afterglow is a shift, seeing them ditch their distinctive fuzzy
psych-rock sound for something altogether cleaner and smoother - but vitally, without shedding
everything that made them stand out in the first place. “It’s a new approach,” agrees Julian, “It’s a step in
a new direction, but not yet a huge leap. You still feel the essence of our band within the tunes.” As
nostalgic as it is future-facing, inspirations sprang from artists as diverse as Gerry Rafferty, Roxy Music
and Tame Impala. “In the first days of recording, we just kept saying ‘when in doubt, Raff it out’” laughs
Julian, the mantra resulting in the beautiful Coffee Song, where the sun shines brighter on the haze, and
Lonely Heart, another moment packed with catchy melodies and a feel-good vibe. Before too long the
band were discovering a sound that will surprise but captivate long-time fans just as much as it will
charm new listeners. Packed with gorgeous harmonies and hooks aplenty, that late-day afterglow
washes out of the speakers on Never Went Away as dreams of hazy sunlit evenings waft in. The
shimmering Changing My Colors seems feather-light and yet equally hard to shake off once its hooks
are in. It is a record that seeks escape, but always looking forwards in optimism and hope. Warmly
psychedelic, it’s an album full of colours and sounds to bask in the glow of - a more mature-sounding
listen with the familiar themes of what the world has come to expect from a Mystic Braves album.
Ten years in and the duo show no sign of wanting to slow down. Indeed if anything, with plans for
European and U.S. tours over the year, 2022 is set to be the year where Mystic Braves make up for lost
time. “We’ve done a lot, but we also haven’t done enough,” points out Shane, “We’re right in the middle
where we’re ready to push on.” Don’t expect Pacific Afterglow to be the final destination for Mystic
Braves however. This is one band that will continue to keep pushing on towards that next horizon, for the
next ten years and beyond.