Lift to Experience returns to SXSW with remixed masterpiece

Lift to Experience (photo: Breanne Trammell)

Part gospel as imagined by the son of a Texas Pentecostal preacher, part shoegaze as imagined by guys who listened to a bunch of My Bloody Valentine, part pure Texas weird, the Denton band Lift to Experience cut a cult-like swath in the late ‘90s Texas underground.

Lift came together around singer/guitarist Josh T. Pearson and bassist Josh Browning in 1996, releasing an EP in 1997 with a pal on drums. That friend bounced and they hooked up with  Andy ‘The Boy’ Young on drums, played extremely loud shows and working on “The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads” a deeply odd concept album about the end times, Texas and the fact that USA was the center of the word Jerusalem.

Eventually released on Bella Union, the then-young British label run by Cocteau Twins Simon Raymonde and Robin Guthrie, in June 2001,  the double-disc “Texas-Jerusalem,” with its weird Pen and Pixels-ish cover and deeply unflattering mix (more on that in a moment) never completely hit as hard as it should have. But it’s end-time feel, release mere months before 9/11, made it a cult classic for a certain generation of sensitive young person. And John Peel adored them; the band recorded three sessions for him.

The band fell apart soon after its release. Pearson did odd jobs, struggled with various demons and put out a few solo records. Seeing him opening for My Bloody Valentine at Austin Music Hall as somehow as weird as seeing MBV itself.

Young played in Western Arms, with Elbow frontman Guy Garvey, and The Flowers of God. Browning plays bass in the Fort Worth outfit Year of the Bear.

Earlier this year, Lift was invited by Garvey to play the Meltdown Festival in London and Mute announced a re-release of “The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads,” this time with a whole new mix supervised by the band.

Lift played three warm up gigs in Texas in June, did Meltdown and chilled for a bit before playing SXSW 2017.

“We didn’t end on that good of a note the first time around,” Pearson said in May. He started thinking about his own mortality after David Bowie died and getting the band in front of people again. “We were always a little volatile and want do some shows for our friends just to make sure we don’t implode.” The June shows went well, as did Meltdown.

Pearson laughs when asked why they wanted to remix the album. “Due to financial concerns, we were not there for the first mix,” Pearson said. “I lost my head over that record, I was a mess, I shopped it around and didn’t get so much as a rejection letter. The only label that wanted to put it out was Bella Union.”

The Bella Union folks saw the band at SXSW and snatched them up. But after recording the album, the band didn’t have any money to mix it. Bella Union offered to mix it and put it out. “Between that and nothing, that was better than nothing,” Pearson said.

“But the original mix, for which we were not present, kind of chopped the balls off of the record,” he continues. “We were this testosterone-driven band and a live powerhouse and the record didn’t reflect that. It was not what I had in mind AT ALL.”

So the band remixed “Texas-Jerusalem” over 10 days, teaming up with engineer and Centro-Matic drummer Matt Pence to make the album sound more like the band sounded live. “I just think this mix more accurately describes how the band made you feel when you were in front of them,” Pearson said. “There’s no money grab here. There was no money to begin with. We did not radically change anything. There is no Greedo-shoots-first thing going on here.”

Lift to Experience plays the headlining slot (1 a.m.) March 16 at the Parish and March 18  at Central Prebyterian Church.


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