Christian Bland is a member of the Austin’s kings of reverb The Black Angels as well as the frontman of his own band the Revelators. Along with his bandmates in the Black Angels, the guitarist is also a creator of LEVITATION, formerly known as Austin Psych Fest. Taking place at April 29 – May 1 at the privately owned Carson Creek Ranch on the outskirts of Austin, this year’s LEVITATION features a smorgasbord of trippy acts ranging from Ween and Ty Segall to Animal Collective and The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson among many others. There’s a reason why Sean Ono Lennon called it the “coolest festival in America” as the team behind LEVITATION have carved a niche in booking a concentration of acts that form a dream lineup for lovers of psychedelic music in all its many forms, year after year. Recently, Christian Bland took the time to let us picks his brain about his upbringing, passions, creative process, and of course, LEVITATION.
I see you grew up outside of Houston, did you go to any festivals in the city growing up?
Growing up in the suburbs of Houston, there wasn’t much to do. I stayed in the Clear Lake area up by NASA and my father was a preacher, so I never went downtown. It wasn’t until I went to Florida State and got out from under my parents that I started to expand my mind.
How did you discover music?
It was my dad’s record collection that got me into music. He had Sgt. Peppers, that I discovered when I was nine, and Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changing and I remember listening to those records over and over. My parents always listened to Oldies 94.5 , and that was big to me, getting to hear Buddy Holly and others, I think I identified with that music more than contemporary music at the time.
Do you think having a father as a preacher made you seek spirituality in a different way?
I think my father definitely spurred on that search for spirituality. When I discovered the 13th Floor Elevators, that’s what I identified with the most. Especially their lyric in “Roller Coaster” which said ‘Open up your mind and let everything come through,’ which is the antithesis of Christianity, I feel. Christianity has some good points as far as morality but it’s mostly close-minded and about telling people how they’re wrong.
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How do you juggle being a musician, graphic designer, and festival promoter?
I am a musician first. My passion is playing music. But the reason I moved to Austin was to start a band, because it was the birthplace of my favorite music, which was psychedelic rock and roll. So the dream was eventually to have a festival where we could invite our favorite bands to come and play. I do graphic design and all of my creative endeavors are fun to me and it never feels like I am working
Do you have any other hobbies people might not know about?
I love reading books. I like to get away by myself and read. I love history and the last book I read was that Stephen King book, 11/22/63, which was great. I love rock and roll biographies and just have a big library of books in my room. I think there is no better hobby. It’s all about mind expansion and seeing things from different angles.
This is the 9th year at Levitation, how much has it grown?
The first year it was 700 people and last year it was over 10,000 people. We are hoping to have 13,000-15,000 people this year.
What was the genesis of making Levitation go international in France and Canada and adding a fest in Chicago?
A lot of this happened through the Black Angels. Our promoter in France suggested bringing Levitation to France, and we combined forces through him. We partner with people in other cities which works much better when putting on Levitation.
What is the most psychedelic music obsessed country?
France is always at the top, and I would say Australia as well. Tame Impala has sparked an interest over there. We went there with the Black Angels for the first time, and there were thousands of people waiting for us there, which was weird.
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Where do you like to shop for vinyl in Austin?
When you book bands for Levitation do you consciously look to reunite vintage bands each year?
Totally. This festival is our dream festival. We try and reach for the stars and see who we can get to play every year. When The Jesus and the Mary Chain played Psycho Candy last year, it was amazing. Getting Brian Wilson to play Pet Sounds this year was so huge. The 13th Floor Elevators reunion last year was the pinnacle for us. In our first year we had a band called Acid Tomb which was a 13th Floor Elevators cover band, so it’s pretty funny and surreal to have the actual band playing the fest 8 years later.
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If we made contact with extra-terrestrials would they have an automatic bid to play Levitation or would you have to listen to them first?
Nah, they would be booked automatically. Coming from another world, that trumps everything. If they are space travellers from another world then they have to be on the bill.
The 60’s psych scene in Houston or 60’s psych scene in Austin?
Austin because the 13th Floor Elevators.
Sunrises or Sunsets?
Syd Barrett or Brian Wilson?
Syd Barrett but it’s close.
Sex or Music?
Ohhh man. That’s tough. I’d have to say music but music leads to sex.
Pink Floyd or Jefferson Airplane?
Doors or the Beatles?
Who are you excited to see this year?
Brian Wilson is going to incredible. I always like seeing Brian Jonestown Massacre. Slowdive is going to be exciting to see. Ty Segall is going to be sweet. Those are my highlights.
LEVITATION takes place April 29 – May 1 at Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, TX. For tickets and more info check out levitation-austin.com.