Interview by Violet Krause, cover photo by Ellie Alonzo
I made the acquaintance of a sleepy frontman Gus Baldwin, who is also known as Hollywood Jones, a few weeks ago when the band just wrapped up shooting the cover for their new album. We got to catch up and talk about Acid Carousel’s likes, dislikes, deepest darkest secrets, and wildest dreams.
Gus gave me a small tour of the home referred to as the Candy Mansion where he resides with other frontman, John ‘Captain Cosmic’ Kuzmick and drummer Fielder ‘The Collector’ Whittington. The backyard is filled with props and toys from the mornings shoot and the albums name is spray painted on a traffic sign front and center. The rest of the Carousel household is just as exciting, objects like roller skates and nail polish bottles rest on tables and the walls are lined with vinyls ranging from the B’52s, The Kinks, Pink Floyd and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Personality covers every surface and it’s easy to envision the stories Gus tells me of everyone spending their nights dancing around to records in the living room. Everyone’s off getting ready for shows lined up for later that night, so everything seems like the calm before a storm at the mansion.
Gus and I sit on the blue floral couch that fits the homes floral friendly decor perfectly as music plays quietly from the turntable in the corner. “I like flowers.” Baldwin said. “I worked in the floral field for a while.” We started talking about Acid Carousel’s noteworthy stage presence and catchy psychedelic rock tunes that have built up their name into something recognizable by many. The group performed at Denton’s Free Underage Cool Kids Fest last year and awarded that performance one of the most memorable. “It was just crazy we got to do something like that,” Baldwin said. “It was one of our first shows from back in the day so it’s just crazy seeing how we’ve come since then. That was just our first denton house show also, so that made us think ‘oh hey this works, maybe we should keep doing these.’”
Gus tells me about a festival in Austin the band is supposed to play that weekend and we get into stories about how it’s been to play for different crowds and travel so far. “We’re trying to travel more actually. We’ve been down to places like Austin, Tulsa, San Antonio so far.” He tells me the group has hopes to make it out to the West Coast during the spring/summer. “It's hard traveling far for us because we currently don't have a van, so we usually have to kind of caravan down, which is actually really fun. Crowds in different towns are different each time but when we play we feel like people pick up that this is just what we do and we’re there to have a good time and we see them respond to that.”
Acid Carousel’s youthful personalities are something that bleeds into their presence as a group when they take on a crowd at any show. Gus takes a minute to think before giving a list of some of the bands shared inspirations. “Captain Beefheart is an inspiration for sure. He had to keep his mind in a child's mentality when making music and we really like that idea, whatevers goofy and doesn't make sense seems to work for us.” He adds, “Anton Newcombe from the Brian Jonestown Massacre for attitude, we just love their stuff. We listen to james brown everyday, all of us he's probably our favorite. We all listen to so much music, anything from like Bollywood music, to Katy Perry. The other night we put on Teenage Dream and it got wild. We put on records and just dance all night, sometimes we’ll get the pit going right here in the living room.”
Acid Carousel has been a pretty in-demand group lately, the posse goes back and forth between places all over the DFW area and their home in Denton to perform shows. The group takes comfort in their busy schedules and hopes to keep the idea of things slowing down far out of their minds. “We talk about going to Europe all the time especially with being a Psych band, that's where the big crowds are,” he continues “we want to tour first, and we want to keep making as many records as we can and keep finding people who will put them out. We’re hoping to get our next album pressed to vinyl for the first time. Getting one of our earlier songs pressed on vinyl was a milestone for us, now we want to do the whole thing. A dream venue to play would be The Moth Club in London, I really want to play at that place, or the Paradiso in Amsterdam. If we go to europe that’s basically our idea of making it, or really just any time someone says ‘hey, I like your music!’, that means the world to us.”
The busy schedules are a prominent thing for Acid Carousel, almost every member also plays in other projects on the side, sometimes more than one. The group worked to find a rhythm that takes time into consideration and works for all of their schedules. The lively family seems to grow a little the more people the group meets, and they’re also known for the many members that take the stage with them at some shows. “Honestly it’s just understanding that it's a job,” Baldwin continues. “We spend a lot of time and many days out of the week getting together and just grinding everything out. Oh you have to dance too! I worked at Carnival Barkers a while back, and there was a sign that said ‘remember not to give a fuck’ and I think that’s really important to just have that mentality. We can’t take ourselves seriously ever, or it’ll just not work. Take your music seriously, but remember when performing it’s show business, be flashy, be stupid and have fun. Be what you want to be not who you think people would like.”
The band has done most of their recording right at home, in their rooms. Home studios is the communal preference because of the groups ability to make their songs sound exactly how they want, which is the most important to them. Frontmen John and Gus take ownership for most of the song writing done in the group. “We will both each write our own stuff and we’ll bring them to each other or we’ll just bring our ideas and collaborate on it,” he says. “usually John and I will demo stuff out on our own and then we’ll show that to the band so they can all listen and learn it to play it live. We don’t play most of the song we record, we have way too many. We like to play as little songs as we can and go as far with them as we can, and then add on more from there. Always leave the crowd wanting more!”
The group has new plans in the works alongside the upcoming album getting ready to be released. “We’re excited about our new stuff because it sounds a little different, and we try to not stay in one set box when it comes to our music.” Baldwin continues, “We don’t like sitting on records either, if we don't get something out like every three months, we get real antsy. We actually listened to all the final mixes for our new record recently, that’s going to be called ‘Street Cowboys’. That’ll be on cassette hopefully early January or February. We have a record with our friend Johndavid Bartlett who used to be involved in the Psych scene over in Austin back in the 60’s. We have a full length with him, and in the summer we’ll hopefully go to California in the summer and record our fourth LP.”
The band has big aspirations and hopes for the new year, but their main goal is to enjoy the journey and have everyone else enjoy it with them. It’s clear when asked that performing live is a type of encouragement for the group that fuels their drive. It’s an easy subject for Gus to talk about, he sits up suddenly and puts his hands together. “It’s our favorite thing in the world!” He exclaims, “whether it’s two people or two hundred, we’re giving you the same show or trying our very best to. It’s our way to get out all of our energy and just whatever's going on with us. Trying to win over the audience is our whole thing, just seeing a room full of people and pulling them up close and being loud and having fun. It’s our chance to connect with people, we don’t care if they’ve heard us before or haven't, we just want to connect with them on a personal level everytime.”