Flying Saucer Attack
Flying Saucer Attack
Arriving on the independent music scene in the early to mid-1990s, Flying Saucer Attack—with its folk songs and feedback sculptures—was the new band of choice among underground hipsters and space-rock enthusiasts throughout the United Kingdom and the United States. After performing at the inaugural Terras-tock music festival, as well as releasing a long-awaited studio album in 1997, the acclaimed New Lands, Flying Saucer Attack seemed poised to take on the world with their trance-like, cerebral sound. However, two and a half years passed before Flying Saucer Attack’s return. As David (“Dave”) Pearce, now the project’s sole commander, told Fred Mills in an interview for Magnet, “I cracked up for a little while, basically.”
While exaggerating the circumstances of his self-imposed exile from music, the time off nonetheless proved beneficial, evidenced by Pearce’s impressive step forward with 2000’s Mirror. “I think this one has something,” the musician agreed. “And it’s a blessed relief, because all these years down the line you worry that you may have completely blown it.” By nature, Pearce, in spite of critical accolades, has always second-guessed his talent, a common trait of many artists that can, paradoxically, either further creative development or stop the flow of ideas completely. Indeed, self-doubt was part of the reason why Pearce, who had spent months meticulously recording and editing New Lands, began to fall apart. “But it wasn’t only a feeling of, ‘Oh, my music’s all wrong.’ It was also more… stuff. About that time, things just weren’t working upstairs in the attic, either.”
Besides the harsh self-criticism, Pearce was also, he soon discovered, in the midst of a bout with clinical depression, a case that grew so deep that he quit altogether playing guitar and turning on his tape machine for a full 12 months. And when Pearce finally did pick up his instrument again, his return to music was usually marked by short bursts of playing followed by hours of just listening to the recordings. “It’s like I didn’t have an approach anymore,” he revealed to Mills. “My sort of sense of purpose and even my musical purpose just, I don’t know… The last two years have disappeared completely. Prozac probably explains why I’m still here. [Depression] is something that runs in my family.” Unlike so many who live with such an affliction for years, Pearce eventually recovered his purpose, uncovering some of the best compositions of his career.
At the onset of his artistic journey, however, Pearce had no problem in keeping his creative juices flowing. The history of Flying Saucer Attack, also known as FSA, is intertwined with various other bands—Crescent, Movietone, AMP, Third Eye Foundation, and others—that formed in and around Bristol, England, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Pearce, who from 1983 through 1986 was involved with a school band called HaHaHa and later Mexican Embassy, on occasion played with but was not a formal member of these groups. Nonetheless, they all shared a common bond. As a student in the late 1980s attending Farnham Art College, Pearce met a number of musically inclined fellow students and friends. Together, they formed a band called the Secret Garden, but never released any material. Secret Garden only recorded rehearsal tapes and played just two gigs before Pearce, along with Secret Garden member “Richard” (who later formed AMP), decided to focus on their own project called Distance. Pieces of their collaborations, demo tapes recorded in 1991, would crop up from time to time on AMP and Flying Saucer Attack material.
Between 1991 and 1992, Pearce joined another band that recorded only rehearsal tapes called Lynda’s Strange Vacation. The bass player for that group, Rachel Brook, was Pearce’s girlfriend, and in the summer of 1992, they decided to leave Lynda’s Strange Vacation in order to follow their own musical instincts. Initially, the duo, taking the moniker Flying Saucer Attack from the title of a Los Rezillos song, was a studio-based project for Pearce and Brook to explore their art-psychedelic influences, most notably Can, Syd Barrett, Wire, John Coltrane, Nick Drake, Roy Harper, A.R. Kane, and especially Krautrockers Popul Vuh.
“In many ways, it was a nice time,” Pearce reminisced, as quoted by Mills, about FSA’s beginnings. “It was different with those early records. It was a ’we.’ Rachel was 19 or 20, and I was in my mid-20s. And I was still working in a record shop, a shop not many people came into but most of the people who did knew each
Members include Rachel Brook (left band in 1995), bass guitar; David Pearce, guitar, vocals, other instruments.
Formed Flying Saucer Attack in Bristol, England, 1992; released self-titled debut album, 1993; released Chorus, marking the end of the project’s “phase one”; Pearce returned alone as FSA to release the acclaimed New Lands, gave high-profile performance at Terrastock, 1997; released Mirror, 2000.
other. Movietone (Brook’s other band) was getting together at the same time. Crescent was, too. Third Eye Foundation was starting and was involved in everyone’s bands. And, OK, we might have been playing gigs to 30 people in a back room in Bristol, but there was always something going on. There would be the odd trek up to London to play a gig, and there were all these little records coming out. The point is, everyone was seeming to do something. So all those early FSA records were fueled by that.”
In March of 1993, Flying Saucer Attack released the single “Soaring High/Standing Stone,” followed in June of that year by a second single entitled “Wish/Oceans.” Both singles were recorded for their own FSA label (distributed by VHF in America in 1994). In November of 1993, FSA made their full-length debut with the home-recorded Flying Saucer Attack. Centered around the pair’s sonic explorations—dense and feedback-loaded one moment and pastoral the next—and notorious for a fuzzy guitar cover of Suede’s “The Drown-ers,” the vinyl-only album sold out within no time to fans starved for Spaceman 3 and My Bloody Valentine.
Winning a small underground following in the United Kingdom and the United States for their unique blend of British folk/pop driven through odd effects, Flying Saucer Attack followed with the single “Land Beyond the Sun,” released in October of 1994, and a second album of their first few singles and other material entitled Distance, released in November of that year on VHF. “Fuzzy, experimental and gloomily atmospheric,” described Richard Fontenoy in Rock: The Rough Guide, “each track is a still-life approximation of a waking dream-state—drumless and post-rock.” Standout tracks included the acoustic “Instrumental Wish” and the tempered-rock “Standing Stone.”
Signing with Chicago’s Drag City label to distribute in the United States, FSA returned with Further In 1995, an album that retained the duo’s lo-fidelity recording methods. Like their previous work, Further was recorded at home on a four-track without digital assistance. The music press showered the album with favorable reviews. Alternative Press, for example, declared that the record revealed “some of the sparsest, most emotional music you ever want to astral project to.” Chorus, a compilation of radio sessions and singles from before and after Further, arrived in 1995. With this album, Flying Saucer Attack ambiguously declared the end of “phase one” of their existence, hinting at a mysterious “phase two” to come.
By now, the romantic relationship between Pearce and Brooks had begun to deteriorate, and after the release of Chorus, Brooks departed FSA in order to fully concentrate on her other project, Movietone. Subsequently, Pearce returned solo under the Flying Saucer Attack name to release the Sally Free and Easy EP in 1996, followed by the highly anticipated New Lands in 1997. The second phase of FSA, more of a gradual change in direction than a radical departure, won the same critical support of the project’s prior efforts. “Pearce taps into a mood that is at once mystical and effusive,” commented Magnet In its review, “murmuring sweet nothings over elongated, shimmering riffs that send molten jets of harmonics and undertones in all directions.”
Following Pearce’s unfortunate absence from music, Flying Saucer Attack made a comeback of sorts in 2000 with Mirror, revealing some of the artist’s most folk-inspired pieces to date. Mirror “finds him tinkering with his trademark lo-fi, drumless drone formula— some numbers clank and crunch with an ominous rock/techno flair—and replacing his usual intangible vocal mumbling with gently forthcoming, folk-styled singing on the album’s most haunting tunes.” Apparently back to making music without interruptions, Pearce, at the time of Mirror’s release, had already started work on his next LP, rumored to be a mostly acoustic set.
Flying Saucer Attack, (United Kingdom) FSA, 1993; VHF, 1994.
Distance, VHF, 1994.
Further, Drag City, 1995.
Chorus, Drag City, 1995.
Sally Free and Easy, (EP), Drag City, 1996.
New Lands, Drag City, 1997.
Mirror, Drag City, 2000.
Buckley, Jonathan and others, editors, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.
Alternative Press, August 1995, p. 85.
Magnet, March/April 1998, p. 65; April/May 2000, pp. 51-54.
Melody Maker, October 14, 1995.
Rolling Stone, August 24, 1995; April 4, 1996.
Village Voice, February 20, 1996; May 6, 1997.
Flying Saucer Attack: Phase Two, http://www.dsl.org/fsa (June 12, 2000).
Rolling Stone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com (June 12, 2000).
Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (June 12, 2000).
"Flying Saucer Attack." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 20, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/flying-saucer-attack
"Flying Saucer Attack." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved February 20, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/flying-saucer-attack
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