Revived Psychedelia in Golden Gate Park: An Interview with West Indian Girl at Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival

West Indian Girl

West Indian Girl

Forty years after the Summer of Love swept through the hearts, minds and loins of American youth and just a week after the equivalent anniversary of Woodstock, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park lent itself to another massive musical jamboree–the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival. Following on the festival’s debut last year which featured Beck and Radiohead, the second annual Outside Lands featured headliners Pearl Jam, Dave Matthew’s Band, M.I.A., the Black Eyed Peas and Modest Mouse. On Friday of the three day weekend festival, psychedelic rock group West Indian Girl took some time to talk about the festival and their music.

West Indian Girl’s roots began when Guitarist Robert James and bassist Francis Ten collaborated together in Detroit in the 90’s. “Fran and Rob had another band on Island Records that fell apart and West Indian Girl formed out of that. It began as a studio project. They literally worked on a demo and sent it in and got signed,” said vocalist and keyboardist Amy White. West Indian Girl’s name derives from a potent brand of LSD popular in the sixties, but is also a reference to Robert and Francis’ earlier band.

WIG’s music moved west when Francis settled in LA. The duo continued to work on the project through mail before Robert joined his band mate out west. Fusing sounds taken from their Detroit roots as well as psychedelic influences, West Indian Girl forged a unique blend for their self-titled album released in 2004 through Virgin’s Astralwerks label.

“[The Detroit influence] is very unplugged, an underground sound, which comes into the music. The band has grown a lot since Detroit though. We’ve been in LA a lot longer. We each have our own tastes, which makes the band so great,” said White, who noted her personal favorite influences of M-83 and Fever Ray.

Former vocalist Mariqueen Maandig recently quit the band, leaving a gap to fill for upcoming live shows including Outside Lands and San Diego’s Street Scene. The departure of Mariqueen—who interestingly enough is married to Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor—lead West Indian Girl on a search for a new female vocalist.  “It’s been a bit of a roller coaster since Mariqueen quit. Her heart wasn’t in it. So I kind of knew ahead. But we’re totally happy now, and we stay in touch. Since then we’ve been auditioning online, and it’s been interesting.

We were in a rush to find someone for the shows. It was very quick for all of us.”

Fortunately for the band, vocalist Miranda Lee Richards stepped in to temporary fill WIG’s void. A San Francisco native, Richards was thrilled about joining the psychedelic band for a performance in Golden Gate Park. “A friend of mine is a music journalist, and he’s mutual friends with the band. They were in a transition period with their old singer moving on. It was luck of the draw kind of thing, in the right place in the right time. I was available to sing it, and really liked their music. It’s a really fun project, very fun live. I love the music, I love the group, I love the people,” said Richards.

Currently, West Indian Girl is free of any record label, allowing creativity for the future of their music. They have been at work recording through the summer months and plan to release their work when distribution matters are figured out. “We’re not under any sort of record label now. We got out of [the Astralwerks deal] with all our masters, we own all our masters. Now, there are so many options out there. We want to try things outside the box. It’s a very exciting time for us, there are a lot of options.”

West Indian Girl — 01 Beach