Acid Tongue is a music group that creates unique tunes and their music videos have wicked, retro visuals that leave you dazed. Acid Tongue consists of Guy Keltner, Ian Cunningham and a rotating cast of friends. I got to chat with the frontman of the group, Guy Keltner about how the group came about, what it was like putting together their debut full-length album titled Babies, and more.
TYF: How did you guys form Acid Tongue?
Guy Keltner: Acid Tongue actually started out with some solo tunes I had written that did not fit my previous band, Fox and The Law. I showed them to my friend Ian and he encouraged me to get them recorded and released. We cut the first EP in a couple of days and everything clicked from there. Since then I’ve been touring with a variety of backing bands, but Ian is my most consistent member and full-time business partner.
TYF: How did the name of the group come about?
Keltner: I had a girlfriend a long time ago that used to be brutally honest about virtually everything. I used to say she had an acid tongue. The truth hurts sometimes.
TYF: Your sound has a heavy influence on rock, soul, and folk. Have any musicians from those particular genres inspired your music?
Keltner: Definitely. I pull influences from all over the map. I’ve been really into Michael Kiwanuka and Cate Le Bon lately, and that’s had an effect on the songs I’m putting together for our next LP. I’m also a huge fan of the Modern Lovers, and Jonathan Richman’s solo records are incredible. His delivery is a big reason I sing the way I do. I definitely was raised on a heavy dose of Bob Marley, Sam Cooke, and Muddy Waters as well. My parents had pretty good taste in rock and soul music, and both of them introduced me to the artists that inspired me to create Acid Tongue.
TYF: You guys released your debut full-length album, Babies. What was it like putting together the album?
Keltner: Babies was an incredible experience. I wouldn’t necessarily record an album the same way again. My life was in a state of flux throughout the record. We began the sessions in Seattle at a great little spot called The Recovery Room. Then I moved to New York City, and we shifted the principle sessions to Portland at a place called Get Loud Studios. At Get Loud, I had access to tons of vintage amps and guitars and all sorts of great synths. We were able to be really particular about each tone and melody line. There was a lot more experimentation with the songs and I think it really helped develop the overall aesthetic of the LP.
TYF: How did you decide on the title of the album?
Keltner: A big theme of the entire album is adolescence and puberty. A lot of these songs were inspired by experiences from my teenage years, all the awkward stuff that happens when you’re in high school and still living with your parents. That was a really tough time in my life for a lot of reasons, and it shaped how I write music and play guitar today.
TYF: Let’s go back in time for a second. You guys released two EPs, how long did it take you guys to put together the EPs?
Keltner: Both of them feel together in a flash. The first was made up primarily of songs that had already been arranged in a particular way, so it sounds a bit more polished. The second EP was cut in London at my friend Rian O’Ghandi’s home studio. He and I really built those songs from the ground up, and we did some strange things in the studio to make it interesting.
TYF: Did your writing process differ when you guys were putting together the EPs versus the full-length album?
Keltner: I think every song is written a bit differently. Sometimes I can lay the whole thing out in one writing session, and other times it takes a bit of things to fall into place. Some songs start with the lyrics or vocal melody. Others come together because I had a good idea for a riff or a piano part. It really depends on what mood I’m in. There’s no consistency in how I write.
TYF: Your second EP landed on CMJ’s Top 100. How did you feel when you heard the news?
Keltner: I’m always humbled by the fact that people listen to our music.
TYF: Do you remember where you were when the news broke out?
Keltner: I honestly don’t. These sorts of things get me really excited, of course, but my primary focus is always writing more music, better music, always improving on what we are putting out.
TYF: The track “If I Really Loved Her” is beautiful. What was it like putting together this particular track?
Keltner: I was outside of Spokane staying in a family friend’s cabin. It just popped into my head. I grabbed her guitar and sat on the patio and the whole thing spilled out. I probably had the final product in less than half an hour. It was a really great morning.
TYF: You guys recently released a music video for “Humpty Dumpty.” Can you tell us how you guys come up with the concept of the video?
Keltner: I had always wanted to pay homage to a really bizarre sex scene from a Japanese movie called “Tampopo.” Originally the scene was supposed to be inserted into the video for “If I Really Loved Her,” but we didn’t have the right budget to pull of the overall concept. Stephanie and I decided to simplify everything and we figured out a series of scenes that we could produce from our apartment in Brooklyn.
TYF: Stephanie Severance was the one who directed the video. What was it like working with her?
Keltner: This is hilarious. I live with her so I’m just laughing at the question. I guess we kind of keep our private lives separate from our art, though. It was an honor working with the incredibly talented Miss Stephanie Severance. She has great taste and an artist’s eye.
TYF: What is the story behind “Humpty Dumpty”?
Keltner: It’s a love song for weirdos. I like to leave the interpretation up to the listener.
TYF: Your album has nuances that bring us back to 90s pop culture and one of my favorite things about the 90s was the bomb cartoons. Do you guys have any favorite 90s cartoons?
Keltner: I’m a big fan of everything Nickelodeon was putting out back then. Ian takes a lot of inspiration from that period when he puts together our artwork. He does virtually all of the art we attach to our albums and social media.
TYF: What do you guys think was so great about 90s pop culture, in general?
Keltner: I think it’s less about why it’s so great and has more to do with the fact that we came of age during that decade. We absorbed the culture like a couple of sponges.
TYF: A lot of your album’s influence is directed towards the American culture. If can you change just one thing about the American culture, what would it be and why?
Keltner: I wish people would get the hell off of Facebook and actually get involved with their community. People aren’t as engaged in the states as they are in other countries. They’re too comfortable. They don’t realize when their rights are threatened.
TYF: As the new year approaches, what’s next for the band?
Keltner: I’m on tour in the south right now. My backing band is a group called The Mammoths, from Austin, Texas. They are already killing it! Our kickoff show in Austin just happened and the show was fantastic. I’m looking forward to the next two weeks. We have plans for festivals next year and a lot more touring. Also, in the next couple of months I’ll be putting out an EP I cut in Paris last month with our bassist Alessio. Hopefully, we can finish this second LP soon and have that out by late summer.
For more information on Acid Tongue and their music, check out their website.