Mothership: Psycho Las Vegas Preview

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have begun our descent and will arrive at the terminal shortly. In the meantime, please keep your seatbelt fastened. That last instruction applies to attendees of this year’s Psycho Las Vegas festival as well.

Mothership are soaring. The so-called “supersonic intergalactic heavy-rock trio” from Dallas, led by brothers Kyle and Kelley Juett, are riding the wave of ever-growing crowds at their shows. They band is drawing cheers from its peers in the world of hard rock and, with new material on the way, Mothership’s fuel gauge is about to explode.

This is no flavor-of-the-month band, people. Eleven years deep into their career, Mothership have honed their mission and expertise at musicianship.

On Saturday, bassist/vocalist Kyle Juett spoke with The Bad Penny about why Mothership are blowing up at this moment, which Psych fest bands are on his shortlist of must-see acts, and how sharing a bill with Blue Öyster Cult at an early Psycho fest lead them to open slots for the legendary band.

How are you guys feeling as a band right now? Well-oiled or rusty?

KYLE JUETTE: We’ve only been playing once a month [lately,] doing little road trips here and there, building the band back up. We’re looking forward to recording some new songs in September. We’re firing on all cylinders right now.

The COVID stuff was a low point for not just us but a lot of people. To climb out of that and still feel relevant feels really good. We’ve got some of the best fans in the world, and they were just nonstop about asking, “When are you going to play again?”

It seems no one forgot about us after three years of not playing … and we have some really big shows coming up. We’ll be doing a run of shows in the U.S. in November, and then we have the new music. It’s our 11th year as a band, so it feels pretty good to be where we’re at. We’re excited to play the next chapter. I’m feeling really great, man.

Did you already finish writing those new songs? Are they fully fleshed out? Or are you going to go back to square one with them when you record in September?

JUETTE: A little bit of all the above. We got some cool structures, some songs that are close to finished, some cool riffs to build on. And then we also like the impromptu jams as well. So we use all three of those [approaches] when we get into a studio to record a new album. We never feel we have to finish a song before we go on to the next.

We definitely have bits and pieces that will figure out a way to connect together, different ideas that will actually form one song. But for the most part, we don’t really have a blueprint for how we write music. We just try to keep it really open-minded. So if we really feel something, we’ll just keep rolling with it. If we feel like we’ve hit a wall, we’ll divert a little bit and maybe work on something else.

Are you planning to roll out at Psycho any songs you haven’t played before, or will it be material with which your fans are already familiar?

JUETTE: We’ve got a [new] one that we’re going to play. We’ve been tightening it up and playing it live a couple of times. We have two sets of pretty good length [one hour each] at Psycho, so we’re going to try to mix and match, so you’re not getting the same exact set twice. We’ll see. We’ve got a couple of tricks up our sleeve for Psycho Vegas this year. I can’t spoil it here, but I think we have one of my favorite sets that I’ve come up with.

I’m sure a lot of your fans will be thrilled to witness Mothership playing that new song. Speaking of which, a number of musicians I’ve interviewed for this Psycho preview series told me they’re really excited to see your performance in particular. Jason and Cas from Sasquatch talked about how much they like you. Leather Lung and Rifflord did the same, if memory serves. Do you go back a ways with any of those bands?

JUETTE: Yeah, we’ve known the Sasquatch guys and the Rifflord guys for a long time. I don’t really know the Leather Lung guys too well. I met their singer for the first time in New York, and he’s a real cool guy. It’s a pretty tight-knit community, and it’s pretty cool there are guys who speak that highly of us. We got nothing but respect and thank all those bands who are going to kick ass too. We’ll all be under the same umbrella in Vegas next month, and it’ll be a good time for sure.

So, you go back all the way to 2015 with Psycho, is that right? [In that year, Psycho hadn’t yet moved to Vegas and hosted its heavy-rock marathon in Santa Ana, California.] I haven’t interviewed too many bands that linked up with the festival that early. How did you initially connect with the Psycho folks? Did you know [Psycho founder] Evan Hagen in 2015?

JUETTE: I didn’t really know Evan before that. Me and him kinda hit it off. We supported each other early on in our endeavors. He was talking about moving the festival to Vegas, and I said, “Man, I think you should just go big with this thing.” You look at it now, and it’s a monster. He’s been pulling bands out of retirement, left and right, for years. For the most part, I think the majority of everyone who goes to the event loves it and buys presale tickets to come back [the following year]. 

Evan’s a really cool guy, man. … Psycho is pretty much the only time we get to see each other and hang out. We stay in touch throughout the year, but we’ll kick back, have a cup of coffee and catch up. I like his style and how he incorporates different kinds of music into the festival. I think it started off as a stoner rock ’n’ roll festival in California and Vegas, whereas I think now he’s trying to get really obscure bands, and country and hip-hop and all that. It’s cool because, even if people don’t like the concept of that, when they go there, a lot of them wind up enjoying the diversity of the music.

[Mothership] was kinda taking breaks for a bit — play one year, take the next year off, play another year. But we’ve been hitting it pretty hard the last two or three, and it’s been great. Evan inspired us to play more.

The majority of bands I’ve interviewed so far have also said they’re most excited to see the Wu-Tang Clan offshoots perform. Which artists do you most want to see play at Psycho?

JUETTE: It’s funny you said that. [Laughs.] I’m excited to see Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, man. I’ve never seen them. I grew up with that shit. … Mercyful Fate, that’s going to be fucking awesome. I’ve never seen them.

I’d really like to see Ulver too. Those guys, if I’m right, they have a dancey, goth-y kind of style right now — but they used to be black metal. A buddy of mine turned me onto them a couple of years back, and it was different, but I liked it. The older I get, the more I like different shit. 

[Psycho has a] really good lineup this year. It’s going to be a good show and a good weekend.

Are you planning to stay for the duration of the festival?

JUETTE: Oh yeah. I like to slide into the pre-party, man. I like to be there for the whole thing. We’ll get there on Thursday, leave on Monday and try to catch as many bands as possible. I’ll take my notes and figure out what bands I really want to hear live that I’ve been hearing about — along with the bands I know but have never seen. Suicidal Tendencies too. I’ve never seen them live, so that’ll be amazing.

Which shows have you seen in years past at Psycho that stand out as the most memorable?

JUETTE: I thought Danzig last year was fucking incredible. I loved that set. Blue Öyster Cult played one year, that was really cool. And we actually ended up playing more with Blue Öyster Cult after that. We did a show in Houston and a show in Dallas too. That was a cool little era.

Did you wind up as Blue Öyster Cult’s opener because of a Psycho connection?

JUETTE: I mean, I’m sure in a way it did. The fact that we were on the same festival lineup … I think they played Houston, were looking for an act, and even though we were in Dallas, they called us up to play in Houston. Then they played a Dallas show and tapped us for that one too.

Sounds like you’re a pretty social creature at Psycho.

JUETTE: Oh yeah, man. I love it. I see a lot of friends. I make a lot of new friends. That’s what it’s about, really. And everyone’s different. I got buddies who just like to go gamble, and I got buddies that like to get fucked up at the swimming pool for four days straight. I use it as an opportunity to bounce around and see bands I’ve heard a lot about to see what they’re like live onstage. And watch some old buddies I haven’t seen play for a long time. It’s really become a community. New bands get thrown into the family. We’ll see them pop up more and more often. So that’s the vibe of the festival from a musician’s standpoint: It’s kinda like a big reunion.

Have you ever been surprised to see someone in attendance at one of your shows at Psycho?

JUETTE: Not necessarily, man. Onstage, I just see one massive ball of energy out there supplying the fuel we need to just completely uncork for 45 minutes to an hour.

The last time we played, it was on a bar stage, and we had our buddy Pepper [Keenan] from [Corrosion of Conformity] hanging out on the side of the stage with a couple of his buddies. It felt like more of a club atmosphere. And then we’ve played the main stage. And that was cool … I think we played it two or three years ago [in 2017]. The whole time, I was just like, “Holy shit, this person came to watch and see us play!”

What about Vegas in general? What’s your most salacious memory of time you spent there?

JUETTE: I distinctly remember during the first year [the festival took place] at the Hard Rock … and in my opinion, that one just made the most sense [as a venue for Psycho]. You’ve got rock memorabilia out; it has a very rock ’n’ roll vibe atmosphere. I remember this buzz in the air that it was going to be complete fucking chaos. There were rumors that all these heshers and crazy druggies and kids were going to come in and wreck the hotel. I bet they had half of the Vegas PD there for the pre-party on the first night of the Hard Rock. It was like all the metalheads had taken over.

There was a center bar there, and we had probably five rows’ deep of people partying at the fucking bar. The cops were on the outer ring, all standing around watching us. People smoking weed would walk by the cops, who would jump on them over it. Finally, as the days went on, you just couldn’t contain the amount of people smoking weed or having a good time.

But there’s never been an issue at this festival. No one’s ever flipped a poker table or thrown shit out the window — at least, not that I’m aware of.

Las Vegas later welcomed the Psychos, but at the beginning, they were a little freaked out. It is a very intimidating festival if you don’t know anything about it. People showing up from all over the world speaking different languages. Some of them are into extreme metal and dressing extreme. Then you have a lot of hot chicks running around in thong bikinis and tattoos everywhere. If you’re not used to that shit, it’ll shellshock you for sure. I like it. [Laughs.] It’s nice to feel a little different and like an outcast.

Psycho Las Vegas runs from August 19-21 (or August 18-21, if you count Thursday’s pre-event pool party). Get your tickets here.

For more Psycho Las Vegas 2022 features, check out the Bad Penny’s new profiles on Witch MountainYakuzaThe Gaslamp Killer, Church of the Cosmic SkullBeats Antique and Belzebong.

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