Legendary musician Roky Erickson triumphantly returns on April 20th with the Anti Record’s release True Love Cast Out All Evil his first new album in fourteen years. Produced by Will Sheff and featuring his band Okkervil River backing Erickson, the record is comprised largely of unreleased songs that Austin, Texas native Erickson wrote throughout his decades-long career – detailing with heart-breaking candor a harrowing life that has included shock treatment, imprisonment, mental illness, and irreversible loss. With a wisdom that can only be marshaled by someone who has been through all of the this, Erickson also interjects the songs with love, hope, and spiritual grace.
Erickson’s band The Thirteenth Floor Elevators burst on to the scene in 1966 with the hit “Your Gonna Miss Me,” a snarling proto-punk song written by Erickson when he was just 15. The Elevators and the charismatic Erickson would be largely credited with igniting the garage rock movement and being one of the first psychedelic bands. The reverberations of the band’s distinctive sound can still be heard today with Erickson’s songs having been interpreted by the likes of R.E.M., ZZ Top, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Spacemen 3, Julian Cope, Radio Birdman and others.
While True Love Cast Out All Evil echoes the many musical styles in which Erickson has been a participant or a pioneer – including garage-rock, lo-fi psych, heavy metal, and country-tinged Texas folk – it also moves Erickson into new territory, foregrounding his songwriting skill. In these songs, Erickson addresses his troubled history in his own words, eschewing the metaphors of earlier songs like “I Walked with a Zombie” to speak directly about hardship and the lessons learned from it. Will Sheff’s production highlights the songs while interweaving them with found-sound and archival recordings culled from Erickson’s home videos and recordings made in the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
“I feel truly lucky that I got to produce this record,” Sheff says. “When we started out, I was given sixty unreleased songs to choose from. There were songs written during business setbacks including the Elevators’ painful breakup, songs written by Roky while he was incarcerated at Rusk, and a great deal of songs that reminded me of the sense of optimism and romanticism that I think sustained Roky through his worst years and ultimately reunited him, a few years ago, with his son Jegar and his first wife Dana. Because we started with so many songs to choose from, the quality of the material we ended up with was exhilarating. This is not a cynical comeback record, a lukewarm update on an established legacy – these are the best songs Roky has ever written, unreleased due to decades plagued by the kind of personal tragedies that would destroy someone less resilient. This record has been the most challenging and rewarding, thing I’ve ever worked on, and we in Okkervil River were deeply honored to show up decades later and help Roky carry these wonderful songs over the finish line.’