What brought on the Psychotic Reaction? Was it a virus germinated in dank basements, dusty garages and dirty barns? A side effect of living among fanatical music-loving outcasts? Or perhaps a hereditary psychedelic malady borne by forefathers Black Flag, Blue Cheer and The Stooges?
Whatever its origin, Psychotic Reaction’s members hope their new album, “I Don’t Know How to Tell You This But Here’s Psychotic Reaction,” is the beginning of an outbreak.
Although the grimy, garage-rock scene has become increasingly paisley around the edges in recent years, the local five-piece is still all about a fat, throbbing groove attacked with feral ferocity. Like the inspiration for the name (The Count Five’s signature Top 10 single), the act’s members share an abiding love for raw, obscure ’60s garage-rock. It’s a throaty, wall-rattling approach that covers a wide spectrum, from stoner rock to old-school punk and amplified guitar psychedelia.
Psychotic Reaction developed out of a tight-knit community of underground music fans beyond the metro’s glow, south of Norman.
“We were all the freaks of the small towns that bonded together, found members of our tribe,” said guitarist Bobby Lee Layton about the group’s humble beginnings. “We didn’t have a practice space for a while. We had to practice in some abandoned houses out in the country and barns.”
It took time to weed out members who weren’t true believers, he said. Although founded almost four years ago, it’s only during the past year that the group finally settled on a solid lineup and pushed through with renewed vigor.
Of course, listening to Psychotic Reaction’s passionate rock ’n’ roll sound, you generally wouldn’t challenge the musicians’ energy or their ragged, sultry swagger.
“We pride ourselves on our live sound, going back to listening to The Mummies or The Sonics,” Layton said. “Those are groups we like who, like us, like to get shitty, in a good, underground way.”
The quintet also was inspired by local bands American Ruse and Forty Minutes of Hell. Although Layton’s 10 years younger than bassist Race Baker, the two have been friends for almost a decade, reveling in their love for hard-hitting, underappreciated tunes.
The band recorded some basic drum tracks in 2008, but the effort stalled. Last summer, however, the guys committed to recording nine tracks for an album, but expanded to 14. Because the release is a mix of older songs and a handful of newer ones, the record naturally reflects Psychotic Reaction’s evolution and its members’ broadening tastes.
“Every one of the songs has a wide variety of stuff,” said Layton, citing punk and garage rock. “The next one, we’ll try to sound like Spacemen 3 or The 13th Floor Elevators — just weird varieties of shit we’ve collected.”
Although they’ve been working hard on new material, the bandmates still love to feed their loyal, local fandom with an extensive catalog of covers. Layton reckons the group learns a cover for every two originals written. In the past, they’ve explored tracks such as “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” “Gimme Shelter,” and several Stooges tunes, including “TV Eye.” Indeed, a tribute to The Stooges’ “Fun House” album is in the planning stages, which will have Psychotic Reaction covering the 1970 release from start to finish.
With their odd blend of garage/punk/psychedelic rock, Layton said the members feel outcast, although they’re not complaining. It’s an advantage that he relates to a scene in The Flaming Lips documentary, “The Fearless Freaks.”
“There’s this one part where they said they were ‘too weird for the punks and too punk for the weirdos.’ That’s how we are, too,” he said.