Four dudes from Southern California waking up in Kazakhstan would probably panic under any normal circumstances. But the scenario that led Southern California rock band ACIDIC, comprised of Mike Gossard, Josh Bennett, Max Myrick, and Matt Whitaker to this very experience was anything but normal.
ACIDIC formed in the way all the best bands do: organically growing out of childhood friendships and insatiable musical passions. “Music has been something I have always been innately interested in. It is an integral part of who I am and how I express emotion,” said Gossard to The Boise Beat. “I started playing guitar and singing when I was around five years old.”
And just what would the five year old Gossard, the band’s front man, have to say if he could look decades ahead, if he could see himself standing before crowds of people on a stage in Kazakhstan?
“I think he’d be very surprised as Kazakhstan is not the usual destination. I am sure he would also be proud because we were there for cultural diplomacy,” said Gossard.
Things moved quickly for the band: Named the Whisky a Go Go’s LA Weekly Band-of-the-Month in 2010, touring with the Armed Forces Entertainment Network and performing at the US Army/NATO base Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo and Ramstein AFB and Spangdahlem AFB in Germany, being named one of Music Review’s 12 Bands to Watch in 2012, and having the title track from their album Copper Man selected by Nikki Sixx as one of his “Sixx Picks of the Week” on his syndicated radio show. Through it all the band toured aggressively, released four albums, and continued to gather accolades and fans.
With stated influences including The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and Green Day, ACIDIC’s music reflects a bit of each of these and more. Songs like “The Big Bang” off 2010’s Getting Lucky manage to pull in multiple elements of these influences: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day is lurking beneath the surface of the vocals. More recent tracks like the title track from 2013’s Copper Man go in a completely different direction, channeling Jane’s Addiction. Two themes unite ACIDIC’s music, even across such eclectic foundations: Energy and performance. ACIDIC’s songs ooze energy to the point you might think they’ve tapped into a musical Ley Line. It is this, coupled with the performance and deliverance of the music that makes them noteworthy. Yes, the influences are sometimes apparent. Yes, a new sub-sub-subgenre of indie rock won’t be created and trumpeted via stickers on their albums. ACIDIC channels these musical energies, but manages to make the end product fresh, and most importantly, their own.
A cultural diplomatic mission, sponsored by American Music Abroad, is what led these four musicians to stand on that stage. “We auditioned for American Music Abroad and were selected to participate. We heard about it from a friend. It was one of the most memorable experiences I have had thus far in my life,” said Gossard. According to a press release, “The U.S. State Department-sponsored AMA Program last year took the quartet to five nations: Bulgaria, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Latvia, and Tbilisi, Georgia.” Due to the reception, ACIDIC was invited by the American Embassy in Kazakhstan for a follow-up tour.
From the earliest stages, Gossard and his bandmates, have been involved in fundraising, charity work, and generally helping others. “Help has always been available to me and the other guys in the band. I have been very fortunate to have been surrounded by good people. It feels good to help other people and lend a hand. Ultimately, I benefit from helping others,” said Gossard. Early on, Gossard and several childhood friends played fundraising events in the summer between elementary and high school.
Part of the mission was focused on cultural exchange, specifically between musicians and music lovers. One of Gossard’s most memorable experiences came in the city of Astana, Kazakhstan. “It is a beautiful city. The crowds were wonderfully receptive and the food was delicious. Being in such a different part of the world opens me up to accepting other peoples and ways of thinking,” said Gossard. “In Astana, we interacted directly with local musicians. They were our guides.” As part of their first AMA tour, ACIDIC even had the chance to work with local musicians. “When we were in Tbilisi, Georgia (bordered by Russia), we recorded a song with a local artist. We have had the opportunity to work closely with the local music scene in a few countries, and it has been amazing every time.”
Thoughts of, what is for most of us, a faraway place like Kazakhstan tend toward differences. But it is the similarities that most surprised Gossard. “Even with the language barrier, everyone knows the word selfie.”
For all things ACIDIC related, stay tuned in to: acidicband.com. The band’s most recent album, 2015’s Creatures, is available via the band’s website, and other fine retailers including Amazon.com.