Rix Rex: Sophisticated Psych Rock and the Sounds of Death Loop Quartet

Rix Rex

Rix Rex (Ricardo’s Recommendations) is a new monthly music column focused on highlighting some of Jacksonville’s greatest bands and musicians you may not know. This month, we delve into the tailored psychedelic rock of Death Loop Quartet.

“Timeless” comes to mind when I think of Death Loop Quartet. This band would fit seamlessly into any decade. They pull sounds and inspirations from rock groups of the late 60s and early 70s, while simultaneously creating a very unique tone and style unlike anything else coming out of Jacksonville. Comprised of guitarist Jordan White, bassist Justin Johnson, drummer John Paul von Schlichten, and keyboardist Tracy Gallavan, this four piece has set themselves apart from the usual indie rock circulating the few venues Jacksonville has left. The music of Death Loop Quartet can be described as a millennial Beatles writing Led Zeppelin songs, crammed into a Tame Impala delay pedal, then spit back out through the amps of the 13th Floor Elevators. This is sophisticated psych rock.

The band attributes some of their style to rock greats like Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, and the aforementioned Led Zeppelin, yet they have still been able to take from these artists and create something of their own without sounding contrived. Death Loop Quartet effortlessly combines sounds and techniques ranging from bossa nova and jazz, all the way to psychedelic and hard rock. They somehow produce something modern, yet familiar and comforting.

The band’s inception can be found within Jordan White and John Paul von Schlichten, who have been playing music together for almost two years. Although the two would often play together, the project did not come to fruition until the fall of last year, with the addition of Justin Johnson. Johnson seemed to be the missing piece with which the three could then begin to really build something together. White and Johnson were able bounce ideas off one another, working on riffs or melodies that later manifested in more complete song ideas. The group was later blessed with the addition of keyboardist Tracy Gallavan, completing the quartet. After being invited to play music with the group and sending song samples, Gallavan remembers thinking, “I kind of felt like I would want to see them play even if I wasn’t in the band.” That was enough for Gallavan to join the group.

Each member of Death Loop Quartet is very skilled at what they do, carrying their own weight in the group. They started playing at young ages and never put down their instruments. Gallavan began piano lessons at age five; White and Johnson picked up their first guitars at eight and ten, while von Schlichten began to teach himself drums at age 11. White later attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts to study classical jazz guitar. Johnson, who has usually played guitar in previous projects, has fit comfortably as the bass player, although he still writes for guitar and vocal melodies alongside White. Johnson recalls on numerous occasions while growing up when his father shut the power off because he was playing guitar too loud, or too much. This is a group that lives for their passion, which is reflected in their music and live performances.

Some bands may write a three-chord song during the day, then play it live that night. This is not the case for Death Loop Quartet, who have carefully taken months of writing and practicing to craft and mold something complex and beautiful. Songs often feature strange time signatures, intricate chord structures, labyrinthine bass lines, and swirling organs, all accompanied by mellifluous vocal melodies. There are feelings of ecstasy and sadness, pain, bliss, and everything in-between, evoked through their lyrics and music. What they create is rough, delicate, and vulnerable, all at the same time. Audiences seemed to be entranced, throwing all cares aside to get lost in Death Loop Quartet’s likeness of a fuzzy Phil Spector masterpiece on acid. They must be seen live.

Recording is next on the to-do list for Death Loop Quartet, who are now choosing which songs will go on their forthcoming EP. As for all bands, this will be something very important for Death Loop Quartet to reach audiences outside of Jacksonville.

Although it may take some time to eventually hear recorded material from Death Loop Quartet, the wait will be well worth it, only building excitement and anticipation as time progresses. Keep a lookout for future live shows and support your local music scene; you may stumble into a dark room at the back of a bar and find something great like Death Loop Quartet.

About Ricardo Maldonado