Chatting all things psychoactive and psychedelic with David Couri, director of Sydney Psych Fest

With each new lineup announcement, Sydney Psych Fest 2017 has become more and more attractive to the psychoactive punters eating up the delicious, reverb heavy rock the country has fallen for of late.

With the full lineup now out, the boutique festival is at peak handsomeness. We’re exactly a month from kickoff, so what better way to psych yourself for Psych Fest than by chatting to it’s director? Introducing David Couri.

david couri sydney psych fest
David Couri and Alice Gifford. Photo: Sydney Psych Fest/Facebook

David Couri has been running Psych Fest since 2013, giving Sydney punters a much-needed avenue to hear their favourite genres live.

HAPPY: How did Pysch Fest begin back in 2013?

DAVID: We’ve been attending a festival (now known as Levitation) over in Austin, Texas for many years. We’d come to know the folks putting on that festival and running their label, and had a lot of admiration for their work, and the community around it. What we noticed each year was the strong representation of Australian bands performing, as well as punters attending. We had bands like Ride Into The Sun from Adelaide, Dreamtime from Brisbane, The Laurels from Sydney, The Black Ryder, King Gizz, and The Murlocs – there’s probably more I’m forgetting – all playing at this festival on the other side of the world.

We’d be talking to people each year, and everyone seemed to lament the fact that Australia didn’t have it’s own “psych fest” stitching something together at home. In 2013 we got off our butts, connected the dots with a few DIY legends in Sydney and made it happen. At that time we had Kikagaku Moyo from Japan, a handful of Aussie bands we’d met in the US, along with a few locals, and just put on a show.

HAPPY: Has the festival’s growth been a welcome surprise or really just part of the plan?

DAVID: We always hope to be growing and it’s something we put effort in to as we build a warm and welcoming community around our shows. The rate of growth has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise, the festival crowd size having more than doubled from where we started. We’ve heard from people this year traveling from Tasmania, Victoria, and Adelaide to attend – which is amazing.

HAPPY: Where do you see Psych Fest heading in the future?

DAVID: We’ll look to build our festival, along with our tours, shows, and record label as a matter of course. We feel we have a responsibility in shaping the live music and arts scene that we play in. It’s something we take pretty seriously. That means being representative of our community (in all of it’s facets), that means properly supporting artists and the arts community, that means plugging in and working with government to help inform better policy around the arts.

HAPPY: With more and more psych and fuzz coming to Australia, do you think we’re in a period music fans will talk about in the future?

DAVID: As music fans we will always romanticise the past, and the beauty is that there will always be more music produced than can realistically be consumed at any period in time. So people will always have something to go back to, something new to discover. Future fans will be able to go and dig through today’s musical vaults and never get to the bottom of the pile, in the same way that I can still find 50 new things per month from the 70s that hold up today.

HAPPY: Do you think we’ll keep seeing the genre expand or is the bubble going to burst?

DAVID: Some bubbles hang around for a while, others bubbles burst so that new bubbles can be seen. Bubbles burst when their environment is too dry. As long as you’ve got a few simple ingredients, you can always have more – that’s the beauty of bubbles.

HAPPY: What’s the Chinese collection that brought in Carsick Cars and White+?

DAVID: We’ve been keeping a keen eye and ear on the music coming out of China for some time – through labels like Genjing and Tenzemen especially. Through a chance meeting (again in Austin, TX as it happens) we linked up with Far Out Distant Sounds and Maybe Mars to present some of those bands on the 2017 festival.

HAPPY: Psych Fest has mostly hosted Aussie favourites before 2017, do you think the audience will be just as keen on the newcomers?

DAVID: We’re in the fortunate position of being a very small DIY outfit, there’s two of us (Alice and myself) who are primarily putting this year’s program together. That means every band that is selected to play, we have listened to them extensively, we are fans, and we have chosen especially for the event. We love our audiences to get turned on to new groups as well as trusted faves. As a friend of mine used to say “It doesn’t have to sound the same to feel the same.”

HAPPY: What’s in store in the art department this year?

DAVID: Art has always gone hand-in-hand with music, and there’s some really great history of that in psychedelia. This year we’ve teamed up with our pals at Third Eye Stimuli Records to host a a ‘pop-up store’ vibe. We’ll have vinyl, art, clothing, merch, and DJs which we think ties in nicely with two stages pumping bands all afternoon and late in to the night.

HAPPY: Do you see the festival expanding beyond Sydney in the coming years? The whole country wants their psych.

DAVID: SSSSSSHHHHHHH!!!! You’ll ruin the surprise. It’s a secret… maybe… yes.

HAPPY: Any surprises left in store this year?

DAVID: Almost definitely.


Sydney Psych Fest will be taking place on February 25, 2017 at The Factory Theatre. Jump onto the Facebook event to stay up to date, and head here to grab your tickets.

And here’s the lineup in full:

Carsick Cars
Mere Women
Belles Will Ring
Buried Feather
Unity Floors
Grinding Eyes
The Jim Mitchells
Dead Radio
Cat Heaven