From Babies to Bullies – Acid Tongue Interview

Words by Jacob Uitti
Photos by Jake Hanson

Join Acid Tongue as they takeover the Wayward Instagram on Friday, March 13th for behind the scenes of the release of their new record and catch their album release show at the Tractor Tavern.


Guy Keltner, front man for the wildly wild Emerald City rock ‘n’ roll band, Acid Tongue, has learned a thing or two during his years touring the world (hello, Paris!), starting and ending and starting new projects, resurfacing from self-doubt and teaching himself how to sing better each day. To date, Acid Tongue has faired well. The band, which has a broad U.S. following, hosts a popular annual music festival – Freakout Fest – that brings bands from all over the world into Seattle. We caught up with Keltner to ask him about all this and to find out his advice on what to do if there was only 24-hours left to live!


Guy, your voice has always been one of the most elastic and shockingly-terrific in the city. How did you grow into it or develop it?

I wasn’t much of a singer as a kid. My voice was always really raspy, and I have a pretty noticeable lisp. In highschool, I joined a five-piece rock band, and we played a lot of pub shows, all ages gigs, weddings, private events, pretty much anything we could get at the time. There was a big emphasis on us harmonizing and honing a really great vocal sound, so being in that band gave me a lot of confidence to start singing lead. It took a long time to get my voice to where it’s at now. I used to project too much and almost scream out the lyrics of my songs. With Acid Tongue, I found a lot of comfort in mellowing everything out and exploring the lower range of my voice.


Both the founding members of Acid Tongue are veterans of playing music on the west coast. Briefly, can you tell us how you joined together?

We were watching the Super Bowl together, when the Seahawks played that second year and lost to the Patriots. Ian and I were bored with watching football and the halftime show, so I took him into my basement studio and showed him some new songs I had written. I was losing interest with playing in a stoner rock band, and I felt limited to a lot of pentatonic scales and heavy, fuzzed out riffs. Ian and I already knew we had chemistry, but he was really encouraging about me getting these new tunes out and shifting my focus to a more pop-centric project.


Acid Tongue is an expert band at subverting expectations and playing with conceptions. So, given that lens, how are we to understand the new record’s title, Bullies?

There is a lot of heartbreak in this record. A big running theme throughout it is this disappointment we feel, and the loss of control over our lives we experience as we age into adulthood. Bullying never really goes away, love isn’t always so lovely, and whether we like it or not, we will experience some serious changes in our lifetimes. A lot of these songs focus on our very human desires to be understood, to feel validated and loved. I’m not a religious person by any means, but a few of these songs center around questions about our existence, this need to understand our lives in relation to some sort of higher power.


You play rock music. What do you love about rock music?

I think you nailed it with your previous question. I like to subvert expectations. Rock music is a great vehicle for me to do that.


Tell us about how the record came together? I imagine you hit a recording studio in L.A. that somehow rocketed to an outer moon and you conceived of the songs and recorded them in a flash around the sun. Am I close?

You’re not too far off base. Ian and I spent a lot of time on the road the past two years building a really devoted following. Because of time and financial constraints, we recorded this thing in chunks, bouncing between studios in LA, Portland and Seattle when we had time off from the road and our various other pursuits. After all the touring and ferrying between studios, I think we’ve managed to circumnavigate planet Earth several times over.


Acid Tongue encourages people to be unique. In your own words, why?

I’ve always rejected the concept of “normalcy”. What the hell does that even mean to a lot of young people? Having a house and a car? Your flaws can be a source of strength. I think people are too focused on checking off boxes in their head, a list in their mind that is supposed to equal happiness. Life doesn’t work out this way. A lot of my best stories, experiences that shaped me, felt pretty horrible at the time. But I don’t have any regrets, and I wouldn’t choose to live any other life than my own.


The band is also the driving force behind the west coast label, Freakout Records. When you first conceived of the label, what was the feeling in your gut and how has that feeling inspired the whole of what’s since transpired?

I wanted to do something cool. That was pretty much the impetus for the first Freakout, smoking weed and drinking beer with my friends at home and saying to ourselves, “Wouldn’t that be cool?”. I was working marketing for Neumos & Barboza, that whole complex on Capitol Hill, and was involved with Block Party, so I had some insight on what it takes to host larger events and produce a major festival. I wanted to do something more interesting than anything that was going on in Seattle at the time, so I threw our first Freakout Festival. The original concept was to curate a really bizarre lineup of artists, at a bunch of unconventional venues around the neighborhood. Now it’s grown into a much bigger thing, and about five years ago we expanded into a label and starting pressing vinyl for our friends’ bands, and reissuing some cool rock records from the past. With both entities, we’ve maintained that same ethos of weirdness. We’re also expanding things every year, and starting to incorporate more bands from Mexico, South America and Europe into the festival, and I’m hoping we can eventually release some really great Mexican rock records.


Wayward is all about expedition and adventure. So, if Acid Tongue was to throw a festival in the great outdoors, what would be the essential elements?

It would be so cool to do our own version of Pickathon someday. I’d love to have bonfires burning all over the campground and during the shows it would be so cool to project crazy visuals onto the trees and incorporate the natural landscape into the aesthetic of the festival.


Guy, you’re the band’s front man and you just got married. Has married life – or your recent year in Paris with your new wife – influenced your music?

Absolutely. My wife is really involved in the rock community in Paris, so we’ve had a really great time DJing all over the city this past year, and throwing shows for our friends’ bands as well as Acid Tongue. She also go-go dances at a lot of the European garage festivals, so I’m meeting a ton of cool bands from a different part of the scene. A few of my favorite acts at last year’s Freakout Fest were folks she recommended and I was lucky enough to book onto the lineup.


If the world was to end tomorrow, what would be Acid Tongue’s advice on how to spend the final 24 hours?

Hold your loved ones tight and be happy for the time you have left with them.


Acid Tongue’s sophomore album Bullies is available March 13 on Freakout Records. Stream the album singles on Spotify & pre-order the record on vinyl.

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