Earlier this month, the music world mourned the loss of Psychic Ills founder, frontman, and songwriter Tres Warren. At the time of his death, Warren was overflowing with creativity, actively writing new songs, and excited about the next phase of the band. He was preparing to go into the studio alongside longtime collaborator Elizabeth Hart and their bandmates to record the sixth Psychic Ills full-length, which was supposed to be out this fall. While those songs were tragically not recorded, the band did record a pair of covers for a new 7″, which we’re sharing today. “Never Learn Not to Love” and “Cease to Exist” are the first new Psychic Ills songs to be released since 2016’s Inner Journey Out, and while they no longer precede a new album as originally intended, they stand as a celebration of Tres Warren’s beautiful musical spirit. You can listen to both songs now, and order the vinyl from the Sacred Bones website.
The original text meant to accompany this 7″ is presented in its entirety below:
Originally appearing on The Beach Boys’ 1969 album 20/20, credited to Dennis Wilson and with changes to the arrangement and lyrics, “Never Learn Not To Love” was written as “Cease To Exist” by a then unknown songwriter named Charles Manson. His version would eventually appear on his album Lie: The Love and Terror Cult, released in 1970, by which time he was already incarcerated for the events that he is most commonly known for today.
How a version of that song came to find its way onto The Beach Boys’ album is the stuff of legend, and Charles Manson’s disappointment with the lyrical and structural changes is well documented. The Beach Boys’ simultaneous adherence to and departure from the original has long been a point of fascination for people, but Psychic Ills frontman, Tres Warren, says it’s something less tangible that has kept him coming back to both songs through the years. “The soulfulness is what has always spoken to me in those songs. I gravitate towards that(soul) in music, and both of these songs have it in spades. I almost shed a tear every time I hear Dennis Wilson sing.”
Psychic Ills’ version of “Never Learn Not To Love” echoes the arrangement and feel of The Beach Boys’ recording, but the female gospel backing singers make it more reminiscent of a Phil Spector production than that of Brian Wilson. “We wanted to honor the originals, but we didn’t want to cover them note for note.” Warren says, adding “We wanted to bring them to where we are.” Which seems like an apt statement as “Never Learn Not To Love” is a dense electrified rock and roll song reminiscent of recent Psychic Ills songs like it.
On the flip side of the record, “Cease To Exist” couldn’t be sonically more different. Where “Never Learn Not To Love” has a fullness from an instrumentation and sound quality standpoint, “Cease To Exist” thrives off the intimacy of the performance and transparency of the documentation, bringing the singing and playing into full focus, in a similar manner to the Manson original. There’s no question that this was recorded in very few takes, and that by-the-seat-of-the-pants feeling is further reinforced by the unedited studio talkback left in at the beginning. “Ivi is it rolling?” Warren asks engineer Iván Díaz Mathé as he begins the song, the band naturally falling in behind him reminiscent of jazz players adhering to both their own cosmic cues and those of the collective whole.
Never Learn Not To Love/Cease To Exist is an interesting experiment, successful in both concept and execution, and a typically non-traditional way to announce that Psychic Ills, have a new record coming soon. They continue to be a journeyman band, in an era where few exist, and a band you can count on to continue to expand on what they do as they have with every record, but never at the expense of what makes them Psychic Ills…their feel. They’re still weary and wanting, still searching for something.
Official Tres Warren memoriam quotes from his bandmates & label:
“Tres was happiest when he was playing music. Through whatever trials life brought, when he picked up his guitar he could find calm. He also had a passion for film and impeccable taste. Tres had such respect for storytellers and was an amazing storyteller himself – you can hear that in his music. Maybe what you don’t know is that Tres had a great sense of humor, he could run a joke forever and it never got old. He taught me so much. I’m so grateful to have had such a deep and soulful musical partner for all these years and feel lucky to call Tres my friend. Life won’t be the same without him.” — Elizabeth Hart, Psychic Ills
“Your encouragement and support sweetly given to me weakens any self doubt and insecurity. The generosity with your knowledge, passion, and talent is a fire lighting motivator. Your mischievous, playful, sometimes biting but always familial wisecracking keeps me smiling and laughing. I can neither count the refractions nor express how mesmerizing the light was while passing through. I love you, Tres. And also, my amp on stage isn’t too loud.” — Brent Cordero, Psychic Ills
“One of my favorite qualities of Tres Warren was his ability to ask your opinion of something and GENUINELY listen to your response with full attention and consideration. His knowledge and thirst for music was as unparalleled as his innate kindness, which was apparent to anybody that knew him. His tone on a guitar was unmistakably him, which was a tantamount to his musical brilliance. Drifting back on the memories we shared throughout unforgettable tours across the planet it shows me that he was one of those special people in life. One that you seldomly have the chance to meet, that continually inspire you and make you a better version of yourself. What an honor to know him. On that note I’ll cheers a margarita to you Tres. See you again someday amigo.” — Jon Catfish DeLorme, Psychic Ills
“I was lucky enough to play music with Tres. He was a master songwriter and musicologist. He was a sensitive soul and magic maker who inspired so many people. I feel fortunate that he included me in his world.” — Adam Amram, Psychic Ills
“Tres had this unflappable presence. He was so calm and cool it could be intimidating but once approached you were met with nothing but a gentle warmth and kindness. He was very generous with his cool. Above all else though, he was a lover of music. I mean the guy just loved music. He loved listening to it, he loved talking about it and more than anything he loved creating it. He was also generous with his music. For that I will forever be grateful.” — Caleb Braaten, Sacred Bones Records.