Chile’s Psych Rock Revival is Thriving, and Föllakzoid Is Leading the Way

Photo by Ion Rakhmatulina

There’s something trippy going on in Chile nowadays. In recent years, the Cono Sur country has had its fair share of musicians revisiting sounds from the 60s and 70s, and giving them a fresh spin with influences beyond the acid era. In a big way, this is thanks to Blow Your Mind Records, as well as bands like The Holydrug Couple, La Hell Gang, and Nueva Costa. Föllakzoid are perhaps the biggest global ambassadors of Chile’s psych rock revolution.

Formed in 2009, the trio, which consists of guitarist Domingo García-Huidobro, bassist Juan Pablo Rodríguez, and drummer Alfredo Thiermann, have been refining their music ever since. It’s a blend of psychedelic rock with hints of German bands from the 70s, mixed in with techno and ancestral sounds they reference along the way. But they’re more than a homage to the past, since they’ve worked with producer Uwe Schmidt (Señor Coconut, Atom™) and have added synthesizers and other soundscapes to their latest effort III.

Photo by Pablo Díaz de Valdés
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Föllakzoid have become worldwide emissaries of this movement. They record for the Brooklyn-based Sacred Bones label, have relentlessly toured many parts of the world, and even had the chance to play at such renowned festivals as ATP, Primavera Sound, and Austin Psych Fest. They are about to add Festival Nrmal to their resumé, since they’re slated to take the stage in Mexico on March 12 and 13.

We spoke to García-Huidobro about the trance-inducing quality of music, the Chilean scene, and the “King Kong syndrome.”

You started the year playing Festival En Orbita in Santiago de Chile. That was quite the festival, considering the lineup.
It was a small promoter’s first effort to expand the scene that’s happening here nowadays. It wasn’t a massive gathering but it was very cool.

“On a primordial level, music tries to expand communion between [another] person and himself – or the universe, even.”

What it looked like from outside was that it formalized the Chilean psych movement. Would you agree?
I don’t think I can give you a good opinion on the matter because I’m not a festival organizer, and since we spent most of our time playing outside Chile, I don’t know much of what is happening here nowadays. But definitely, this phenomenon you mentioned is happening. We started noticing that things were shaping up when we got invited to play in the U.S. That’s pretty much when the band started – we and The Holydrug Couple and other bands on our label BYM. Many of them have had records come out on bigger labels like Mexican Summer or Hozac. All this makes people outside the country look to Chile and be curious about what’s happening.

How did you start developing your sound?
The band started seven years ago, and it was the result of a trance-like experience we had where many of us who have been playing together since we were little decided to jam. It was a very explosive moment. We remained connected by a force that towered over us. Then it became a very ritualistic experience. Our methods became closer to how electronic music operates.

You mention that you play trance music and that there’s a link between electronic music and what you’re doing. Another important aspect is that you often refer to your concerts as “rituals…”
Not just our music. Music in general.

It gives it a sense of ceremony. Is that what you’re aiming for?
I think that music, on a primordial level, tries to expand the communion between [another] person and himself – or the universe, even.

Trying to connect with more than what you perceive at surface level.
Exactly. You could say that the motivation for us to keep doing music is being a tool to channel that energy.

You said that your music had little to do with what was happening in Santiago when you started. Did that have an influence on how you structured your shows to achieve the mood you were after?
Not really. The concept of the show is to not have a concept. It has always been very introspective; we get down and play and that has always been the way to achieve the mental state. We never thought of those things ahead [of time].

How was it to find other bands that feel the same way as you through BYM Records?
That’s our home; that’s where we recorded our first record. It’s a label run by Nes, who’s the drummer for La Hell Gang, and his brother Juan Pablo, who is Föllakzoid’s bassist. Both Rodríguez brothers are behind the label and all these musicians gravitated to it. We have a house with everybody’s gear; we share it and we have a great time. There are very favorable conditions for creativity. There’s a community aspect to it and it has grown so much in the past year. It now has distribution in U.S. and Europe, [since we’re] putting out vinyl. We are reissuing a ton of bands that preceded us during the last decade in Chile, and putting out stuff by new bands.

Chile has had a big ascension in the music world. There’s a ton of music coming out of the country and gaining attention, like acts on the Quemasucabeza label. Your music is very different, but is there any link between what you’re doing and Gepe, Javiera Mena, or Dënver’s music?
Javiera is a friend of ours and I know Gepe as well; they’re cool people. At a professional level, their career paths and ours are very different [laughs]. Last year, we started to get mentioned along with them when talking about Chile’s independent scene. We never had anything to do with their audience or the places they play. We’re big Javiera Mena fans, though.

“There are very favorable conditions for creativity. There’s a community aspect to it and it has grown so much in the past year.”

You have been well-received in many parts of the world, even going as far as doing a headlining European tour. How do you feel audiences interpret your music?
It varies a ton. We represent an imaginarium in terms of sound, which is very different from what [audiences] can find in Europe, for example. Sometimes they get very much involved with the music and things go great, but then there’s cases where it’s like the “King Kong Syndrome,” where people cheer but for the wrong reasons [laughs].

The recording of III was handled by Uwe Schmidt under his Atom™ moniker. Your music shares many qualities with techno, as you have mentioned. How has it been for you to approach this music from that particular angle?
Our music is reflected in the structure of techno music, which shares characteristics with folkloric, rhythmic, and ancestral music from Africa and South America. They all share these metrics. That’s how we found this channel of expression. That’s our shared universe with Atom™. We played together at a few festivals in Europe and we were always impressed by his music, and actually, when I was younger, I met him a few times. He used to live a few blocks away from my house [Editor’s note: Since 1997, Schmidt has lived in Santiago].

When we were about to do the record, they offered us a chance to work with a producer, but things got complicated so we decided to do it ourselves. Two days after this decision, Atom™ played a show and I met his manager who I know, and he said he played our previous record for him. He liked it and expressed interest in working with us.

At first, he acted like a sonic psychoanalyst. It’s hard to explain how a projection of a sound could be shared with another person. It might have not worked, but it did. We got along right away, and that helped us get right down to getting the sounds we wanted. We played twice live with him and it has been amazing.

Who are you looking forward to seeing when you play NRMAL?
The bands from our label! I have never seen Jenny Hval or Blanck Mass. It should be very fun.

Festival Nrmal takes place on March 12 and 13 in Mexico City.