Brooklyn-based Ex Cops named their debut full-length, True Hallucinations (Other Music), after a book recounting an adventure in psychedelic shamanism by the legendary altered statesman Terence McKenna. But it's also an apt description of the band's sound, which is expansive of both mind and genre. Like the swirling call-and-response vocals of members Brian Harding and Amalie Bruun, the musical groove of Ex Cops constantly wafts in and out of focus, eluding pigeonholes along the way. Simultaneously, it manages to be succinct but sprawling, direct but psychotropic, lo-fi but hi-fi. "The songs are washed-out and dreamy, but they're pop songs too," explains Harding. "Two of our favorite albums are The White Album by the Beatles  and Michael Jackson's Dangerous , but we also want to turn the reverb up to 10 and play fucked-up guitars like Sonic Youth and Blonde Redhead."
Harding grew up in North Carolina, where his father, also a musician, taught history of rock music at the University of North Carolina and worked as a sideman for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Linda Ronstadt. Bruun, who hails from Denmark, also has music in her background: Her dad, Michael Bruun, was a Scandinavian songwriter and producer whose band once opened for Bob Dylan. The pair met at a show, and even though they didn't immediately hit it off—"I still hate Brian a little," Bruun kids—they managed to bond over their shared love of the Larry Clark film Kids (1995). "After seeing Kids, I knew immediately I wanted to move to New York, work as a waitress, and sing songs," Bruun says. "I saw Kids at a house party," adds Harding. "Skateboarding and Slint playing in the background? How bad could that be?" In forming Ex Cops, Harding and Bruun attempted to forge a musical equivalent. But more than anything, True Hallucinations evokes a band of outsiders trying to capture the decadent allure of an aspect of their adopted hometown's avant-garde lineage that finds its roots in the Velvet Underground (they even have a song called "Nico Beast"). "It's in all of our songs," says Harding. "I've been in New York for almost a decade, and that sense of romance hasn't disappeared. It's decayed, like ruins, but it hasn't left."
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PHOTO: EX COPS IN NEW YORK, 2012. ON BRUUN: TOP, SKIRT, AND BRACELETS (RIGHT WRIST): MIU MIU. BRACELETS (LEFT WRIST): BRUUN'S OWN. ON HARDING: ALL CLOTHING: BURBERRY PRORSUM. NECKLACE: HARDING'S OWN. COSMETICS: CHANEL, INCLUDING ROUGE ALLURE IN PIRATE AND ILLUSION D'OMBRE IN ILLUSOIRE. HAIR PRODUCTS: LEONOR GRAY, INCLUDING HUILE DE PALME. HAIR: TAMARA MCNAUGHTON/THE COLLECTIVE SHIFT. MAKEUP: LISA AHARON FOR CHANEL/KATE RYAN INC. MANICURE: JACKIE SAULSBERRY FOR CHANEL/KRAMER + KRAMER. SPECIAL THANKS: FAST ASHLEYS.