Lara Bennett of Petal Motel gets lost in the Mojave Desert and returns with a soothing 20-song psychedelic experience.
Lara Bennett of Petal Motel, a blog dedicated to cosmic American music, has created a most serene psychedelic experience starting with an ambient entrance into soothing sounds, followed by an ascent of rollicking peaks, before touching down gently. Featuring local discoveries and old favourites, our guest trip master is here to guide you.
Heads Lifestyle: Hi Lara, where are you now?
Lara Bennett: Mojave Desert, California.
HL: What do you do with your time?
LB: Write, swim, take photographs, play music in a local band called Daytime Moon, paint, travel. I also run a blog called Petal Motel that highlights cosmic American music.
HL: Do you get high when listening to music?
LB: Full disclosure—I no longer get high. Though I do use weed medically for all sorts of things. I interchange gummies and tinctures with THC & CBN for sleep most nights. I grease up daily with salves, muscle freezes, and apply transdermal patches for aches and pains (shout-out to Mary’s Medicinals). These days, I let the music get me high. Unless I accidentally wake up in the middle of the night or wait too long to go to sleep after popping a gummy, then I like to put on something soothing and float into slumber.
HL: Describe a typical music-weed session?
LB: I’m constantly seeking “pretty” and calming sounds when I’m not at peak energy levels (which is often), especially before or after playing a show when I’m feeling extremely sensitive and/or drained. That’s what this playlist is—music that just sounds lovely and comforting and makes me feel the calm, chill mood that Indica used to.
HL: What is your earliest memory of connecting the dots between music and cannabis?
LB: Ooh, I wish I could remember just one! I recall making a playlist for a full on psychedelic session as a teenager filled with CSNY, Donovan, Joni, Jefferson Airplane, Cat Stevens, all the classic Laurel Canyon/acid rock of the era. Very odd that I skipped over the Grateful Dead until much later in life. I also remember this beautiful year I lived in a beautiful house smoking weed morning till night listening to lots of freak folk, so I associate that with weed as well. I’ve gone through lots of shoegaze, acid rock, and electronic phases but at the end of the day, “wooden” music, or singer-songwriter stuff, feels the closest to my heart and therefore the most comforting.
Cassie Watson Francillon
A Sunken Moon Is A Crescent Still
Is there anything more ethereal and heavenly than the sound of a harp? It’s no coincidence that angels are always depicted with them. Cassie’s music is so healing and truly celestial.
marine eyes feat. City of Dawn
what’s on the inside
marine eyes’ debut album idyll found me right when I needed it and was first getting into ambient music. Cynthia’s music is the way ambient should be—it can only be paralleled by Enya in my mind in terms of calmness. It’s like a shower of soothing, and her newest album Chamomile is no different.
Imka is a producer, musician and label owner who uses plant biodata to craft these gorgeous, tranquil sounds. He’s super prolific but this collection of sounds is extra special. Get into the plant mindset and ideally listen while in water.
I’ve been listening to this album from birth and this song still induces chills. I love the story behind it: Stephen Stills said he had a high school English teacher who was, basically, really hot, and he was thinking about her and her legs when he wrote the alliterative language. But is there any sound more angelic than their harmonies?
Circles Around the Sun
This is the band Neal Casal sort of accidentally formed when he gathered Mark Levy, Adam MacDougall and Dan Horne to quickly record seven hours of music to be played at the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well tour intermissions. This is one of the most psychedelic ambient tracks I’ve ever heard. Can’t recommend getting the full five hours on Bandcamp enough. Load your bong and fall in.
I listened to a LOT of Devendra in my weed smoking days and he’s still making great music. I love a Dead cover and usually when musicians cover the Dead they tend to be a little bit on the, how do I say, silly side, but this one is particularly striking. He made it his own.
The guitar and steel at the end of this epic track just completely take me out of my body. Personally, this whole album is so important, and this song is just a journey from beginning to end.
Follow What You Are
This is what I mean when I say music gets you high. All of the songs listed so far really could add to any trip, but this one truly takes you on one. It’s like feeling something bloom inside.
Way Out Weather
It’s no secret that Steve Gunn is very high on my list of favourite guitarists, and all of the elements in the intro to Way Out Weather make it one of his most psychedelic songs. I remember seeing him in Brooklyn and the wind rustling through the trees added yet another layer, and James Elkington went absolutely ham on the pedal steel during an extended jam version. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
Herb Benham IV
Herb is a local artist from the Joshua Tree area and this whole album has a cosmic country-tinged grunge vibe that creates the perfect soundtrack for our space-like landscape.
This is the band I play in—full disclosure—but this song was written long before I knew ‘em. One of my favourite songs live, our frontman uses a bevy of pedals to weave what’s really a fairly simple song into something fantastical and electrifying.
Strange’s guitar playing on this song is the perfect groove, and although it’s pretty sad, sometimes it’s good to listen to music that takes you right to a place you’ve been. Plus I can never get enough songs referencing my first love, Los Angeles. Who hasn’t been “there”?
Esta Vez No
Another local musician, I just recently heard David live at a local pizza and wine place and I was really excited by his playing and song writing.
I mean, is there a better psych band in the world than mid-late Byrds stuff? Even though they’ve been one of my favourite bands for many years, I still feel like there’s so much mystery left in their enormous catalogue. The older I get, the more I appreciate their later, underrated and overlooked work.
Til Stone Day Comes
The Skiffle Players, if you don’t already know, is a supergroup made up of Cass McCombs, Farmer Dave Scher, Aaron Sperske, Dan Horne and Neal Casal. This is one of their most beautiful songs and it really showcases Neal’s acoustic guitar virtuosity—the solo was a first take.
Impossible to pick a favourite Beachwood Sparks song, as they all share this stoney, hazy, nature-y element I seek in music, but this one’s understatedness complements the “come down” at this point in the playlist.
Bobby Lee, Mia Doi Todd
Walking with Trees
A dream collab, this song blows me away every time I listen. The birdsong of Mia’s voice mirrored by Bobby’s cosmic playing shocked me upon first listen. I was expecting greatness but hearing it was above and beyond. Vibes for days.
Lost in Your Eyes
I remember the day this album came out: November 2nd, 2019. I was in Joshua Tree hiking the Hidden Valley loop under the bluest sky listening to this album for the first time and it’s just pure “wooden music” at its best. Andy’s voice is gorgeous and fragile, and the gentle guitar strums echo the simple wonder of the landscape in which it was recorded (also in Joshua Tree). I also used to listen to so much Vetiver when I was a baby stoner and he gets better and better with each recording.
This is just the prettiest Stills song. He can do it all—blues, funk, groove, lead the shit out of an epic band, but his loner folk days on his first and second are so sensitive and pure. Late night magic.
I remember the first time I took mushrooms, I put Neal’s music on after the trip was over but I was still a little starry-eyed and it was just pure light. This song is so pretty and Neal’s young voice brings tears to my eyes.
Lara Bennett is a writer, artist, and creative director living in the Mojave Desert. She is the founder of Petal Motel, a music blog documenting the Californiana and Cosmic American (and world) music genres; and a co-host of the Highway Butterfly: Stories of Neal Casal podcast series, benefitting the Neal Casal Music Foundation, which provides music lessons and instruments to students, and supports healthcare initiatives for musicians like Backline.
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