Acetone's co-vocalist and bass player Richie Lee sounds a bit out of breath over the phone and there's some slapping about going on in the background. "Oh I'm still at work," he explains. "We fly out to the UK tomorrow to tour with Spiritualized, but I need this house-painting job. In America, it's hard to make a living playing in a band and you live hand to mouth. The tax structure is so messed. I owe $23,000 to the IRS and that's all penalties and fees. I can't even afford to go and see the doctor."

Lee's poverty might come as something of a surprise to those who've been following the steady rise of this experimental roots-tinged three-piece from Los Angeles. They've been championed by Jason Pierce of Spiritualized and toured with that band in Europe and the US. Acetone have also landed a major-label deal through Neil Young's Vapor label. "Neil Young is the secret man behind the shadows," jokes Lee. "I've never met him. He shares the same management with Spiritualized over here, so Jason sent the tape onto them, and they knew us 'cos we had toured with Mazzy Starr who they also manage. There's a little bit of nepotism but I think they like it. I don't know whether Neil has heard it. I'm pretty sure he has."

As evidenced by their stunning self-titled new album, Acetone are currently the dabbest hands at mixing the historic with the futuristic. Like their 1995 EP, I Guess I Would, which gives seven country classics the Acetone treatment, their new LP fuses the high-lonesome-ness of the Stanley Brothers era with the repetitive guitar strumming of the Velvet Underground. In short, their laid-back, sprawling sound makes them the more countrified cousins of Spirtualized; they enjoy their finest moment with the gorgeously warm and slow "All You Know".

"We love country music but like anything else there's good stuff and total shit," says Lee. "Some country things are as amazing as the best rock and a lot of people don't know about that, as they associate country with Garth Brooks and Kenny Rogers, rather than Lefty Frizzell and George Jones.

"Country is one of the building blocks that you take to create the music, especially in America. Then there's Neil Young, Velvet Underground and there's also a lot of underground and mainstream rock, but to me it doesn't seem odd to include country chords in your work.

"We hope we can use country music without having people calling us a country band. We want to be seen as Acetone, just like Gram Parsons was seen as his own person. Having your own particular vibe has got to be your goal."

The Garage, Highbury Corner, N5 (0171-607 1818) 5 Apr

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