Interview: From metal to madness - Sun Club: “We changed our band name every week”

From metal to madness - Sun Club: “We changed our band name every week”

Baltimore group took on various incarnations before landing on their excitable pop. They speak to Jess Goodman.

Releasing their debut album online two weeks early after being caught up in a Californian mudslide, Sun Club are a band that rarely stick to convention. “Initially we didn’t even play music,” Shane McCord admits. “We were just really excited by being in a band, so we’d have band meetings and we’d jump on the trampoline. We’d name our albums that we didn’t have,” he laughs. “We played our first shows for the next-door neighbours’ brownie troupe. It was pretty awesome actually. I wish we could do it every day.”

Several years may have passed since then, and the band might have experienced many changes (“we were a metal band, and there was a whole bunch of band names - one was Incision”), but they’ve lost none of their freewheeling spirit. “When you’re in school it’s always like ‘you have to go to college and get a real job, blah blah blah,” the band grumble. “Being in Sun Club is just a lot more satisfying – it’s doing something that you’re doing for yourself, and that you want to put your effort into.”

Out of that passion comes ‘The Dongo Durango’, Sun Club’s first full-length effort. An explosion of wildly playful energy, the record was born out of darkness. “We set up in this warehouse in south Baltimore,” Shane recalls. “It was a warehouse that was functioning in the day, so we couldn’t start recording until five or six at night. We’d start then and we’d go until three in the morning. It was really weird,” he expresses. “We would finish up recording and walk outside and it’d just be dead silence. It would be dark the whole time we were recording, and the lights were really sterile, and there was dust everywhere. It was a creepy time.”

Forged in a prime horror flick setting, the album is as light and carefree as can be. “if you listen to the record all the way through there’s not a lot of silence,” Shane describes. “When we play live we don’t really stop in the set, so the energy is kept up. It’s not stop and go, it’s just go. That’s the theme of the record: just go.” Taking a brief pause in their ever-forwards momentum, the group talked us through pastimes, seclusion, and holidays abroad.

Default ad alt text goes here

How has the band changed since you first started out?

Well, then we changed our band name every week. I’d rather not say what to. There was a whole bunch of them. We gravitated to playing grunge music for a while, which was cool, but we were doing it terribly. Then it slowly gravitated to pop, and it’s kind of gravitated to where it is from there, I guess. It’s fun.

What’s the driving force behind Sun Club?

We’ve all kind of adjusted our lives so the main thing we’re putting effort into is Sun Club. For a while it wasn’t the priority, then we all dropped out of college a few years ago. We all had part time jobs, but basically we were only working so we could save up money to go on tour for a while, then we’d either quit them or just take off. Basically everything about my life since I dropped out of school has been focused on Sun Club.

What have you learned from the band?

It’s taught me to just not be too serious about stuff. This is going to sound super cheesy, but I feel like life is made out to be intense and harsh initially. You don’t need to have one thing for your whole life. You can just keep moving as you grow, which is pretty awesome. I’ve thought about that a lot recently. This summer we had off, and I was just like ‘what am I gonna do that’s not Sun Club?’ And one of my friends was just like ‘you know, you’ll figure it out when you get there, you don’t know who you’re gonna be until then.’ That’s cheesy to say, but it’s pretty true.

“You don’t need to have one thing for your whole life. You can just keep moving as you grow, which is pretty awesome.”

Shane McCord

How did you first approach recording your music?

We recorded in some studios when we were younger. I think our friend’s dad was the first person to record us, ‘cause he had a home studio in the basement. We started out not recording ourselves, and not being involved in the mixing or recording process. I wish it happened the other way, but we were really young so we didn’t really have an option. In 2013 I eventually had learned to record over the past few years, and we recorded a 7” in our basement – just two songs. We liked it a lot, being completely in control of the recordings. So we took all the elements that we liked from that and we got our friend to record the EP with us, which at the time we really liked.

What was it like recording your debut album?

We knew if we did it in a studio it would come out a little too clean. We set up all our live equipment in this big warehouse and we just played the songs live for about a week, and he recorded it. That definitely limited how nice it could sound – which was great, because it definitely isn’t all the way a studio recording. It’s impossible to get perfect sounding stuff in a warehouse, which was our goal to avoid.

The warehouse was really far away from any store or anything, so we’d have to drive fifteen minutes, even though it was all in the city, and that was the closest place to get food. Whenever we had food breaks it would take so long ‘cause we’d have to drive up just to get a sandwich. It was kind of like we were stranded there from 5pm until 3am every night. We played the songs over and over again, just to get them perfectly tight together. Which is really hard when five peoples’ instruments have to match up and be perfect.

What do you hope to achieve with the record?

I think in modern music there’s a lot of pressure on a debut album. But I think all we’re hoping to achieve is being able to play in front of people. This album is just to tour around, and to get people to know us. We’re halfway done on the next album, so we’re trying to finish that this winter or spring, then record it this spring or summer, and just get it out really soon. Our goal is just to put out a lot of music. We constantly write and record, then we kind of move past it. We’re all really stoked on the new songs we’ve been writing that aren’t on the record. I think it’ll always be that way. We’ll always want to hurry up and keep recording the next thing because we’re so excited about getting the next thing out. And it’ll be really nice, because hopefully it won’t take a year for the next album to come out from when we start recording it. This one took forever.

What’s the music scene like in your hometown, Baltimore?

It’s awesome! There’s a whole bunch of warehouses that people play shows in. It’s super inspirational because Baltimore’s music scene is definitely disconnected from industry. New York and LA and all the major cities are so industry, but Baltimore is so far from that. All the venues that are worth playing are run by people in bands, or people that have been in bands, so everyone’s just really relaxed about everything. It’s just focused on the art, and making it the way you want it to be, rather than making it mass-accessible in any way, which is awesome.

How does performing abroad compare?

We went to the UK in May and it was like a dream come true. Wild, crazy times. Party nights. Lots of loud noise. Buzzing ears. It’s so cool. It’s insane to be able to go there. One time I went to Europe and I had to save up for about three years to go for a month. Then I spent all my money and went into massive debt, but it was totally worth it. This trip we went in May, we found out two months before, and I didn’t have to personally pay for anything about it. It was this whole different experience. And it’s going to happen again. I think we’re planning on coming over in November, December, or January. Maybe November - December, then again in January - February. Once or twice in the rainy months. We’re psyched though. I can’t wait.

Photo: Andrew Piccone. Sun Club’s debut album ‘The Dongo Durango’ is out now.