Q&A: Suuns about to explode
A few critics in this neck of the woods are anticipating big things for Suuns – a dark, Clinic-esque four-piece out of Montreal. Since changing their name from Zeroes and releasing their debut full-length Zeroes QC, they’ve excited folks in both the U.S. and Europe. Of course, Canada’s slow to warm to their minimal electro-psych rock (far from a grandiose Arcade Fire collective). I spoke to drummer Liam O’Neill about their ties to Land of Talk and Besnard Lakes, and whether they’re weirdo-depressives, as their post-punk roots might imply.
Q: Why did you change your name?
O’Neill: There was some potential legal fishyness that could have gone on.
The punk band from the 70s?
No, we talked to them and they were fine with it, but some guy had a band called Zeroes in the 80s. It’s in the trademark database, and we heard about this guy threatening to sue them (70s Zeroes) so we decided to cut our loses before we even really got started.
What does Suuns mean?
It’s Zero in Thai. Kind of a sneaky way for us to keep our name.
What did you put out as Zeroes?
We put out the Zeroes EP, which we self-released, made it in various basements, office buildings – we had no money at all.
Speaking of money, what are your day jobs?
We find work wherever we can get it. Sometimes I work in the kitchen, Max (Henry, bass/keys) does some composing; Ben (Shemie, vocals/guitar) was doing some video editing; Joe (Yarmush, guitar) is a photographer. We’ve all worked construction jobs and doing gigs here and there.
How did you get the money to record Zeros QC?
We applied for a FACTOR grant – we were really stoked because we did it all ourselves – and we went to the studio (Breakglass) that Jace Lasek from the Besnard Lakes runs… He became like a mentor to us. He actually liked the record when it was done. I ran into him on the street and he was like ‘Ya, I sent your album to and sent it to Jagjaguar records,’ and I thought he was just being polite. But then we got an email from (Jagjaguar’s sister label Secretly Canadian) and they were super into it, so that was a pretty surreal experience.
What is your connection to fellow Montreallers Land of Talk?
We just toured with them for two months across North America and Joe plays in the band full time. We practiced with Liz Powell and kind of became her extended back-up band. They usually play as a trio, but on this tour it was more of a 7-person affair. LOT have always been a rotating cast, but as far as I know, Joe is still playing for them.
Well, your music doesn’t seem anything like Land of Talk’s, in fact it’s quite dark. Is this more you?
It’s funny, people have this perception of artists being a 100% in touch with the music they happen to make. People have a hard time separating the person who makes it from the universe of the music. While I like dark music I also like playing pop music or whatever. Nobody was brooding their bedrooms, nor are we Robert Smith type characters – well maybe some of us are – but ya, that just happens to be where we went with the music.
You list Fugazi as an influence.
We were listening to Fun with Fugazi banter with the crowd and he’s so against moshing and violent behaviors. But you think listening to that kind of music, they’d be wanting to evoke those types of things at their shows – but then Ian MacKaye turns out to be this really sensitive, thoughtful person… Goes to show personalites are not representative of the kind of music you make.
You’ve been compared to brit veterans Clinic; are they an influence?
In a couple instances I think that comparison has been overstated, if you’ve ever read Pitchfork media. BUT that’s not to say we aren’t really influenced by them. We went to see the Black Angels together as a band in New York and that blew our collective minds. We have freaked out together to the Pixies, and there might be a Joy Division vein in our music. But I’m also such a nut for Fleetwood Mac.
What of the electronic element in Suuns?
That’s Ben (vocalist). The band was his impetus and he writes most of the stuff, and he spent a year or so in Berlin where he got into the minimal techno scene.
Speaking of Europe, you’ll be on tour there starting February. How does that feel?
I’m thrilled. The European media seems to be a little more interested in us than here, which doesn’t surprise me much. I’d say our music has a little European bent to it. Things are being planned a month in advance and there’s all these people there working hard for us… If you’d told me even 6 months ago that any of this would be happening I totally would not have believed you.
- Marsha Casselman