Brite Winter 2015 Artist Spotlight: Sun Club
By Rachel Hunt
“I want to thank those little hooligans for coming along,” Molly Rankin, lead singer of Alvvays, laughs into her microphone during the sold-out show in the Beachland Tavern last Saturday night. She is talking about Sun Club, a Baltimore band who recently accompanied them for five dates of their most recent tour.
Hanging out with the members of Sun Club gives me the distinct feeling of reuniting with the blacktop gang I ran with at recess in elementary school. The five band mates, all in their late teens or recent twenties, have that playful attitude of suburban kids who grew up together, tinkering with toys and then instruments.
“We grew up south of the city, in the same town,” bassist Adam Shane says.
“Me and Devin are brothers,” Shane McCord, guitarist/vocalist/booking guru, adds.
“I grew up next to them, well, not next to them, but there is a tiny wooded [area] between our houses,” lead singer and guitarist Mikey Powers responds when asked about the group’s origin, each guy finishing the other’s sentence like only friends who have known each other since the fifth grade can.
“We filmed a movie there one day called “Zombie Hunter,” ran into Mikey while he was playing paintball and asked him if he wanted to be a zombie in the movie,” drummer Devin McCord finishes.
“And then we made a band and got famous!” Mikey shouts out, which is met with groans and noises of dismissal from the other guys who remind him that they’re not. “I know,” he says, faking exasperation.
However, Sun Club has been working very hard towards becoming successful musicians. They were able to catch the attention of Goodtime Records, which released their last recording, PASTE Magazine, and many acclaimed national touring bands like Thumpers, Yuck and Los Campesinos to name a few.
“Shane is one of the hardest working kids ever; that’s just what he is,” says Kory Johnson, a man of many hats during their live set including percussion, keyboards and chanting.
“He is the reason why we are literally playing music. He is the reason why we have done anything at this point,” reinforces Adam.
Shane performed most of the booking duties for the band in the past and will again this January for their tour with hometown friends, Sherman Whips, up the East Coast and through the Midwest. The majority of the upcoming shows are DIY-type affairs, with Sun Club playing their first headlining show in NYC at an art space and music venue called Palisades.
The band has had a busy few weeks leading up to this tour. Just before going out with Alvvays, they were recording their first full-length LP in a warehouse located near the Southside of Baltimore, which remains largely un-residential.
“We were able to find a warehouse that was huge, free and we could just be loud until three in the morning,” says Shane.
There is a wildness about Sun Club’s live performance, whether in front of a packed room or a few studio microphones for YouTube-based live sessions. Mikey leads the pack, singing the majority of each song with a quality to his delivery like a wail into the wilderness. The rest of the band plays like they talk: all at once, with vigor.
They punctuate the ends of each wail with chanting, a forceful drumbeat, and plucked chords. The performance is a controlled chaos that reflects they’ve been playing with each other for many years. They are tight, but their unbridled energy puts a spin on that, tricking the audience and keeping them guessing as to what will happen next with mouths slightly open, sending them running to the merch table as soon as they finish their set.
Comparisons have been made between Sun Club and fellow Baltimore natives, Animal Collective, but Sun Club’s live shows seems to pick up what Animal Collective leaves in the studio, putting all of their energy into their set up on stage. They are a versatile act.
Their sound is mature enough to group them with their peers and also their mentors, from Baltimore including Dan Deacon, Beach House, and Future Islands. At the same time, they remain strikingly young, not just because of their looks, but because of a pop-punk DIY aesthetic that kind of creeps underneath their afro-pop-driven sound.
Even with their relative success, Sun Club haven’t grown out of playing around in the woods; several of their music videos supporting most recent album Dad Claps at the Mom Prom feature it prominently. Sun Club will be coming back to Cleveland to perform at Brite Winter Festival and hopefully they’ll get some time to enjoy our urban landscape as much as their own backyard.