‘Just Be Weird’: Feeling the Vibes with Baltimore’s @sunclubband

To see more of Sun Club’s photos, head over to @sunclubband on Instagram.

A 15-passenger van had recently transported the band Sun Club (@sunclubband) thousands of miles, from Baltimore to Austin and back, so they could play eight shows in three days at South by Southwest, the annual music and tech conference in Texas. Two weeks later, she couldn’t even make the short trip from Baltimore to Washington, D.C.

“Our van didn’t start so we had to cram into a minivan,” bassist Adam Shane texts me before their show at D.C.’s U Street Music Hall. “So we’re running a little late.” Later, he texts, “Again, sooo freakin’ sorry.”

It’s hard to begrudge band members so courteous about being tardy, and so self-assured that they’d admit to borrowing the minivan from a parental unit. Sun Club, which grew out of a grade school band in suburban Baltimore, still straddles youth in a manner that’s both captivating and delightful.

In one breath, the band members want to be grown up: they admonish the writer who mentioned their “tour,” as though they were playing dress-up, they nonchalantly add a year or two to their early-20s ages and they long to make enough money to quit hourly jobs or share proceeds with their parents. But in the next moment (or more often, in the middle of the same sentence), the topic changes to sexting acronyms and tree climbing. The band has been known to post photos of faces covered in ice cream, feet in mismatched socks and all five musicians’ naked bodies contorted into a bathtub.

But alongside the frivolity and glee, Sun Club keeps a busy tour schedule and is known for its percussion-heavy, crazy-infectious, high-energy shows. Last year, independent label Goodnight Records put out Sun Club’s debut EP, called Dad Claps at the Mom Prom, and the band has recorded its first full-length album, expected to be out in the next few months. This spring, they’re preparing for a European tour, with a stop at The Great Escape in Brighton.

Before SXSW, I stopped by a practice session on the second floor of the CopyCat Building in Baltimore, a gritty warehouse where musician Dan Deacon once lived, and the place Sun Club guitarist Shane Justice McCord now calls home. The flat looked like an artist workspace, with giant canvases, exposed brick walls and an electric pink skateboard hanging from the ceiling. A sewing machine sat alongside a number of dead plants on the windowsill.

Shane walked out of his bedroom sipping hot coffee and almond milk from a Mason jar. The band was preparing to leave for Texas the next day and still needed to rehearse a few of their new songs, like “Durty Slurpy” and “Tropicoller Lease.” Once they began, the sound in the cavernous loft was deafening, sending a paint chip plummeting from the ceiling. When they finished, Adam crawled outside to smoke on the window ledge, and a cat named Mailbox walked on the coffee table, around a chessboard and bottle of black nail polish.

Sun Club was formed in 2012. (A session with refrigerator magnetic words yielded the name.) Shane and his brother, Devin, were childhood friends with guitarist and vocalist Mikey Powers. The three began playing instruments and covered songs in middle¬ school, and after high school, Adam and Kory Johnson joined the band. To display their loyalty to the state of Maryland, three of them have its outline tattooed inside their forearms.

The band’s sparse website proclaims, “Sun Club tis a group of buddies playing happy music.” Adam and Mikey get together to write lyrics, but oftentimes, the words come without the music, or vice versa.

“It’s more about the vibe than anything else,” Mikey tells me, describing the music as “loud, feelsy pop.” The group has been compared to the Beach Boys and Talking Heads, and they often say they’re influenced by Animal Collective and Tom Waits. These days, they’re listening to Baltimore bands Goblin Mold and Ponytail.

“Sometimes, I feel like we’re not weird enough for Baltimore,” Devin says. To that end, the band is careful to remain independent — the Chevy commercial that used one of their songs and provided a nice cushion to finance touring is barely an afterthought in conversation.

When we met up before their D.C. show, everyone agreed that SXSW was “crazy awesome,” especially the burritos. Shane says, “We went down there to get in front of people in the music industry and so in that respect, it was a success.”

That night, Sun Club opened for Athens, Georgia, band Reptar, playing in a dark basement hall for about 30 minutes — they rarely play longer, because it’s too physically exhausting.

The set began with “Worm City,” and they played two of their new songs, wasting no time warming up before the rambunctiousness began. The percussionists played with such vigor, it often looked like they were battling their instruments. The guitarists whipped their long hair around, sometimes ending songs with it hanging, curtain-like, across their faces. Most surprising was the dynamic range of Mikey’s voice: One moment it was a scratchy psychotic scream, the next, it was startlingly melodic.

After the show, Adam, wearing black-rimmed glasses, stepped outside for a cigarette — part of his post-show unwinding ritual.

“It’s nice to be playing in a more relaxed environment now,” he tells me, his long orange curls finally at rest. “Just to get up there and have fun, not worry about who is out there. Just be weird and move around a lot.”

––Melanie Kaplan for Instagram @music

May 22nd, 2015

Got to sleep in until 8 today. If only the skylights wouldn’t wake me up at 6:30 anyways that would be great. They had Cap'n Crunch at breakfast! Or whatever off-brand that we buy in bulk but it was delicious. It was chilly out, but still nice and sunny for the first block. Ran, stretched, PT’d, a quick visual block with Tony, and then we were into drill with the guard. Fun stuff. And at least this year, the tuba pass-throughs are actually physically possible. We got about seven sets learned in our short block before lunch.

At lunch everyone was obsessing over the new Crusader Cam video, and for good reason. It was hilarious. BAC Media Team, if you’re reading this, thank you and I’m not sorry for any of my videos.

Sectionals. My balloon finally popped, and Jason gave it to Steve as a present. Quick warm up before we got into a block to do some playing/marching stuff. It honestly wasn’t that difficult or mentally challenging but for some reason people were blowing up. After a decent bit of work, Steve gave us a 20 minute break. Of course it felt like 10 by the time we had to get back out though for a parade block. I don’t even wanna talk about how that went, I’m still upset about it.

Chinese for dinner. After the break I led the mellos in twos to the field for the evening block and we bundled up for a chilly rehearsal. Reviewed the new drill, and then we learned a few more charts. We got up to the drum break before it was time to re-warm and then go into music on the move. The pass-through thing is still scary but we got it eventually. After our final run of the first half of part 2, I was actually kind of winded. I even got a bit sweaty in the cold. It’s so fun. Warm down, blah blah, cool down, blah.

Showered first to give myself plenty of time to polish my horn. Ate some pot pie filling and an orange before picking up my BAC Adidas gear (thank you bandshoppe for the sweet digs!), and then went to go shave before a quick hornline meeting. Now I’m in bed and there’s a moth attacking Alex and Oscar.

Parade tomorrow morning, and the drums are also coming! It’s gonna be fun. First thing I’m gonna do is scream “IT’S SATURDAY!”

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anonymous asked:

Since we're all sharing marching band stories, I thought I'd add I was inspired by a marching band as a young boy when my father took me into the city. It's what got me where I am today, a savior of the broken, the beaten and the damned.

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