By Brian F. Johnson
Every band dreams of playing Red Rocks, but the harsh reality is that few ever get the opportunity. Fewer still have ever made the venue their first ever gig. But Boulder’s Sunsquabi did just that at Global Dance Festival in 2011.
On the merit of a few home-recorded demos, and the word of an old friend, the band, which was still practicing in one of the member’s parent’s homes at the time, got the call and the band’s live career started on the hallowed stage.
“It was Kevin [Donohue, guitarist, keyboardist and producer] and Andrew [Clymer, bassist/synthesizer] and they had a DJ at the time. It was way different than it is now. It didn’t sound anything like our current sound, but it was really cool to have that be the first Sunsquabi show,” said drummer Chris Anderson during a recent interview with The Marquee.
Anderson had just moved to Colorado the previous year and wouldn’t officially join the band until after that first gig, but just weeks before he had met the group and sown the seeds to team up with the livetronica act. “I had listened to their music and said that they definitely needed a drummer,” Anderson said with a laugh.
Clymer and Donohue are both Colorado natives and had known each other since they were 15, playing music in more than a couple of bands together over the years. When Anderson moved to Colorado, the son of the head of the percussion department at Berklee College of Music had a few tricks up his sleeve to add to Sunsquabi’s still-developing sound. “I got to see a lot of great drummers growing up, with a big Latin influence and all kinds of stuff. It was cool to come out here and wiggle in with them. I’ll always be the new guy, but things have really clicked for us,” Anderson said.
Part of that clicking is undoubtedly due to the crew’s early time spent together playing, but Anderson explained too that the group has recently made some moves that will set the stage for even more time to rehearse and write. “For the first two years of the band, we rehearsed at Andrew’s parent’s house, so essentially we havd unlimited rehearsal time. But now Andrew and Kevin are living up in Coal Creek Canyon with a guy named Tyler (Unland) of Side 3 Studios in Denver and there’s a studio in the basement, and there’s always bands coming in to record. So there’s music all the time and it’s just a good creative environment for all of us,” he said.
And it’s a good thing that the band finds itself in creative environments these days, because a deadline is starting to loom, but Anderson said no one is even remotely stressed yet.
The group, which shares management with acts such as Big Gigantic and The Floozies, and which contributed to Griz’s song “Get Down” on his 2015 release Say It Loud, will be putting out a new album this fall on Griz’s label, All Good Records. But with only a few months to go, the band has yet to even begin the recording process. “We’re just getting started. We have so many ideas and little blurbs here and there, and this next month is really going to be the point where we get into the songwriting process,” he said. “We’re going to be having a lot of guests come up and record things so that we can minimalize the amount of samples that we need to take. We are going to make our own organic samples. For example, we’re going to have Will Trask, who plays drums for Jaden Carlson Band, come up and do percussion samples and have them be live so that we can put those into our production instead of taking samples from somewhere else. We’re making it all ourselves and that’s a sign of the great community of music that is Denver.”
The album is not due out until November and Anderson said that part of the non-traditional writing process is the continual evolution of the tracks. “It’s all about taking our time and getting it the way we want it to sound and that’s why the live stage is great for experimentation,” he said. “There are so many things we can do to a track and there is no formula or scientific way to do this.”
In the mean time the band will be doing a tour across the Midwest for much of July, and will return to Red Rocks on September 4 to support Griz.
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