NJ quartet Sunrot identify themselves with the descriptor Compulsive Post Noise Power Sludge. In listening to the songs of the group’s recent split with fellow NJ crust apostles Inertia, I found that description to be weirdly accurate. Sunrot embrace the legacy of bands like Godflesh without being overt worshippers at the altar of typical industrial doom. There is a patina of grit and static overlaying every song, with vocalist Lex’s distorted shouts bringing to mind a lone survivor calling for help over the last functional radio frequency in some post-apocalyptic city. Samples and drones and harsh noise make appearances alongside thick walls of guitars and pounding low end throughout the band’s catalog, but the sound never gives way to the machine rhythms and clockwork precision of an industrial aesthetic. There is something refreshingly organic about Sunrot’s approach to noisy, crusty doom, and so I asked the band some questions about their sound and approach to heaviness.
Can you tell us a little about the inception of Sunrot; how the band initially came together and decided on this sonic approach?
Lex – I have been lucky enough to be around the heavy music scene for awhile and have become friends with a lot of great bands. All the projects I was in previously had fallen apart and after taking some time off to get off hard drugs and also to really figuring out what I wanted, I started talking to Chris and Rob, mostly because they were already my friends and I’ve always loved the bands they’ve been in. I’m a huge fan of Thera Roya and Furnace Head. So we started jamming and all our influences started meshing together and we really liked the sound. It also became an amazing outlet that was easy to pour ourselves into. We all wanted to make music we liked and hopefully have some fun. Rob is also a guitarist so he really wanted to try out drums. We started with no bassist, just friends filling in and then we convinced Evan, the drummer of Furnace Head, to play bass and it definitely completed the sound. We talked about how we wanted to make music that either induced vomiting from the volume and abrasiveness or made people really uncomfortable. We wanted to be loud. I think for me it was because I was so uncomfortable in my skin and the noise in my head was so loud I wanted to produce that musically. It started for them as a weird experimental side project but since we all got really into it and people seemed to be kind of like it we wanted to take it further. Also we never really take ourselves that seriously, even when we try, so that gives us a lot of room to experiment. We think of stuff we wanted to do, like the samples and noise, and do it, because why not.
Chris – Lex wanted to start a band so she asked me if I wanted to play guitar and I said yes. We got Rob on drums very early on and jammed at the Meatlocker in Montclair, NJ for a couple weeks. We initially wrote our first EP in that very short period of time. We later added Evan on bass later. We weren’t sure what we wanted to do initially but we knew wanted it to be loud, abrasive, badass, and we wanted some elements of noise. I think we accomplished at least a few of those things, hopefully.
Rob- The band started with Lex really. She approached me and Chris after a show we played with our other bands and wanted to work with us on “sludge” project. Chris and I were very down with the idea. We started practicing maybe a couple weeks after and wrote two songs that ended up on our E.P. (Demarcation and Usurper). We had a couple more practices and later on recruited Evan as our bassist. The rest is history, I guess.
There are a lot of hints of genre cross-pollination in your sound. I can hear everything from crust punk to doom to noise to little flourishes reminiscent of shoegaze rattling around in there. Do you intentionally bring all these disparate elements together in your songs, or is it just a function of writing what you like, and they all happen to fall into the mix?
Lex – We are all spastic musically so we all bring a lot of different inspirations into this band. I’m actually so glad that you hear that because those are definitely huge elements, probably some of the biggest. They show because we love all of that music. We just try to write stuff that feels good to us, sometimes one of us had a rough day at work and will just come in and start playing a total power violence crusty riff, or we’ll be zoned out and want to write some atmospheric stuff. Most of the time we add a lot of sludge elements. There’s been plenty of practices I’ve told Chris,our guitarist, to play me a riff that sounds like double homicide / suicide or like someone lit their car on fire with themselves inside of it. I know it sounds fucked up, but that stuff happens. All 3 of my band mates are extremely talented musicians so when they bring stuff in to work on its usually a great start, then we mold it, add to it, trim some of it, and after we can’t think anymore its usually done. I love writing music with these bearded bastards
Chris – We’ve definitely had to those moments while writing where I’ve said, “This part is too Gaza, it needs to be more Mogwai” or whatever, haha. But it’s interesting because this isn’t always the case. I think our best written songs are the one’s that just come out of us with little to no direction or discussion during or prior to the writing. Those usually end up being my favorite ones to play and even listen back to. We all listen to a lot of different music and, as individuals, bring a lot of different elements to the table.
Rob – For the most part, I feel it wasn’t an intentional decision for the band to sound the way we originally planned it, if we even had a “plan” for it. We all have a feel for the genres of music we enjoy and we are able to engage our influences into the music. The cool thing about Sunrot is that we all have our say. We all like a lot of the same bands and musicians and we always share music with each other. A lot of our ideas click, which is great because we come up with some really cool shit. But a lot of our ideas can clash as well, causing us to not come up with anything. In most cases, it’s a blessing and a curse.
Do you incorporate noise and electronics into your live show as well, or is that something that is mainly just present on the recordings?
Lex – I think we do even more noise in our live sets and use even more samples. We’ve always wanted to try to create the wall of sound experience, and it is really really fun for us.
Chris – Yeah, there’s a lot of that. Lex has a board full of crap. We love improving noise between songs and at the end of sets. That’s the bread and butter for me right there, I physically hate playing actual notes.
Rob – Yes. From noise to samples, we do it all! That’s half the fun!
Does Sunrot have a theme/concept/political stance at the core of the band? Lyrically and aesthetically, what main ideas do you seek to communicate to the audience?
Lex – A main theme of Sunrot is exploring all the poles of existence. The light with the dark, the beautiful and the hideous, and some of the random stuff in between. We also want to portray the positive outcome of all the aggressive negative music. This music brings us all a lot of peace and happiness though not much of it is conventionally peaceful or happy. I also like to mix concepts lyrically that are not really related but have stuff in common. For example, the song Light Eater is about a black hole, it’s also about heroin addiction. They aren’t related but are very similar. We can get a little political in our views with this band. There are many things we would like to fight against or bring awareness to. Mainly suicide awareness and prevention, child abuse, animal abuse, rape culture, racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism. Our song Trigger Warning is actually an anti-sexual abuse song, and we are always looking for more benefit shows to play besides the one we’ve played a lot, which is Sludge For Suicide Prevention. I think a main idea we want to communicate aesthetically is left to the viewer to interpret, and lyrically its supposed to be thought provoking and or cathartic. Though sometimes it sounds like, we hate everything and everything is meaningless, the underside is basically, life gets really rough and confusing a bunch of the time, don’t kill yourself, don’t give up on yourself, it wont last forever, and in the meantime find something you love to do and do it.
Chris – Everything we stand for isn’t totally black and white. Some things are, some aren’t yet. Duality is certainly a thing Lex and I have talked about a lot with this band. The juxtaposition of beauty and grossness, light and dark, humor and tragedy, holds our interests enough to inspire us. In terms of a concept for the band, we know what works positively for our aesthetic and we know when something doesn’t work. If we hit something that we feel hits that, we go with it. Sunrot is an ever-growing, living, breathing thing. I really wanted to start a cult, but being in a band is a lot easier and was less risky.
Rob – This is more of a question for Lex, but I believe a lot of it comes from a personal level, which is where a lot of music comes from when you break down to the core of it. Some musicians try to send out some sort of deep message from their music, whether it’s a reflection of our society or if its from some metaphorical stance. But I know with music in general, I always break it down to how I deal with personal conflicts and how I accept the world I’m surrounded by. A lot of the lyrics are very angry and have a sense of torment in them. Yet, there is a sense of hope between the lines, like you’re finally off the beaten path. That’s up to the audience to really decide if there is some sort of message to it or not. It’s like when a movie leaves you with a cliffhanger, there’s so much space for interpretation and creating your own sense out of it. That’s what I believe art is really here for; to question experiences we have in our lives and how we reflect that amongst each other and ourselves. It’s that strive for romance we all hope to find.
Sunrot is a really active band, playing a lot of local/regional shows and touring. Are you going to continue on that path and try to take things up a level? Do you have any upcoming tours in the works?
Lex – Yes, we want to play shows, write music, maybe do a music video, one day press vinyl, keep touring, and just stay hungry to be better and have more fun! I want to tour Pluto now that it’s a planet again.
Chris – I’m not too concerned with the “we gotta really go for it” mentality. If that works for other bands, great. But we’ve never had a discussion of “Yo, we gotta step up our game to the next level.” I think it goes without saying. Of course we have to step up our game, that’s how bands grow! Every release should progress bigger and better than the last.
Rob – For now, we need to write. We tend to bite off more than we can chew and we get lost in the moment. Chris also has his band, Thera Roya and Evan and I have our own band, Furnace Head, to deal with too so that can be hard to balance, especially since we all like each others bands and want to see all of us continue with our projects. We do plan on touring next year; maybe a small one here and there but nothing too big at the moment since we just came back from the road.
You guys are part of a growing NJ heavy music scene that seems to be at least partly centered around a venue called The Meatlocker. What’s up with that place, the bands around that area, and where does Sunrot fit in?
Lex – Sunrot was born at The Meatlocker. The Meatlocker is a hub of the NJ music scene, it always has been and hopefully always will be. There are so many amazing bands that play there, and play there often, we just have formed bonds with each other and are a big family. The Meatlocker is a DIY spot run by Roy, Dan and Ana pretty much and they have done a great job of helping it get to how it is now. There are a lot of great spots to play and practice and hang out but at least for us The Meatlocker has always felt like home. Its a place for musicians, artists, photographers, and people who just enjoy to come together and hang out and see a show. On any night you can swing by and see some of the best local bands play with awesome touring acts. One of my favorite shows we have played there was with Die Choking, Artificial Brain, Organ Dealer, and Huldra, they are all amazing bands and good friends!. We have played with some awesome bands there like Dutchguts, Pharaoh, Ides, Inertia, Toxicology, Sentience, Nerve Shatter, Sangharsha, Mountain God, Ubasute, Godmaker, Bleak, Dejagravy , Through Thorn and Brier, Companion Animals, Illearth, Uncle Mark, Dealers, Wastelands, Skuz and so many more!
Chris – The Meatlocker is just one of those places we consider to be a second home. It’s a tight knit community of musicians and friends that don’t discriminate towards anyone. If you’re respectful to others and the space, you’re accepted. It’s that simple, no bullshit. There was a time when the ‘Locker was closed for many months due to new fire codes and whatnot. The music scene in Jersey practically shut down for that period of time. And I think when it finally reopened for shows, it sparked a rekindled love for the ‘Locker that a lot of people took for granted prior. People kind of went, “Oh, we sort of need this place if we want to keep the scene alive and be able to go to shows safely.”
Rob – The Meatlocker is THE DIY spot to hit up if you wanna play Jersey. I’ve been playing and going there since I was about 16. It’s had it’s ups and downs but now, it’s better than ever! So many new bands have been popping up and everyone clicks with each other over there. It’s a family thing, ya know? we got our own little scene and we nourish it and help it grow in any way possible.
Any additional releases or other exciting things on the horizon? What does the future hold for the band?
Lex – All the things all the time. Thank you so much for this awesome opportunity and for the great questions. Your band is awesome! We all really love Hush and hope to one day have a fraction of your amps.
Chris – Nothing planned yet as we’re writing a full length. We’ve talked to some bands about doing some splits in the future. 3/4ths of us are in other bands so we’re constantly playing music, if not in Sunrot. We’ve got some rad shows coming up so keep an eye out for those. Thanks for this interview.
Rob – Writing new songs, making sure we don’t break any equipment and try as hard as we can not to strangle each other.
Thanks to Sunrot for taking the time to answer these questions. Find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sunrotmusic Their newest release is a split with Inertia, out now and available at sunrot.bandcamp.com