Artist on Trial: Suneaters
(Photo by Rachael Jane)
In celebration of the release of its third album Suneaters II: Loving Relationship, four-piece rock group Suneaters is our Artist on Trial today. Self-described as “psychedelic, post-graduate rock,” the band takes a passionate, sometimes sarcastic and playful approach to its music, and draws influence from groups as diverse as Hall & Oates, Thin Lizzy, Slayer, and X. Frontman Christopher Garibaldi, who also owns local label Lotuspool Records, talks with us a bit about the project.
The Deli: Down and dirty: one sentence to describe your music.
Garibaldi: Rock rooted with an ambitious commitment to confuse and delight those who listen to our songs.
The Deli: Give me some background on Suneaters. How did the band come to be?
Garibaldi: I started a band, Dr.Doctor in LA with KC native and star of HBO’s True Blood, Michael McMillian. When Michael opted to focus on acting, writing, and directing, I took our songs back to Kansas City and formed Suneaters with longtime friend Scott Hartley. Our first album Suneaters I was a mix of new collaborations and rehashed Dr.Doctor songs. Our second album, Suneaters XIII was a soundtrack (mostly written by Scott) for Michael’s movie Charlie 13. When that album was finished, Scott and I committed to releasing a total of 13 Suneaters’ albums. We then started a plan to release albums in pairs.
After Suneaters II: Loving Relationship is released, Suneaters XII will soon follow. We both agree to end Suneaters when the ascending albums and descending albums meet at Suneaters VII.
After several fruitful years with drummer David Saab, we changed the lineup to include Chris Cardwell and Michael Judd. Both Chris and Michael each added their own unique energy to the band coupled with broad musical tastes and abilities. Scott and I couldn’t be happier with the current lineup and what this oddly matched/perfect fit group is capable of creating.
Suneaters’ recordings are supported by a number of folks, including Michael McMillian on vocals, multi-instrumentalist Matt Nalbach, and Matt Ku (vocals/Kaoss pad).
The Deli: What inspires your music and songwriting?
Garibaldi: Generally, we look for the perfect intersection of sincerity and smartass.
The Deli: What have been your greatest accomplishments as a band?
Garibaldi: Things keep getting better. We were pretty damn proud of SEII and then we started making videos with W. Dave Keith (director of Metcalf South Memories). That has been an energizing experience, and a way we can all better express the energy and fun in our music.
The Deli: Tell us about your new album, Suneaters II: Loving Relationship. What can we expect, and how do you think it’s shown your growth as a band from previous works?
Garibaldi: While it is the third album recorded in our basements, it is sonically the best thing we have done. Matt Allen (local producer) helped us make the most out of our home studio without relying too much on ProTools or plugins. The songwriting, sounds, and performances are a huge step up from our past recordings, yet we preserved our “anything goes” approach to making the songs. In all sincerity, it is an album concocted from an odd array of influences (America, Bread, Graham Nash, George Harrison, Al Green, Hall & Oates, and Slayer), but I think it makes sense when you hear it. As an example, “Hai Karate” is a song that ties together the styles of Thin Lizzy and The Cure.
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
Garibaldi: My perspective on local music comes from someone who has played in local bands and run a local label for the last 22 years. In my mind, supporting local music is a broader extension of the Suneaters/Lotuspool DIT (Do It Together) approach to creativity. I know that there is a tremendous group of creative folks in this area. I support and encourage us all to help each other raise the bar on our creative output. We should support each other locally with the goal of being globally recognized. And when we get that recognition, we should continue to grow the pool of our collaborators, supporters, and friends. When I lived in Lawrence, I was lucky enough to spend time with William S. Burroughs and James Grauerholz. Those dudes were very locally committed, but also fostered a collective of international writers, artists, and musicians. I am forever grateful for the support they gave Lotuspool and the example they set when it came to being global creative moguls with a dedication to the local scene.
The Deli: Who are your favorite local and non-local musicians right now?
Garibaldi: My favorite local musician is Heidi Gluck. I just saw her play at Love Garden Sounds in Lawrence with her, new band and that performance would have been just as amazing in Kauffman Stadium. She is the real deal. I also love Til Willis and Erratic Cowboy. Til is a dude who is down for music no matter what. I love that.
In the last month, I got to see Built to Spill and The Replacements live. Both shows were amazing for very different reasons. While many would consider those bands ancient, I am still in awe of what I saw them do on stage last month. As for somewhat modern performers, I think women vocalists are dominating the creative spectrum. Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Christina Aguilera, and Niki Minaj are doing some crazy shit, but will never get the props of innovators like Slint, The Pink Fairies, or Faust because today’s ladies are doing what they do, shrouded in pop.
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
Garibaldi: I know it is an impossibility, but I’d love to open for Minutemen. I had a life changing experience waiting on Mike Watt at the Blue Bird Diner in Lawrence, and I think Minutemen are Scott’s favorite band. In my humble opinion, Minutemen were the best example of punk rock.
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
Garibaldi: Michael Jackson, Barry Manilow, D. Boon, and Abe Lincoln. Needs no explanation.
The Deli: What goals do Suneaters have for 2015, and beyond?
Garibaldi: Finish a video for every song on SEII. Release Suneaters XII. Write Suneaters III.
The Deli: You also run Lotuspool Records. What bands do you represent and what are your goals with the label?
Garibaldi: Lotuspool Records was started in 1992 by Matt Hyde (currently owns 715 Restaurant and the Lady Bird Diner in Lawrence) and me. While Scott and I currently run Lotuspool, Matt is still involved in label activities. He introduced us to Heidi Gluck (arguably our most talented artist to date). We are releasing a four-track album of Matt’s sometime in the fall. We hope to someday sign his super talented daughters, who are incredible musicians and vocalists. The current Lotuspool catalog includes Zoom, Panel Donor, Bully Pulpit, Mild 7, Hollow Body, Krafty Love Lordz, Suneaters, and Heidi Gluck. Our goal is to be an artist-friendly label committed to music and music choices that pleasantly surprise our patrons.
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
Garibaldi: Thank you for supporting publications like The Deli KC. When we grew up, we needed zines to help us find life-changing music. With current-day media being a dense soup that is very difficult to traverse, an oasis like The Deli is just as important as those zines we read as kids.
Scott Hartley: Bass/Vocals
Chris Garibaldi: Guitar/Vocals
Chris Cardwell: Drums/Vocals
Michael Judd: Guitar/Vocals
Check out Suneaters’ latest album Loving Relationship, released today on Lotuspool Records. Watch out for their upcoming show in August at The Tank Room with labelmate Heidi Gluck.
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.