Back in a time that seems like forever ago, December of 2017, I had the chance to sit down with Massachusetts band Sun Parade to chat about their debut full-length album Shuggy Mtn Breakdown. The band also performed some stripped down renditions of songs from the album for an FMQB SubModern Session, which you can listen to here.
FMQB: Tell me about the origins of Sun Parade. Chris and Jeff, you started the whole thing and it’s gone through a few configurations?
Sun Parade: Yeah, we started it about six or seven years ago. We were a duo, and then we played with some other people over the years as a quartet in various formations. We used to be described as "psych-folk." It’s hard for us to get stuck stylistically, which I think is a good thing. I think we’d get bored if we weren’t always challenging ourselves and each other to write different kinds of songs and create different kinds of sounds. Carl, our drummer, has been in the band for about three years and that was a big thing. The record is recorded by Chris, Carl, and myself (Jeff).
FMQB: Going from a duo to a five piece, you more than doubled in size. That’s a big expansion.
SP: Yeah, it was gradual. We were never really established as a duo. Most of the duo experiences came from not having a band available at the times that we wanted to be touring.
FMQB: You mentioned being described as "psych-folk" back in those days. I think some of that still makes it through to Shuggy Mtn Breakdown but there’s a lot more in there as well. There’s some pop sounds, some classic rock sounds, some funk. You really brought a lot of styles together. Was that a goal for this album or something you’ve always tried to do?
SP: We, as a group, go through short obsessions with different styles of music and bands. At least with me (Chris) it comes out in my song writing, so there’s probably a song on there that’s three years old and some newer songs. It’s not like a goal, but it happens and we’ve been trying to embrace that. It’s hard, but I’m hoping people are digging it.
FMQB: You’ve had some previous EP releases. What’s really different about this album from those?
SP: I think in general, we’ve just gotten a little grungier and louder. There’s just more of everything. The classic phrase people talk about is bands discovering their sound. Like I said before, we don’t like to pigeonhole ourselves, I think in principle, but also by default. It’s just not the way that we write. Going into recording the record, we were listening to a lot of intense contemporary rock, as well as a lot of classic soul and funk. This record is like hovering right between the Beastie Boys and The Beach Boys in terms of the spectrum of our inspiration.
FMQB: I can hear that. That’s a good description. Is there a narrative to this album?
SP: Yeah, it’s definitely supposed to be listened to straight through to get the full experience, which I think any self-respecting album should be. We lined it up very carefully so that it had a classic arc in terms of tension and release, but you’d have to write your own story to it, I’d say.
FMQB: Oh, okay. I thought maybe it had something to do with the mountain in question, Shuggy Mtn.
SP: It does! This stuff wasn’t pre-meditated. I think we kind of hatched the concept as we were hearing the songs get completed. "Shuggy Mtn," the track, is sort of the height of the tension on the record and then it sort of lands with the last two tracks.
FMQB: So it’s like you’re climbing the mountain, and coming down.
SP: Yeah, yeah.
FMQB: Is that an actual mountain?
FMQB: That was probably silly of me to ask, but speaking of locations, I know you guys are from Massachusetts. Are you close to Boston to be part of the Boston scene?
SP: We’re two hours west of Boston. It is a fairly mountainous region. You get up into the foothills of the Berkshires and you’ll find an album called Sugarloaf Mountain, which has no connection to the album, unfortunately. But yeah, we’re from western Mass. We play in Boston a lot, but we’re not a Boston band.
FMQB: What does 2018 have in store for Sun Parade?
SP: More touring. We’re probably gonna release some sort of EP or mixtape as well. Get back to the studio and keep moving forward with recordings. And some more music videos. We have a dream that we’ll have full visual accompaniment to the album.
FMQB: Oh really? How many are there now?
SP: There’s currently three videos and we’re working on the fourth and fifth coming out in the next couple months. We’ve made a lot of the videos ourselves, so low overhead. Our friend and tour manager, Georgia, is a great photographer and artist, and is quite adept with cameras and editing. Our "Cheer Up" video was really spearheaded by her in the technical sense and we directed it together.
Find out more about Sun Parade and follow along with their video progress at TheSunParade.com. Listen to their SubModern Session performances of "Cheer Up" and "Braindrain" here.
By Josh T. Landow