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Suckers « wonderchroma
Suckers

Suckers

Interview

10.Aug.09

Originally the anthemic brainchild of Connecticut cousins Austin Fisher and Quinn Walker, the band Suckers has used a string of shows in New York City this year to establish a substantial amount of buzz amongst the grimy streets of the borough’s counter-culture. Yet, thanks in large part to the group’s unique approach to percussion and group vocals, as well as their strong ties to other Brooklyn mainstays such as Yeasayer and MGMT, the group appears on the precipice of making huge strides to a bigger, arguably more diverse audience.

Hot on the heels of their self-titled debut EP, the band is gearing up for a massive show on July 1 with MGMT in the heart of Prospect Park. Fisher, the band’s multi-instrumentalist, recently spoke with us on the joys of ascension, how a new band finds its sound and whether or not the media might have contrived a “scene” in the depths of Brooklyn.

Interview by Daniel Crown

First of all, how’s life? The EP seems to be doing well with the aggregators and the critics.

suckersAustin Fisher: Yeah. We’re really happy so far. It’s really helpful in terms of moving onwards and upwards. We plan to stick to how we’ve been doing things, but the success helps things move forward a little faster.

That’s one of the things that is unique about the Indie rock community. I don’t want to say that you guys are completely reliant on what certain critics are saying, but there are websites that do basically become the basis of perception for a whole niche of listeners.

It’s amazing, really. So it’s really nice when they choose to say something nice about you. It’s definitely noticeable, even from when [Pitchfork] wrote about us at South by Southwest. We played a set where we were the first act in a showcase and nobody was there (laughs) because we played first. But [Pitchfork] was there and they wrote a favorable review and it really kicked things off.

So yeah, things are good. We just had a party for our EP release at Glasslands in Brooklyn, which is our favorite spot. That was really fun. We had a great crowd.

It sounds like you guys are enjoying Brooklyn.

Yeah we all like it. Quin and I used to come to New York all the time as kids. I’d always wanted to move to New York. Speaking for the two of us, we’ve always loved it here.

You know there are good points and bad points. There’s like eight million bands here. It’s really expensive to have a practice space. We don’t have a van so we take taxis or car services everywhere. But you do get to meet a lot of cool people, and some of those people turn out to be very like-minded.

From what I’ve seen of you guys, you seem to have a lot of fun on stage. The basic structure of your music lends itself to songs that could easily evolve into sing-a-longs. They almost seem geared for live performances…

I don’t know if that was ever a conscious thing. I think concerts should be fun and theatrical. We do kind of have this reputation of having sing-a-long music, but I think that is because right from the get go we were interested in group vocals. Quin and I used to listen to the Oldies station which had a lot of Doo-wop and early girl groups. Then, obviously the Beatles and stuff like that. All that kind of music was always a big inspiration for us.

So the sing-a-long aspect is more a byproduct of writing strong, harmonized melodies.

Yeah. What we’re really interested in are real, strong vocal melodies. Catchy melodies. More that, than focusing on hard rocking songs with guitars.

You mentioned that you listened to a lot of Doo-Wop. A lot of bands cite people like Brian Wilson or even Van Morrison, but [Doo-wop] is going way back.

It’s kind of funny. Now I’ll listen to the oldies radio station and they consider “oldies” like from the 1970’s. When we were growing up in the eighties, the seventies weren’t “oldies”. Back then they focused more on the really early 60’s stuff.

Another part of your music — not that you belong firmly in this group — but a lot of bands have recently been flirting with the whole tribal motif. Yeasayer uses world music type percussion in an almost prog-rocky sort of way. Gang Gang Dance combines them with dance and hip-hop. You guys are more of a pop anthem band but [the tribal beats] are definitely still there.

suckers-m2That was kind of born out of the interest of having a different type of drum beat. I feel like when you add a standard rock beat, a lot of times it really makes things sound kind of the same. Also, I think that early 60’s music has simpler… I guess you could say tribal beats.

Yeah. There’s got to be a better word for it than “Tribal”, but that seems to be the word everybody is using.

Right, we’re not really interested in “tribal” music. When we started playing, we didn’t have a drummer, so we all shared percussion duties. We all mixed the percussion together by hitting a drum while playing another instrument or stepping on a tambourine or something like that.

So a lot of our sound came out of our initial limitations of not having a full drum set to work with. If you aren’t using the same equipment as everyone else, you’re not going to have the same sound.

And that’s important when you are in a city with a thousand other bands.

Yeah. So even when we brought in a drummer, we weren’t really interested in the typical rock sound. We were more interested in hip-hop beats and the types of beats Bjork uses. Not that we sound like that, but we just made ourselves aware that there a lot more options that we could go with.

Where you guys kind of found your niche is combining these older, more antiquated beats with the contemporary sort of equipment you use. The drums and the synthesizers play well against one another.

We wanted to try to push things forward. We’re definitely not a band that wants to be retro or anything like that. But I think it is kind of nice to have a tactile feel of traditional drums with more modern and contemporary equipment that we also use. I think that it is really important to embrace new technology and that it can help move things forward, but it’s also nice to have that sort of tactile, hand-made touch. It gives the songs more feeling.

You guys are pretty close with Yeasayer right? Anand produced your record?

Yeah. We have known them for a long time. We’re actually really good friends. When we were still a three piece, we played a show through a mutual friend of ours and Yeasayer came to check it out. We became friends with them right away because they realized, while they didn’t have the same sound as us, they had the same interests and concepts about how to make music.

They heard us play tons of times and when we were trying to figure out what to do with the EP, we though we’d ask Anand because he knows our songs so well and knew a little bit about recording. It was good to have someone who was outside of the band but who was also super familiar with our stuff. And also who didn’t cost any money.

So that’s one of the inherent benefits of having a community up there in Brooklyn?

That’s the thing right. Now there is a supposedly this “community” up in Brooklyn. I guess in a way there is, but in a way I feel people were writing that before it happened. It’s kind of funny though– we’re friends with [Yeasayer] because of our music, but then there are other bands that we’re friends with just because we know the same people.

I think a lot of these bands that we are friends with that are considered a part of this “Brooklyn Community”… no one really sounds like each other. There isn’t a sound that defines this group of bands that is getting lumped together.

It’s not like Seattle circa 1989.

Yeah. Everyone sounds completely different. We’re all trying to do something unique and different, being sort of forward looking. But no one really sounds similar.

So it’s almost like the press is trying to create a “scene”?

I think it is a good way to write about things, I guess. And a lot of us are friends and do hang out together, but I don’t know if that really affects the music that people make. It mainly just affects socializing.

Basic RGBIt’s more about accessibility? You’re going to see and meet more people, but that doesn’t mean you are going to be influenced by their music, just exposed to it.

Exactly. The good thing about being friends with some of these bands that put out their albums last year…Yeasayer, MGMT, is that now that we are just getting out our stuff, we can talk to them about how to go about doing things.

You guys are playing the show in Prospect Park with MGMT right?

Yeah. We’re really excited about that.This will definitely be our biggest show. I think it sold out the day they released the tickets. It’s kind of insane, so we’re really excited to play with them. We actually put on one of their first shows as a band in 2007. We’ve known them for a couple of years and we love them. We think they are great.

Now that the EP has been released, are you guys working on a full-length?

That will come a little later. We’re thinking about it, but we’re pretty busy through July. We’re writing songs now, but I think it will be a little while. We’re thinking about recording a single for the time being. We’re just sort of getting our schedule together.

With the success of the EP, are you allowing yourself to get excited or are you trying to stay reserved?

It’s really nice. We’ve been playing for a couple of years, but it’s only since last summer that we’ve really been organized. So it’s amazing how much has happened since we made that decision and we couldn’t be happier. But who knows what will happen in the next six months.

It doesn’t always happen this fast.

It’s not easy. Lots of hard work. We’ve been lucky I think. We’re really glad that people like our music and we’re just going to keep working and playing and hopefully keep moving onward by getting a full-length done sooner than later.

Header photo by Victoria Jacob

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