In October, MTV News talked to the Baltimore band Sun Club about their impending debut album, The Dongo Durango, a loud collection of psychedelic indie rock that evokes both beachy sunsets and the chemical treatment plants you might find past the end of the sand. Bright, jangly guitars are all over the cheekily titled songs ("Cheeba Swiftkick," "Language Juice"), but the most striking sound splattered across the Dongo album is deep, rich percussion — bass-drum pounds you can feel in your chest.
It's hard to tell how music like this will sound live, stripped of its ornamentation and wet vocal effects. Go to one of Sun Club's shows and you'll find out: The difference between hearing the sprightly, sunny guitar gymnastics of "Tropicoller Lease" in your headphones and watching it performed in front of you is shattering. On record, it's big; in person, it's apocalyptic.
In that October interview, the band explained its self-described "happy music" to MTV News's Loren DiBlasi as follows: "It’s super-weird, we all get our positivity from different stuff. Some of us like it when it’s warm and sunny, some like it when it’s raining, Kory likes peanut butter. I guess that comes out in our music. We don’t plan on getting, like, dark or anything — maybe if Kory runs out of peanut butter?"
At New York's Webster Hall last month, when Sun Club opened for synth-pop group Ra Ra Riot, Kory must've run out of peanut butter. Or maybe there was never any peanut butter to begin with. The band's five members filed onto the stage brandishing the kinds of hallmarks typically reserved for music made by angry young men — a guy in a mechanic's jumpsuit, a standalone drummer, guttural vocal howls — and it all became so clear.
Sun Club are the Slipknot of modern indie rock.
And, by the way, that's completely exhilarating. In an indie-rock landscape where too many bands full of white dudes are making boring, safe music, there's something refreshing about the angry noise made by a band like Sun Club. It reminds me of the way I felt when I saw Slipknot's "Left Behind" video on TRL in 2001. Yes, TRL was once a place where aggressive, desperate rock music — including nü metal — mingled and sparred with the glossy pop of the time. Outsider bands like Slipknot could reach a massive audience on this decidedly corporate venue (never mind that they were signed to Warner's Roadrunner Records).
We don't have TRL today. We have vinyl juggernaut Urban Outfitters and satellite radio, and Sun Club don't sound like they belong there. They sound angry, don't they? The kind of anger that's bold and brash, not quiet and melancholy like the indie of the past decade. They sound Slipknot angry. Onstage, dual singers Mikey Powers and Shane McCord shout into their mics and flip programming switches to make their voices loop jaggedly ad infinitum, sort of like how nü metal DJs would scratch their turntables.
Slipknot have a DJ. They've consistently had nine members throughout their 20 years of existence and have dressed in jumpsuits (and grotesque Halloween masks, but that's less important). Back when I watched "Left Behind" and "My Plague" on TRL, three of those members were percussionists, and one would just crawl around and bang on trash cans. Onstage, and even on record to a lesser extent, Sun Club make me feel as if I'm watching Slipknot again. In the crowded, increasingly homogenized and muddled landscape of indie rock in 2016, that feeling matters.