Sun O))): Behind the Robes
Well, if Bellingham’s ears aren’t still ringing after the Earth show last month, another heavy-ass drone band, also signed to Southern Lord records, will be coming to town by the name of Sunn O))) (pronounced “sun”).
Sunn O))) has been kicking around since the late 90s, and at one time called Seattle home, but now resides in Los Angeles. The robe-draped band has been churning out some of the heaviest and slowest jams all around the country since then. Yet, they have only played one show in Bellingham—at the Nightlight almost five years ago. But that will all change on Dec. 15 at the Wild Buffalo.
Greg Anderson, guitarist for the band, said he is excited to take the stage for the second time ever in our fair city.
“It’s always cool to play in smaller towns,” Anderson said. “We are really looking forward to bringing the pain.”
The band has made a name for itself through its prolific amount of recordings: eight full-length albums, four EPs and two split albums over the last 12 years. Their epic live shows feature a full band decked out in robes, hidden behind a wall of sound and a wall of fog.
When the band played the Nightlight, they set off the smoke alarms.
“It happens sometimes,” Anderson said of the incident. “I mean, we really use an obscene amount of fog when we play live, and it will occasionally set off alarms.”
The visual aspect of their live shows plays a big part in the identity of the band. The songwriting process usually begins with just Anderson and O’Malley—who also co-own Southern Lord Records—and then they will bring in a rotating cast of contributors for the recordings. But, live, the band is a whole different beast with a keyboard player, a synth player and Hungarian-born singer Attila Csihar on vocals.
“The whole idea of our live show is to create a different kind of experience for the audience,” Anderson said. “The robes bring us anonymity so people are not focused on the individual members of the band. We want the robes to kind of be like a mask that hides us from the audience, and makes them focus on the music as a whole—as a mass of sound.”
The sound: Needless to say, the sound of Sunn O))) is LOUD. Like, bring ear plugs if you’re a geezer, loud. The sound combines ambient textures and atmospheric soundscapes with elements from drone, doom, noise and pretty much every other type of brutal music you can think of. This isn’t the sound of music, in any traditional sense.
“The music has a lot of space, a lot of places to go,” Anderson said. “Which is exciting for us as musicians. We’re not restricted by tempo or structure, we just go.”
Improvisation also plays a large part in Sunn O)))’s live performances.
“We don’t ever get super prepared before we go out on tour,” Anderson said. “We have all been playing for a while now, so we have a chemistry together that just works when we play live. So we don’t rehearse a bunch or anything, we just play in the moment.”
The show at the Wild Buffalo will be the second stop and smallest venue the band will play in its 6-show mini tour down the West Coast.
“We don’t really have a preference for the size of a venue,” Anderson said. “We just like playing different sorts of venues. For a while, we’d just play in churches and Masonic Halls and things like that because we wanted people to listen to our music in places where they were not used to hearing our type of music, but clubs are o.k. too.”
Anderson said the band prefers to just play small scale tours, instead of big national ones because of the challenges of balancing running a label, as well as the fact that most of the members all live in different places around the country.
“Really, one or two weeks is the perfect amount of tour time for us,” Anderson said. “It’s a self-imposed limit, because sometimes the music will suffer when tours go on for so long. Personally, touring gets monotonous. It is taxing mentally, but it is also taxing physically, with the volume and the length of our sets. We just figure it is better to keep it short and sweet, while also keeping the music fresh.”
The band will be playing with Southern Lord label-mates Black Breath, as well as Loin Cloth and Dead In Dirt. Advance tickets are $17 and can be purchased online at Wildbuffalo.net or in person at the venue.