Bad Suns, Our Griffins
1100 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This event is 21 and over
Royal Bangs has always been a band going in two directions at once. Over the course of three full-lengths, the Knoxville, Tennessee band has kept pace with the indie rock vanguard, maturing through leftfield guitar pop and MIDI dancefloor theatrics to 2011’s freedom-prog fuzzfest FLUX OUTSIDE, which found the band pared down to its creative core of Ryan Schaefer, Chris Rusk, and Sam Stratton. But the through-line of all these songs and sounds is a seemingly immovable youth: in Rusk’s playfully precise drum arrangements, in Stratton’s everywhere-at-once (and nowhere twice) guitar leads, and in Schaefer’s soulful, sky-eyed hooks lay an ebullience that hasn’t dulled since the trio first plugged in together as highschoolers. Call it a restless maturity: the songs take on the wisdom in boredom, misgivings and regret, but the sound is forever high hopes and thick skins.
It’s appropriate that the band’s fourth album BRASS (out now on Modern Art Records) finds new destinations along those same two paths. Following FLUX’s creative throat-clearing, Royal Bangs found an ideal collaborator in Knoxville multi-instrumentalist Dylan Dawkins and found their process evolving as they welcomed him. The resulting album – produced with the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, whose Audio Eagle Records first introduced the band to national audiences – is the work of a group at home in its own songs and skills, trading sonic fussiness for an organic sound, nailing down who they are as a rock band without skimping on the adventure. BRASS still splits its time between barreling rave-ups and expansive pop suites, but more than ever, each song sounds most of all like Royal Bangs.
Southern California rock band Bad Suns formed in 2012 and in the short time since inception, have managed to be musically beyond their years. Made up of Christo Bowman (vocals), Gavin Bennett (bass), Miles Morris (drums) and Ray Libby (guitar) the four piece ranges from ages 19-22 yet has a sound reminiscent of rock stalwarts from generations past. “I grew up with a lot of world music playing in the house. When I was 10, I started getting heavily interested in the guitar, and my dad began introducing me to his records from the 70’s and the 80’s. Initially Elvis Costello, then to The Clash, The Cure, and so on,” notes Chris. “All of these artists and bands had a big impact on me, at a young age, as far as song composition goes. “ Influences are apparent on the band’s upcoming EP Transpose, where angst-ridden riffs and ethereal yet charismatic vocals pay tribute to post-punk legends of the early 80’s. “ I started writing my first songs at that time,” Chris continues, “Though we can now reflect on that era of music, those artists were ahead of their time in a lot of ways. That’s what’s most inspiring.”
Transpose was recorded in the studio with producer Eric Palmquist (The Mars Volta, Wavves, Trash Talk) and serves as a prelude to the band’s debut full-length slated for 2014. “The writing and recording process is always exciting, because it’s constantly changing and unique to each song. Inspiration comes and goes as it pleases, so a night when a song gets written is a very good night,” says Chris. Comprised of four tracks, Transpose flows effortlessly from start to finish showcasing the band’s stadium ready anthems and undeniably catchy hooks. “Music has the ability to evoke certain feelings in people, a way that not much else can. The pairing of words and sounds can be an extremely powerful tool, when done right. I think the ultimate goal for this band is to make music that causes people to really feel something.”
Aside from writing a record, Bad Suns’ 2013 was a busy one, complete with multiple CMJ showcases as well as sharing the stage with the likes of The 1975 and Vaccines with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Transpose will be released everywhere in the early months of 2014.
“One day I just decided to be a musician, and I never strayed away from that goal. Being in a band is the only thing I can do.”- Chris Bowman
For Our Griffins front man DJ Brown, writing and performing songs is not just a hobby—it’s a necessity. “I write songs because honestly, I feel like I have to,” he says. “Otherwise, it would be very difficult for me to be out in the world.”
It’s not surprising, if you know Brown personally—although certainly his music paints a very different portrait of the young artist. On record, the 21-year-old Brown is deeply confident and passionate, weaving complex tales of family friendships and self-discovery. In person however, Brown is soft-spoken and shy, avoiding eye contact, and glancing downwards at the table.
“When I’m performing live, I shake uncontrollably,” he admits. “And I don’t talk. Occasionally, I mutter things into the microphone.”
That is, of course, until he starts singing—and the nerves and fears simply melt away. “The motivation when you’re playing live for me to is, 1) to be true to that the moment, and what I’m singing, and 2) to get lost,” he explains. “So wherever we start, and wherever we end, I’m in a totally different place.”
Music has always been an escape for Brown, as well as a source of support. The name Our Griffins comes from his mother’s maiden name, Griffin, as was spurred by the passing of his grandmother in 2011. “When a person close to you dies, a lot of things go through your mind,” he says. Titling the project after this grandmother felt like a way to pay her tribute. He originally planned on calling the project simply “Griffins”—but added the “Our” later when “Griffins” was taken. Yet what began as a compromise, he says, has since come to represent a layer of intimacy which informs all his writing. “It’s funny how the ‘our,’ a mistake, came to signify something greater.” He smiles.