By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
"Every review we get has the word 'bedroom' in it,'" complains Sukpatch singer Escrow. "Don't use that word. I don't know what that means, anyway--'bedroom music.' It doesn't mean anything."
Fair enough. Sukpatch doesn't make its music in the bedroom, after all. They make it in the living room, a "studio" which looks like any cramped grad-student dwelling, except for a primitive patch bay bolted to the stereo rack and an 8-track Tascam reel-to-reel tucked away in a corner. This is where they did most of the recording for their hazy, hip hop-laced debut, Haulin' Grass and Smokin' Ass, using just a cheap Roland keyboard, a turntable, and an old coatpocket-sized Roland MS-1 sampler.
"We tried playing guitars for a while, but we gave it up, thankfully," confesses Sanyo Courts. "It was a pain. Then we started making tape loops, cutting tape and splicing the ends together. That was a pain, too. But the sampler is really great--with a set of headphones, I can even work on songs on the bus if I want to."
Headphones have a lot to do with the Sukpatch sound. For one thing, it's how the group gets away with making records in a residential apartment building. Their performances go from machine to machine, never actually meeting the air--except for the vocals, which Escrow and Sanyo deliver in deliciously measured semi-whispers, obviously trying to keep the neighbors happy ("They probably hear us singing without music and wonder what's up," muses Sanyo.) The resulting vibe is close but warm, more cozy than claustrophobic--the sort of beats you could take home to meet your mom.
Like most bands pushing sample-based music into the pop realm, Sukpatch is still working it out live. "It definitely sounds different when you move it from headphones to the stage," says Swiss Timing, the group's techmeister-by-default. The group has played just a handful of gigs, mostly using a pair of keyboards, a turntable, a sampler, and various electronic odds 'n' ends. The gig this writer saw was a little sloppy ("our worst ever," the group agrees--"We were kinda drunk"), but plenty fun once the loops got going, with Swiss Timing doing calisthenics behind his machines and his mates chiming along in choir boy-cum-slacker harmony.
Other people seem to be digging it, too. Sukpatch topped First Avenue's Best New Band poll last year, and while no one's naming names, they've "gotten some phone calls" from labels interested in what they're doing. They still plan to do another LP for the tiny, Seattle-based Slabco label, but after that all bets are off. This is, after all, a fairly fertile time for white boys making pop songs with hip hop sensibilities, a fact this crew notes with a bit of irony.
"Do you think we sound like Beck?" asks Swiss Timing, genuinely curious.
"I hate that guy," says Escrow. "His songs don't say anything."
How about the Beastie Boys?
"We're not in-your-face like that," says Escrow, a one-time Deadhead whose taste for stoner weirdness informs Sukpatch's gentle grooves in surprising ways. "In a way, I think our songs are really kind of old-fashioned," he adds. "Really."