Sun Gods to Gamma Rays: Listen to us while floating in the ocean under a sky full of fiery stars
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Minneapolis band Sun Gods to Gamma Rays have hatched upon a trippy new sound, and impressive one at that. Their new EP The Water, The Wave brings to mind early Mazzy Star mixed with Air. The first single "Burn Me Through" takes you on an astral journey, leaving you in that space of consciousness you find in the moments right before falling asleep.
Before the band's album release show at the Kitty Cat Klub on Saturday, they spoke with Gimme Noise about their beginnings and the personal growth that came in writing The Water, The Wave.
Band Members: Peter Bregman, Paul Flynn, Brian Gollnick, Mitch Miller and Brianna Kocka
Gimme Noise: How did you all meet and decide to collaborate on Sun Gods to Gamma Rays?
Brianna Kocka: How we all met is actually a really fun story to tell, because we are all so connected in funny ways. The key factor here is Peter, our Rhodes player -- he's like the "Kevin Bacon" of the band.
Paul and Peter used to co-own a recording studio called Owl Recording together in Uptown with two other business partners, so they've known each other for years and have engineered a ton of local music together. They've also been in a handful of other bands together. Brian, our bass player used to be one of Peter's roommates. Brian also played in a few bands with Peter and Paul before we started Sun Gods. Peter and I met at the Kitty Cat Klub in August of 2011; he was running sound for my solo project, CAETANI. We hit it off, and are actually getting hitched in about a year. Finally, there is Mitch. Peter and I knew Mitch peripherally; he's in a handful of bands in Minneapolis -- Me and My Arrow, Exiles, Sunday Band, I Hate Sports, to name a few -- and while we were searching high and low for a drummer, a friend recommended him.
What is really funny and kind of odd is that a few years ago, before any of us really knew Mitch, Peter sold him his set of cymbals via Craigslist. Now those are the cymbals that he plays in the band. It just goes to show you how interconnected this music community really is here.
We decided to collaborate in the late fall of 2012. Matt Latterell asked CAETANI to do a song on the Absolutely Cuckoo: Minnesota Covers the 69 Love Songs project. My backing band at the time was too busy with other projects to play on the song, so I approached Peter, Paul and Brian about it. They agreed, and that was pretty much the beginning of Sun Gods. I guess that means we've been a band for about a year.
Gimme Noise: What's everyone's musical background, and what do they bring to SGGR? Brianna Kocka: My musical background is pretty varied. I grew up a theater kid. At the age of 12, I started teaching myself how to play guitar, and before that I had taken piano lessons for a few years. When I was about 16 I started writing and demoing my own songs. (To this day my dad still has copies of them, I keep telling him to burn them.) By the time I was 18 I played my first show at the Acadia Cafe when it was located on Franklin and Nicollet. I played with a young Bethany Larson before she had her Bee's Knee's and Jimmy Barnett, the drummer from Sleeper and the Sleepless.
From there, I just kept writing and playing, but I didn't really consider myself an artist or musician until about four years ago. It was in 2010 that I recorded my first real album under my real name, the LP was called Write by Night. It's a folk album. Then in April of 2012 I released The Black EP under my stage name CAETANI. I'm really excited about Sun Gods to Gamma Rays for a handful of reasons. But one, albeit moderately, selfish reason is that I play the the keyboard to add ambiance and feel to the songs, which means I can really focus on my singing, what I feel is my strong suit. Honestly, I think that Sun Gods to Gamma Rays is the project I've always wanted to work on. It's really a labor of love for me.
Brian Gollnick: I started playing music in grade school. I played trumpet from 5th grade through high school -- marching band, concert band, jazz band, pep band -- you name it, I was a total band geek. At some point in high school, some friends of mine started a garage band and convinced me to get a bass and play with them. I totally fell in love. After high school, I moved to Florida convinced that I was going to pursue bass as a career, but instead I got turned on to electronic music. For years I let my bass collect dust while I was busy playing with drum machines, synths, and turntables. I didn't really start playing bass again until a couple of years ago. Playing with SGGR has really brought back my passion for the instrument and my background in production and DJing has definitely shaped the way that I approach it in the context of this project. Mitch Miller: Growing up I had more of a passion for listening to music than playing it. I dabbled in high school with some punk, cover and weird arty bands, but I didn't start taking playing serious until after high school. The last few years I've tried to make every opportunity work as a drummer. Sun Gods to Gamma Rays' soft dynamics really appealed to me as someone who has a louder background. It's been fun and challenging to help with some of the bigger and louder dynamics and meanwhile hold back in the quiet, slow portions. Paul Flynn: I started playing guitar at the age of 13, and in middle school and high school I performed with punk and metal bands in my hometown of Austin, MN. After graduation, I moved to Minneapolis and studied audio engineering and production, which is when I met Peter. He and I went on to form Owl Recording in Uptown with two other partners, during which time we started jamming and songwriting together. We've always worked well together, but until SGGR formed this last year, we were never able to successfully get a project off the ground. Looking back, it feels like this band has been a long time coming.
Peter Bregman: I started playing drums in 6th grade and started playing in bands by 9th grade. At some point in high school the band I was in wanted to record demos, and I decided to try to figure out how to record them myself. I quickly got sucked into the word of audio engineering and production, and it became my biggest passion. In college, I studied acoustics, electronics, and music theory among other things, and made it my goal to make records. For years I worked in recording studios and then started Owl with Paul and two other friends. I spent a ton of time working on getting just the right tones and creating a sense of atmosphere and became obsessed with creating organic sounding recordings. After learning to play piano, I began to write some music and explore building sonic soundscapes. Once SGGR got together, I had the excuse I needed to buy a Rhodes piano and run it through a ton of effects pedals, which is all I ever really wanted.
Gimme Noise: What's the story behind the album title, The Water, The Wave?Brianna Kocka: "The Water, The Wave" is the closing track on the EP. It's a song we've been playing live for a while now, and we've always loved the song. However, once we got into the studio to record it, it came alive to us in a new way. We threw around a few other titles for the EP, but ultimately decided to go with this one, I guess because it just felt like for us. I think in a lot of ways, this track is the most representative of where we want to go in the future as a band.
Peter Bregman: The song, "The Water, The Wave" is an epic, 7-minute-long slow-burn. It's not the kind of song that would be played on the radio, but we all agreed that it was one of the best songs any of us have ever written. Naming the EP after it just seemed right.
Gimme Noise: Your song "Burn Me Through" is pretty ambient and reminds me of Feist. Where did you draw inspiration for this track?Brian Gollnick: This song seemed to come about so naturally -- it was completely unforced. I really think that writing "Burn Me Through" was the point when we all found ourselves on the same page about where our sound was going. We all come from such different musical backgrounds that the combination of our influences really makes creating music for this project a constant surprise.
Paul Flynn: I think like most of our tunes, once the foundation was laid, we all just tried to establish a good backdrop for Brianna to sing over. It's all happened pretty organically, and since we have such varied backgrounds it's hard to point at specific influences that we all share.
Brianna Kocka: I think it's fair to say that I draw inspiration from Feist. I was listening to her record "Metals" a lot when we first started writing for this EP last winter. But I agree with Paul, we all have such varied musical taste, there isn't one place we drew inspiration from for this track. I do know that I wanted to build a lush and groovy song that kind of pumped you up at the same time. I think we achieved that with "Burn Me Through."Mitch Miller: Peter had demoed a drum part for this song. I remember one of the first run-throughs as a band someone joked that this was the "Madonna" song. Oddly enough that helped when shaping the groove.Peter Bregman: The chord progression for "Burn Me Through" started as a weird little theme I worked out on piano and evolved from there. It plays around with some interesting chords, but it's pretty basic overall. Once the guys played back their ideas for me, the song went in a smoother, groovier direction which worked really well with the chords. When we first started practicing it, Brianna was just chanting over the music (a method she uses a lot), and eventually worked out lyrics that fit the feel perfectly. It all came together really quickly.Gimme Noise: Is the rest of the album pretty low-key?Peter Bregman: You'll have to pick up a copy to find out. Just kidding. I think we cover a lot of ground on the EP. The songs are all very atmospheric, but they vary from fairly rock & roll to almost ambient, with a lot of groove throughout.
Gimme Noise: What is the story you wanted to tell?Brianna Kocka: This album represents a lot of loss and gain in my personal life. I don't want to give away the meaning of the songs too much, because I really want people to interpret and find meaning in them as they relate to them. I will say though that the lyrics on this record are essentially about divorcing myself from who I used to be to who I am now emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This record is about emptying myself out and learning to be okay with that vast emptiness.
Gimme Noise: Where would be the ideal place to listen to The Water, The Wave?Brianna Kocka: Probably floating in the ocean on your back, under a sky full of fiery stars.
Mitch Miller: While sharing a cigarette post-coitus with an alien on a magic carpet in space.
Paul Flynn: While traveling in a shrunken submarine through someone's bloodstream.
Peter Bregman: While sleeping in the hollow on the back of a giant armadillo.Gimme Noise: Any key tracks off the album?Brianna Kocka: Honestly I think each song stands on its own two feet, so it would be unfair to say one stands out more than the other.
Peter Bregman: There are only five tracks, and they're all key.
Paul Flynn: Yeah, Peter plays keys on all of them. Sorry, bad joke.
Gimme Noise: Any plans to tour?Brianna Kocka: I have never wanted to tour -- ever... until this band. It's weird how that happens, yeah? I seriously have daydreams about touring now. I've really never been in love with a project as much as this one, so getting out there and creating a space for more people to encounter our music would be a dream come true. Once we get our LP done, I think we'll try our hardest to hit the road a bit.
Paul Flynn: Eventually I think it would be really fun, but we'd probably just start with some small regional stints. Right now we're mostly focused on maturing our sound and getting this EP done.
Peter Bregman: At some point, definitely, but we're all feeling the pull right now to start writing again and putting together some new material.
Gimme Noise: What can we expect to see at the album release show?
Brianna Kocka: Maybe I'll try out some new dance moves while channeling my inner Bjork.
Mitch Miller: I hope Brianna finally brings out her jumpsuit.
Paul Flynn: Hopefully our best performance yet!
Peter Bregman: A brief glimpse into the infinite expanse of the universal psyche. Also, a fog machine.
Sun Gods to Gamma Rays will release The Water, the Wave at the Kitty Cat Klub on Saturday, November 2, 2013 with the Parlour Suite and Speed's the Name.
21+, $5, 9 pm
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