The Suburbs' Chan Poling talks '80s nostalgia, the New Standards, and the possibility of a new album
Gimme Noise contributor P.F. Wilson spoke to Chan Poling as part of a print preview of the Suburbs' gig this Friday night with the Suicide Commandos; what follows is the entire transcript of P.F.'s conversation with Poling.
Gimme Noise: How often do the Suburbs perform live these days?
Chan Poling: I think we've done two in the last year, and before that a few years went by. We've been doing that kind of thing on and off since we---well, we weren't quite broken up. I don't know if the breakup really stuck, you know? A little time goes by, and those and those songs are so fun. We're still friends, and all sorts of things have happened. We lost (guitarist Bruce Allen). There were originally five of us when we started as kids in 1977. Now there'll be three of the original guys left on stage next time we play. Maybe four in a little while. Our bass player Michael Halliday just had surgery on his knee, and some physical things. He just wasn't into jumping around on stage. It's a bitch getting older.
Performing regularly kind of forces you to stay in shape, doesn't it?
I love it. You've got a keep in shape. I'm 53 so it's like I'm nowhere near quitting.
Will the Suburbs be playing towns outside of the region?
We are in the middle of doing a little swing. Maybe in the fall going out to Chicago, Milwaukee, and fanning out to other good markets for us. Denver and New York were always great for us and Los Angeles too. That was part of the reason we got frustrated and broke up---which is kind of a silly word, because we're still playing. But we'd play to a couple of thousand people in New York then stop in a place like Columbus, Ohio on the way back home, and there'd be like 12 people there. We just couldn't get radio to back us up. Nowadays it's not any different. There isn't any radio for anyone unless you're a top teen act. For guys like us, it's more about word of mouth and the Internet. Plus the nostalgia thing.
The '80s sound seems to becoming back as well, not only with older bands reforming, but younger ones being influenced by that period.
It's so weird. I turn on the radio, and go "oh, I remember that song," and then "oh, it's brand new." There was so much great music from back then, and it was all about melody, and energy, and stuff like that.
What have you been up to these days?
Well I've got a new group that I play in, it's a little trio called the New Standards. It's really kind of taken off in this area. We're playing theatres now and places like that.
Who is in the group?
John Munson from Semisonic and Trip Shakespeare on bass, me on piano and a guy named Steve Roehm. You can find out more at thenewstandards.com, and go on the music page.
For those who aren't familiar, what is the new band like?
It's an interesting project, because it just came from a love of songwriting and music making. We started with John and I jamming in my living room, stand-up bass and acoustic piano. We'd play Bowie, and Velvet Underground, Rolling Stones, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Neil Young. It got to be these very eclectic, acoustic, soulful jazz renditions. It's my favorite project for sure.
Any chance the Suburbs will kick out some new material? It seems when some bands reunite, the spark just isn't there in the new songs.
Oh yeah, I'm always aware of that. It's this fear I have. You know people love to hear "Rattle My Bones" and "Love is the Law," and you play a new song and people are like "whoa, what is this?" You're always up against the past. So I was certainly in a state of fear. I finally got to the point where I was like "screw it, I've got a batch of really great new songs, and one of the best rock and roll bands that has ever played. You know, we're going to do some new stuff." We'll see what happens. What the hell.
But you've kept on writing, so you probably have a great album waiting to be unleashed.
It's possible, and the fact that so much time has gone by, I've thrown out all the bad ideas and kept the good ones. Maybe it'll work.
THE SUBURBS play with the Suicide Commandos on FRIDAY, JULY 15, at the MINNESOTA ZOO WEESNER AMPHITHEATER. All ages. $36. 7:30 p.m.
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