SunSap makes music that doesn’t cling to superficial labels or trends; it’s rock for people who are tired of the same old thing, the same old influences and musical touchstones. They create a wonderfully fitful mash of inspiration and innovation. And though there’s no doubt they feel the drag and weight of their musical antecedents, the band never allows these centrifugal forces to draw attention away from their singular artistic vision.
The band can trace its roots back to Shaky Knees in 2015 —that’s when three friends (singer-guitarist Emerson Miller, guitarist Austin Armstrong and drummer Jordan Swafford) attended the event and felt the pull of the stage. They formed SunSap shortly thereafter. At their second official gig, they met their future bassist, David Andrews. Recently, the band picked up drummer Ryan Hitt when Swafford left the band.
For their debut album, which they recently released, the band digs into the sounds of ’70s classic rock and the churn of mid-’90s alternative rock. But don’t worry—it’s more Pixies than Tonic. The guitars are barbed, raucous and ready to conduct lightning. These songs are dense but aren’t overburdened, filled with complex melodies that highlight the band’s innate sense of showmanship and songwriting. There’s a timelessness that keeps the songs from being readily characterized; they could have been released 20 years ago or yesterday, for all you can tell.
From the opening rock riffs on “Too Hot” to the Southern rock echoes of closer “Iron Fist,” the record hits all the primal rock notes without losing its sense of individuality. The band has never bowed to their influences—it is more of a give-and-take between them and the past. Songs such as “Conversation Peace” and “Walk in the Park” show them siphoning off sounds from the past few decades with an ease that belies their brief tenure as a band. “Walk in the Park” actually channels Red Hot Chili Peppers better than the Peppers did on their last record. But there’s more than just a complicated series of adaptations going on here. SunSap completely dismantles these sounds to create a rock reckoning that stays with you long after the last song fades.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.