Seattle’s Sandrider is a noisy power trio that one immersed in the underground of the Emerald City would likely dub a super group. Comprised of former and current members of Akimbo, The Ruby Doe and King Congo Powers, the act recently released their sophomore record, Godhead, to mixed reviews.
For some, it was an innovation for a band that had taken a long, self-imposed vacation, improving on their original recipe that drew upon acts like Baroness, Torche and KEN mode. For others, it was starting from scratch and complete reinvention.
“We’ve all got pretty busy lives outside of the band, so we just sort of let life happen and fit in music when we can,” says Jon Weisnewski (guitar/vocals/primary songwriter) in regards to the band’s nearly three-year-long record lapse.
“That makes for a really positive experience as a musician, I think. I think that when you start to force yourself into certain behaviour because you feel like you should, you start to build expectations and results that you would get from that behaviour.”
Weisnewski – joined by longtime bandmate Nat Damm (drums) and Jesse Roberts (bass/vocals) – emphatically states that Sandrider has a clear-cut mission statement of keeping music casual. It’s done wonders for their longevity and stability.
“Some of our philosophies in the band are to try and not force ourselves. If life gets busy, we just don’t. It took a long time to write some of things just because we weren’t playing all that often.”
The endgame, as it were, was a sophomore record that drips with all the expected avant-garde creativity of the traditional noise band while melding in a distinct, Seattle-bred grunge flavour. The songs are raw, but not without their own modern flare.
“We tend to not jam things out. We usually come to practice with an idea or some sort of blueprint for how the song should go,” says Weisnewski of the writing process.
“We’re very organic in the sense that we write songs that feel good to us on a gut level. When we play, a lot of it is driven by the vibe of playing together. If a song doesn’t really catch with everyone right off the bat, then we don’t really force it to happen.”
The 10-song musical barrage features lyrical themes revolving around science fiction, video games and the wonderful world of comic books. “Castle” is a direct ode to the Marvel Comics machine-gun toting anti-hero The Punisher. Other songs focus on Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, much like Calgary’s own Chakobsa. That theme dominated their debut, the self-titled 2011 record, unveiled by Good to Die Records.
“I’m the kind of songwriter where I don’t really have a personal message that I need to get out, or need to let everyone know about my feelings, or politics or religion or anything like that,” says Weisnewski.
Those inspirations also come from Weisnewski’s work outside of the band, where he works day to day as a large-scale video game designer for Bungie, the company that produced the acclaimed Halo series for Xbox. It’s a demanding job that requires much of his attention away from Sandrider, but won’t stop him from bringing the band to Calgary to lay waste to the city once again.
“We are really, really stoked to come back,” says Weisnewski. “We were up there for two shows last year and we had a blast. We were completely humbled by the rock fans out there. Those are some people who fucking love loud music and it’s really exciting and infectious to be around a group of people like that.”
See Sandrider at the Palomino Smokehouse and Bar on Saturday, January 11.
By Brandon McNeil
Photo: Kelly O.