“We never set out to sound like a band,” said Joseph Yarmush, guitarist and bassist in the post-punk Montreal-based group SUUNS.
In fact, when Yarmush and vocalist Ben Shemie first began jamming in the winter of 2007, starting a band was the furthest thing from their minds. “We were just trying to write songs for no real reason other than [to cure the] winter boredom,” he revealed.
After writing a bunch of songs and welcoming bassist Max Henry and drummer Liam O’Neill to the mix, a band is what they became. The then-nameless band recorded a two-song demo later that year, which included an early version of “Arena,” a song that appears on their debut full-length, Zeroes QC, which was released this past October.
The group didn’t even have a name until a friend invited them to play the Pop Montreal festival in 2007. Hurriedly, the foursome decided on Zeroes, a name that stuck for the next three years.
Zeroes became SUUNS only recently. “When we recorded the album we were still called Zeroes, [and] when we signed the record deal [with Secretly Canadian] it was the band Zeroes,” said Yarmush. The name change was necessary to avoid being sued, since right before pressing the record it was discovered that an American punk rock band from the “70s bore the same name.
For those of you who don’t speak Thai, SUUNS is in fact a direct translation of the English word Zeroes. Since Zeroes was the name with which the band had come to identify, choosing a new one was hard.
“It wasn’t the idea of changing the name that was a big deal for us, but it was kind of hard to settle on a name,” Yarmush confessed. “[When] changing your name, nothing sounds right no matter what you change it to.”
Although the band had been quick to decide on a name, their attitude toward their music differs slightly.
“I don’t know if we have a sound, really,” said Yarmush. “We haven’t really settled on a sound. A lot of people think our album sounds like 10 different bands.”
SUUNS play minimal rock, having rejected the tendency to layer instruments in the studio. Any layering that the band does in the recording process normally won’t make the cut, leaving the songs with a “no fat” sound, as Yarmush described.
“If we can’t play it live then it usually won’t make it into the recording,” he said. “We always wanted to be a better band live than in the studio.”
Although their sound cannot be adequately described, SUUNS is gaining a reputation for having a sound that is unique thus allowing them to stand out in such a vast and competitive music scene.
The music itself is a dark hybrid of rock and electro that’s supported by repetitive, and often indistinguishable, lyrics. They like to experiment with their gear, and in most songs this has the effect of slowly building guitar riffs that erupt into a crescendo of noise. Yarmush emphasizes, however, that song writing is always an organic process.
For SUUNS, lyrical consideration often comes last. “I think the lyrics are almost like another rhythm in the song, almost like another instrument,” Yarmush mused. “The idea is to not listen to the songs for the lyrics. It’s more of an instrumental band with lyrics.”
Having just released their first album, SUUNS will be on the road for the first half of 2011. A brief North American tour is currently scheduled for the month of January, and then the band will be jetting off to Europe for their first across-the-ocean tour.
Although it is much too soon to be making plans for a followup album, Yarmush assured that they never stop writing new songs. “I just think it will be a natural progression,” he said of the band’s future plans.
Catch SUUNS when they play with VALLEYS and The Besnard Lakes at Cabaret du Mile End on Jan. 15.