Sunshine Riot cruise on a ‘Greyhound’
Boston alt-rock band catches a new ride from the bus station on March 24
Electrical Tape EP, recorded in Summer 2020 with Steve Albini at Chicago’s Electrical Audio, set for April 23 release
BOSTON, Mass. -- Back in January, Sunshine Riot caught a “Fast Train” out of town. Now, on the eve of the release of a blistering new EP in Electrical Tape, they’re back at the bus station.
On March 24 -- yeah, a Wednesday, how about that? -- the Boston alt-rock band unleashes a new single called “Greyhound,” a reflective guitar-rock ripper that stands as the third single from the group’s forthcoming Electrical Tape EP, recorded last summer with Steve Albini at Chicago’s Electrical Audio.
“Greyhound” follows the aforementioned “Fast Train,” and February’s electrifying single “Too Old For Love Songs,” which has earned the band a heavy dose of radio spins and blog attention across New England and across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom (Middle Eight, Belter Radio, Reclaimed Radio).
It’s appropriate that these new Sunshine Riot tracks are traveling, as the theme of movement and the symbolic nature of pivot points along life’s destinations are at play throughout the EP.
“Sometimes I stumble over a phrase or an image in someone else's song that I find interesting,” says singer and guitarist Jonny Orton. “I was listening to a song by Simone Felice (formerly of Felice Brothers, now doing solo stuff) and he has this great line ‘In walked the guests in their animal masks.’ For me, it conjured up images of some kind of decedent, Eyes Wide Shut-style hedonism. That sort of empty glamour, for lack of a better phrase, struck me as a good subject for a song. So I tried to write characters and settings that evoke a similar vapidness and contrast them with a protagonist who's trying to escape to a Greyhound station. That's a juxtaposition I still dig; the opposite of a black tie and white pearls cocktail party is, as we all know, a Greyhound station.”
Though the fury of “Greyhound” fits with the high-intensity alternative rock template of the Electrical Tape EP, the track had actually been kicking around in the Sunshine Riot arsenal for some time.
“As far as I can recall, this song popped out complete during or just after 2018’s Lonely Hotel era,” says drummer Steven Shepherd. “I know we’ve been playing it live for years and it hasn’t changed. It always felt like an outsider as we didn’t quite know where to put it, but it felt too good to just forget about. It’s a great showcase of each band member’s style, I think.”
“Greyhound” came together with Orton and guitarist Mark Tetrault banging around a few riffs before Shepherd and bassist Jeff Sullivan filled it out. “Sometimes it's really hard, and sometimes it's easy,” Orton says. “This one was pretty easy. This song has the most air and space in it for sure, which I think gives some balance to the rest of the EP.”
Adds Sullivan: “From a bass perspective, this was all about keeping a funky rhythm, but it wasn't my first thought when I first heard the song… I tried to write a very busy and high-energy line to it, but got yelled at quite a bit (and rightly so). Sometimes, your first thoughts aren't necessarily the right ones and you should explore more avenues on how to approach a particular piece. When Mark wrote the solo, I definitely tried to play around his stuff too and I think it really produced a nice interplay between the two pieces.”
Much like “Too Old For Love Songs,” with its sonic callback to ‘90s grunge, Albini’s impact on “Greyhound” is apparent in the single’s recorded version, which appears on the EP. And as they got settled into the Electrical Audio confines, an on the fly decision to tear through “Greyhound,” that old track floating around homeless, never recorded, in the Sunshine Riot catalog.
“After a weird and sometimes difficult better part of the first Chicago day, Albini calmly and curiously pushed his god button and timidly informed us that we had more time if we wanted,” Shepherd recalls. “We tried to plan for that imaginary moment in advance, but couldn’t really agree on which song to toss in. At that moment, however, we decided to just play ‘Greyhound’ with the tape rolling. Kind of a ‘fuck it, what could it hurt?’ moment. Ended up being the best we ever played it.”
Says Orton: “Albini has a great knack for dynamics and is famous for the drum sounds he gets in the studio. Part of what makes this track work, I think, is that he was able to capture the way Steve's drum work supports the diction of the verses, which borders on rap at times, and gives it an almost-but-not-quite R&B vibe. The main room also has lots of air and it captures Mark's kind of fuzzy-yet-sheer guitar tone which I really love.”
“Ditto,” he says.
Sunshine Riot bio:
Gritty times call for gritty sounds. And Sunshine Riot are answering the bell.
For the past 10 years or so, the veteran Boston rock band ran with a variety of genres, swirling around a cocktail of guitar-rock that boasted dalliances with soul, Americana, punk, blues, and grunge. But as darkness fell upon society at the start of the pandemic age, the quartet hopped on a plane (safely, of course) to record a new EP in Chicago with acclaimed engineer Steve Albini at Electrical Audio.
The end result, April 23’s Electrical Tape EP, became something as startling as it is authentic: A raw, damn near primal alternative rock record that packs the introspection and dedication one must possess to survive in this day in age. Leading the charge is the EP’s opening track and lead single, the fiery “Fast Train,” which hit digital streams in January and quickly became a Boston local radio favorite, gaining airplay on several independent stations and shows and landing the #1 spot in the Boston Emissions Song of the Week poll.
“‘Fast Train’ is kind of a funky song lyrically -- it probably gives The Stone Roses a pretty good run for their money in terms of sparseness,” says singer/guitarist Jonny Orton. “What is there, though, is a collection of images that I find compelling, something like photographs of youth. The lyrical phrase ‘do not take the fast train’ roughly translates into an anti-suicide euphemism; I think it was a line that popped into my head after hearing about Anthony Bourdain's passing and I'd been trying to park it in a song for a few years. Elsewhere, ‘Maybe we're all just waiting out a storm’ seemed fitting to me in that context and perhaps doubly so in the age of covid… and other associated apocalyptic mania.”
Electrical Tape may come off like an evolution in sound for Sunshine Riot, but after more than a decade in the game, what emits from the speakers is a band finally comfortable in their own skin, playing this damned game of rock and roll on their own terms, propped up by their own merits and fueled by their own creativity. In the end, despite what dressing coats the core of whatever genre label someone on the outside may apply, the foundation remains a rock and roll ethos as timeless as the music itself.
“Sometimes we joke that giving up was the best thing that ever happened to this band, and I think that's true,” Orton says. “When Sunshine Riot started, 10-plus years ago, we were all 20 years old, and not only believed we would be a massive commercial success, but were young and dumb enough to think it not only possible but inevitable. After a few years, the hard realities of the music business, and guitar music in particular, set in. For a lot of bands and artists, that lack of commercial success is heartbreaking and they stop making art. I'm not sure what other folks' experience is, but for us, giving up on commercial success and just focusing on making the best music we can, touring for the sake of touring, and recording without expectation, has been incredibly liberating.”
Like most bands, the arrival of COVID-19 wreaked havoc on Sunshine Riot’s 2020 plans. A national tour was canned, ambitions dashed, and venues here in Boston and across the country closed up shop. The year was looking like a lost cause, so the band sucked it up and went to work: “We wrote some songs, and hopped a plane to Chicago and recorded with Steve Albini… We approached Electrical Tape the same way we approach every session -- we showed up prepared, didn't overthink it once they hit ‘record’, and tried to put out the best songs we had in us at that particular moment in time.”
Sunshine Riot are:
Jonny Orton - Guitars, Vocals
Jeff Sullivan - Bass
Mark Tetreault - Guitar
Steven Shepherd - Drums, Percussion
Radio play for Sunshine Riot:
Hear new music from Sunshine Riot on the following shows and stations: Karen’s Indies on Belter Radio (UK), Boston Emissions with Anngelle Wood; BumbleBee Radio with Kristen Eck; Laura Beth’s Mixtape Show on Reclaimed Radio (UK); Bay State Rock; WZBC’s Virtual Detention; Monie’s New Music (UK); Only Rock Radio (UK); Salem State Radio’s Everything You Know Is Wrong; WMFO’s On The Town With Mikey Dee and Rising with Skybar; Christian’s Cosmic Corner on Mark Skin Radio, and more.
Recent praise for Sunshine Riot:
Bursting with an energy and adoration for music, Sunshine Riot are a rare breed. Their talent to seamlessly skip from genre to genre with ease is something to be applauded and their ability to create music not only close to their own hearts, but also forging a connection with each listener is unique… melancholic alternative rock, brimming with '90s nostalgia. -- Middle Eight (Manchester, UK)
"One of the most remarkable live acts Boston has produced in a long, long time." --The Observer (Nashville, TN)
"With resounding drum lines and a set of vocals that are Cobain-tinged, Sunshine Riot keep the tempo quick and inviting to listeners." --Neufutur Magazine
"They’ve been described as Johnny Cash meets Kurt Cobain and their relentless touring across the country is garnering them an ever growing fan base of college students and fans of original music that doesn’t suck.” --Skope Magazine
"Sunshine Riot encapsulate all that can be great with rock and roll if you don't overthink it." --Nanobotrock.com
"This band has it all." -- Feedback Fury