By Noe Gutierrez
Over a year and a half ago, hallowed photographer Chris Miller of Imagine Imagery and I met the members of Sun & Sail Club at Scott Reeder’s (bass) home/ranch/studio on the outskirts of the desert for a photo shoot and interview. At that meeting the band was performing together for the first time while shooting the as yet to be released music video for the single “Hunted” to promote their inaugural album release, Mannequin. That release was welcomed by true music fans as a breath of fresh air. As guitarist Bob Balch puts it, “The people who got it, really got it.” The album featured the use of the vocoder. Balch used the device to impress his voice upon his guitar. Balch declared, “The bar of weirdness was set really high with that first album.” The high level of eccentricity of this band is the standard.
Fast forward to early 2015, Miller and I are traveling to meet Balch, Reeder, Reeder and newly enlisted vocalist Tony ‘Adolescent’ Cadena at Balch’s home in San Diego to discuss their sophomore Satin Records release, The Great White Dope and take some photographs. We were greeted by Balch’s lovely wife Amanda who was several months pregnant at the time. Their handsome son is now three months old and has changed Balch’s life perspective. In talking with him I saw the beginnings of the fatherly gleam in his eyes and the passion he has for life. In pursuing a second Sun & Sail Club album he knew his time was limited. “I figured to get that ball rolling before my son gets here. The clock is ticking.” Balch set things in motion by reaching out to Cadena.
Cadena is best known as the front man of influential American punk rock band The Adolescents. Balch recalls, “I sent him a message on Facebook one night. He responded the next morning and said he’d do it. That lit a fire under me. A lot of the riffs you hear on the record are fully inspired by Tony’s involvement.” Balch doesn’t stop there, “I grew up listening to The Adolescents. His words are amazing on this album! Even the words I got wrong; he sent me the correct version; I’m like fuck, that’s even better than what I thought he was saying.” Reeder (drums) was equally thrilled, “We had no words and he just fuckin’ scorched it. When I was playing the first song, the lyrics grab your attention. Those words grab you and it takes you into the rest of the record. The lyrical content is spot on. Cadena has been writing lyrics like these for almost 35 years.”
Cadena talked about his approach to applying his ideas lyrically. “I was sitting there tinkering with it; the lyrics, I was thinking in terms of the level of personal freedoms that people are losing right now; sacrifices people make for family and how those things interact. What’s now a whole new century; I’m still very much a person of the 70’s and 80’s trying to adjust to computers and being watched by the government. It’s a spooky world. If people don’t like what you’re saying they can get very aggressive. You can see how people on social media can bully each other. I was looking at what it’s like to have an opinion in the 21st century.” As in The Adolescents, Cadena first listens to the music before tackling his poetic approach. “Lyric placement was really hard for me. There was a certain amount of tension there. Frantic is a pretty good descriptor. In figuring how to place the lyrics; this is a style that is different than what I normally play. Ultimately, there are grooves that I really liked.” Cadena attentively places his words in the music as if both music and lyrics were written simultaneously.
Echoing Cadena’s opinion of the music, Balch purposely followed up the first album with a similar vigorous tone. “I sat down and wrote a shit-ton of angry fast-paced songs where you could sense nervousness.” Reeder (drums) also felt the pressure. “It had to flow pretty fast because we didn’t have a lot of time. There was a sense of urgency. It sounds raw but not loose and shitty.” Reeder (bass) listened to the album on the way to our rendezvous point. “I just heard the record for the first time in its entirety mastered and mixed on the way out here. I’m pretty stoked. These songs are insane and sick. I’d be stoked even if I hadn’t played on it all. I do hope we play it live.” Cadena concurs with their appraisals, “When I heard the finished product; the way that all three of these guys put their own inspirations in it was really kinda neat. I’m really proud of it all the way around. I’m real excited about it.” Cadena also uses his wife’s assessment as his musical barometer. “I played it for my wife. She’s a stickler. She’s really snickety. She’s the most anti-rock person I’ve ever met. She was listening to it and she began to laugh which is a good thing. She said this is really great, this is a whole different thing”. Similar in assault, but distinctive from the first album, The Great White Dope takes Sun & Sail Club to a whole new greatness.
Unexpectedly, this was the first time Cadena and Reeder (bass) had met in person. Watching the band interact and profess admiration towards each other’s work was a bonus. Cadena gives kudos to Reeder (bass), “I’ve never been on a record where the bass sounded bass-y.” Balch and Reeder (drums) have been playing in Fu Manchu together since 2001. “This guy’s a monster. He learned the record in a day.” I could write an article solely on the compliments these four prodigious musicians heaped upon each other.
Including a vocalist was always a part of Balch’s plan. Although there is no vocoder to be found on the sophomore album, Cadena’s vocals are much more than conventional, they are downright momentous. On whether The Adolescents fans will take to The Great White Dope, Cadena declared, “I think they’ll like it a lot. They are a lot more sophisticated. Today’s kids have everything. They can listen to whatever. I listened to the Beatles, Stones and Kinks. Until punk rock that was all I cared about. My daughter from the age of 2 was listening to a lot more than me at 40.”
The Great White Dope is punk, fuzz and up-to-date. The drums are pounding and the bass guitar is big as life. Cadena’s voice and lyrics are just what was ordered. Reeder (bass) relates the album to early 80’s hardcore. Balch believes you can hear Minor Threat and Deep Wound influences. The album clocks in at less than 30 minutes. Looking back, most of the albums I revere are short-play albums; Ramones/Ramones, The Beatles/A Hard Day’s Night, Van Halen/1984. Reeder (drums) puts it best, “Everybody’s attention span is so short. Well, what can we do? We can play music and express the shit that we know how to do.” Amen brother.
Both Balch and Reeder are currently touring the United States with Fu Manchu on their radically successful 25th Anniversary Tour performing King of the Road in its entirety.
Reeder (bass) is currently recording desert brothers The Hellions at his recording studio The Sanctuary. He is also prepping for Motorhead’s Motorboat cruise with Fireball Ministry in September. The cruise also features legendary metal artists Slayer and Anthrax.
Cadena is currently touring the U.S. with The Adolescents alongside The Weirdos.
Sun & Sail Club members will be reconvening before long to prepare for two shows in Southern California with The Freeks. The first show is August 28th at Café Nela in Los Angeles with Abactive Ramex and Herbert. The second show is August 29th at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach with Ultra Electric Mega Galactic and Symbol Six.
The track listing for the album is as follows: