Interview with White Suns

The Pyramid Atlantic is an independent art gallery (visual and audible) in Silver Spring, MD. DC's Sonic Circuits org frequently puts together lineups of forward-thinking sound/noise artists at the space each month. This is where I first experience Brooklyn, NY's White Suns, and their pure, unrelenting furry of buzzsaw drums, guitars, electronics, and screams. It was beautiful.

With each release, White Suns continue to expand into more far-out territory incorporating improvised noise with their well-honed assault.

Guitarist/vocalist, Kevin Barry; guitarist/electronicist, Rick Visser; and, drummer/electronicist, Dana Matthiesen were kind enou
gh to answer some questions.

Let's start with a little history. How did you guys get together? Previous musical background?

Dana - We all grew up in the same town and all began playing music in high school. I knew Kevin was into noise/no wave music, so we ended up fucking around in m

y garage and eventually forming a band. Rick joined later, but he and I had been musical comrades and collaborating in some form for an equally long period of time.

Kevin - We gravitated towards each other because we all possess the ability to utterly offer ourselves up to the experience of making sound.

The first time I saw you guys play was at The Pyramid Atlantic art space in Silver Spring, MD. I've heard a lot of noise based performances there but nothing as intense as you guys. Does it seem strange doing what you guys do in an art gallery/s


K - I, for one, have enjoyed playing in "fine art" environments because it invites a different type of criticism. Rather than focusing on how well we can (or can't) play our instruments or whether there are any hooks in a song, I hope the audience might be considering the more formal aspects of our music - structure, space, texture, etc. These are the things we think about when we write the songs.

D - Ditto. We rarely get the opportunity to play that sort of venue and, even though it was an uncommon and somewhat odd experience playing for a mostly-seated, older crowd at Pyramid Atlantic, I think those people can get into the abstraction we bring to rock music.

Rick - It doesn't seem strange doing what we're doing anywhere anymore, and playing in galleries allows us to experiment with more improvisational material, or in the case of Pyramid Atlantic, the long form song. The audience is generally more interested in seeing something abstract or experimental and also more attentive.

You guys have a great mix of noise and experimentation mixed with fast, raw...I don't know.hahaha, punk, maybe? It's a beautiful thing! Has your variety in sound opened more opportunities for you guys to play different types of shows, or have you found it harder for people to digest since White Suns don't seem to fit any clean, neat musical template?

D - It's weird. We don't find much in the way of 'sister' projects where we live, but it hasn't kept (a handful of) people from liking what we're doing. We typically play with bands that verge more toward straight-up punk or rock than I identify with, but the crossover potential in terms of the audience digging less tonal or linear music is totally out there. People just aren't doing it.

K - We certainly don't get stuck playing the same bills all the time, which is great. Our lack of an easy genre reference hasn't caused any problems.

R - We play noise shows where we're the only band with a drummer and punk/hardcore type shows where we're the only band without a bass player, playing songs longer than two minutes. There are always some people that are into it and some people that aren't.

"Mourning Chamber" was one of my favorite releases of 2010, and resembled more of what I experienced seeing you guys at Pyramid Atlantic, and at DNA Test Fest, last year. However, I just listened to "Cavity," recently, and was caught off guard by you guys letting more space into the songs with more sound based experiments. What influences/inspiration do you guys bring into the fold that inform White Suns' sound?

K - The three of us arrive at White Suns from different musical trajectories. The most inspiring thing I have experienced recently was a book of selected poems by Anne Sexton.

D - My aesthetic tastes generally revolve around European high modernism, punk rock, conceptual art, and their offspring. Favorites include Beckett, Xenakis, and Harry Pussy. I also spend a lot of time reading philosophy and logic/mathematics books, so it shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me that my approach to music is generally more inclined to formal and technical manipulation. I think I'd like our band to get to a point where I'm only incidentally playing the drums, but we're a ways off from that right now.

R - I have come to prefer the songs with more space and less of a pounding straight ahead rock vibe. It allows us to explore sounds and their interaction with an emphasis on the sound itself, as opposed to burying it in a punk song. Lately it's been all about sound and not composition for me. Or...sound as composition. I agree with Dana, perhaps one day it will all be incidental.

White Suns have a new album coming out on ugEXPLODE, "Waking In The Reservoir." How did you guys get hooked up with ugEXPLODE? And, what can we expect from "Waking...?"

K - Weasel Walter, who runs the label, asked us to play a show with one of his projects. He was enthusiastic about us and offered to put out a record. We were overdue for one and trusted his ethical business practices. You can expect 7 well-recorded songs - all but one have vocals.

D - Most of the credit must be given to Weasel for actually giving a shit about us. As for the content, there are a couple things toward the end that will remind you of "Mourning Chamber" and the sound experiments you referenced before; the rest is standard White Suns thrash-fest.

R - Lock grooves. Lots of lock grooves.

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