By Adam Lovinus
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The Living Suns' debut album brings the heat
Ever wondered what keeps live-music fans coming back to downtown Fullerton? It's not the drunken karaoke at the Rockin' Taco, or the joints pushing Top-40 sludge and overpriced alcohol. Out of such unpromising circumstances, downtown has actually produced some rare sonic gems that cut through the bullshit—including the Living Suns.
Since changing their name last year (from the White Noise), the band have become a fixture at places such as the Plush Cafe, 339 Drake Avenue and the Continental Room. Their abrasive, complex, classic-rock style—influenced by the likes of King Crimson, Pink Floyd and other usual suspects of progressive stoner music—the Living Suns also count such bands as Pedro the Lion, At the Drive-In and Radiohead as components in their stew of big riffs, spacey jams, and rock & roll balls. All of which has led to the Living Suns becoming favorites in Fullerton's music scene, maturing nicely on a diet of famous sounds and local inspiration that fuels their fire onstage and in the studio. Fans will get a taste of their recorded work with the release of their debut album, Self, which will be sold at their House of Blues show Saturday.
Still, it's the band's sweaty, chaotic, unpredictable live show on which they've built their reputation.
"We really just try to have a good time every time," says bassist Mike Meza. "It's a matter of letting loose and celebrating life with the people around us."
As far as translating that energy onto Self, producer Bob Burch worked with the band to emulate their powerful stage presence, and it comes pretty close. Champions of prog-rock dynamics should appreciate the rise-and-fall flow that gives each song specific textures while keeping a grip on straight-ahead rock on cuts such as "Shotgun Man."
Every track on the disc is like trying on a new piece of clothing. From minute to minute, you may be fitting into everything from a tough leather jacket that reeks of whiskey and cigarettes to a gravity-defying space suit. And the sound of fiery fist-pumper "I We Praise" is as raw and primal as your birthday suit flapping in the wind.
"We wanted the music to be more thought-out," says vocalist Bryan King. "And we tried to focus on some strong topics—instead of just an average song about a girlfriend, let's actually talk about something." King addresses that "something" on songs such as "Hook Line and Sinker," on which he writes about the struggle to achieve personal growth and change in a society that does what it can to keep people pacified and complacent.
Though the Suns had the right idea going into the studio, they admit to committing a few rookie mistakes, from which they're glad to have learned—little things like having your songs fully written before paying for studio time could've cut down their post-production woes. But hey, debut recordings rarely go smoothly.
"The main thing is that we all learned individually about our instruments, how to record and how to communicate with a producer," says Meza.
Since wrapping up work on Self, the Living Suns have shaken up their roster. The permanent lineup still includes Meza, King, Lucas Drake (keyboards), Sean Yakubovsky (drums) and Aaron Glines (guitar). But they've swapped original guitarist Brandon Banuelos for friend Joel Bond, who is more than happy to round out the sound as they head into summer with more show dates.
As part of the surging circle of Fullerton-based bands, the Suns have been taking hints and inspiration from friends Great Glass Elevator, My Pet Saddle and the Union Line. They've also seen hard work pay off for such friends as Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, who have garnered much praise, major tours and indie-label cred.
"Everybody's drive pushes each other," said Meza. "If Dusty Rhodes comes up with something, or Great Glass Elevator writes something cool, we're like, 'Damn, we need to step up our game.'"
The Living Suns perform with the Entrance Band, Cavil at Rest, My Pet Saddle, the Union Line and Aushua at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583; www.hob.com. Sat., 7 p.m. $7.50. All ages. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/thelivingsunsmusic.