DO YOU LIKE Bauhaus? Yeah?
Let’s watch a video.” Bauhaus is not the first band that comes to mind when listening to Sundelles’ jangley, upbeat garage pop, but after a lengthy bike ride along Meeker Avenue to the very edge of Brooklyn and a descent into the band’s pleasantly cluttered basement apartment, that’s what bassist Davey Sarantos plays for me as he, singer/guitarist Sam Sundos and I sip vodka and pineapple juice.
“Daniel Ash created these environments,” he explains over the music. “Jagged, fuckedup guitar parts… they really had atmosphere.”
As it turns out, the guys in Sundelles are just as concerned with mood as those gloomy post punks.With three-chord head boppers bearing lyrics like “I like somebody/ you better keep that to yourself,” the band exudes a rough, simple charm, like the crust punk who shows up for a date with dumpstered flowers and half a bottle of whiskey. But if you listen more closely, there are hints of turmoil that run slyly counter to the catchy melodies. “Some of the newer songs were written in places that weren’t very nice for any of us,” says Sarantos. “‘Dead Youth,’ for instance, is kind of a disenchanted song.”
“It’s about growing up, leaving San Diego to come here, where I didn’t know anybody,” adds Sundos, for whom the band is named. “It’s like, youth dies and you’re just alone.” His first months in New York, he recalls, had been difficult. Initially two-fifths of a fivepiece back in California, Sundos and Saran tos parted ways when Sundos broke up the band and moved to Brooklyn.Then, a happy accident: “I ran into Davey on the street here while he was visiting, and we just talked for a while. He went back home, figured out some shit and realized it was better just to come out here.” Sundos then “texted one of my close friends’ little brother [Trevor McLoughlin] and asked him if he wanted to come out and play drums, and he did.” Just like that? Sundos grins. “He liked my songs.”
A Brooklyn band for just over a year now, Sundelles has acclimated nicely to its new environs, playing wherever and whenever it’s been asked to, from East Village dive Lit to Williamsburg meat market Union Pool to the D.I.Y. spaces the band loves most. “You’re on the floor with everybody and it feels like you’re at a party as opposed to being on some confrontational, pedestal-type stage,” Sarantos says of Williamsburg’s Dead Herring House. And while the boys relish the weirdness of playing with “bands you have no clue why you’re on the same bill as them,” they also enjoy sharing stages with likeminded groups such as Darlings, Crocodiles and The Browns. “We played around 15 shows in two months in New York, and we’re playing for new people all the time and honing our skills as a live band,” says Sundos. “I think that’s the good part about living in New York; you don’t have to really leave.There are so many fucking people here. It’s great practice.”
As for this city’s notoriously reserved crowds, Sundos is unfazed. “All it takes is for that one kid at the show to be tapping his foot,” he says. “Even if he’s got his arms crossed, I know I fucking got him.” In return for such signs, Sundelles’ fans receive free music and eternal appreciation. “It matters that a kid comes and talks to us and wants a CD,” says Sundos. “So if that can get our name out or get people into it, I’m not gonna charge them fucking five dollars to get into my band.You’re not gonna be able to get the money from record sales anyway, it’s all gonna be shows, so you might as well just work it.We just take the money from our band fund and buy 50 CD-Rs, and that’s putting it back in.”
This pragmatic, low-budget ethos carries over to the band’s recording methods; it records all of its songs using Garage Band and internal computer mics.This is not a calculated attempt to fit in with the current wave of acclaimed lo-fi bedroom artists so much as a necessity until fancier equipment becomes affordable. “We record this way because that’s just what we have,” Sundos explains. “We have limitations, but we use those limitations the best we can. It’d be awesome to record hi-fi, though.”
The band is currently working on a debut 7”, which it plans to self-release by early January.There’s already a music video for “Keep it To Yourself,” filmed by Russ Finkelstein (who has also worked with The Soft Pack) and viewable online, which features the boys goofing around on Coney Island with an adorable child they borrowed from a friend. “The video was as fun to shoot as it looks,” says Sundos. “I’ve always loved making little videos…I took video and film in high school so many times it stopped counting as credit.” Was the kid meant to evoke the band’s playful joie de vivre? “We didn’t really over-think it,” replies Sundos. “I just figured it would be more fun to watch a kid run around and have fun. I think living in New York, you forget how easy it is to just have fun.”
Jan. 6, Glasslands, 289 Kent Ave. (at S. 2nd St.), Brooklyn, no phone; 7:30, $7.
Also, Jan. 7 at Bowery Electric.