Review Fix chats with Sunshine Riot’s Johnny O, who discusses the band’s new single, “Interstate,” as well as the band’s origin, goals for the future and creative process.
Review Fix: How did the band get together?
Johnny O: It’s a weird and long story of drinking, throwing up, throwing things, screaming at one another and getting into fist fights, and that’s literally just elementary school. Jeff and I first met in second grade and started making music together in eighth grade. After being terrible for a long time, we formed Sunshine Riot with friends in 2007, where we improved, but only slightly.
After several substitutions, we met Mark Tetrault, who is now our current guitarist since 2011, after which the music improved dramatically. In 2011 we also met Carl Smitty Smooth, who sings with us when he can, and it’s been amazing Steve joined in 2016, and again, the music got amazingly better. Steve was a huge part of this album, which is kind of like his welcome to the band party, honestly.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
Johnny O: Mark first got into music through the punk and hardcore scene but has become a huge follower of the Delta Blues. Steve has been involved in music since he can remember. Steve loves Queens of the Stone Age, and that’s why we love him like a mother brother.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Johnny O: A person comes to practice with a riff or a tune or an idea and we all explore where it could go together. Anything has potential, but when we all get into the nuts and bolts of it, that’s where the song itself finds a voice. It becomes a living thing, and we just try to water it and feed it fertilizer and other shit. Our songs have always grown with us, and by the way the writing process never stops. It just keeps going.
Review Fix: What inspires you?
Johnny O: At first, it was the idea of trying to make it big, like kind of a kid’s idea of what the music industry is like. But then the music became something we were proud of and with each successive song we wrote, whether we put it on an album or not, inspired us to keep going. We became our own inspiration. We’ve rewritten songs for that reason too, because if it’s good, can it be better? No, is usually the answer but we try anyway.
Review Fix: Why is “Interstate” a special track?
Johnny O: It’s fun to play and people seem to move to it, and no one person seems to agree to a genre on it. The lyrics are simple but can be striking if they hit you in the right mood, and the dynamics in the song are pretty complex and it was really run to write.
It’s also heavy, got a cool beat and you can slamdance to it.
Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
Johnny O: I would describe it phonetically at first, and try to sing each part of one of the songs individually and then say, just imagine all those parts together. If that doesn’t work, I would say we sound like something you’ve heard before, but you can’t really say what, but you know you might’ve heard it in the 90s. We take a lot from the 90s, but we use any tool we think sounds good from whatever generation
Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?
Johnny O: We don’t ever really do a song exactly the same. You know, if you stop developing a song for the live show it just kind of dies, it’s not a living thing anymore. It’s set in stone and it stays that way forever. We try to do them a little differently, where people will recognize the song, but might notice some variation somewhere. It keeps it interesting. Also we do a lot less swearing in our studio work.
Review Fix: What are your goals for the rest of 2018?
Johnny O: Not dying.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Johnny O: Tour. Pulling hair, gnashing of teeth, poking of eyeballs, going insane and trying not to get alcohol poisoning.