As the dust of Canadian Music Week settles, Montreal’s unique brand of shoegaze and psychedelia departs town in the form of Suuns. Releasing their first LP, Zeroes QC, back in 2011, they’ve been looked to for an equally eclectic mix of electronic and rock sounds in their follow-up. On March 4, Suuns released Images du Futur, their most accomplished effort, produced by Jace Lasek of The Besnard Lakes. With a spray of noise rock laid out across their expanse of hypnotic rhythms and murky vocals, Suuns remained a band capable of keeping control of their sound, no matter how chaotic, in forming one of the critical Canadian releases this year.
I managed to catch up with Joseph Yarmush, Suuns’ guitarist, as he navigated the frantic streets of Montreal, before heading to Toronto. He discussed the nature of the band’s unique sound, enlightened me on some of the noises sprawled across the new album, and recalled the story of the band’s harrowing encounter in the Portugal club scene.
Anthony Boire: Coming into Images du Futur after Zeroes QC, how did you change your songwriting?
Joe Yarmush: A little bit, I guess. I think it all just got a little bit better. All those songs [on Zeroes QC], they were kind of roadtested, before we had recorded them. So we had been playing them a lot live. So we kind of knew them inside and out. With Images, we basically started from scratch. We recorded a bunch of songs that had never been played live. It’s just a different thing. You’re not really sure, what will work, and what won’t. It’s tiring, because you’re just in there for hours making sure everything sounds the way you want it to.
Anthony: How did you come up with the riff in “2020”? It’s got some noise elements but somehow definitely gets stuck in your head.
Joe: That one wasn’t me, but if you’re just playing one note on the bass you’re pretty free to do anything. [Laughs] I mean, I was doing a lot of slide. Like on “Pie IX”, live I always used a slide even though on the album we didn’t. Originally it was called “Son of Pie IX”, I think. That was the working title [for “2020”].
Anthony: Is there a conscious effort to take and give room for each other’s sound in the music or has it always come organically?
Joe: I think we had to work for it. It’s always like a conscious thing; you’re letting everyone have room and space. People have said the first album was krautrock, which is fine. We like krautrock, like Can and that stuff. But people will hear one song and that’s just their idea of the album, which is fine really.
Anthony: From your perspective, how do you see the relationship between guitar, drums and synth in the band?
Joe: Yeah, it’s about kind of giving each other space. We don’t do a lot of two instruments playing a riff. I mean on “Mirror Mirror”, that’s really a guitar song. So the synth is doing something under that. But on other stuff, when the synth is really driving the song, you’ve got to leave room.
Anthony: On this album, I hear the guitar doing some more experimental, even explosive things, like on “2020” and “Powers of Ten”. Does this come from your work on the huge guitar sound on “Armed for Peace”?
Joe: Definitely, I mean “Armed for Peace” is my favourite song from Zeroes QC. It’s like this electro/hip-hop thing and then the guitar comes in. I mean, Max is just doing the sub-bass and the guitar has that fuzz on it. And then you’ve got the drum machine. [Laughs] I mean I was talking about how much space we use and that’s just this really layered song.
Anthony: How did Europe and beyond respond to the music in contrast to Canada?
Joe: I mean, just with the last album, Europe really liked it especially. I think a lot of that had to do with just the fact that it didn’t get a lot of exposure in Canada when it was coming out.
Anthony: What is the most terrifying place you’ve ever played a show?
Joe: [Laughs] I don’t know if terrifying is the word. We did play this show in Lisbon, Portugal. The cops came and raided the whole block. I don’t know how you raid a block, but they did. They had dogs. Everyone had to leave, except for us. We had to stay inside with the club owners. The club reopened at 6 am, though.
Anthony: For breakfast?
Joe: No way, drinks and super loud music. The whole thing. They’re different over there. Our hotel was across the street and [our manager] had to come out and get us in the morning. So I don’t know if terrifying is the word. Well, I don’t know, anytime the cops are involved there’s always a bit of… fear.
Anthony: Have you guys put together any ideas for a third album?
Joe: I don’t know if I should be saying anything, but we recorded this EP thing, back in November, with this new band from Montreal, called Jerusalem in My Heart. They’re great. We worked on stuff together for a little while and we’re really excited about it.