Radical American folk, free form jazz, instrumental surf rock, grunge, weirdo sludge noise, abrasive hardcore, and indie rock all reside and sprang from the entity known as Seattle. The gorgeous seaside city’s history is rich and colourful, long known for playing with sound dynamics and breaking boundaries all the while. Looking at their continuing musical output, one thing is clear: the beardos have risen. Whether that has materialized in the folk-laden hues of Fleet Foxes, or the hurly burly alternative sounds of the Melvins, beards, both physically and metaphorically, are bushy and big.
Sandrider, a three-piece who emerged from the remnants of hardcore trio Akimbo, falls on the continuum between the aforementioned acts somewhere mid-right of centre. With drawling howl vocals, chunky bass lines, rollicking percussion and pure groove weaving through the riffs, Sandrider is continuing Seattle’s heavy legacy.
“The guitar playing is heavily inspired by Soundgarden’s Superunknown , but I don’t think we sound like that. It was just an inspiration,” begins guitarist and vocalist Jon Weisnewski, who answers our questions via email. He is referring to the sound featured on the band’s self-titled debut, an album two years in the making. Recorded by renowned Seattle native Matt Bayles (Mastodon, ISIS, Burnt by the Sun, Botch) back in 2009, it finally saw the light of day in December 2011.
“I’ve played on a lot of records and I think it is my favourite,” says Weisnewski of the record. Whereas Akimbo featured unrestrained aggression to uneven results, Sandrider is consistently fun thanks to its walloping chops. “As a musician, it is hard to make an album that doesn’t make you cringe and hot in the face when you listen to it. I’m the least self-conscious about the Sandrider record.”
This lack of hesitancy may be due to Weisnewski’s foray back into guitar, which is certainly impacted by his tenure as bassist in Akimbo. Chunky and muscular, his riffs “could easily be Akimbo bass riffs, but the delivery is so different that the end result sounds like a different band.” Sandrider also differs thematically, as the lyrics and artwork revolve around Frank Herbert’s science fiction masterpiece Dune.
“I was balls deep in my first read through the Dune series when we were forming the band. If you’ve read those books then you know how crazy that first read is. It was all encompassing, completely occupied my mind when I wasn’t reading and ended up making a mark on me as we were starting the band,” explains Weisnewski.
The most obvious reference is on track three, “Crysknife.” Dubbed after the weapon used by the ferocious sandworm-riding Fremen, these knives are constructed from the crystal tooth of the worms they ride. The artwork depicts a hand reaching out from the sand, dagger in tow, whose grip is slackening in the throws of death.
Partially serious, but mostly ridiculous, Sandrider keeps their tongues planted firmly in cheek as they set to embark on their first Canadian show. The tour poster gleefully lists Madison Square Garden, Bell Centre, Royal Albert Hall, Key Arena and several other massive venues worldwide alongside the Palomino gig. What’s the deal?
“The power of a positive mental attitude shouldn’t be underestimated. We project success,” affirms Weisnewski.
Hell yeah. I hope it comes.
Experience Sandrider at the Palomino on Friday, November 16 and on Saturday, November 17 at a secret location.
By Sarah Kitteringham
Photo: Invisible Hour