Interview: Jimmy Reeves of Sunndrug

(photo: Travis Kesler)

Sunndrug is an electronic-infused dreary hard rock band based out of Virginia Beach, VA. The band was started by Jimmy Reeves (ex-Spitfire) reunited with former Spitfire band mate Chris Raines (ex-Norma Jean) to write and record with.  The Sunndrug lineup was filled out with Matt Beck, Junior Favela, and Clint Kesler.

The band is set to release their debut album, Exit Wounds, on Oct. 31st with Mind Over Matter Records.

exit-wounds-album-art
Artwork by Ron Thompson at ITAL/C

 

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak with Jimmy Reeves about working with old band mates, songwriting (and how personal to get in lyric writing), and future plans for the band. Check out our full conversation below:



Listening to Exit Wounds, I’m hearing some electronic stuff, hard rock, stoner rock influence. How would you describe Sunndrug?

I think it’s a mix of those influences. Some electronic elements and some of the heavier music that we grew up listening to and were influenced by. It’s a big mixture of that. We love bands like Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails. Yeah, so we just tried to mesh it all up.

Right on. I’d say mission accomplished. There’s for sure tinges of NIN in “Blackout” and “Stilts” and in “Denial,” definitely feeling the QOTSA.

Between your departure from Spitfire and doing Sunndrug, were you up to anything else musically in that time?

Yeah, I was.When I left Spitfire originally I hadn’t attempted writing any songs myself. So at that point on I started working on writing and I did a band in Brooklyn for a few years called Roam and we released an EP. And then did that up until starting work on this project.

Cool. So in Spitfire, you were playing bass, right?

Yeah.

And now you’re doing vocals and guitar for Sunndrug – were you always a guitarist, or is this something you picked up after Spitfire?

I was always playing both. Actually, Matt from Spitfire was one of my first sort of music teachers [laughs]. He was pretty advanced when we were younger and he taught me a lot. I was always playing both, always messing around on the guitar and bass and piano and I just love playing whatever.

What made the timing right for Sunndrug now?

Ever since I had stopped playing music with Chris, I hoped I’d get another opportunity to play with him again because I just love what he brings as a drummer. He worked drumming in Norma Jean for a while and had stopped touring and was back in the Virginia Beach area in Virginia. My family lives in this area so I was coming back and we both were in a spot where we were wanting to start playing again and thinking about doing a band. So it worked out really well like that.

Cool. So were you the sole songwriter or was that split with Chris?

There are some things that I did that were pretty developed but we really worked together finishing all of it; everything that’s one the record.

Going into the record, I was thinking “Okay, so it’s a couple of the Spitfire dudes” and in the back of my mind I thought I had an idea of what it was going to be like – but those expectations were completely blown up.

[laughs]

Was that intentional – to do something unexpected, was this a direction you were planning on heading, or it just happened to come out with this sound?

I think it was more organic. We kind of liked the idea of meshing up all these other influences and bands that we’ve loved through the years and just kind of seeing what happened. I wouldn’t say it was intentional, or we knew where we were headed. It was like, “Well, we love these bands and we’d love to try something different.” It was just for the fun of it, honestly, when we started. It was just exploring and messing around with things.

That’s sweet. You can definitely feel that it’s natural. It’s not rushed or feeling forced. I’m curious about “Exit Wounds” as the title track. It’s about the halfway point of the album and more like an interlude. I’m wondering about that choice?

I think we just love the idea of doing a title track as an interlude. Just for the novelty of it, you know, but also I feel that a lot of the album content – some of it is literal and overt and direct – and I think the way some of the music is moving and sound design elements in that song are happening,  kind of say a lot about the record.

That’s one thing I really like about Exit Wounds where the music really builds the mood all around the lyrics in each of the songs. It’s great. 

So the last of the three singles released before this album is set to drop is “Halo.” Can you tell me a little bit about that song?

It’s one of the first songs that was in the works for the record. I think it’s walking that line of the paradox of the happy emotion that’s heavy at the same time in the lyrical content of it – as far as fitting in the theme of the album. I think it kind of mixes in a little bit of a modern Led Zeppelin thing in the chorus, like the way the music is moving. I don’t know, it’s something it’s always reminded me of.

I’m glad you kind of touched on the theme of the record. Thematically and lyrically, it’s kind of a darker album and I read somewhere that it’s a “narrative of a man coming apart at the seams.” Is that accurate? Is it more storytelling or personal experience?

Yeah, it’s definitely a bit of both. I think it’s a story of a slow realization of maybe something that was blurry coming into focus, I guess, in a way that wasn’t something … that was kind of an ugly picture. Do you know what I mean?

I think I get you.

Without getting literal, the place I was writing from was the end of a ten year relationship and going through a divorce. So it’s definitely that informing all of the lyrics. But I don’t really want to hit people over the head with that too hard and I’m hoping to give people a chance to project their own associations and thoughts onto the song.

Oh, definitely. How do you find that line between maybe being too open and personal, and where you delve maybe more into metaphor?

I mean, I guess I kind of personally just go with a gut reaction. There definitely were times where we recorded chorus vocals for “Blackout” and we probably tried it with three or four different approaches and even within the lyrics and it just – it felt wrong. Maybe too personal, or it just didn’t fit. So, yeah, I think it’s just a gut intuition of if you’re walking that line well.

Fair Enough. Okay, I don’t want this whole interview to be a downer, so we can switch gears – haha.

[Laughs] Cool.

So you mentioned Matt from Spitfire earlier, and he’s actually in this band with you now?

Yeah. He is.

So it’s the original Spitfire guys all in, basically?

That’s right. Matt’s playing bass, actually, so we have this role reversal. It’s pretty funny.

That’s hilarious! How did Matt come back into the picture?

About two years ago Chris and I started working seriously on the album and finished it together and then we started talking about live shows and putting together a band. Towards the end of that, Clint, our guitarist, came into the picture and he actually recorded on a few things. But, yeah, so we were asking around, just looking for the right fit personality wise. It’s important for me to work with people who have a similar musical vocabulary, for influences and things when you’re talking through how you want things to feel or come across. And with Matt, we needed a bass player and we didn’t have one, we had tried some people that didn’t work out. Chris mentioned it and I was all for it. We asked him and he was into it. So, yeah, man, original Spitfire line up!

That’s awesome!

Yeah. I’ve known those guys since I was 10, they’re two of my oldest friends so it’s pretty great to be playing music with them again.

Oh wow. So naturally, there’s such a great chemistry there.

Yeah, it’s good. It’s easy.

What kind of stuff are you listening to nowadays? What would we find on your iTunes?

This week, I’ve been listening to the new Meshuggah album. Yesterday, I was listening through the new Dillinger Escape Plan that just came out. I’m working my way through Bon Iver’s new album. I like a couple of their songs.

Oh, solid choices! So for people who have heard Sunndrug, and now  you’ve mentioned a couple seriously heavy bands, is there one record that people might be surprised to find that you own?

Hmmm. I don’t know. I really like Max Richter. He’s a German composer. He’s done the score for the HBO show The Leftovers that’s on right now. I’m not sure if you’re familiar, but he did a piece of music called Infra. It was actually in response to a terrorist attack in London, and it’s just one of my favorite pieces of music. It’s definitely different from what we’re doing.

I will definitely have to check that out.
Do you have any record release show plans?

We do. We’re playing here in Virginia Beach on Nov. 5th. That’ll be our official album release show. We’re really excited.

Cool. Did I see a poster for that – does that have Must Be The Holy Ghost on the bill?

No, we just did a couple shows with him a few weeks ago. He came and played up here and then we went down to Winston Salem and did his record release show, which was great. It was sold out, great crowd, it was lots of fun.

That’s awesome! Yeah, he is doing such cool, creative stuff. These two bands on the same show would be so cool to see.

Yeah, we’re loving his new EP, it’s pretty awesome.

You’re doing a few shows, but is this a band that’s going to be on the road at all?

We’re going to be doing some East Coast stuff, regional stuff, and maybe in the Spring we’re talking about doing a seven or ten day run but nothing full time. We’ll just keep doing short run things as much as we can do.

Sweet. Are you one of those guys that’s constantly writing, or are you taking some time?  Are there plans to do another record?

Oh, absolutely. I mean, I actually  can’t wait to get started on it. I’m always writing. Which is, that’s the part that feels the most comfortable for me. The rehearsing and going over and over things and repetition is a little tougher for me. But yeah, we’re definitely already talking about plans for the next one, and influences. We’re all excited to work on it together.

I’m glad to hear that! Also, I meant to ask this earlier, where did you record Exit Wounds?

A bunch of different places. It was recorded – it started in Singing Serpent Studios on Mercer St. in New York. I used to work there. So I started it there. And then just in my own home studio, back here in Virginia in a couple different apartments and we did the drums in a studio here called Clay Garden, and our friend Jeremy Griffith, who mixed the album, came up and engineered the drums.

Nice! Jeremy Griffith, he’s the guy that did Norma Jean’s Meridional, right?

That’s right, yeah!

Cool.

Yeah, he’s an old friend. We had a great time.

It sounds like Sunndrug is the Blues Brothers, and you’re just getting’ the band back together –

Pretty much, man, yeah! {laughs}

 


Connect with Sunndrug:

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