Montreal based SUUNS (pronounced Soons) new EP, FICTION, sees the band looking back in order to move forward: sifting, re-imagining, re-framing, and then building songs from the remnants of previous work. It also features a borderline terrifying version of The Mother’s of Invention’s ‘Trouble Every Day’. We caught up with Ben Shemie (vocals, guitar) to find out about the EP’s origins and how life has been in their corner of the world.
How have you been this year, with all that’s been going on?
Up and down. Some days are hopeful, others are pretty dire. Everyone is experiencing the same shit. I think the music scene has been particularly hit hard – no shows, no nothing. It’s pretty depressing and puts in question your work, and your whole outlook on being a musician. You are always on the fringes of society as a musician, or in the arts in general, and with this pandemic you really feel it. Like ghosts in society.
So, what’s going on? Writing and producing, but not playing. So it’s weird. Not playing is, to me, the antithesis of what music is all about.
You’ve said that ‘PRAY’ was originally meant to feature on Hold/Still. What was it about the track that meant it didn’t fit with that album, and what made it a good candidate to act as a springboard for this EP?
‘PRAY’ is a tune we’ve recorded multiple times, with different mixes – lots of different versions. For whatever reason, it never fit on previous releases. It’s always been a favourite of our friends who heard it, but we could never agree on it as a band. Being a rather stubborn group of dudes, it never felt right.. as such, it just never found its place. The EP is such a mixed bag of material and style that it felt totally appropriate.
In some ways this EP is a more experimental take on our music, and ‘PRAY’ is probably the most straight-ahead tune on the release. It somewhat anchors the EP into something more familiar to our fans.
‘The true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.’ Can you tell us if/how this reflects your approach to making the EP, and how it might affect your creative process now and in the future? Did the narrowing of the outside world lead you to look back at yourself to find threads to pull on?
Totally. We found some gems that never found their place and used the EP to try new ideas. Certainly there is a need to release music and write/produce music. There is a sense of necessity, as you say, to articulate these musical ideas. Push ourselves.. it defines you, and gives meaning to your life. It’s also a joyful experience, like a drug. This year, the music we’ve made is much more inward-looking than before, but it has made the music open up in a way that we wouldn’t have had the agency to see before.
What was your thinking behind covering The Mothers of Invention’s ‘Trouble Every Day’?
It’s a great song. It’s also very different from what we think of as Zappa material. It’s very political and remarkably timely. Recorded in the 60s, it seems like nothing has changed. I’ve always wanted to cover it, but for whatever reason, we never could get it together. This year has been an emotional rollercoaster for everyone. Not just COVID, but putting in question your own privilege. It’s a real reality check. This song speaks to that upheaval, 50 years later.
Seemed like the right time to cover it. Was it satisfying to pick up pieces of previous work and bring them back to life? What were the benefits of doing this? It’s cool. You surprise yourself. You forget about all these cool ideas you had, that you couldn’t hear objectively in the moment. A lot of great material gets swept up that way over the years. You hear them again for the first time and often realize there are some great ideas. It’s encouraging.
What else is going on in your local neighbourhood/ creative world just now?
Lots of music listening, Zoom chatting.. smoking. The neighborhood is pretty quiet. The park is the place to go, at the moment, we aren’t allowed to really visit each other. Trying to be positive and responsible. Being careful when seeing the parents and so on. Creatively it’s all about having deadlines and focusing on small objectives. Not being able to play really changes the game.
Is there anything else that you’d want to discuss about the EP or the outside world? What’s on your mind?
It’s hard to explain how much this pandemic situation affects the arts. We are very much dependent on performance. I know everyone really misses going to shows, even if they aren’t aware of it right now. But it’s really affecting musicians and I’m afraid we are dropping like flies.
Buy an album… show your support to your local venues… I know it’s hard for everyone and we are all in it together. Sending positive vibrations to y’all.
This interview was first published in the December 2020 issue of SNACK magazine. You can read the full magazine below on your smartphone, tablet, or pc.