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Interview: Bad Andy, bad!
There was a period during the two-thousand-aughts when Bad Andy held spot as captain of Fresno's indie-rock team, fronting two bands (American Sloth and Pinkeye) that still make people's favorite ever lists. Since then he's moved away, moved back, bought a house, had a kid and dropped off the radar some. Now he's back with new songs and a new band (the Sunburns), and if the scensters aren't excited, I am.
The band plays this Saturday at Tokyo Garden with Blake Jones and the Trike Shop, Old Toy Trains (from L.A.) and Roadside Graveyard (from New Jersey). Here, we chat with Bad Andy — real name Andrew Bunnell — about the new crew, his old bandmates and how up-beat music can be smart.
Tell us about the Sunburns. Who plays what? How long have you been playing together? How'd y'all meet up?
I sing and play guitar, Curtis Messer plays bass, Phillip Bergstrom plays guitar, keyboards and sings and Derek Rosas plays drums. We've been a foursome for a few months. Curtis, Derek and I played as a trio a couple of times before that, and I always wanted to do something with Phillip. This is a very strong group of dudes.
Does this mean we're going to be seeing more of the band playing around?
I've been recording on and off the last couple of years, and probably have enough songs done for two records, which could see the light of day soon. Having a band breathes new life into songs I recorded two or three years ago, which is kind of backwards for me. Some of the songs are perfect for a four-piece band, but some need six or seven dudes, so we'll see if that ever happens. For now, we're very happy to play as much as possible.
You've been in two iconic local bands. Stylistically and artistically, where do the Sunburns fit into what you've done in the past?
Maybe my influences and interests are a little more diverse now, but the new stuff is easily recognizable. Someone recently summed up everything I've done as, loud, fast and melodic, and I guess that fits. Since this material started out as a recording project, I've had more fun with arrangements and new instrumentation than before.
But it's still music you can dance to. What is your favorite dance-party music?
I've always liked more up-beat music. There's a misconception that up-beat music is somehow less smart or musically complex, and I disagree. There is definitely smart, danceable music out there. My favorite stuff to dance to is easily 80's new wave like XTC, New Order and the Talking Heads, and even more goth and darkwave stuff. Obviously my band doesn't really play that stuff though.
Aside from fronting bands, you're a pretty good hired gun. You play bass in Wheels of Fortune and gig with Jeremy Elvis Pierce's backing band. Would you play for anyone who asked?
I love playing in other peoples' bands sometimes even more than being upfront because often it's a lot less pressure. I've had some of the best times playing in No Cello, It'll Grow Back, Dylan Tidyman-Jones' band and, of course, Wheels of Fortune. I still do play with Jeremy Pierce and it has been an amazing experience for many years now. I would definitely consider playing with anyone who asked. I'm very, very expensive though.
When I saw your guys play last week, you did a Smith's cover. In Pinkeye, you did the Breeders. I've always loved playing covers and wonder how you choose the songs you cover?
Whenever I play, I always think there are so many good songs already written that I have trouble playing my stuff at all. In American Sloth, we did Bowie and Komeda (a Swedish band). In Pinkeye, we did The Breeders, The Beach Boys, The Cure, Outkast. In this band, we do songs by The Smiths, Belle and Sebastian, Brian Eno, Cass McCombs, Caetano Veloso, Kate Bush, etc. If you ever want to know my favorite music or who my influences are, come to one of my shows.
How long have you been playing guitar and writing songs?
Since about 14 or 15. My friends in L.A. started playing in bands around then and that was just about the time I moved up to Kingsburg and I found a group of dudes that were doing the same thing. The musical styles and interests were very different between the two groups. The L.A. kids were more into mellow, melodic indie stuff and in Kingsburg more upbeat, aggressive punk and ska. I found myself caught in between, and I think my songwriting style has always reflected that.
You now have a house and a mortgage and a kid. How does growing up affect you being a musician?
I've been fortunate to have a daughter, celebrate my 8th wedding anniversary and buy a house by my 30th birthday. But I wouldn't say many people say that I'm grown up. I have many friends who have had great success in the music business, but it's a tough business. I've always just done it for fun. It's a pretty rough lifestyle. I love cooking too, but I'd never do it as a profession.
They're usually the coolest dudes in the room. Anyone who is lucky enough to play music with them knows it. I've been very lucky in that regard, even though I take credit for most of their coolness. You're welcome bros.
Current obsessions (musically or otherwise)?
Last summer, my friends in L.A. put out several records I think everyone should own, including Fools Gold, Foreign Born, OVIDEO, Luke Top, Cass McCombs and others. I'm still reeling from it. This year has been filled with African desert beats, yeasayer, and late '60's and '70s psych-rock from Brazil, Thailand and Cambodia. Local favorites are Dylan Tidyman-Jones, Blake Jones, Quiet Americans, Poplord, Fay Wrays, etc. Current non-musical obsessions include baby Cha-Cha, Yo Gabba Gabba and the culinary arts.
This is a reunion show of sorts, yes?
This Saturday's show features a pretty incredible occurrence. When I was in fourth grade at Canterbury Elementary in Pacoima with my good friend David Greening, we had a substitute teacher named Mr. Jones, who rode his bike and played the guitar. Cut to the present day, we're all grown up and have bands of our own. Blake Jones and the Trike Shop, Old Toy Trains featuring David Greening and my band the Sunburns.