Locals Only: : Adventures in New Lo-Fi

Refreshing newcomers The Sundresses don't wanna be like everybody else

The Sundresses

One of the great new voices on the local scene is the "new lo-fi" trio, The Sundresses. Band members Jeremy Springer, Makenzie Place and Brad Schnittger have played only about a dozen shows, but they are quickly becoming one of the more talked about new bands in the city.

The Sundresses come from somewhat divergent musical backgrounds — Springer played in the infamous '90s Aggro-Rock band, Beel Jak; Schnittger is in folkie Jake Speed's band, The Freddies; and Place's previous musical experience is limited to the marching band at Hamilton High School. It's a chemistry experiment that even the members themselves expected to explode.

"There is a running joke in the band that it is the worst idea for a band ever," says Springer. "The worst band on paper ever."

The group has taken a page out of the drug dealers marketing handbook by doling out the first dose for free, in the form of a home-recorded four-song EP, passed out at the band's increasingly high-profile shows and given away at a couple of local record stores. It's a fitting technique, because their slanted take on Indie Rock is about as addictive as chocolate-coated crack cocaine. (I've listened to it as many as 10 times in a row, in one sitting ... and not just because it's my "job.")

There's a giddy diversity to the music, which struts from adrenalized, howling Blues/Rock/Garage guitar riffs to a grabbing, boozy swagger, like on "Universe.Universe," with its drilling hook, "Walt Disney is the enemy." But there's also a melodic cohesiveness, particularly on the strutting "To The States," that ties everything together and makes their adventurousness all the more irresistible.

The Sundresses are currently readying a full-length CD for the spring, which they say will be more experimental and fuller-sounding than the sampler. CityBeat recently asked the band about their unique sensibility and approach.

CityBeat: Were there things you listen to that directly inspired this band?

Jeremy Springer: I think (Makenzie's) marching band learning experience and lack of Rock influence has really shaped our sound. And I kind of feel like this band is influenced by every form of American music in some way. But I personally am obsessed by the idea of combining Led Zeppelin and the Sex Pistols. Also, I love Nina Simone ... a lot. A whole lot.

CB: So what's it like in this day and age to start up a new band in Cincinnati, compared to when Beel Jak was starting?

JS: There sure are a lot more places to play. It's been a lot easier to get shows as well. I'm not sure if that's because of the new venues or because of the "not Beel Jak" factor. People are a lot friendlier when they like your band, as opposed to let's say, getting pissed off by it. I honestly feel a bit embarrassed by my musical past in this city. My old band was oafish and a bit silly. I felt trapped in that band and trapped in that old scene, too. So now I usually shy away from talking to people I know from then, because I know they probably don't like me. That's OK with me though — I understand. I didn't like me either. And I don't remember most of that period in my life anyway.

It was very easy to get The Sundresses off the ground though. Bands will play with other bands that don't necessarily fit with them, but that's kind of the point. There is no "Cincinnati sound" in the new Cincinnati city music scene. The bands here are way diverse and we like it that way.

CB: I've seen or heard this phrase "the new lo-fi" in regards to the Sundresses a lot. Please explain.

Brad Schnittger: Basically, it refers to the "raising of the bar" in terms of what the cheap standard for demo quality recording is. A good friend and mentor of mine, Dave Davis, once told me that when you're thinking about making a record you need to consider three things: quality, time and money ... and then pick two you want to take seriously. Typically, and arguably, the one that is deleted in the "lo-fi" category is money, 'cause you ain't got none. But now we live in these great futuristic times where what was once very expensive is now relatively cheap. So, all we've done is attempt to follow the technology ... we used the lowest quality gear from both the analog world and the digital world to make an inexpensive, way-better-than-a-garage-recording, free CD to feed to the machine that runs America.

CB: So with the CD, you've taken the unique approach of simply giving them away to as many people as possible. What's the response been to this tactic?

JS: I think people have had a good response to it. We've gotten several e-mails from random people saying they like it or whatever, but I think we get our biggest response from our live shows. The CD certainly helped get people to our shows. That was our intent with it, but giving them out for free was a political thing as well. We don't want to do things the way they have been done. I think part of The Sundresses is finding new ways to protest, and giving them away was a small protest against the way the record labels and radio are run. The only reason why Jennifer Lopez or Disturbed is popular is because that's what MTV and Clear Channel push at the general public. And that's the way it will always be in America, no changing that. But if a good band works hard on their own and gets some distribution help, there is no reason why that band can't get a grassroots following of people who actually go to shows to see music. But I would sign to Capitol tomorrow if they wanted us. I am a complete sellout.

THE SUNDRESSES perform Saturday at the Southgate House at a Shake It Records show featuring Chalk, Mallory, The Fairmount Girls, Ruby Vileos, Chicago's Boas, Thee Shams and Color Test. They're back at the SGH on Feb. 1 with Promenade and Goose.

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