Suuns Emerge From the Darkness and Get Happy on 'Felt'

Suuns Emerge From the Darkness and Get Happy on 'Felt'
Photo: Joseph Yarmush
On a spring-like Montreal morning, Liam O'Neill and Joe Yarmush — two parts of rock quartet Suuns — are smiling and joking about the antics of Joe's kids. "Happy" and "pleasant" are not normally associated with Suuns — whose industrial-leaning, moody, onerous rock has been in the public sphere since 2010 — but Felt, their fourth album, is not weighing as heavily on their souls.
"We kind of started making this record by accident," O'Neill tells Exclaim! "We started doing demos by ourselves and things were sounding really good. We had been talking the whole time about working with a producer, and then by the time that conversation came to a head, we were already done the record. It was very, very easy."
Until this point, Suuns have been digging; searching for some sort of deeper, darker sound. Their previous release Hold/Still is steeped in palpable, morose tension; their visuals for "Translate" and "Instrument" served as an extension of this. Produced by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Explosions in the Sky) and recorded at his studio in Dallas, Hold/Still was the product of an intense three weeks.
"It was a lot of work. It was a good experience, but I don't think we had it in us to do it again," concedes Yarmush.
Felt veers slightly and surprisingly to the band's lighter side. Mixed by Congleton, whom they invited to Montreal this time, and recorded at Breakglass Studios, Felt feels like a different beast. While all the classic Suuns elements are still there — Ben Schemie's smooth, at times muffled vocals; Max Henry's electronic experimentations; guitar and bass-driven tracks led by Yarmuch and elevated by O'Neill on drums — the atmosphere of Felt is more relaxed, less constrained by time.
"It was done in very short spurts. It was four days here, take off a few months to clear our heads, four days next month, so that was easy too — we could have our lives," O'Neill says. "Recording Hold/Still was very much like our lives were on hold. We were in this tiny world for a really long time. Whereas with this, our worlds were still open."
"There was no pressure, we were just kind of exploring, working things through, and following our noses," Yarmush adds. "At the end we kind of looked at each other and said 'I guess we're done.' I think Felt marks a bit of turning point. We did three records that are sort of dark …"
O'Neill jumps in: "There's only so much mustard you can get out of that."
"Watch You, Watch Me," the first single off Felt, is quick-paced, urgent, buoyant, even. The accompanying music video directed by Russ Murphy is laden with pinks and blues and flecks of gold; its images blended and photoshopped together, painting Suuns' innate brutalism in a multitude of hues.
And while these news songs may initially grate against some diehard Suuns fans who are looking for an even deeper, Bauhausian dip, rest assured: Suuns' core is still intact. They're just experimenting with new sounds, and refining some of their edges. They're also having a great time doing it.
"After you've been at is as long as we have, things can feel quite difficult. It can be hard to find the energy to do certain things… but it felt like your first record again" says O'Neill.
"Lots going on, loving life! Suuns: loving life. Don't put that in."
"Know what? Maybe put it in."
Felt is out March 2 on Secret City/Secretly Canadian. Check out the video for "Watch You, Watch Me" below.
(Secret City)