Music and creativity in general are always bigger than the sum of their parts, and for Brissie leviathans Sum of Us, the fusing of five explosively talented musos is a bold and ballistic triumph that draws out the best of its individual members - while metaphorically slapping you in the face and assaulting your speakers.
Drawing on grunge, prog lust and the slightest touch of pop sensibilities, Sum of Us have resoundingly announced themselves to the world with some tunes, live shows and a run of snazzy videos ahead of their forthcoming EP 'Sharp Turns in Dark Tunnels' due out on July 13th.
But just how did this super-group come to life and what inspires the ferocious joyride that is Sum of Us? To get all the Sum of Us goss, The Soundcheck grabbed beat behemoth and dark tunnel aficionado Dane Pulvirenti to chat innovation, creation and the relevance of Sigourney Weaver. (And as luck would have it, today is also Dane's birthday so you should probably give him money or a back-handed compliment or something?). Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Well hello Dane, and thank you for the chats today! So let's talk Sum of Us...five bad-ass Brissie musos in one killer band. And you guys have delved into your backstory a bit already in the recent studio diary. There seems to be a bit of a diverse yet complementary background with this beautiful mayhem, but can you sum up the Sum of Us origin story for people who may be unfamiliar?
DANE PULVIRENTI: The origin - it's a passion project. So, everyone who is in the band has been in other bands. And with established bands comes a sense of...there are rules and you become established with a particular sound. And then there are certain things that as an artist you want to explore, but you don't have the platform to do so. So, Sum of Us is set up in a way that it enables each individual to explore their own artistic endeavour. As far as an origin story? I got asked to join a band called Insinner in 2009, and they had all these really, REALLY strong parts in their songs. And I basically joined under the pretense of "OK, let's re-work all this stuff and let's really, really kind of exaggerate the stronger qualities of what the band was". And then what ended up happening was we went into hiding for about two years, and then re-emerged as a band called The Occupant. We did one show and then I moved overseas with Osaka Punch, and then I came back and me and Jamie (Jamie Swanson - Guitar), the founders I suppose of this particular reincarnation, tracked down the musos we wanted and bided our time and just wrote the music we wanted to listen to, really. That was the point. And, now we have Sum of Us! It just kind of fell into place, I did a drum clinic and the vocalist of Kodiak Empire showed up. And he was like "hey, motherfucker, I wanna sing in Sum of Us". And I was like "alright, well...let's do this!". Twelve months later, and we've got the EP 'Sharp Turns in Dark Tunnels'.
TIANA: There's already been two sneak peeks now into 'Sharp Turns in Dark Tunnels' with 'Forrest' and even more recently 'First Yawn', both pure dastardly prog that I think shell-shocked the shit out a lot of speakers. And these first few songs are supposedly an introduction to Sum of Us, but it's not the first rodeo for you guys. Not only, as you said, are you guys actively involved in other bands, but in true overachieving form for your first ever show you supported In Hearts Wake. Do you feel like having this experience and expertise under your belts takes the pressure off the creative and technical process?
DANE: Yeah, I do. I do. I think that also the environment that we have set up in the band room is very low-maintenance. When it comes to creating stuff and the pressure of making the music and playing the shows and everything like that, we kind of look for the path of least resistance. So we're not over-writing things or putting any pressure on each other to make it sound a certain way. Someone just comes in with something they've written, and then we just explore what their vision was, whilst allowing each member to, kind of, flesh it out. We trust each other. I mean, there's still a sense of pressure that comes into it because of all of the other bands that are offshoots from this. So for Sum of Us, the thing that creates the pressure is slotting it in as to not meddle with the plans of Red In Tooth or Kodiak Empire or Osaka Punch. But in terms of pressure in relation to the creative process, technicality and all of that - I don't believe music like this gets written under duress, as such. I believe the only way it can kind of come forth is if it is easy to write, because it's so intricate and technical, and overthinking something that's already quite convoluted just removes the creator from what they're making.
'FIRST YAWN' (SUM OF US)
TIANA: I believe you guys also snuck in an EP preview live show very, very recently, how did that go down?
DANE: It was full! It was full. It was a little hidden venue in Crowbar called Church. It was free, and it was like an invite-only kinda thing. So it was a little bit pretentious, but we just wanted to play it for the people that we wanted to play it for. And for people who had seen and heard of us. So there was friends, family, fans...a few arch-nemesis. But I think there was a little bit of pressure coming from other members of the other bands that we're involved in because we've put in a lot of energy, both financially and creatively. So I think for them to kind of come and watch was both enjoyable and necessary, cos they've been like, you know, "what the fuck have these dudes been doing this whole time?" and then it's like "oh, yeah, yeah! They're actually a band".
TIANA: "They haven't actually secretly been playing Dungeons & Dragons instead!"
DANE: Ohhhhhh, you fucking figured us out! (laughs) Dammit. The whole EP was actually written by the dude who made Dungeons & Dragons, so....yeah. That's the end of this interview.
TIANA: I KNEW IT. Now to zoom in a bit more on yourself for a moment, for someone quite readily known for some maniacally precise yet formidable drumming...I'm very intrigued to know who or what was your musical inspiration when you were growing up?
DANE: It's kind of interesting because a lot of things have inspired me on a technical level. But, I think the more relevant thing is the conceptual level of what has inspired me to be a musician. I was always into the innovators, so it was either Nirvana, Michael Jackson, Thelonious Monk from the jazz side of things. And when you look at their careers and what they did...they always just gave zero fucks about everyone around them in terms of shaping their art and their sound. They just did what was true to them. So that has always been a very, very big inspiration for me. And even with the other bands that I've been associated with, for my other band Osaka Punch it's the same thing, we just know what we want to do - and that's what we're gonna fucking do. In terms of some modern day individuals that have help shape my work ethic...it'd be Meshuggah, Dillinger Escape Plan and the Mike Patton thing. To me they just make the music they want to listen to - they're not making the music they think people wanna listen to. They're making shit they can't find, you know? So I guess, having an unwavering, honest and clear view of the art you want to create, and what's necessary to make that happen. That concept has always been very inspiring to me from a young age.
PHOTO BY THOMAS SMITH
TIANA: So back to Sum of Us quickly...as mentioned earlier we've already heard 'Forrest', 'First Yawn' and you guys have released a video diary, plus 'Sharp Turns in Dark Tunnels' is on the very near horizon...is there anything hidden or new that you can reveal about what's next for you guys in the meantime?
DANE: There's a little bit! In terms of 'Sharp Turns in Dark Tunnels', 'Forrest' and 'First Yawn' are the first two of three singles that we're releasing. And the studio diary is one of four. So there's still a lot more to come from this EP. And in terms of after that - we've already started working on the next EP now. We had eight tracks, and we recently went and did "band camp". And, yeah, the stories are true about band camp and woodwind instruments....we brought them (laughs). You should hear the oboes.
TIANA: I'm....looking forward to it...??
DANE: Yeah! Yeah, so's the oboe (laughs). But we had eight tracks and we went up to our bass player's parents place and we put down four songs. Realistically, we're trying to remain ahead of the release game. So whilst we've got something in the process of being released, we wanna be making the next thing. So, yeah - there's a lot coming.
TIANA: That's awesome news! And for my final question: in honour of the upcoming EP 'Sharp Turns in Dark Tunnels'....if you were stuck in a dark tunnel, what one essential item would you bring and why?
DANE: Is my item allowed to be sentient?
TIANA: Yeah, well I didn't actually specify the rules. So why the hell not!
DANE: Do you remember in Alien 3 where she gets sent to a prison planet? And the whole planet is just tunnels? And it's just Sigourney Weaver and the aliens? Well, there was another movie after that. So she survived, right? That's pretty serious. And whilst I don't feel like Sigourney and I would get along, cos I've got major issues with her first name....
TIANA: Is it even an actual name?
DANE: No! No it's not. This is what I want to ask her. But when I'm stuck in a dark tunnel, I'm gonna bring Sigourney because she seems to make the most of being stuck in a dark tunnel. And didn't die. So: my sentient item is Sigourney Weaver. And if it was a non-sentient item that I was to bring to a dark tunnel...probably a rape whistle? I mean, the sound would travel undoubtedly louder than my screams would.
TIANA: It'd have to be some pretty high-pitched girlish screams to beat that, so well played! Thank you so much for chatting, and can't wait for more Sum of Us adventures ahead!
DANE: Thanks T!
'SHARP TURNS IN DARK TUNNELS' IS DUE OUT NEXT MONTH.
FOR MORE INFO AND PRE-ORDERS, HEAD TO:
BY TIANA SPETER