Monday 15 June 2015

'Dropping Anchor with Sun & Sail Club' : In Conversation with 'The Reverend' Bob Balch

Anyone that knows me would tell you that Reverend Bob Balch is by far one of my favorite guitar players of all time. The master of the fuzz riff is back with his merry gang of sailors to produce an album that harkens back to Bad Brains, Ramones and a slice of Devo.

The law office of Reeder, Reeder and Balch have added a new Associate to their renowned firm, Tony Adolescent. The Sun and Sail club has thrown its anchor ashore and has landed on an album that simply blends aggression as a key factor and musician interplay into another. They have woven together an assortment of tunes that will have strolling down a one way street in a not so nice area of town looking like you swallowed a whole flock of canaries.  If you are looking for an album that hits like a ram and takes what it wants, when it wants it, well then, the Sun and Sail Club has delivered such an album.

The Reverend Balch was nice enough to enlighten me about the recording and writing process for the new album. So sit back, grab a brew or 8 and enjoy the way of the Sun and Sail Club.

Gaff) Bob, pleasure as always sir.

Balch) you too,

Gaff) So please tell me how this album came to life, especially how Tony was brought in.

Balch) I didn’t really have much written and I reached out to Tony. I wanted to hear a singer, he was the first person I reached out too, he said yes. I am a huge Adolescents fan, so I wrote almost the whole album in an afternoon. I was so inspired and I wrote a lot of it with him in mind and him singing. I had some other stuff that was vocoder oriented but once I spoke with Tony, I knew I had to write all sorts of shit and what I would love to hear him sing on.

Gaff)  Its way different than the first one.

Balch- It’s not proggy, it’s more straight forward. This one is actually more fuzz. The first one I wrote so many notes and riffs I couldn’t get as fuzzy as I am used too. The first one was more drop A tuning, this one was just down a whole step and I could get really fuzzy on this one.

Gaff) Tonality wise, this is some of the best stuff I have heard you do. It is a straight up wall of sound.

Balch) Yeah, we did drums the same place we did ‘Gigantoid’.

Gaff) At the guy in Moab studio? And these songs are really fast

Balch) Yeah, Andrew, I know how he works so I figured Reeder would get his stuff done and I could get guitars done in a day. It kind of took a little longer than I thought, so by the time I got done with guitars it was about 4 in the morning and we got there at noon, so it’s kind of cool because I did one track on the left side, I was kind of awake and by the time I got to the other side I was kind of falling asleep. I usually go to bed at 10pm and then get up early and surf. So it kind of sounds like two different guitar players. It’s funny, It is not sloppy by any means you probably wouldn’t be able to tell, but I can tell. Like I wouldn’t have held that note as long or it sounds bigger that way.

Gaff) Its way different then the Fu Manchu stuff

Balch) Yeah the song that we put out for is the most Fu Manchu esque. The rest is panicky, fast, I was listening to a lot of DRI. I like a lot of the faster Adolescents songs like ‘Word Attack’, so I felt it would be rad to have Tony do a bunch of stuff like that. There are some slower songs but yeah, it’s pretty pissed off.

Gaff) It is one of those albums that after a few listens you wanna hop in your car and do 85 mph in a 30 mph zone. How was it working again with the two Reeder’s; were they down for the vibe of the album?

Balch) Yeah, like I said I wrote most of the album in a day, did a few touch ups but yeah, I showed it to the drummer Reeder, and that guy is a monster, we only went through it once. Next thing, we were in the studio for a couple of days and he nailed it. Same thing as the last one, I would call Reeder in the desert and ask if I could come up and have him lay down some bass. He was pretty stoked on it too. He said it was way different than the first album also. When I called him I said it was simpler, because to me it is. The arrangements are simpler, it is faster and the riffs were easier to play. Reeder said, “you said this was easier, this is crazy shit to play”. He got it and was stoked to be a part of it.

Gaff) So what did it take to do the whole thing, a few weeks?

Balch) Let’s see? We did guitar and drums in one day, bass and leads in a day. The vocals about a day, we split it up into 2 times, bass and leads in a day. We mixed it in 2 weekends, so probably 9 to 10 days total. I just stretched it out over a period of months. It is kind of painstaking because you would record and then I did not want to listen to it too much, besides I would think should I change something? So I would just sit on it for a few weeks and then go back in.

Gaff) So did you guys fund the whole thing?

Balch) Yeah, Reeder (the drummer) and myself. Same as last time.

Gaff- It is rare that you get such a transformation from the first album to the second. I really dig this one. I am used to hearing you more into riffing rather than just plugging in and crushing it.

Balch) Yeah all of them will probably be different. I have been sitting on a whole album of Pink Floyd type stuff.  It’s really mellow, a straight ahead jazz album also. It’s just an outlet. Fu Manchu is the main thing and I recognize that and people are willing to do this with us because of Fu Manchu’s notoriety. When the Sun and Sail stuff comes around it’s me just kind of  like, what the fuck,  let’s do this punk record and see what it sounds like or this weird Kraftwerk record.

Gaff) It must keep Fu Manchu fresh

Balch) Yeah, for sure

Gaff) Without an outlet you can go fucking crazy, are you guys planning on doing this live?

Balch) Yeah, yeah we have already been talking. To nail down dates with the 4 of us is a little more difficult than I thought it would be. Tony works full time as a teacher, and when he is not teaching, he is doing Adolescents stuff. His summer is pretty filled with Adolescents stuff. He is going to S. America. We have Fu Manchu gigs. Reeder has Fireball Ministry and studio stuff. We are looking at least doing a couple of shows this summer with The Freeks. Looking at maybe LA, San Diego, Orange County. We have had offers from Spain, Australia and Germany oddly enough, but I had to turn them down as Fu Manchu will be in Europe. Whenever we get a moment where everyone’s schedules don’t conflict, we will get together and play this one live. I think it will be really cool. I would love to see both Reeder’s play in the same room, it will be crazy.

Gaff) This would go over insane live

Balch) People might get injured.

Gaff) With the pure energy a few people might get their noses broken. Maybe a couple of shattered thumbs.

Balch) I would like people to stay safe, in those types of situations, the stage is the safest

Gaff) Very true. There was definitely some pent up frustration racing through these tunes, which is good to release as we get older.

Balch) I was always into Bad Brains. I always wanted to hear a fast album like that but with fuzzed out guitars and huge drums, kind of like Bad Brains playing a set on Fu Manchu’s gear.

Gaff) Like Bad Brains on sedatives with fuzz. Being such a huge Adolescents fan, when Tony said he would love to sing on it, was this some of the easiest stuff to write? Did it seem to just pour out of you?    

Balch) That’s how I kind of write. If I sit down and write riffs, and if it’s not coming, I can’t really force it.   I am not sure where it comes from. Once Tony said he was involved I was so stoked, it was just, I sat down and recorded myself for 3 hours and then just sifted through. At the end of 3 hours I didn’t remember a fucking thing I just did. Then I listened and said there’s a song, there’s a song. Then I took another day to organize it and came up with intros, it was super organic, I find that, people, the songs that you don’t labor over are the songs people like. ‘King of the Road’, we were in the studio; we didn’t even have that written yet. It was just like, here’s a song. You know, people love that one. Songs that we labor over and go over and re-polish it, those are the ones that we are like, yeah, ok, that’s cool.

Gaff) People I think can tell the ones that are contrived as the ones that a band plugs in and it just magically happens, that is what people want to hear

Balch) That is this whole record. I didn’t labor over any of it. I sat down yesterday, because we will be playing it live, it is about 30 minutes. If we wanna have a full set, I’ll have to come up with some more ‘riffs and shit. It’s funny comparing it. I sat down and wrote some riffs and it comes with whatever inspires you.

Gaff) Were you playing your Reverend through your Marshall?

Balch) I used my signature Reverend through my Marshall JMP on one side with 2 Creepy Fingers pedals. The other side I used a Reverend Daredevil and a fuzz factory through a Marshall 800 into a bass cab. Like an old fender bass cab. Those 2 sounds are pretty different but have the same similarities. Like when the chord would sort of fade out, they both had the same sort of crackle that you can hear throughout the record. I do it all the time as it sounds like an old fender, like it is getting choked out. I use both of those to my advantage. For leads I used a different Marshall JMP that I rented for the first Sun and Sail record from Satellite amps. I took it out to Reeder’s. It was cool to do leads at a different studio from the rhythm tracks because you have different mics and it sits a lot differently whereas before I just kind of would do everything in one studio on one cab. This way has opened my eyes. I was like shit, you know I should probably try and do that often to get a completely different sound you know.

Gaff) I think it’s great, especially for solos using different heads and cabs, it makes you feel like a kid

Balch) Yeah, recording at 3 different studios has given it really a nice sound.

Gaff) Sometimes when you record at 3 different studios, it sounds like you recorded at 3 different studios. This one really has a nice organic feel to it.

Balch) Yeah, drums can sound different because of the rooms, so we did all the drums in one spot. Yeah, the guitars and vocals are at different spots. I am super stoked at the end product, it’s really rad.

Gaff) It completely caught me off guard in a good way, it has a punk attitude with Creepy Fingers fucking blaring. It has a really nice match with Tony’s vocals and the sonic destruction with Reeder playing drums and the different guitar tones, they really sit together and the vocals seem to ride on top of the guitars bass and drums.  The sound of this especially vocally is nice as you can hear him singing.

Balch) I was also really stoked on his lyrics, Tony has some rad lyrics. I didn’t know what he would bring to the table and I was like shit what if he does something and I don’t like that, I heard the lyrics for the first tune and I knew this was going to be so much fun. It was perfect. I tried to ask him, ‘hey what are you going to be writing about’ and I would never get a response. Any other time I would email him, he would get right back to me, oh yeah I’ll be there at 1. I would say ‘where are the lyrics’ and it would be like, chirp chirp. He got in there and fucking nailed it. I am really stoked to have him on the album. I mean I grew up listening to the Adolescents. Even just hanging with the dude I was just tripping out.

Gaff) Lyrically it is pretty heavy but it works. How has it been when listening back to it.

Balch) I was really stoked to listen to it mixed and mastered. For the guys in the band to like it. Really for them to be happy to put their names on the record, had me stoked, ha.

Photo by: Jerry Miller

Gaff) The great thing about you guys playing live,  is that  it will be fun.

Balch) Yeah, the first album to do live, I found another guitar player and he rips, learned it note for note without much of my help. Getting the vocoder to not feedback was a nightmare. Every venue is different and you don’t know what the hell is gonna happen. I would like to do that album in the future but this one is a no brainer, we can kill it. It would be rad.

Gaff) You see yourself doing the third soon

Balch) I would like to record 3 7 inches. Really weird shit and then put them together in a special package. Once the kid is here, I will have a lot on my plate. I was thinking of that while recording. ‘Mannequin’ took a bit and this one was easy, so I am glad I got them both finished and am stoked on it.

Gaff) Best of luck with the newborn my man

Balch) Thanks very much

Bob and the boys really created a piece of music that blends the old with the new. That is the meaning of true musicianship. 4 guys coming together for the good of an album. It shows in the tunes, the structure, the lyrics, and most of all the foundation of fun.

Rarely do you get 3 musicians with the god given ability to do whatever they want on their instruments to not step on each others toes and create such a nice platform for an amazing vocalist. The idea of putting out an album that was done in fun and for fun is a thing that is almost a hint of the past. With this type of work, I have a keen feeling the branch of Reeder, Reeder, Balch and Adolescent will be taking cases with a grin. 

Words by: Gaff