Reigniting The Sonics

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Do you know The Sonics? How about Nirvana? The Cramps? Pearl Jam? The White Stripes? All of those other artists know the Sonics and would likely not exist if it were not for their influence. The seminal, and possibly first, garage band has returned from a nearly 50-year slumber to release a new record. They’re playing the Fillmore on May 8. A few weeks ago, Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic joined the Washington State band on stage. More recently, they performed with Eddie Vedder. That’s the kind of respect they command.

I interviewed guitarist Larry Parypa, and you can read the story here. Until then, here are some soundbytes to keep you occupied.

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You recently retired as an insurance adjuster; what have the others in the band been up to the last 50 or so years?

My brother Andy (bassist)… was a school teacher, and he’s retired. Rob Lind (sax) … he ultimately was an airline pilot. (Vocalist) Gerry (Roslie) … he had a small paving company. (Drummer) Bob Bennett … moved to Hawaii and was a bartender for a while, but he’s also a service manager now with a car dealership.

On the recording process of 2015′s “This is the Sonics:”

We were using the amplifiers that we used back in the day and the same guitars that we used back in the ‘60s on the recordings, and we approached it the same way to give as much energy as we can. I used the same guitar. It’s an Epiphone Riviera. We recorded everything except for “The Witch” with that guitar.

Are you trying to capture young fans with this record, or has that never been a stated goal within the band?

We’re just attempting to sound like how we sounded back then, and whoever shows up, if they like it, it works out. We’re not trying to be young. We’re not trying to talk to young people. We’re not trying to target old people. We’re just putting out the same set of sounds we did then.

 Did you release new music and decide to go on the road for your fans or more for yourselves?

Oh, wow. Let me think about that one. I think it’s almost directed more to the fans in the sense that we’re not going to play a song we don’t like, and we’re not going to do a song we can’t do with energy, so we want the audience to walk away smiling, saying that the heard The Sonics. We’re directing it to them.

When you were starting out, there was a lot of pushback to playing your songs. All this time later, radio doesn’t seem any better. It’s still hard for new musicians to get airplay. What are your thoughts?

I think it’s even harder nowadays because back in the old days, individual radio stations had much more control. Every popular DJ had more control over what records he would play. Not it’s almost a corporate decision. Several radio stations are owned by the same people who … dictate what will get played and what won’t. Back in the ‘60s, when we came out with “The Witch,” there was another song out … (by) Petula Clark from England. (She) had a song called ‘Downtown.’ It wasn’t at all an in-your-face kind of record. The local station here, KJR, was huge back in those days. And they moved our “Witch” off the playlist for the time during the day when housewives were driving in their car and all that stuff. And they would play things like Petula Clark’s songs because it was more acceptable.

If the Sonics were starting today instead of the ‘60s, they’d have an even harder time.

Yeah, because today the competition is so much greater. There was rock ‘n’ roll back in that time, but then, a good local rock band played dance halls and could get 800 or 1,000 people, and each (attendee) would pay $1, or something. Now there’s tons of bands and there’s tons of good musicians that are technically much better musicians than we are.

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