If you’ve been in New York City for a couple of years, you’ve probably heard someone talk about how things have changed. You’ve probably noticed it yourself: rent goes up, places close, people move away. Nowhere are these changes more apparent than in Brooklyn’s DIY music scene: bands get together, bands break up, venues close. But then new venues open, and new bands form: bands like Bushwick’s Sunshine Gun Club, whose new album Heaven is out today via Weiner Records.
It’s being released on both cassette tape and digital download, which is pretty cool. I got to talk with Dan Walker, singer, songwriter and mastermind of the skuzzy, melodic punk rock quartet. Sunshine Gun Club is recommended for fans of lo-fi, DIY and deranged Teletubbies on a drug-induced murder rampage— read to the end to make sense of that last one.
The four members of Sunshine Gun Club met while they were all playing in other projects, some of which are still around: Walker, 39, of Ridgewood, is in a band called The Death Set, and is joined by Denis Red Scare of Boot Blacks on bass, Rex Weaver of Team Robespierre on guitar and backing vocals, and Will Broussard of Village Psychic on drums. They all met through various parts of Brooklyn’s DIY art punk scene in the early 2000-teens. Though that doesn’t seem like that long ago, and technically, it wasn’t, Walker says a lot has changed.
“I came on the scene when bands like Matt and Kim were starting to blow up in Brooklyn, and shit was popping off,” he said. “The warehouse scene was grimier, yeah, but New York had this really raw, awesome, energetic vibe. It just didn’t seem so played out. I feel blessed that I got to come up during that time.”
Walker says that though the scene has changed, it continues to grow and develop: venues like Palisades, Shea Stadium and Silent Barn (just to name a few), are “passing the torch” in supporting DIY bands. And it’s not so different when it comes to making musical connections: like how a lot of us meet bandmates, the boys of Sunshine Gun Club all knew each other through friends, bands, and going to shows. Walker says he met Denis Red Scare (the bassist) when Red Scare (God, I hope that’s his real name. We’re just going to say it is) was working at The Flat, a now-defunct Bushwick bar/venue. Walker met Rex Weaver, who does guitar/backing vocals for Sunshine Gun Club, when they went on tour together —Walker in The Death Set and Weaver in Team Robespierre — and he met drummer Will Broussard through a mutual friend at a party.
“We just all played in bands, and we knew each other from way back,” he said. “You know how New York is, it’s like a melting pot of networking.”
When it came to forming the band, though, it sort of happened in reverse: Walker had written an album (the very same album you can get your grubby mitts on as of today!), and decided to form a band around it. As it turns out, Walker writes a lot, and spends most of his time producing and mastering rad music for other bands in his studio, The Submarine: among a bunch of other rad albums, he mastered The Prettiots’ album, Fun’s Cool, which we covered back in February.
While Sunshine Gun Club is mostly a studio project as of now, pretty much based on the fact that Walker spends a lot of time in the studio, they’re gearing up for some cool live shows this summer (to be announced soon). And if you happen to catch them at one of these live shows, you can get your hands on a real, live cassette tape. I asked Walker why they decided to release their music on cassette:
“Well, once I finished the record, I didn’t really shop it around that much. I wasn’t exactly knocking on people’s doors to beg them to put out our record,” he said. “But since I run a recording studio, I had a contact at Burger Records in California, and they referred me to Wiener Records, which happens to be a cassette imprint. We set up a tape with them. It’s cool, tapes are kind of making a comeback. But we know that not everybody has a cassette player, so we set up a digital side, too: every cassette will come with a digital download card of the album, so people can listen to it whichever way they like.”
Cassettes are indeed making a comeback, and we think it’s cool, too. For now, you can get Sunshine Gun Club’s album in both cassette or digital format, as well as catch them at their album release party at Niagara on May 12. It’s free, and it’ll be great. You can also peep this ridiculous music video, which premiered on Alternative Press this Tuesday.
Lilly Vanek covers music for Brokelyn. For more on local music, and to find out which characters from 90s children’s television she finds most likely to go on a murderous rampage, follow Lilly on Twitter. And to pitch Lilly for New Music Friday, email her at lilly [at] brokelyn [dot] com.
Need more local tunes for your playlist? Catch up on previous New Music Friday installments here.