Dig the Now Sound (Thursdays at 10:00 pm eastern on Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio) plays standout recent garage/psych. The featured track this week is “Oh, Sally” by Sun Voyager from Albany, NY. “Oh Sally” is the lead-off track on their EP Cosmic Tides, released earlier this year. Cosmic Tides is currently available as a “name your price” download on Bandcamp.
I recently corresponded with Stefan Mersch, bassist for Sun Voyager.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: What are your influences? Have you recorded or released anything other than Cosmic Tides?
Sun Voyager: Individually, our influences are all over the place but when it comes to us as a band, I’d say we’ve got our own sort of Sabbath-y thing going for us that definitely starts with the sound of 60s classic rock bands like Zeppelin, Hendrix, & the Stones. Then there’s a bit of a psychedelic tone driven by all the underground bands from that era like The 13th Floor Elevators, Blue Cheer, etc. But we also like to keep it heavy and that comes from listening to a lot of headbanging stoner rock bands from the 90s/00s like Electric Wizard, Fu Manchu, Sleep, Kyuss, Gorilla, & bands in that realm.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: Have you recorded or released anything other than Cosmic Tides?
Sun Voyager: We haven’t. Not yet. We started the writing process for our next EP about a month ago and have three songs in their later stages. But I think we really want to put something together that we’re all happy with. So the plan is to write a bunch of songs and once there’s enough material to pick and choose from, we’ll hit the studio with 5 good ones to fine-tune everything. Hopefully we have a finished product by the end of summer.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: So how did the band come together? Given the diverse musical influences you mentioned, did you agree on your approach beforehand or did that occur more organically?
Sun Voyager: We’ve all known each other since high school, played in bands throughout but this is really how it came together: Kyle played drums and Carlos sang in a band called The Holding Company. They asked me to fill in on guitar for a show, I learned the songs and things clicked so I joined, then after the other guitar player left, we recruited Steve to play with us and his style took us into the atmosphere. That’s when we started developing our chemistry and it was fucking awesome banking ideas off each other and writing songs. Suddenly everything seemed possible. We became brothers. Everyone but me moved into a house up in Coxsackie NY, we recorded a full length there, but shortly after releasing it, things went south. I stopped coming up. Steve stopped coming out of his room. Long story short, our bass player pissed everyone off to the point where none of us could do it anymore or we’d all go nuts. And it was really hard to do because we were all like brothers for so long. We didn’t want to stop playing music, so Steve, Kyle and I kept jamming together, I switched to bass, then after a while Carlos came to us looking to start another band and Sun Voyager was born. Since we’d all been doing it for so long, the music came naturally and writing songs as a group was, somehow, so much easier than it was before. Our influences didn’t matter, we just came together again as brothers, like we always did, and wrote songs from the heart.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: Where are you located? Is there a supportive scene there? One thing that interests me quite a bit is how the internet has fundamentally changed the distribution of music. Do you need a local scene to develop or are you more oriented toward making those sorts of connections over the internet?
Sun Voyager: We’re all from the Hudson River Valley in Upstate New York and there’s a much more supportive scene up here than there is in New York City haha. Not to say the City isn’t great! It is! But when it comes to music, there’s just so much chatter with hundreds of bands playing every night and so much to do; it’s difficult to get heard down there unless you get hooked up. And unless you have that hook-up, you’re on your own. The thing about the Hudson Valley is it’s such a wide, populated area which makes it a much better place for newer bands like us. Albany, Putnam County, Warwick, New Paltz. All small cities with not much else to do. Those are the towns that really rock and are much more supportive.
As far as needing a local scene to support you, although it is crucial to play out and often, I’d be inclined to say the connections you can make on the web are equally important. When we released Cosmic Tides on Bandcamp, the only people who knew about were the 40-50 people that had heard us before. We let them know about it of course, but then something happened. Bloggers heard it and shared it with the thousands of people that follow them. And this was something new for us because nothing like this ever happened with our other band. Chybucca Sounds, The Soda Shop, Heavy Planet, & more featured us, now we have over 3,000 plays, 200 downloads, and we’ve sold just as much merch via bigcartel as we have at shows. One bundle went as far as Finland.. And I said the Hudson Valley was widespread. None of that would have been possible by just playing bars in small towns. That’s the new music business for you, plain and simple. Having said that, keeping the live set tight is crucial. Also plain and simple.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: So what happened to the full-length you recorded? Any chance you would release it?
Sun Voyager: We used to have a Facebook page but that dude deleted it. I have around 800 CDs sitting in my garage. Definitely not releasing it ever. It’s not bad, just out of respect for that fifth guy, we’ll keep all that as it was. I don’t know what we’re going to do with all those CDs but they have to come out of my garage soon. So hey, you never know.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: So what are your plans for the future? Will you be touring?
Sun Voyager: As of right now the plan is to keep the pedal to the floor with writing for the next recording session. Taking things one step at a time for now, but touring is definitely the next step after another EP. Expect more music very soon.