Saturns get set to blow up interstellar space
Have you ever had one those moments, even if for most of your life you felt like the odd one out in your extended family (lamenting holidays and reunions), until you eventually decide to talk to that little punk who you might have not paid too much attention to because he just wasn't of age yet? And then all of sudden, you realize, wait a minute, there's actually something really cool going on here — I can totally relate to this guy, and he's in a band too? Well that's a little bit like the story behind Saturns.
On paper, you wouldn't know it, but Bryan Sutherland and Lukas Cheung are actually cousins who never really clicked until a couple of years ago. They had both been playing in their own bands with varying degrees of success. Bryan is half of the electro-savvy Opopo (Urbnet) and Lukas had his own indie psychedelic rock band, The Dharma Sun. While they both love their other bandmates, family bloodlines trump all and theyve put all their efforts for the time being into creating a new blend of surfy, planetarily transcendent electro pop with a live and multimedia interactive experience.
You can catch them tonight at 11 pm at The Garrison for their self-titled EP release at the Silent Shout Showcase alongside a number of other side-project driven bands like Ark Analog (Dan Werb of Woodhands & Maylee Todd), Piper Davis (Piper Davis and Bryce Kushnier aka Vitaminsforyou) and Boss & Swan. This is a makeup show for the notorious previously scheduled October 22nd show at 2ninety2 which ended up in the bar threatening physical violence against the promoters for asking to waive an unexpected coat check fee for patrons (see the full post on their website). Hopefully this show will be drama free!
I caught up with the band to ask them what they've been up to and what's in store from them moving forward.
So how did you guys meet?
Lukas: We share a grandfather, hahaha.
Bryan: We're cousins but we never really started hanging out til 2010. We got really drunk together at a CMW party and decided we should party. He passed out in a hallway, hahaha.
Were you making music at that point?
Lukas: I was playing music with friends and went on later to form a psych rock band called The Dharma Sun and now we're doing this.
Bryan: I'm also in a band called Opopo with my bandmate, Corey Poole. It's not like it fit our schedules to do Saturns. We were both pretty busy with our bands but this started so spontaneously, and it felt really cohesive. It was going so fast that it felt almost wrong to halt it and give it partial time.
How did your EP come together?
Bryan: We made a spontaneous organic album that formed from a track that he started. We sat down in his room in the heat of summer and worked for 3 days.
Lukas: Yeah, it started with finishing just that one track and we were like, let's make another, and another, and so we ended up with the four song EP, with even more content than we needed.
Bryan: Trying to finish it all in one congested, short period was a really smart move. It made the summer for us.
Lukas: I was moving out of the house in a week and then I was going on vacation to China so there was this sense of immediacy that really put us on the spot. I think we slept maybe two hours if anything over those few days.
Bryan: Lukas had these two buddies crashing at his place and they saw us working through all hours of the day. We hardly ate. Lukas's friend was working at a catering company, though, and he'd come home with huge platters of food for us to refuel, and then we'd get back to working.
Lukas: The other sense of urgency was the moving out party that we promised everyone we would play at. We were like "YEAH! We just finished these songs for you!" And then someone spilled a beer on our synthesizer. A week before my laptop had beer spilled on it too, so it was acting up as well. Lukas's laptop is also secondhand, but it's almost like our dysfunctional gear played a secondary role in the process of creating our sound by keeping the recordings minimalistic.
How does coming from different projects affect your sound?
Bryan: Thats a big part of it. He's all psychedelic rock and I'm all electronic.
Lukas: I think we have a really cohesive workflow that we like to call a two-headed dragon, so nothing gets by us.
Bryan: His own musicianship really influenced me because I think I got caught up in just making big beats and this focused me more on songwriting.
Lukas: To be honest, it takes up a lot of time so a lot of music that's created is going towards this. I think we're both writing some pretty out-there stuff...sometimes classically influenced, but there's also noise-rock stuff.
Bryan: This is the first project in a while thats had cohesive boundaries. It's got to have sparkle. Saturns is a place that we revisit with the sound of the music and we're staying pretty true to that. We've made a lot of other music that didn't sound like Saturns and didn't belong in the same dimension.
Lukas: Dimension is a good word because I feel that to do this music, to paint a picture of an alternate reality is a big influence on the artwork for the album. I like to think that there's this universe that exists right next to us and this is what it would sound or look like, and there's the colour scheme that goes with it.
Bryan: We behave differently when we are in Saturns mode. It's nice to step into that mode and put that skin over it. We're really trying to incorporate different types of media.
Lukas: Yeah, we want to build a crew that is slowly coming together. We're collaborating with some video and performance artists.
Right. I understand you have a 7' tall male dancer?
Bryan: He's more like a shaman. The personality that takes over him and the faces that he makes show that he's definitely in his own world that fits ours. It's been very spontaneous and organic.
Lukas: He's like our hype man, but also an ambassador for Saturns, he's going to bring some serious moves to the show on Friday!
Where does the name come from?
Bryan: There are many interpretations, but one of them is based on the Francisco Goya painting "Saturn Devouring his Son," which to me represents two identities fusing into one. I'm hesitant to bring this up because the imagery is everything that we're not. It's just so dark and nightmarish but the dual nature of something being so horrific, yet beautiful and inspiring, is there.
The two of you being related seems to fit with that fusion as well.
Bryan: Because we're both related, we kind of operate the same way, which can bring out the two-headed dragon in the sense where we gnash teeth in a healthy way. I've never been this passionate about getting something 'right' in a project before... I think it's a good sign.
Lukas: I think it's a really good sign when you want to punch someone in the face, but aren't actually willing to going that far. That's the great thing working with family. You get really worked up, and have a direction you want to go in, and there's a big reason to want to communicate to get the final project done. But what are you going to do? Disown each other? You're form the same bloodline. You keep working and the end results are pretty rewarding. I think i speak for both of us when I say working on a track is pretty crazy and frustrating but I'm always happy with the end result.
Bryan: Yeah, neither of us ever get so hung up on our own ideas that we never want to listen to each other. It's been described as 'pulling teeth' but it's a very productive session when it feels that way. It's actually exciting when it gets that intense. It would almost be more productive if we did get in a fist fight but that probably won't happen because the music is energetic enough to balance that.
How would you describe your sound?
Bryan: Electronic dreamscape surf. That feels like the vibe, its very psychedelic and electronic.
Lukas: It paints a picture of our own personalities. You hear a lot of fight in it but at the same time there's a lot of beauty. It's music that transcends this plane. It's definitely in its own world.
Bryan: We play all the instruments, total 50/50 collaboration down the middle.
Lukas: We get them made and then try to figure out how to do them live. We scrapped so many new songs, we've played at least 10 shows and we've stayed true to this original thing.
What's with the pink skull?
Lukas: It's our mascot. I really like the duality of the skull. It's such a dark, deathly image, but at the same time it's bright pink. I think it represents our music well. Our music can be extremely sparkly but it's got a lot of attitude to it.
Bryan: Everyone can relate to skulls, we all have our own but we can't see them. laughs
Outside of Toronto, where are you guys getting played?
Lukas: We've been getting crazy hits from all over the place. It's amazing to track them through Bandcamp. We were posted on a Japanese blog, we're not even sure what it's called because we can't read it. But there's a good following in Portugal, Brazil, the rest of South America. It's a huge reward to think of someone across the world stumbling upon your music. As I was saying, I went to China just a week after we put the music up online and I was hacking the firewall there to check my Facebook, and I'd be getting all the updates. It was shocking because I was so far from home but it was a big motivator to get back to work, we were still sending each other tunes back and forth. It really feels like we haven't stopped since we started that first track.