Hard to define
Their name is from a Senegalese folk singer. Their past is dipped in punk. Their present is looking at both indie rockers and techno mixers. So forgive the members of The Sunjul if they sound like everyone else when they say they sound like no one else.
“I don’t think we really have a ‘genre,'” says Brennan Paterson, the band’s 24-year-old guitarist and vocalist. “I’ve heard audiences argue about it, actually. I’ll hear them say: ‘They totally sound like folk-hop, man.’ ‘No, they’re post hair-core minimalist’ or something. The thing is, we all like such different music that it’s a combination of different sounds. We just kind of … play. Whatever comes out comes out.”
That eclectic mix of musical tastes and organic approach to making music has earned the Yerington-based Sunjul a steady following since their formation just four months ago. Joining Paterson is Ben Menesini, 22, on guitar and keys; Ben Beal, 21, on bass; and Cort Page, 22, on drums. The group members all previously had played in punk bands, “and were kind of bored of that, so we decided to make music that was more interesting,” says Paterson. “Everyone has different influences and listens to different types of music. Ben and Cort listen to a lot of indie/pop type stuff, Beal listens to techno and prog stuff, and I like jazz mostly, along with stuff like Sonic Youth and Mogwai. That’s one of the most difficult things, really—we can’t emulate anybody because we all would try to emulate different things entirely.”
Case in point: The Sunjul get their name from Sunjul Cissoko, a folk singer from Senegal: “He was a hell of a kora player,” says Paterson. Contrast that with the band’s songs like “Flying” and “There Are Too Many Pretty Girls On This Earth,” which sound distinctively post rock, clocking in at around six or seven minutes each and shifting from very quiet to extremely loud.
“Other songs dabble in noise and lots of feedback, such as ‘Meeting After a Long Time’ and ‘You Must Come to Terms,'” says Paterson. “Then our song ‘Deconstructor’ is almost dancehall. It gets pretty dub at the end.”
The ambiguity of their sound has presented a challenge for The Sunjul when booking shows. “We played the Gilman Street Project in Berkeley once with some crazy punk bands,” recalls Paterson. “The audience was really, really aggressive, and after seeing all the spikes and leather showing up at the club, we kind of knew we wouldn’t fit in. So we just cranked all the amps up really loud and played extra slow. After the show, an old burned-out punker said, ‘You guys sound like the weather, man.’ And we’re like, ‘Oh, yeah? Who’s that?’ ‘No, man,’ he said, ‘not a band. You guys sound like the weather—like a storm or something.’ Then we traded a CD for a loaf of bread from some nice young kids in a commune, and went home.”
The Sunjul currently have a full, self-titled album they sell at shows and are in the planning stages of recording something new. Their main goal is just to get their music—however you define it—out there.
“Even if every last person in the world personally tells us to fuck off, we’d at least like to give them the chance to do so,” says Paterson.