The members of Sun Valley Gun Club know everyone’s a critic
The Sacramento band defies the negativity, embraces its ’90s slacker rock influences
Times are good for local indie-rock quartet Sun Valley Gun Club. Its track “Hey Collapser” got some radio airplay last year on various San Francisco and Sacramento radio stations, and the band is now on the cusp of releasing its sophomore LP on the S.F.-based 20 Sided Records, as well as a cassette on Pleasant Screams.
Things weren’t always so great, however. In fact, they got a scathing review after playing an early show at a sushi restaurant in Natomas.
The review came via Gary’s Reviews, a YouTube channel in which its host—the aforementioned Gary—critiques music, books, movies and food. Gary’s take on Sun Valley Gun Club: “This band won’t be around for very long,” and “I hope they all get hit by a car.”
SVGC singer Evan Bailey doesn’t deny that it was a particularly bad gig.
“It was a really weird vibe because it was a sushi bar. I was probably being a dick and he picked up on that,” Bailey says. “If people aren’t paying attention, I become a toddler and I start picking at them on stage. But his review was pretty extreme.”
That show happened in early 2012, and was technically the first show they’d played as Sun Valley Gun Club; previously they’d just played under the name “Evan Bailey.”
Rather than wallow in the negativity, however, the band posted the review on its Facebook page.
Now, unlike the reviewer’s prediction, Sun Valley Gun Club has lasted, and it’s earned a buzz around Sacramento and the Bay Area— the band claims both Sacramento and Oakland as its hometown, as guitarist Justin Butler lives in Oakland, while the rest live here in town.
The band’s upcoming self-titled LP, which it plans to release in August, is technically its second, but the band considers it to be more or less their first. That reasoning works like this: When they first started playing together, they were mostly performing songs Bailey had written prior to SVGC’s formation. They wanted to get an album out as quick as possible, so they recorded some of those songs, and even took recordings Bailey had previously made, titled it Into the Valley Sun and released it in 2013.
Since then, the band’s original bassist departed, replaced by former Der Spazm member Ashley Maiden. The new record’s music was all written, arranged and recorded by the current lineup.
The result is a better album, the band’s members say.
“It’s more concise. The first album had songs, some Bailey had for years before the band formed,” drummer Travis Quinn says.
The foursome has also taken the ’90s inspired heavy-alt rock sound they’d been crafting and refined it. A lot of their influences include “slacker-rock” bands such as Pavement and Superchunk, but rather than imbedding a loose, lazy, apathetic energy to the songs, the musicians craft the complex arrangements, trilling guitars, arpeggios, shifting dynamics and driving rock ’n’ roll beats, and play it all with precision.
Their influences aren’t exclusively ’90s alt-rock but they don’t deny the genre’s significant influence. In fact they are set to release an homage to the year 1994—a mixtape (on cassette, no less) of cover songs from that year, each song collaborating with a different musician. The artists covered run the gamut and include Madonna, Cake, Blur and Ween.
“[The compilation is] our fucked-up version of being an elementary school kid and making a mixtape of those bands,” Bailey says.
The group is also excited about its upcoming album. In the years since they’ve started, they’ve made some more radio station connections they hope will get the record some traction. There’s even talk about reaching out to that guy at Gary’s Reviews.
“He could be a really nice guy,” Bailey says. “We should probably get him to review the record. I’d be down with that.”