Western Michigan Herald - 2/21/02
By Eric Mitts A&E Editor
Fake blood, independence, Cowboys and Indians take center-stage as performance art band Suran Song in Stag swoop into The Space with local act glowfriends and Mondale! at 8 p.m. Saturday, 2/23/02.
Suran Song in Stag formed in 1995 when visual artist Suran Song met bassist William Weis. The pair immediately found a shared history in music, as both were fans of Minor Threat, the Misfits, and Black Flag.
In the summer of 2001, drummer Doug McEachern joined the band, replacing past Suran Song in Stag drummer Claude Coleman Jr. of Ween.
"We are a performance art rock band made up of drums and electric bass and vocals," Song said of the band's sound.
Weis plays through a series of analog pedals, which enables him to simultaneously fill both bass and guitar ranges, so the band does not have a guitarist in its live performances, nor on its most recent CD, Cowboys & Indians.
"Visually, our show incorporates costumes, slide projections and film loops to interpret the narrative of the songs, which center around the theme of bully-ism in childhood games, especially Cowboys and Indians," Song said. "We also use fake blood in action art gestures which are a cross between rock star, Gene Simons of Kiss, and contemporary visual artist, Bruce Nauman in his piece called 'Fountain.'"
Suran Song in Stag has released three full-length CDs, as well as a three-song EP and a 7-inch single. When sitting down to record its songs in the studio, Suran Sing in Stag tries to capture the many aspects of its live shows.
"We really focus on making the songs work totally autonomously as great three-minute pop punk tunes," Song said. "This way, if you can't get out to see our performance art, we can still offer you a good record to listen to at home or in your car."
For Cowboys & Indians, Suran Song in Stag brought in producer Martin Bisi who has worked closely with bands like Sonic Youth and Live Skull.
"We're always most excited about each new record we make because we get better listening to ourselves and trusting our instincts more completely," Song said of the recording experience.
With this record, Suran Song in Stag wanted to incorporate the ideas about tradition that folk music, jazz and classical music have. Of all the 18 songs on the album, nine are original compositions by Suran Song in Stag, while the other nine are songs by artists like Gang of Four, the Chills and Lords of The New Church.
Since releasing Cowboys & Indians in June of 2001, Suran Song in Stag has done over 100 shows on three different tours across the country to support it. Of the many places Suran Song in Stag has played, Song said she likes the musice scene in Morgantown, WV.
"It's a beautiful land, and the musicians there are great," Song said. "They make music because they need to, not because they want to be on TV in 'Making the Band' or 'Pop Stars' or whatever. The sounds and messages they craft are from a well of energy that springs from an inner necessity, 'I'm going to work at Walgreen's or Burger King, take out a loan and build a recording studio or make this CD or save to tour,' and they are very proud of their day job funding their own efforts."
Likewise, Suran Song in Stag is run independently. Song and Weis finance all their own CDs and book their own tours.
Some of the bands Suran Song in Stag likes to play with are Rael Raen from Ann Arbor, Chicago Typewriter from Chicago, Moon from Morgantown, W. Va., Neptune from Boston and Richard Alwyn from Raleigh, N.C.
"All of these bands craft great music, but also have lyrics that are genuinely engaged in trying to figure out what's going on - in terms of how people are treating each other right now, right next to you, and also right now across the planet in homes, workrooms, and corporate boardrooms," Song said.
In addition to playing with these bands, Suran Song in Stag last appeared in Kalamazoo at a stop at Harvey's on the Mall, last October, with Kalamazoo's own glowfriends, who will be opening for the group once again.
"It's an all-ages show," Song said about why she is excited to play at The Space. "Bars are good, but all ages shows are ideal. It's how music should be offered - available to anyone who is curious about it. Come-up close to the stage, dance and enjoy. Perhaps, wear something you don't mind getting splattered with a little bit of fake blood."
"I don't want to give too much away, as far as what their live show is like, but I'll tell you that musically they are quite intense, and visually they put on a mesmerizing show," said April Morris, lead singer of glowfriends about playing with Suran Song in Stag. "Films are projected throughout the show. They wear costumes, fake blood is involved - it's all quite alarming and wonderful."
The members of glowfriends are April Morris on lead vocals and Mark Morris on acoustic guitar/vocals, along with recently added members Erin Butler on violin and Brennan Butler on cello.
The band glowfriends started in 1995 when sister and brother duo April and Mark Morris began writing and recording songs in the basement of their house. The pair recorded its first album, So Glad to be Here in 1998, and it was released on Jam Records in 2000.
Although the group's debut album features a full band sound with Mark Morris playing drums, bass and layers of guitar, glowfriends originally chose to play acoustic shows because they didn't have anyone to play the other instruments at the time it first started playing gigs. Over time the band began to embrace the acoustic sound for its songs, and April Morris said the recent addition of cello and violin add a whole new element to the music.
"We've written a lot of new songs as well," she said.
As a band, glowfriends has been playing shows locally for two years.
"I think that the relationship between my brother Mark and I is really what makes our music unique," April Morris said. "There is this strong connection that we have when we write songs together and when we perform, and I sense that the audience can feel that. What we're doing is mostly quiet, introspective music that is lyrically very personal to us, and yet we've left the songs open enough that I think people can relate them to their own personal experiences."