We’re purposefully trying to hit as many states with anti-trans, anti-queer, anti-choice laws as possible to be super extra gay in the faces and spaces of the people who want people like us dead and hopefully piss off as many phobes as possible.
With their brilliant new album The Unfailing Rope, New Jerseys Sunrot mix sludge, doom and a whole lot of cathartic noise into a collection of amazing songs that deal with the difficult subjects of grief and loss. The band have been through a lot during the making of the record and Gavin Brown caught up with Lex Santiago (Vocals/Noise), Ross Bradley (bass) and Christopher Eustaquio (guitar) to hear all about it and what Sunrot overcame to deliver The Unfailing Rope as well as discussing a variety of different topics relating to Sunrot.
E&D: Your new album The Unfailing Rope is out now. How has the album been received so far?
Lex: It’s been amazing! We had hoped people would like it and get into it but we had no idea if people would understand what we were trying to convey or not. It’s art so that doesn’t really matter but it’s always a pleasant surprise when it happens. We’ve seen a lot of people become emotionally connected to this batch of songs and we’ve also seen that we are posers according to the music article ‘leave a comment’ chats, hahaha. We love the whole spectrum.
E&D: Was the making of this album a cathartic experience, particularly with your hospitalisation Lex, prior to its creation?
Lex: Looking back it was very, very cathartic to complete and have come full circle. During the making of it though, it was intense, stressful, uncomfortable, and I felt like I was being operated on without anaesthesia.
E&D: How is your health now? Hope you are doing better.
Lex: My health is a lot better, thank you so very much for asking. Mentally I might be the healthiest I’ve ever been, physically I still have a bunch to work on, and creatively I am riding this high til the wheels fall off.
E&D: What have been the biggest influences in the sound of this record?
Lex: The sounds that come from vehicle collisions, house fires, and the like. Metal scraping, wood crackling, etc. Noises that come out of loss; the sounds of grief.
E&D: What do the songs on The Unfailing Rope deal with?
Ross: These songs are all over the place content-wise but I think broadly they’re all about hurt and healing in one way or another. Healing from childhood trauma, mental health crises, the trauma of colonialism and extractive capitalism. The way we tend to write is to hold a mirror up to some really ugly truth in ourselves or our world and try to explore a way out. I think that hurt and that hope is present in the music and lyrics of basically every song on here.
E&D: It has been 6 years since your debut full length album Sunnata. How has your sound and outlook developed in that time?
Christopher: We went through a couple line-up changes since the release of Sunnata. Rob, who used to play drums, joined me on guitar duties. It’s made our sound 100% louder by having a second guitar player, especially when we play live. Having Alex on drums has made our sound exponentially more massive overall. They have this giant drum kit and they hit them very hard. I also think Lex’s vocals have progressed so much in such a small amount of time, that’s been a real treat to see personally. Lastly, having Ross join us on bass felt like the final piece to a very chaotic puzzle was set. This band is the fullest and most complete it’s ever sounded. We’ve been dipping our toes in writing some new material as this iteration of the band for the first time & we couldn’t be more excited to see what direction we take on next.
E&D: The album features guest appearances from Bryan Funck (Thou), Emily McWilliams (Silver Godling) and Blake Harrison (Pig Destroyer). How was it having them contribute to the album and what did they bring to the tracks they appear on?
Lex: It was a dream come true to have these artists that we love as musicians and as people contribute to the records. Bryan and Emily made Gutter the unique powerhouse it is. Between the harshness of Bryan’s screams and the warmth of Emily’s tone while singing, the whole spectrum they create there scratches a part of my brain that feels so nice. I cannot thank them enough. They are the best folks too! Blake added a ton of cool layers of noise and samples to ‘Patricide’, I just layered them on top of eachother in that empty space over the riff. I’ve been a huge fan of how he approaches noise for a long time. He’s absolutely brilliant.
E&D: Who would you love to appear on a Sunrot release in the future?
Lex: Vile Creature, Kristin Hayter, Emma Ruth Rundle, Kris from King Woman, Qui from Witching, Kayla Phillips, Roger from No Mas, Jenna from HIRS, Dreamcrusher, King Vision Ultra [PTP], Ethan from Primitive Man, Soul Glo, Colin from Amenra, Moor Mother, Jake from Lunar Blood, Julia from Strega Nona, The Body, Pain Chain, Sammy from Gel, and so much more. I’m a big believer in community and collaboration. It makes everything better in my opinion. (There may be some big ones missing because they are already on unreleased songs, shhhhh).
E&D: You contributed the track ‘The Changeling Prince’ to a Thou tribute EP last year. How was it doing that song and how much of an influence are Thou on Sunrot?
Lex: That song is a beast, it was so fun but it was challenging too, which actually made it pretty exciting. We LOVE Thou so much and love their music. They kind of set a blueprint for us for how to exist as punks in the “heavy metal” world. They’ve stayed committed to a kind of down to earth DIY ethos and have always worked toward building community in whatever way they can. They are definitely a big influence on us, those internet motherfuckers.
E&D: What other bands are extremely influential to Sunrot?
Lex: Mark Morrison – ‘Return of the Mack’ is the only piece of music we listen to.
E&D: How did your recent record release show at St Vitus in Brooklyn go and what were the highlights of the show?
Ross: The show was so awesome. We got a good turnout and people seem to be pretty into the new songs. We got to play with our friends in Couch Slut, Quiet Man, and Rugirugz and they all killed it dead. The real highlight for me was just getting to see all of our friends there. It felt like a graduation party or something like “fuck it’s finally out and done lets hang out and celebrate”. We got to go to a sick thrift store and Amy from Couch Slut ended up getting a $400 Kate Bush vhs for like 3 bucks. I bought a bunch of Laserdiscs. Lex was only bleeding from the head a little bit by the end of the set. Good time had by all.
E&D: Did you play a lot of new material and how did that go down?
Ross: We actually played ONLY new material for these last few shows. We’ve been playing these songs live for a little while here and there and they usually fit right into the set. They’re fun as fuck to play and we get to jump around and beat the shit out of ourselves and our shit like lunatics onstage.
E&D: What other shows/tours have you got coming up that you can tell us about and will you be making it overseas for shows at any point this year?
Ross: We hope we can go everywhere! We want to make it all happen. We’re going to do a tour of the Eastern/ South Eastern half of the US in August. We’re purposefully trying to hit as many states with anti-trans, anti-queer, anti-choice laws as possible to be super extra gay in the faces and spaces of the people who want people like us dead and hopefully piss off as many phobes as possible. Maybe get arrested and use merch money for bail, who knows. Look out for that one to be announced very soon!
E&D: How is life on Prosthetic Records and how did you come to sign to the label?
Lex: Prosthetic Records is so good to us. We generally are all shitheads and have no idea what we’re doing so having the sweethearts at Prosthetic work with us has helped us become slightly more organised shitheads. KW from Vile Creature was really amazing and instrumental in getting us to them and helping us along with the process of signing. Becky Laverty ended up being the one to sign us in the end. She’s a wonderful person and she really believes in us!!!
E&D: What have been some of the standout shows that Sunrot have played?
Ross: We’ve been lucky enough to have been able to play with so many incredible bands we love like Amenra, Pig Destroyer, Full of Hell, Thou, Primitive Man, City of Caterpillar, Cloud Rat, King Woman, Gel, HIRS, Uniform etc. I think also getting to host absolutely batshit insane shows at the Meatlocker in NJ over the years has always been extremely fun. Also touring rules so that too.
E&D: How did Sunrot start as a band in the first place?
Ross: Lex had just moved back to NJ after going to rehab in Florida to get off heroin and shit and was going to shows at the Meatlocker all the time. He was super into Rob’s band Furnace Head and Chris’s band Thera Roya and just bugged them to try playing some really fucked up sludgey shit with him and thats how Sunrot was born. It kept being fun and here we are.
E&D: How is the extreme metal scene in your New Jersey hometown at the moment and what bands are you digging?
Ross: New Jersey is the best. We are pretty shit on by the rest of the country seemingly but despite that we are still having a bit of a moment. Our friends Gel are out there getting recognized finally as one of the best punk bands currently playing. There’s also so much incredible shit bubbling just beneath the surface like Unhinge, Ides, Lunar Blood, Come Meirda, Cowardice, Burial Dance, Stress Spells, and so many more I know I’m forgetting.
E&D: Who are your favourite ever bands from New Jersey?
Ross: I mean… it’s Danzig right? And I like Ill Nino. Also the singer from Discharge was born in Jersey. Fun fact.
E&D: What have been some of the highlights of your time in Sunrot so far?
Ross: Honestly, at the risk of being corny, just getting to play music with my friends all the time makes life worth living. Meeting all the people we’ve gotten to meet and screaming in everyone’s faces on stage.
Photo by Dante Torrieri