Sun Gods to Gamma Rays: Listen to us while floating in the ocean under a sky full of fiery stars
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Before the band's album release show at the Kitty Cat Klub on Saturday, they spoke with Gimme Noise about their beginnings and the personal growth that came in writing The Water, The Wave.
Band Members: Peter Bregman, Paul Flynn, Brian Gollnick, Mitch Miller and Brianna Kocka
Gimme Noise: How did you all meet and decide to collaborate on Sun Gods to Gamma Rays?
Brianna Kocka: How we all met is actually a really fun story to tell, because we are all so connected in funny ways. The key factor here is Peter, our Rhodes player -- he's like the "Kevin Bacon" of the band.
Paul and Peter used to co-own a recording studio called Owl Recording together in Uptown with two other business partners, so they've known each other for years and have engineered a ton of local music together. They've also been in a handful of other bands together. Brian, our bass player used to be one of Peter's roommates. Brian also played in a few bands with Peter and Paul before we started Sun Gods. Peter and I met at the Kitty Cat Klub in August of 2011; he was running sound for my solo project, CAETANI. We hit it off, and are actually getting hitched in about a year. Finally, there is Mitch. Peter and I knew Mitch peripherally; he's in a handful of bands in Minneapolis -- Me and My Arrow, Exiles, Sunday Band, I Hate Sports, to name a few -- and while we were searching high and low for a drummer, a friend recommended him.
What is really funny and kind of odd is that a few years ago, before any of us really knew Mitch, Peter sold him his set of cymbals via Craigslist. Now those are the cymbals that he plays in the band. It just goes to show you how interconnected this music community really is here.
We decided to collaborate in the late fall of 2012. Matt Latterell asked CAETANI to do a song on the Absolutely Cuckoo: Minnesota Covers the 69 Love Songs project. My backing band at the time was too busy with other projects to play on the song, so I approached Peter, Paul and Brian about it. They agreed, and that was pretty much the beginning of Sun Gods. I guess that means we've been a band for about a year.
Gimme Noise: What's everyone's musical background, and what do they bring to SGGR?Brianna Kocka: My musical background is pretty varied. I grew up a theater kid. At the age of 12, I started teaching myself how to play guitar, and before that I had taken piano lessons for a few years. When I was about 16 I started writing and demoing my own songs. (To this day my dad still has copies of them, I keep telling him to burn them.) By the time I was 18 I played my first show at the Acadia Cafe when it was located on Franklin and Nicollet. I played with a young Bethany Larson before she had her Bee's Knee's and Jimmy Barnett, the drummer from Sleeper and the Sleepless.
From there, I just kept writing and playing, but I didn't really consider myself an artist or musician until about four years ago. It was in 2010 that I recorded my first real album under my real name, the LP was called Write by Night. It's a folk album. Then in April of 2012 I released The Black EP under my stage name CAETANI. I'm really excited about Sun Gods to Gamma Rays for a handful of reasons. But one, albeit moderately, selfish reason is that I play the the keyboard to add ambiance and feel to the songs, which means I can really focus on my singing, what I feel is my strong suit. Honestly, I think that Sun Gods to Gamma Rays is the project I've always wanted to work on. It's really a labor of love for me.
Brian Gollnick: I started playing music in grade school. I played trumpet from 5th grade through high school -- marching band, concert band, jazz band, pep band -- you name it, I was a total band geek. At some point in high school, some friends of mine started a garage band and convinced me to get a bass and play with them. I totally fell in love. After high school, I moved to Florida convinced that I was going to pursue bass as a career, but instead I got turned on to electronic music. For years I let my bass collect dust while I was busy playing with drum machines, synths, and turntables. I didn't really start playing bass again until a couple of years ago. Playing with SGGR has really brought back my passion for the instrument and my background in production and DJing has definitely shaped the way that I approach it in the context of this project. Mitch Miller: Growing up I had more of a passion for listening to music than playing it. I dabbled in high school with some punk, cover and weird arty bands, but I didn't start taking playing serious until after high school. The last few years I've tried to make every opportunity work as a drummer. Sun Gods to Gamma Rays' soft dynamics really appealed to me as someone who has a louder background. It's been fun and challenging to help with some of the bigger and louder dynamics and meanwhile hold back in the quiet, slow portions. Paul Flynn: I started playing guitar at the age of 13, and in middle school and high school I performed with punk and metal bands in my hometown of Austin, MN. After graduation, I moved to Minneapolis and studied audio engineering and production, which is when I met Peter. He and I went on to form Owl Recording in Uptown with two other partners, during which time we started jamming and songwriting together. We've always worked well together, but until SGGR formed this last year, we were never able to successfully get a project off the ground. Looking back, it feels like this band has been a long time coming.
Peter Bregman: I started playing drums in 6th grade and started playing in bands by 9th grade. At some point in high school the band I was in wanted to record demos, and I decided to try to figure out how to record them myself. I quickly got sucked into the word of audio engineering and production, and it became my biggest passion. In college, I studied acoustics, electronics, and music theory among other things, and made it my goal to make records. For years I worked in recording studios and then started Owl with Paul and two other friends. I spent a ton of time working on getting just the right tones and creating a sense of atmosphere and became obsessed with creating organic sounding recordings. After learning to play piano, I began to write some music and explore building sonic soundscapes. Once SGGR got together, I had the excuse I needed to buy a Rhodes piano and run it through a ton of effects pedals, which is all I ever really wanted.
Gimme Noise: What's the story behind the album title, The Water, The Wave?Brianna Kocka: "The Water, The Wave" is the closing track on the EP. It's a song we've been playing live for a while now, and we've always loved the song. However, once we got into the studio to record it, it came alive to us in a new way. We threw around a few other titles for the EP, but ultimately decided to go with this one, I guess because it just felt like for us. I think in a lot of ways, this track is the most representative of where we want to go in the future as a band.
Peter Bregman: The song, "The Water, The Wave" is an epic, 7-minute-long slow-burn. It's not the kind of song that would be played on the radio, but we all agreed that it was one of the best songs any of us have ever written. Naming the EP after it just seemed right.