FRONTRUNNER Meets Sure Sure: A Sure Bet

Indie-pop quartet Sure Sure makes music out of their home in Los Angeles, where their bedrooms regularly double as their studio. When inspiration kicks in, as was the case with their song “Koreatown”, they flesh it out on the spot, hitting us with hit after hit in a seemingly effortless progression.

From L to R: Charlie Glick (guitarist, singer), Kevin Farzad (drums, percussion), Christopher Beachy (keyboardist, singer) and Michael Coleman (producer)
Photo credit: Zach Bell

It’s easy to get lost in the groove of Sure Sure’s buoyant sound without realizing that the lyrics are often quite melancholy. “Friends” is about feeling the ache of unrequited love in a place as uninspiring as the local Baja Fresh. Upbeat and honest, “Friends” makes heartbreak almost funny, a refreshing twist on the common ordeal. Paired with crooning vocals, Sure Sure’s instrumentals hit the spot- they have a way of effectively standing alone yet blending in beautiful cohesion with the other sections. Along with their originals, Sure Sure has created a cover of “This Must Be the Place” that you didn’t know you needed.

So, Chris and Charlie, you started writing and playing together at Stanford in 2009.  What was it like to be there and be interested in making music? How did you meet Kevin and what were your initial collaborations like?

Photo credit: Zach Bell

The Stanford music scene was small and tight knit. We were pretty lucky to meet each other on the first day of freshman year and we started a band that [same] week. Whenever we weren’t doing school, we were practicing and playing half-drunken shows at campus parties. We met Kevin through our college band’s bass player and we tried to convince him to move up to SF after graduation to start a new band with us, but he wouldn’t budge. So then we just moved to LA into this house where Mike (now our producer) was living and started recording and playing all together.

Tell me about your writing process. Do you start with a riff, flesh it out, improvising, overdubbing or do you write it and orchestrate around it? Do you bring full songs to each other and into the studio?

Totally depends. Our next single “Hands Up Head Down” started out with just a drum loop Kevin had made and we built everything on top of it in the studio. “Koreatown” oozed out of Chris and Charlie after a late night out in downtown LA and Koreatown. The chords and lyrics were done in about two hours, and the next day we opened up a blank Logic project in Mike’s room (our house is basically a big studio) and started laying it out.

The recording was finished in two days. I think especially on this new batch of recordings we left more room than usual for improvisations. The most important thing is that each song has a prickling sort of kinetic energy, and we’ve found that one of the best ways to achieve that is to preserve as many early takes as we can. There’s something magical about the first takes you do, when you’re still figuring your part out, even before you’ve precisely dialed in the recording gear. We try to preserve as many of those moments of discovery as possible.

What tones or sounds are interesting to you right now?  You sound like you are doing a lot with vocals, keys, bass, and drums.  Do the vocal harmonies come early or later once the song is pretty much written?

For this last batch of recordings we really got into capturing organic sounds, acoustic guitars and pianos and such, but we tried to capture the tones in a way that sounded fresh.  We would record the sound of a recycling bin for a kick drum, for example, or put the piano through a guitar amp and pedals, so that the sounds are familiar and organic but there’s something new about them.

We would put lots of mics in weird places around the room when recording these acoustic instruments.  There are some synths and more electronic sounds sprinkled around (especially on our next single), but the meat and potatoes of these songs tend to be organic, familiar instruments recorded in strange new ways.  As for vocal harmonies, we like to do those after the main melody is locked in.  Then we listen back and compose the harmonies around the melody.

A popular song of yours is the classic Talking Heads song, “This Must Be the Place”.  What inspired you to record a cover of such a classic?  Is David Byrne and Talking Heads a big influence?

Around the time we made that cover we were doing two things. Number one, watching a lot of clips of the Talking Heads’ concert movie Stop Making Sense on YouTube. Number two, exploring our housemate’s Prophet ’08 synth. We sequenced an approximation of the “This Must Be The Place” bass part on the Prophet, and then built the recording on top of that. Really, we just love that song—it’s one of the best love songs ever—and it happened to synergize perfectly with our synth adventures.

Tell me about your live show setup right now.  Are you playing out a lot?  How has that evolved in L.A. and what was it like trying to take your sound to a live room?

The set up is a space ship of synths and drums and amps and auxiliary percussion. We like to play tight together on the stage with the drums out front. We do it all live. That’s really important. Lot of bands these days playing to backing tracks, which sounds huge live, but kills the magic. Honestly, getting gigs at first proved challenging. We weren’t well connected with venues or promoters but recently we feel like we’re more a part of the scene.

 

What do you have planned for the future?

We’re gonna release more music throughout 2017. And 2018… boy that should be really exciting. We’ll be embarking on our first tour. I shouldn’t say anymore because it hasn’t been officially announced. Stay tuned, pals.

 

Who should FRONTRUNNER interview next?

Still Woozy. That’s our boy Sven from the Bay Area. Only three singles out so far but it’s incredible. Also Superet. They are amazing live, definitely one of our favorites in the LA scene. Lastly, Radiohead. They’re a young and upcoming band from Ireland. We love their song, “Clocks.”

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