From rehearsing in the back of a restaurant to recording in an outdoor shed, Sun Voyager finally released their first LP, Seismic Vibes, earlier this month. The Orange County, New York-based band consists of Mike Hammond on guitar and vocals, Stefan Mersch on bass and vocals, and Kyle Beach on drums. Together, they make psychedelic, earthy rock with a stoner metal twist. To celebrate their 4/20 album release show at Baby’s All Right, we talked with Sun Voyager about the scene in the Hudson River Valley, blogging, and recording their debut LP in an outdoor shed. You can grab a copy via King Pizza Records
It says in your bio that you began rehearsing in the back of a restaurant. What was that like?
Mike: We started playing in the back of the restaurant when I was working in my parents’ place full-time [Cafe Fiesta in Highland Mills], and we had nowhere else to practice. [We would practice] after we closed shop. We would play in a shed or garage [most of the year]. When it was cold, we would practice [at the restaurant].
What’s the scene like in the Hudson River Valley?
K: Well, we can’t lie and say it’s good, but [we] can’t knock it.
M: In the Hudson Valley, there are a lot of college towns. Either you end up at an Ancient Order of Hibernians or a Veterans of Foreign Wars, or you play in college towns.
K: There are also a handful of bars.
Stefan: Kingston isn’t a college town, but they do have bars. It’s mostly in New Paltz and Albany. Also the Catskills—Andy Animal has Melatasia events, and does booking at Colony in Woodstock.
S: You have to drive 45 minutes to get to a good show.
M: I feel like New Paltz, Kingston, and Albany have been good to us, but we spend most of the time looking. There’s history in Woodstock and the Catskills, but good shows are hard to find.
M: New Paltz has always had a good basement scene. We grew up in the Hudson Valley, but we were always looking for something else.
M: Growing up in the Hudson Valley, you really had to go to towns along the Hudson River, [because] that’s where everything was going on.
S: And all those towns keep getting bigger and bigger every year, with transplants from the city who are tired of the hiking rents.
Stefan said in an interview that you all have known each other since high school, and that you guys are like brothers. How does this affect your music?
S: We’ve all had the same taste since high school.
K: We’ve been playing together for so long.
M: People recognize that we’ve played together, and [that we’ve] known each other for a long time. People tend to notice how tight we are, and when we tell them how long we’ve known each other, they go, “Oh, that totally makes sense.” Even knowing each other as musicians this long, we know each other’s moves.
K: Kind of musical intuition.
Stefan also mentioned the importance of the Internet in terms of releasing your music. How has the Internet and blogging affected the reach of your work?
S: The first time we ever recorded anything, we just put it up on Bandcamp, and all these people from all over the world—like Russia and Italy, and blogs from across the country—picked it up and started writing about it. It makes you think, “Who are these people?” That never happened with Myspace, where you could tag your music, and then bloggers would go through [and then] write about you. I guess that got us a lot of reach, and it’s why we’re still doing it. It justified this for us in a way.
M: That’s part of the industry. You basically said it all. Blogging intrinsically is meant to reach people. That’s what blogging is.
What inspired Seismic Vibes? What were you reading, watching, and listening to when you were working on it?
S: For “Open Road,” specifically, I was listening to a lot of Willie Nelson. Mostly though, reading Isaac Asimov and other old science fiction novels. Listening to a lot of Earthless, stoner rock, King Gizzard.
M: Our environment makes our sound and style. When it’s twenty degrees out and you are writing songs in a shed in the woods, you generate a different type of emotion, style, and sound. A lot of people say, “You’re so heavy,” and I say, “Yeah man, [it’s because] we wrote these songs in a shed in the woods.” We’re not sitting in a studio, with the best equipment, doing high-quality shit. It really started in the shed. Being crammed in there.
K: Give the shed some cred.
S: There was a lot of back and forth on this album, too. We were crammed in a pretty tight practice space in Brooklyn for a good chunk of the writing.
K: They [album was] written sporadically. Some songs are way older than others. We were hounding these songs out in the freezing cold weather in a shed in the woods. We don’t have a lot of outside inspirations because we can’t read or write, and we don’t listen to music.
S: We were listening to a lot of classic rock, old stoner rock from the comedown era, new stoner rock, newer psych.
Can you tell me about the process of recording? What were some roadblocks? .
S: With this one, we went down there with a lot of ideas, some rougher than others. We recorded a bunch, scrapped a few, and using the bones of what we had, we used the studio as member of the band a little bit, in that we laid down the bones [there]. And in the overdubbing process, [we] wrote parts that helped the songs evolve. We chose to record in Asbury Park, which made things a little tough because we live in New York.
K: It was tough, but the juice was worth the squeeze.
What are you most excited about?
K: This interview ending.
M: Burned… I mean this is three years in the making. We want people to hear it, we want to play it out, we want people to buy the record.
K: 4/20 is gonna be most exciting.
S: Having a record with these songs.
M: [We’ve] never played shows and had a full length LP with us.
S: Holding the record in my hands….
M: Behind a merch table. I mean, we’ve been playing for five years and never had an LP.
S: Putting the record on a turntable and listening to it. And playing a lot. Also: the next one. Going back into the studio with more tunes.