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Sunshine Riot unleash alt-grunge fury with the ‘Loud, Bright and Violent’ EP
Boston noise-slingers release their melodic chaos on Friday, April 21
New single ‘Man on the TV’ rounds out the four-track EP, recorded with Steve Albini
BOSTON, Mass. [March 24, 2023] -- Sometimes, inspiration strikes in the unlikeliest of places. Last fall, as Sunshine Riot wrapped up recording sessions with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio, the Boston alt-grunge band was leaving Chicago without a name for its forthcoming new record. With a deadline looming and a title needed to ship the tapes over to the mastering house, vocalist and guitarist Jonny Orton was devouring a plate of fish tacos en route to the airport when it struck: His meal, like the record itself, was Loud, Bright and Violent.
The title was quickly approved by the rest of the band, and the rest is history presently unfolding: Loud, Bright and Violent, the new EP from Sunshine Riot, hits the streams on Friday, April 21. It’s a fitting name for this explosive four-track record, which found the band back in the studio with Albini and back exploring loud/quiet dynamics wrapped tightly around their little ball of noise. Loud, Bright and Violent reflects the band at its best: Heavy doses of noise, an impassioned lyrical look at the world outside, and a melodic chaos muscle ready to flex, rip, and tear at any given moment.
“I'm not sure we're ever trying to make any uniform statement with any record… we just do the best we can to find some songs that we hope folks will enjoy,” says Orton. “That said, I suppose we are saying ‘Sunshine Riot ain't dead yet and our distortion pedals still work.’ We continue to feel awfully lucky to still be making music together. Been a weird few years, in the music world and beyond, so it feels pretty darn good to put this one out.”
Three singles from the EP have so far rolled out on a monthly basis since the start of the year, opening up an thematic cadence that adds a dynamic depth to a brash and frenzied record: January’s “Looking at the Past” explores our mistakes of yesterday and how it sets a course for future purgatory; February’s “So It Comes” examines the human condition and how our moods can shift from one extreme to the other; and March’s “Room to Moan” looks ahead at death and where we go once we shake free from this (expensive, stressful, and often solemn) mortal coil. The final track from the EP and April’s corresponding single, “Man on the TV,” finds the band looking at the talking heads on the television, shrugging, and realizing a lot of the static we stuff into our daily lives is just not for them. It’s like growing up, going through life, and then dying – only to realize we’ve been sold a bill of goods all along.
“Each song is kind of its own thing, but somewhat unintentionally, the songs do seem to follow characters through a past, present and future motif,” says Orton. “I guess we accidentally made a Christmas Carol record.”
That may be true, but on Loud, Bright and Violent, the only ghosts Sunshine Riot are wrestling with are their own. Having long given up those pesky rock star dreams that seduce our youth, this new record is the third in a trilogy of EP releases that finds the band making music on their own terms, crafting their sound and their songs exactly how they want them. It began with 2021’s equally-abrasive neo-grunge record Electrical Tape, recorded with Albini at Electrical Audio, and continued with last year’s acclaimed Sparkle Baby 2000, a more smoothed-out, college rock-leaning collection honed at Galilee Productions in Cumberland, Rhode Island. This batch of songs for the Loud, Bright and Violent felt big, bold, and deliberately noisy to the band as they wrote them, so plans to head to Chicago and put them to tape under the guiding eye and ear of Albini was an essential move.
“Recording with Albini and his team has really been a great experience for us across two records now,” Orton admits. “He's exacting, and certainly expects you to know what you're trying to do, but you also work with the confidence that you're in awfully good hands. I think he has a bit of a reputation for being a curmudgeon or something. We've actually found him to be a really nice, wonderfully weird, good human being.”
The harmony in the studio is belied only by the urgency and fury of the record they created. And so far, the singles have been well-received, earning praise and attention from outlets like V13, Click Roll Boom, If It’s Too Loud, Rock And Roll Fables, The Bad Copy, That’s Good Enough For Me, Tour Bus Tunes, Hump Day News, and elsewhere, all earning widespread airplay across New England’s blossoming indie radio landscape and landing repeated spins on The Rodney Bingenheimer Show on SiriusXM’s Underground Garage. But the most redeeming aspect of this current era for Sunshine Riot has been the reaction from audiences, especially at a time when drawing so much as a reaction feels like a Herculean task.
“Music is such a universally wonderful thing and I think all of us in the band have a deep reverence for the emotional response music seems to elicit, whether it's a moment of thrill or quiet melancholy,” Orton adds. “If any of these songs do that for anyone, that's a win for us. Particularly if it's a young kid trying to make sense of the world… I think that's how we all fell in love with rock and roll and it seems to be a pretty good agent for that cause.”
That sentiment shines through on the fourth and final EP single, the at-times jangly, at other times blistering “Man on the TV,” which, as mentioned earlier, centers around the band looking around them and realizing the man on the television, as the song goes, doesn’t have anything to say to you or me – or anyone. It was inspired by the band on the road, rolling from city to city, playing to crowds that range from packed-out to just-the-bartender, and taking their noisy brand of rock and roll to the people’s collective eardrum.
“‘We haven't toured since before Covid, but used to put ourselves on the road pretty relentlessly,” Orton says. “As a DIY band, touring is a great chance to play music all over the country and meet terrific bands. But it's also exhausting and all-consuming. You're managing every element of the tour – driving, coordinating local support, loading in/out, sound checking, figuring out motels, promoting and so on. You wind up in this bubble that is both exhilarating and draining, and the universe starts to feel a little bit alien. You become sort of distanced from the outside world. The news will be playing in a hotel lobby and the ‘Man on the TV’ really has nothing to say to you. I realize not everyone tours in a little dive bar band - but I think just about everyone can relate to feeling like the ‘Man on the TV’ has nothing to say to them.”
Unlike, say, a plate of fish tacos in Chicago.
‘Loud, Bright and Violent’ artwork:
Sunshine Riot is:
Jonny Orton - Guitars, Vocals
Jeff Sullivan - Bass
Mark Tetreault - Guitar
Steven Shepherd - Drums, Percussion
‘Loud, Bright and Violent’ credits:
Written by Sunshine Riot
Lyrics by Jonny Orton
Recorded by Steve Albini and Taylor Hales at Electrical Audio in Chicago, IL.
Mastered by Matthew Barnhart, Chicago Mastering Services.
Artwork by Steven Shepherd, Drums PhD.
Sunshine Riot EP anthology bio:
Gritty times call for gritty sounds. And Sunshine Riot are answering the bell.
For the past 15 years or so, the veteran Boston rock band ran with a variety of genres, swirling around a cocktail of guitar-rock that boasted dalliances with soul, Americana, punk, blues, and grunge. But as darkness fell upon society at the start of the pandemic age, the quartet entered a new era, unleashing a series of three EPs over three years: 2021’s Electrical Tape with acclaimed engineer Steve Albini at Chicago’s Electrical Audio; 2022’s Sparkle Baby 2000 with producer George Dussault at Galilee Studios in Rhode Island; and 2023’s Loud, Bright and Violent, which saw the band crank up the volume once more and return to Chicago to link back up with Albini.
The results are a seasoned band making music on their own terms: Electrical Tape acts as a raw, damn near primal alternative rock record that packs the introspection and dedication one must possess to survive in this day in age; Sparkle Baby 2000 leans into a mindful and hyper-aware college rock and jangle-pop sound that calls back to our indie influences and explores an uncertain adulthood through a modern lens; and Loud, Bright and Violent fixates on the paranoia and purgatory we feel as we slowly come to terms with the pandemic age.
The trio of EPs may come off like an evolution in sound for Sunshine Riot, but after more than a decade in the game, what emits from the speakers is a band finally comfortable in their own skin, playing this damned game of rock and roll with an ace up their collective sleeve, propped up by their own merits and fueled by their own creativity. In the end, despite what dressing coats the core of whatever genre label someone on the outside may apply, the foundation remains a rock and roll ethos as timeless as the music itself.
Play it loud, and come scream along.
The music of Sunshine Riot can be heard on:
Banks Radio Australia, Bay State Rock, Blood Makes Noise, Boston Emissions, Boston Groupie News, BumbleBee Radio, Christian’s Cosmic Corner (Mark Skin Radio), Click Roll Boom, Code Zero Radio, DigBoston, Everything You Know Is Wrong (Salem State), Garagerocktopia (KUCR), Good Music Radio UK, Hump Day News, If It’s Too Loud, I’m Music Magazine, indie617, Indie Radio YFM, Jammin with JenCat (Twisted Road Radio), Karen’s Indies (Belter Radio UK), Laura Beth’s Mixtape Show (Reclaimed Radio UK), Lonely Oak Radio, Marc’s Alt-Rock Playground (Mark Skin Radio), Mike on the Mic (WMFO), Monie’s New Music (UK), Moosic Entertainment, Music Box Pete, On The Town With Mikey Dee (WMFO), Only Rock Radio (Spain), Original Music Showcase (Mark Skin Radio), PipiloPop, Radio Warfare with Tim Livingston, Rhode Island Free Radio, Rising with Skybar (WMFO), Rock And Roll Fables, Sunshine Music iRadio, That’s Good Enough For Me, The Alternative Frequencies (Leyland Radio), The Attic Show (KPISS), The Bad Copy, The Big Takeover, The Music Authority,The Rodney Bingenheimer Show on Little Steven’s Underground Garage (SiriusXM), The Tony Jones Show, The Whole Kameese, Tour Bus Tunes, Unlikely Places (Mad Wasp Radio), V13, Virtual Detention/Rat Fever (WZBC), Your First Listen (Eardrum Buzz, KNNZ), Zeno.FM, and other fine outlets, platforms, programs, and radio stations.
Recent media praise for Sunshine Riot:
“Somewhere in between Gaslight Anthem, Against Me!, and fellow Bostonians Eldridge Rodriguez sits the first taste of that EP in the form of ‘Looking at the Past’ which brings a more anthemic quality to the Beantown outfit’s brand of Folksy Alt-Americana. …there’s just no denying that this is some next level Sunshine Riot stuff here!” – Rock And Roll Fables
“This new single [‘Room to Moan’] is the third from Loud, Bright and Violent and it sees the Boston band seamlessly play with sound, switching from quiet verses to crashing choruses with ease and style. The choruses feel harsh in comparison to the softer, reserved verses which feels apt given what the song is about - life and the inevitably that is death.” – Tour Bus Tunes
“Many bands have tried to duplicate the grunge alt-rock sound of the ‘90s. Some have come close but Boston based Sunshine Riot is different … They may be firmly rooted in the alt-grunge sound however, Sunshine Riot has this almost ‘secret sauce’ quality to their sound that makes it all their own. – The Whole Kameese
“[‘Looking at the Past’] is a reflective piece that allows the band to take elements from yesteryear, but translate it on a more modern aesthetic that today’s audience will comprehend and fall in line with.” – Music Box Pete
“The dual guitars of Jonny Orton and Mark Tetreault along with Orton’s raspy & gritty vocals counteract the tightly knit rhythms courtesy of Jeff Sullivan on bass and Steven Shepherd on drums. [‘So It Comes’] is a blistering track that nears the three-minute mark with killer riffs and pulsating beats.” – Culture Beat
“A lot of music gets labeled grunge these days, and most of it is just ‘90s influenced alt-rock and not actual grunge. Boston’s Sunshine Riot is actually grunge, or at least alt-grunge. Their new single ‘So It Comes’ has that growl mixed with fuzzy guitars that is truly required to be grunge. There is just a certain style of guitar fuzz required, and they nail it. Plus, Jonny Orton has more than a little of Kurt Cobain’s snarl in his vocals. ‘So It Comes’ is a little poppier than a lot of ‘90s grunge, but it does include some psychedelic elements which makes it more along the lines of The Gits or Mother Love Bone. This is the kind of song that is going to elicit some nostalgia even though it’s brand new.” – If It’s Too Loud
“Sunshine Riot does some interesting things with songs… There’s real turmoil going on.” – Boston Groupie News
“The blistering new track is the first taste of new music from the quartet, a satisfying blend of blistering and twangy. We love the band’s refusal to pigeonhole themselves into just one genre, this new track part of an ever ongoing sonic evolution that continues to feel fresh but, very much, feels very Sunshine Riot.” – Tour Bus Tunes
“The buildup to ‘Looking at the Past’, one of the first singles off Sunshine Riot’s new record Loud, Bright, and Violent, sounds like throwback skiffle jive before it explodes into a fiery ball of grunge. Watch for a brief return to the old time rock n roll around 2:45 before the stompbox finish. It’s a kind of loud-quiet-loud dynamic, done with genre along with volume, that will keep you guessing.” – Hump Day News
“‘Looking at the Past’ is a grungy, un-tempo, somewhat chaotic, somewhat well-formed tune with elements of country and a splattering of raucous post punk energy. There's fuzzy guitars that increase in fuzziness as the tempo of the song builds, euphoric drums and vocals that are raw with a melodic country twang and Americana feel. However, look a bit deeper and ‘Looking at the Past’ is a harrowing tale of poor life choices and leaving it too late to change. ..I'm a big fan of storytelling in music and Sunshine Riot have delivered something that is likable and danceable but also an insightful and thoughtful listen.” – Click Roll Boom
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