'The Darkness of Light Revealed'
The Santa Barbara, CA, punk-pop quartet Sugarcult (singer/guitarist Tim Pagnotta, guitarist Marko 72 [aka Marko DeSantis], bassist Airin Older, and drummer Ben Davis) took their name from a moniker that lesbian neighbors who lived next door to the band called themselves.
Forming in 1998, the band's first show (a trio at the time) was opening for Superdrag at a local club. It was here that they met Marko 72 -- who'd previously played with such bands as the Ataris, Nerf Herder, and Swingin' Utters -- and he soon moved from audience to bandmember.
Sugarcult debuted on Ultimatum in 2001 with Start Static and scored hits with the songs "Stuck in America" and "Bouncing Off the Walls." They jumped on the summer's Warped Tour for what should have been two weeks, but fan response was so positive, the band wound up staying for the entire two months. The DVD Action appeared in 2002; Davis exited the group the following year to be replaced by ex-Lefty drummer Kenny Livingston.
Jumping to Fearless Records, the slightly darker Palm Trees and Power Lines followed in 2004 and peaked at number one on Billboard's Top Independent Albums chart. Sugarcult issued the live CD/DVD Back to the Disaster a year later. The guys continued to hone their chops on the road; they earned a spot as openers for Green Day's American Idiot tour, took top billing on the 2005 Take Action Tour, and hit the main stages of festivals like Warped Tour, Japan's Summer Sonic Festival, and the U.K.'s Glastonbury, Reading, and Leeds festivals.
Sugarcult's most focused effort to date, Lights Out, appeared in September 2006 on V2.
Your bio tells us to 'forget what we think we know about Sugarcult.' So what is it about the new Sugarcult that we should now know? Marko DeSantis - "I've been reading that Chuck Klosterman book, "Killing Yourself to Live" and he keeps making the point that many things are 15% reality and 85% perception. Unfortunately, we've had to struggle with the preconceived notion that we're this sunny pop punk band based on the popularity of one song (Bouncing Off the Walls) off our 1st record, which happens to be a pretty catchy and energetic track hence the pop punk description. The reality is that all we ever set out to be was a rock band that writes good songs; our records are filled with diverse sounds and moods, our latest one in particular pushes the envelope even further."
It's also been stated that your new album Lights Out is you guys 'hitting your musical prime.' So, if that's the case, what were you hitting on the first two albums? "On our first record (Start Static) it was us shaking hands with the world; our introduction to most people after having been a bar band in our hometown for a couple of years. We were pretty hyper and full of romantic idealism. The second one (Palm Trees and Power Lines) was a document of the end of our innocence; we had toured for over 2 years non-stop and kind of became alienated from our old selves. With Lights Out we kind of forced ourselves to land and find our gravity again, we took almost a year off for the first time in 6 years; just kind of rented out a practice studio and let the ideas slowly percolate until we felt ready to make good on our goal of making the ultimate epic Sugarcult record. It almost feels like we started over again with the benefit of all of our experience on our side."
And why name the new CD, Lights Out? "Well, first off it's in keeping with our ideal of kind of turning away from our past and moving unapologetically forward as a band. That and the fact that there are a lot of songs about sex on this record!"
For those out there that have not heard of you, how would you describe your sound? "Loud and sexy!'
Tell me about your craziest touring experience to date thus far! "There're crazier stories, but here's one you can tell your grandparents at thanksgiving dinner! We were in Memphis to play a show on our last tour, I was flipping through old soul forty-fives at some record shop and my wife calls and says her water broke 2 weeks early; so I hail a cab, get on my phone and book a flight on the way to the airport, ran like hell and barely caught the plane, landed in Los Angeles and made it to the delivery room 15 minutes before my daughter was born! I'm in there with all these doctors, and I'm still in the crusty clothes I was wearing the night before at a dive bar in Atlanta. I barely made it! (Note: see our DVD "Back to the Disaster" to see a similar story about my first kid, that time I was in Japan!)"
Having toured relentlessly for the past five years, what do you miss most about 'home' ... and just where is home to you these days anyway? "I used to miss my record collection; now they're all in boxes and I just miss my family...and my kitchen! We all live scattered around Southern California."
You've played huge festivals both over here in the States and in England, but do you see a difference in the audiences between the two countries? "Americans have better teeth, but the Brits have such cool accents and really dramatic ways of describing being drunk; "slaughtered" and "knackered", and my personal favorite "bloody pissed!" The level of fanaticism is pretty even, but Japan is another story; that's like crazy airport/train station/hotel lobby stalker action!"
If you could cover, in your own style, any (cheesy) '80s pop song which would it be ... and why? "'Tenderness' by General Public, because the guy who produced our last 2 records (Gavin MacKillop) got his first big-break producing that song; he tells great stories of their horn section smoking so much pot that you couldn't see them from the control room, they were literally in a fog of smoke."
"But that pales in comparison to his Phil Collins mountain of cocaine stories, so maybe we should do "Sussudio" or "Missed Again"; then again his story of John Lydon from PIL/Sex Pistols renting an expensive cello and setting up a microphone so he could record the sound of smashing the cello against the wall is pretty rad; the only problem is PIL didn't write pop songs, nor were they "cheesy", so I guess that leaves Phil Collins or Gen.Pub."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED Sugarcult light switch cover, and you think you know all there is to know about the band, just answer this easy question: Back in the day Tim Pagnotta invited Airin Older, a fellow classmate, to join in Sugarcult. But what school did they both attend to have met in the first place?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great AUTOGRAPHED Sugarcult light switch covers! Just send us an e:mail here before December 15th with your answer and the subject title 'CONTEST: SUGARCULT SIGNED STUFF' to: email@example.com
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