Is it an ominous sign when a band's first gig is broken up and shut down?
For Sundressed, it clearly was inspiration. When the Phoenix quartet's first performance ended before it began, they went into the studio to record a self-titled EP. Their first official full-length, Whiskey with Milk, is scheduled for release on May 21.
How to describe the album? Well . . . Ever been to a wild house party where different music is playing in each room, and standing in just the right spot lets everything crash together in glorious chaos? That's Sundressed: loud, wild, fast, disheveled, frenetic, frantic, and bouncy all rolled into one. There are elements of The Smiths and The Cure providing a dark-pop lift over gritty Strokes-like guitars coupled with The Replacements' sloppy perfection. On top of it all are Trevor Hedges' dark lyrics, chronicling his battle with addiction, love gone bad, and stumbling through life, in general.
"It's me making light of a situation," Hedges says of the happy/sad juxtapositions, during a conference call with guitarist and bassist Tyler Kees and Evan Kees. "I had a pretty rough addiction battle for a few years, and a lot of my songs were grounded in dealing with that. It's one way to move on from it. I make light of the situation that I survived, and I can look back on that time and not feel bad about it."
Back to that first party. Leading up to what eventually became Sundressed's first gig, Trevor and Evan were doing the coffee-shop acoustic thing. A chance offer to play a house party brought drummer Garrett Tretta and Tyler Kees into the mix. Even after the party was shut down, Hedges decided this group should become a permanent entity. The band soon added harmonica/keyboardist Matthew Douglas Gilbert and, after working up a few songs, went into the studio to record that EP, by way of an introduction.
But the band was never fully satisfied with the result, and three of those tracks — "Golden Boy," "Dine on Me," and "Wishing Well" — were reworked for Whiskey with Milk.
"We really like those songs but really didn't like those first recordings of them," Hedges says. "Over the year since [the EP], playing these songs live was rawer, [with] spastic vocals, and I wanted to capture that and not sound so polished and produced as last time."
"That first CD, we were really anxious to get some recordings out," Tyler adds. "The ones we re-recorded are the ones we're really proud of. We [originally] did 'Golden Boy' in, like, five minutes, but it got better as we went along."
The same can be said for the rest of the album, which took six months to produce and master. "Holy Ghost" has an American Midwest rock feel with Irish jig overtones, while "Small" is poppy and bouncy with heavier organ riffs over rapid-fire guitar bursts. "Paper Clips" features swelling lifts, psychedelic guitars and organ, and cool multiple harmonies. It is, in fact, a little frantic, which adds to Sundressed's unique appeal.
"I think our style of playing is a lot rougher than most bands," Tyler says. "All of us play with such different styles of music that we each throw ourselves into it."
"It all just kind of melted together," Evan adds.
"My favorite part of being an artist is to sit down with my friends and make something cool," Tyler adds. "It's literally just the fusion of minds."
Spock would be proud.