I originally suspected that the Montreal rock band Suuns added the extra “u” to their name to make it more easily searchable on the Internet. Like the bands Waaves or Diiv (or half the folks in DJ and hip hop land), the creative spelling makes the name quasi-unique and, handily enough, eliminates the need for disambiguation on Wikipedia. But guitarist Joseph Yarmush, in an e-mail interview, explained that the name is rather an appropriation of a not-yet-overly-appropriated Asian language. Suuns is Thai for zero, which was the band’s first name and, after becoming Suuns, the title of their first album, Zero QC. Through the zero fetish, “we feel a connection to our younger selves. I think now we are over it though,” said Yarmush.
Suuns will play Legacy Taipei tomorrow night in a show put on by White Wabbit Records, which already brought us one of the best and most noisily awesome concerts this year with Acid Mothers Temple in February.
Suuns is a very different band from Acid Mothers, but they could perhaps inhabit the same playlist. Suuns are very much about extremely fuzzy electronic drones, but they are not shoegaze. The music has a weird propulsive stoner groove that is most definitely pushing outwards at the audience. There are jarring math-rock guitar and bass riffs and drum explosions. There is also singing, though it is probably possible to listen to both Suuns albums and think that the music is purely instrumental.
Vocalist Ben Shemie manages something quite strange. It is like he is singing in a falsetto and mumbling at the same time, and one could mistake it for a keyboard effect. A lot of elements go into the songs — computer beats, instrumental parts, vocal melodies and lyrics. Songwriting, said Yarmush, “starts randomly — with a song, a written beat or just a plain old jam.” Despite the electronic sound, the band has remarked on the importance of playing its instruments. Shemie, in one interview, said that when playing live, the band has “an unwritten rule that we don’t use computers, because that could potentially be a rabbit hole we couldn’t get out of.” He also said, “We don’t try to record things we can’t perform.”
Suuns formed in 2006 in Montreal, but didn’t really come on the indie music radar until 2010 with its first album release. Shemie has admitted he is a huge fan of the British noise rock band Clinic, and reviewers on Pitchfork Media have given Suuns demerits for aping their style. Within the Canadian indie scene, Yarmush sees Suuns as “a reaction to Broken Social Scene, Stars and Metric. They are good, but we are better and want to be better. We want to change music and I respect that about those bands because they did that a bit, but we aren’t connected to them in any way.” He prefaced all this by saying, “We come from ourselves.”
Suuns performs with Hang in the Air (盪在空中) tomorrow at 8pm at Legacy Taipei, 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (臺北市八德路一段1號). Tickets are NT$1,300 or $1,200 in advance, available at tickets.books.com.tw.
■ Aerosmith’s surprise cancellation, only a week before it was to hold its first ever concert in Taiwan in Kaohsiung on Aug. 24, was almost certainly due to poor ticket sales. The bigger question: Is the problem in Taiwan or in China? The promoter, a Taiwanese company called Very Aspect (有像文化), had bundled the Kaohsiung concert with another to take place in Shanghai on Aug. 21. Both were cancelled in one fell swoop when Aerosmith put up an announcement on its Web site a week ago, saying the “local promoter [was] unable to meet contractual obligations,” adding no further clarification.
Ticket sales in China were somewhere between poor and pathetic, according to various reports. One state-run news portal, China.org.cn, reported advance ticket sales of less than 1 million yuan, (or US$160,000), for the Shanghai concert. The Web site of a major Shanghai news group, Yitsai.com, reported slightly better numbers, saying advance ticket sales were over 5,000. However, only three tickets at the top price level of 2,680 yuan (US$437) had been sold, and Aerosmith’s contract further demanded that the 24,000-seat venue be 70 percent full for the concert to take place, according to the report. For comparison’s sake, last year Aerosmith averaged a little under US$1 million per concert at 33 stops on the North American leg of its glibly named Global Warming Tour, with average attendance just under 10,000. In Asia, however, promoters are often expected to put up bigger numbers.
Earlier this week, Very Aspect, told the Taipei Times they might lose up to NT$60 million due to the cancellation. The company did not comment on ticket sales in Taiwan or make any distinction between the concerts in Taiwan and China. In the concert trade, it is normal for a promoter to front up to half the show fee plus travel and transport costs, and there are other advance costs as well (though none of them seem to have been spent on a graphic designer, with the publicity image for the concert a crappy Photoshop collage of Kaohsiung Stadium riding on a sort of tidal wave).
The city of Kaohsiung must be feeling a bit jilted, after the glory of an Aerosmith stadium show was dangled before them and then suddenly jerked away. The first official announcement of the concert was in fact made by Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), and the city signed on as a co-organizer, meaning they had thrown in money or facilities. Alas, there was to be no love in this elevator.
Very Aspect however will continue the event, as it had planned a whole music festival around it, including Wu Bai (伍佰), Matzka (瑪斯卡) and other acts for a full day of rock on two stages. Tickets are discounted by 60 percent, and the promoter has promised partial refunds to advance ticket buyers and full refunds to those who do not wish to come.
Rock Sonic Day at Kaohsiung National Stadium (高雄國家體育場) tomorrow from 12:30pm to 10pm, with Wu Bai and China Blue, The Chairmen, Dog G, MC Hot Dog, Matzka, Monkey Pilot and others. Tickets are NT$600 to NT$2,700. On the Net: www.twinklerockfestival.com.