SUNSTROKE is a hardcore punk band hailing from New Jersey / Philadelphia and surrounding areas drawing a heavy influence from Revolution Summer-era bands, such as Dag Nasty, Embrace, Rain, and Rites of Spring, as well as a larger range of influences from 80’s brit-pop, shoegaze, and Minnesota pop-punk greats Hüsker Dü & The Replacements. While keeping a strong handle on the ethos and social justice elements of hardcore punk, SUNSTROKE looks to offer a sound and content for audiences to resonate with. SUNSTROKE have thus far released music on CoinToss Records & New Morality Zine, including multiple increasingly sought-after variants and limited edition vinyl colorways for each corresponding release.
SUNSTROKE‘s primary line-up consists of Sean Farlow & Ian Strang, as well as an ever-evolving rotating line-up including part-time members Brandon Wallace, Michael “Mikey” Messenger, Christian Debuque, Matthew Myers, John K., Justin, Dave, Joey, Tom, Nino, Vito, and Ian Gillin.
Throughout the course of 2021, SUNSTROKE released two singles, “I Wanna Be Ignored” and “Cryin’ Wolves,” with New Morality Zine and just released the third and final installment in the series, “Buzzer Beater” B/W “Everyday Bouquet.” Plus, they’ve just released a super-limited edition second pressing of “Cryin’ Wolves” on lathe-cut 7-inch vinyl, both just in time for Father’s Day.
We recently got a chance to speak with frontman Sean Farlow, drummer Brandon Wallace, and guitarist Ian Strang about “Buzzer Beater” B/W “Everyday Bouquet,” working with Don Zientara & Brian McTernan, their future plans, current illusive membership, and much, much more.
Check out our conversation below, conducted via email, which has been lightly edited for general clarity.
Who are the members of SUNSTROKE, what is each member’s role within the band, and how long have each of you been part of the group?
Brandon Wallace: Well, my name is Brandon and I currently play drums. I’ve been in the band for a year now. My role in the band is to supply the practice facility, eat pizza, and talk about other bands’ merch, Negative Approach, and the Straight Edge.
Sean Farlow: I’m Sean. I do vocals and I’ve been a part of the band since the idea came about. My role is to put emotions into words and to try to execute and relay as many merch and/or art aesthetic ideas as possible. Other members not present are Christian (GHOST BONGO) – guitar, Matthew AKA (T.B. Player) – bass, Mikey – bass, and there’s Justin – guitar, drums, bass, John K. – guitar, and Vito – drums. None of them have ever really left or been kicked out; so, they’re always part of the fam!
Ian Strang: Myself (Ian,) Sean, Brandon, Christian, and our bass players Matt & Michael [Mikey]. I started the band with Sean a while back.
What would you readily cite as a few of your primary sources of inspiration and influence while writing, recording, and creating “Buzzer Beater” B/W “Everyday Bouquet?”
Wallace: When the anxiety of the realization that we are recording at Inner Ear subsided a bit, we just wanted to write a song that was listenable. For my part, I am a big fan of this band and I didn’t want to join up and instantly have them start sucking. It’s always awkward writing music with new people, then, add a deadline on it and it makes it even more difficult. We wrote a whole other song and we were working on it over and over and it just never felt right. Then, out of nowhere, a whole new song seemed to fall out of the sky, followed by another, and we had two songs that fit together so well and sounded exactly how we wanted. It’s weird how that happens. Since that point, writing has been a real pleasure. It seems to come really easy. I’m starting to hear how Ian & Sean work and I like to think they hear me, too. We just blow through new songs anymore.
Farlow: I think Brandon hit the points I wanted to make really well. We were going into this trying to write something specific and when we got going, something didn’t feel right. We started riffing around, and, then, it just kinda fell into place. For my part, when I heard the music come together for “Buzzer Beater” and “Everyday Bouquet,” I scrapped lyrics I had and started to write something far more personal.
Strang: Myself, I was listening to a lot of Nick Drake at the time; still am, actually. But as far as guitars, it’s just an amalgamation of things I’ve picked up. And I like catchy hooks.
How did it feel being able to work with famed producer and engineer Don Zientara (Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, 7Seconds, Bad Brains, Fugazi) at Inner Ear Studios before they closed up shop?
Wallace: It was crazy, to be honest. From the first second I saw the “Inner Ear” sign on the door, I instantly bugged out. The whole place should have just been put in a museum. Ian MacKaye, Dischord Records, Bad Brains, and a huge majority of things recorded there were influences on me musically and personally. Just to have a small part in that place’s story is so humbling. If [my] memory serves [me correctly], we were the second to last record made there. Scream was the final recording; that’s pretty sick.
Farlow: I, like Brandon, have had the majority of my tastes and ethos directed by records that were either recorded at this location (or by Don) so, it was very much a “holy sh*t!” kind of moment. That being said, after we got to talking with Don and Brian [McTernan] stopped by and we got to work, it was very easy-going. Don was really enjoyable to be around, work with, and the home-made cake he had in the fridge was incredible.
Strang: It was pretty intimidating. Just being [in] that room has an aura about it. There’s so much history there.
What did the writing, recording, production, creative, etc. processes behind “Buzzer Beater” B/W “Everyday Bouquet” typically entail?
Wallace: Well, like I said before, I joined up just in time to write this song, so there was a whole feeling-out process we had to deal with, along with having a deadline set. Thankfully, that didn’t take as long as It usually does. Mikey showed up a few times during that writing process. When we went to the studio, Mikey & I ate Taco Bell. We recorded the song and Mikey may have played bass on it—we’re still not entirely sure. We ate Don’s wife’s raspberry crumb cake; it was fantastic. Then, I walked around a bit. I stared at old Bad Brains tapes and Fugazi reels. I sent pictures of all the Bluetip stuff I could find to Clevo & Justin. I asked Don about Dave Grohl [Foo Fighters, Scream] and he didn’t have any dirt on him, so I moved on. 3, Minor Threat, and Dag Nasty were well represented. It was a surreal day, for sure. I think Mikey had fun.
Farlow: I came up with the title and immediately started discussing artwork direction with Joey [Goergen] (Joey’s World.) When I started writing the lyrics to it, I had recently welcomed my daughter into the world. It put some things into perspective and had a big impact on the direction of the lyrics. I was discussing the song(s) with Brian McTernan as we were writing and sent him practice recordings and he was pumped on it (especially, Brandon’s drumming.) It was awesome and kind of surreal to wander around the studio and, also, be in the room while Brian & Don shot the sh*t.
Strang: I tend to immediately dislike and doubt a lot of things I write musically. But the rest of the guys [bust] me over the head and tell me “it’s good.” I’m not satisfied, unless it becomes a song I’d like to listen to.
Would you mind explaining a bit about the significance behind these songs and what prompted you to release them together on Father’s Day?
Wallace: This is really Sean’s department. However, what I can say is that Sean is one of the best fathers I’ve ever seen. As far as I’m concerned, he needs more than one Father’s Day. If the world learned to be as dedicated and loving as Sean is to his kids, then, we would be a much better place. Ian doesn’t have any kids (that we know of! Bah,) but as an uncle, he’s a real gem. I’m stoked to have those dudes in my life.
Farlow: The Father’s Day significance was very intentional. The songs’ lyrics deal with my relationship with fatherhood both with my own dad, as well as being a father. Big shout-out to Brandon and, also, our friend, Bill Hanily. Those guys are great dads.
Strang: That’s all Sean’s department. He’s has plans for everything we do. He has a vision for the direction of the band; visually and aesthetically.
What can you tell us about the super-limited edition vinyl and digital variants of “Buzzer Beater” B/W “Everyday Bouquet” available on New Morality Zine (NMZ)?
Wallace: I don’t know much about it, to be honest. I know that NMZ has done an amazing job with everything (so far) so, I’m sure this will not be any different.
Farlow: The physical release details of this are all still [to be determined], but I have some things up my sleeve. The same day, we’re releasing our “Cryin’ Wolves” lathes. Both are limited and silk-screened on the B-side. One variant is on clear and the other is black with different images screened on them in different colors.
Strang: I probably won’t get one hahaha.
Who did the artwork for the single cover(s) and would you mind briefly speaking a bit on their sources of inspiration?
Wallace: Again, this is all Sean’s department. He has the vision on how everything should look and he usually hits it out-of-the-park with it.
Farlow: So, we’ll start with “I Wanna Be Ignored:” the three variants available had artwork [each] done by a different artist.
The project was to give three different people the same description and see what materialized. We had Mike Newman (Bloom At Night,) Joey’s World, and Bastian Najdek all do an illustration. Bastian’s was used for a shirt and streaming animation. Mike & Joey’s [were] used for the initial pre-order. Mike had staged a photo using flowers and a glass of lemonade and, then, painted from that source. Joey tied his art into a poster he had done for us and, also, gave a little nod at Stone Roses in the art. The third variant was a photo I took while shooting a promo video for “I Wanna Be Ignored.”
Our friend, Andrew McQuiston, did the layout and added the spines to everything. He’s done all of our layouts.
“Cryin’ Wolves” was done by Joey (Joey’s World) and he and I had discussions about incorporating influences from artists, like Jordan Isip, Melinda Beck, and Scott Sinclair into this cover art. I wanted to use an ouroboros design for the back cover because of the nature of the lyrics to “Cryin’ Wolves” touch on status-climbing, and the sometimes inhumane nature of Americans.
So, that’s why there’s two wolves biting at each other’s tails representing a cycle of behavior. Joey did the artwork for “Buzzer Beater,” too. […] We were writing in summer and the song was reflecting that; it feels brighter and more positive. Prior to writing the lyrics, I saw the photo of Guy Picciotto [Fugazi] inside the basketball hoop and the name “Buzzer Beater” hit me, I started to write with that title in mind. The lyrics revolve around fatherhood and my own personal relationship with it.
Strang: We’ve been working with Joey’s from Joey’s World almost since the beginning. He’s done a lot of work for us and we couldn’t be more grateful. But as for the artwork on this one, if you know, you know.
What’s planned next for SUNSTROKE?
Wallace: We have practice this week sometime and there may be donuts present, but I’m not at liberty to share that information at this time.
Farlow: We have a split recorded that will be out sometime in ‘23. We have a lot of writing and demoing we’re doing right now for future material. Hey, thanks for the interview and the interest. It is really appreciated.
Strang: We’re gonna buckle down for a bit and finish writing this LP. And make sure it’s everything we want. And we can’t wait for everyone to hear it.