Review & Video Premiere: Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on September 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sun blood stories haunt yourself

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Sun Blood Stories’ video for ‘See You on the Other Side.’ Haunt Yourself is out Sept. 20.]

The fourth full-length from Boise, Idaho’s Sun Blood Stories continues the forward progression of purpose and creative scope that has played out in their work over the last six years. It has not been that long since the trio unveiled their third LP, 2017’s It Runs Around the Room with Us (review here), and yet the 12-track/45-minute Haunt Yourself unveils a fluidity and a personality all its own, marked by a soul and emotionalism in the vocals of slide guitarist Amber Pollard and guitarist Ben Kirby (both also add bass synth to the recording) and a floating post-rock psychedelia that is admirably given shape through the drumming of Jon Fust (also keyboards). As has been their wont on past offerings, they find footing in an early hook — thinking of tracks like “The Great Destroyer” from the last record or “West the Sun” from 2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here); their debut, The Electric Years, came out in 2013 and was more formative — this time moving from the swirling fog of “TIME” at the outset to the interwoven vocals and forward rhythm of “Up Comes the Tunnel” (video posted here), wherein their sound hits arguably the thickest point it will on the entirety of Haunt Yourself.

With this, they set up a broad and experimentalist range the richness of which is not to be understated, from the emotional crux of songs like “No One Can Hear You Dream,” with its repetition of “In the end we all will…” whether the answer is burn, die, and so on, or “All the Words in Meaning” (video posted here) just before it with its vocal lashing out or the earlier “Everybody Loves You,” on which the resounding feel is less comforting than the title, Pollard seeming to take on the role of that voice in your head that tells you how much better off everyone would be if you were gone. “Everybody loves you,” you see, “When you’re dead.” This is its own kind of aural brutality apart from any sonic impact Haunt Yourself may or may not make — and the bulk of the album is striking in its patience and gentle delivery — but if you ever needed a lesson in conjuring emotional weight, here it is.

That’s not necessarily new territory for Sun Blood Stories, but their progression has made them more pointed in their approach, such that pieces like the bluesy “At Once in All Directions” or even the ultra-fluid jam in the early cut “See You on the Other Side” that follows “Everybody Loves You” both serve an overarching intent that covers Haunt Yourself as a whole, and the album resulting is built from the conversation between the songs that comprise it. Something something whole, something something sum of parts, but if my assessment is trite, that doesn’t necessarily make it less true as regards the front-to-back listening experience. And make no mistake, front-to-back is how Haunt Yourself should be taken. Each track seems to have a singular purpose, but those never veer too far from the overarching goals of the record as to disconnect from it. Ever-conscious of flow, Sun Blood Stories make this even easier by dividing the tracklisting into three three-song sections, each beginning with its own interlude.

sun blood stories

Those pieces, “TIME,” “LIKE” and “SMOKE,” never go much past two and a half minutes, but together work not only to provide an underlying theme to Haunt Yourself, but also to bring the album into context of their past, as Twilight Midnight Morning featured the cut “Time Like Smoke” as well. And whether it’s in “See You on the Other Side” or the penultimate “Approaching Shadow,” the sense of drift throughout Haunt Yourself is especially prevalent, but at no point do Sun Blood Stories let it go anymore than they choose to. That is to say, while even the cover art speaks to a notion of working against traditionalist structure — something time (like smoke) has proven the band to be quite adept at — they never lost sight of where they want the listener to be throughout the proceedings. Given the breadth of “All the Words in Meaning,” “No One Can Hear You Dream” and “At Once in All Directions” in the record’s middle third, that’s an accomplishment unto itself, but moments like Kirby coming forward in “At Once in All Directions” or Pollard doing the same with a somewhat buried highlight vocal performance on “7 Swords” do a lot to orient anyone who’d take on Haunt Yourself, and that proves to be another way in which the songs each enhance the listen of the album as an entire work.

Following the final interlude piece “SMOKE,” “7 Swords” leads the way into the Western airiness of “Approaching Shadow,” one of only two songs to top six minutes — the other is “No One Can Hear You Dream,” longer at 6:40 — and the 2:21 closer “Shimmer Distant,” a layered-vocal Pollard/Kirby duet that feels like an epilogue after the payoff of “Approaching Shadow” and ends with a final volume swell that cuts out to silence. It’s a fair enough and still somewhat unexpected ending for Haunt Yourself, giving the feeling of answering back the earlier explorations without discarding the psychedelic flavor thereof.

This is emblematic of a maturity in Sun Blood Stories‘ approach, which one would expect for a band on their fourth record, having solidified their lineup and seemingly figured out who they want to be as a group as much as any of us figure out who we want to be ever in any context at all — at least the direction they want to go, perhaps? One way or the other, the individualized progression they’ve undertaken suits them beautifully, and both in the chemistry of the performances between KibyPollard and Fust and the atmosphere that comes across so thickly amid still-memorable songcraft, Haunt Yourself succeeds on every level of expression it engages, and as the fruit of the three-piece refining their processes as established across the work they’ve done since making their debut, it speaks to the root creativity so central in driving it. I won’t predict where they might go next time out, except to say forward along their own path, and all the better for that.

Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself (2019)

Sun Blood Stories on Thee Facebooks

Sun Blood Stories on Instagram

Sun Blood Stories website

Sun Blood Stories on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,

Sun Blood Stories Post “All the Words in Meaning” Video; Haunt Yourself Preorders Available

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sun blood stories

One would be tempted to talk about confronting demons as regards the new Sun Blood Stories were its subject matter not so horribly human. As the Boise, Idaho, three-piece come closer to the Sept. 20 release date of their new album, Haunt Yourself — preorders are up through Bandcamp — they would seem nonetheless to be living up to the title they’ve given the record in “All the Words in Meaning,” the video for which finds vocalist/guitarist/synth-bassist Amber Pollard confronting childhood abuse through hard-hitting visual metaphor and an even-harder-hitting staredown of the camera. The song itself is duly tense and volatile, a tempest churn brought to bear amid spacious echoes that still speak of place in the way of the band’s landscape-minded earlier efforts, but is obviously turning those expanses inward here in terms of emotionalism and the sheer boldness of what’s being expressed. Pollard, joined in the band by Jon Fust (keys/drums) and Ben Kirby (guitar/bass synth/vocals), is very much at the fore here in the song, and that’s something that’s fluid throughout Haunt Yourself in terms of her interplay with Kirby on vocals, but given the intensity underpinning “All the Words in Meaning” and the rawness of soul on display, it’s a showcase of Sun Blood Stories at their most powerful and affecting.

The song itself isn’t long by any means — about four minutes — and you’ll see at the end there’s a scene were the band are sitting outside around a table. Pollard‘s child is there as well, and there’s a shot where, still holding the stuffed animal from the room where the bulk of the video takes place, Pollard turns to deliver the song’s final lines. It’s a remarkable shot. We see a mother in center-frame as protector, yet the stuffed animal reminds of the abuse suffered and the residual trauma still being carried. It seems to express the urgency of that protection as well as the fragility of the violated. With Kirby and Fust out of frame across the table, it’s just the two of them in the shot, in relief from the brightness of the outdoors space behind them, separate from it even as they’re unavoidably part of it and subject to it.

My understanding is there’s one more video to come early next month before Haunt Yourself is officially released, so I’ll keep an eye out for that, and in the meantime, you can check out “All the Words in Meaning” on the player below, followed by the background on the clip and the song from the band’s posting.

Here you go:

Sun Blood Stories, “All the Words in Meaning” official video

Pre-Order Haunt Yourself: https://sunbloodstories.bandcamp.com/album/haunt-yourself

*ABOUT THE SONG*

CW Child Abuse: “Time to get real real. This song is about my childhood. My awful childhood. My parents split when I was still a toddler. Maybe not even 2 years old yet. Around age 3, my mother started dating a man who would abuse me in every form of the word daily for the next 14 years. Escapism was my only reprise from the physical and emotional pain that was inflicted upon me. I often time found myself fantasizing about what my life could have been like if my parents had stayed together. That is what this song is about. Ben, Jon, and I just really hope this song makes you feel something. Anything. If you or someone you know is being hurt please call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline 1-800-799-7233. We love you.“ – Amber

All the Words in Meaning is the second single off of Sun Blood Stories’ long anticipated new album, Haunt Yourself, to be released September 20th, 2019 (more about the album and the band below). The music was recorded in Sun Blood Stories’ basement home studio in Boise, ID, and the vocals were recorded in Dale Hiscock’s (Endless Atlas) studio about two blocks away. All the Words in Meaning was written and recorded by Sun Blood Stories. The song was mixed and mastered by Dale Hiscock.

Directed by Thomas Newby, the Green Zoo Arts Collective, and Amber Pollard

Filmed by Thomas Newby and the Green Zoo Arts Collective

Edited by Amber Pollard

Lighting Assistant/Set Design Assistant/Official Photographer: Bethany Peterson

Original music written, performed, and recorded by Sun Blood Stories.

Shout out to George Pollard for letting us use his room and personal belongings for the setting of this music video.

Sun Blood Stories are:
Vocals, Guitar, Bass Synth / Ben Kirby
Drums, Keyboards / Jon Fust
Vocals, Slide Guitar, Bass Synth / Amber Pollard

Sun Blood Stories on Thee Facebooks

Sun Blood Stories on Instagram

Sun Blood Stories website

Sun Blood Stories on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,

Sun Blood Stories Post “Up Comes the Tunnel” Video; Haunt Yourself out Sept. 20

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sun blood stories

Normally, this is the part where I’d be all like, “OMG Sun Blood Stories are so great etc. etc.,” and hey, don’t get me wrong, that’s an awful lot of fun. I’m going to forego it — for the moment — however, because what the Boise, Idaho, trio don’t yet know is I’m planning to hit them up to stream their new record, Haunt Yourself, ahead of its Sept. 20 release? Will it happen? I don’t know. I mean, I’ll review it either way, so there’ll be plenty of duh-this-band-is-awesome blah blah verbose blah no matter what. But as for the stream, I’d hardly be able to hold a grudge if they decided to go with someone, you know, relevant instead for it. Or not to do it at all. Or whatever they want to do. It’s their album, after all.

Haunt Yourself though, is flat out gorgeous. Divided into three sections, its tracks play out with the fluidity that has typified their work all along while at the same being brought to bear sun blood stories haunt yourselfwith a new level of clearheadedness from the three-piece incarnation of the band, which first appeared on 2017’s It Runs Around the Room with Us (review here), but seems to have found a balance between experimentalism and core songwriting, with the vocals of guitarist Ben Kirby (also bass) and synthesist/slide guitarist Amber Pollard proving ever more essential to the overarching impression made and resonant long after the actual 12-track outing is done. Their dynamic is integral to the haunt of Haunt Yourself, in other words, but neither should one downplay the grounding effect or the swing in Jon Fust‘s drums, which as “Up Comes the Tunnel” demonstrates, is no less of a key component of the whole.

Like I said, I’m going to review the album, so I’ll cut the analysis there in the hope that I haven’t already bored you to distraction before you got to click play on Pollard‘s video for “Up Comes the Tunnel” below. If I did, sorry about that. If not, you’ll find it below, followed by a bit of background on the song and the record.

Please enjoy:

Sun Blood Stories, “Up Comes the Tunnel” official video

Up Comes the Tunnel is the first single off of Sun Blood Stories’ long anticipated new album, Haunt Yourself, to be released September 20th, 2019 (more about the album and the band below). This song was the first song to be written by the band as the idea of working on a new album started swirling around in their heads. The music was recorded in Sun Blood Stories’ basement home studio in Boise, ID, and the vocals were recorded in Dale Hiscock’s (ESC) studio about two blocks away. Up Comes the Tunnel was written and recorded by Sun Blood Stories. The song was mixed and mastered by Dale Hiscock. This music video was created by Amber Pollard of Sun Blood Stories. The featured poem was written by Ben Kirby of Sun Blood Stories.

Sun Blood Stories’ newest release, Haunt Yourself, will be available on September 20, 2019. Haunt Yourself maintains Sun Blood’s core sound and content while simultaneously sounding like nothing they’ve ever created before. No matter how you like to consume your music SBS has you covered. Haunt Yourself will be available on vinyl, tape, compact disc, digitally, and on all streaming platforms.

Sun Blood Stories are:
Vocals, Guitar, Bass Synth / Ben Kirby
Drums, Keyboards / Jon Fust
Vocals, Slide Guitar, Bass Synth / Amber Pollard

Sun Blood Stories on Thee Facebooks

Sun Blood Stories on Instagram

Sun Blood Stories website

Sun Blood Stories on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,