By now it’s a given that the Sonics take their own sweet time doing things. Tacoma’s garage-rock heroes disbanded in 1967 and – an early ‘70s reunion gig in Seattle aside – didn’t get around to their comeback bid for four decades.
Then, last October, lead howler Jerry Roslie revealed the names of four new cuts his band had been working on, “Bad Attitude,” “Vampire Kiss,” “Cheap Shades” and “Don’t Back Down” (interview audio posted here.) And now, band manager Buck Ormsby expects those new songs to finally see the light of day on a new EP that’s simply called simply “8.” Ormsby speculated that copies of the new disc could be in stores by the end of this month.
“We’re kind of late for distribution this year,” Ormsby said, “But I’m gonna get it into the stores before we go over to Europe (in December) – hopefully. It’s supposed to be here. It’s gonna be shipped to Europe to the places we are playing (in Greece and Italy.) Hopefully, when I get back here we’ll be able to fix up distribution here. But it will be in the stores – the locals, you know.”
[Update:]The first four tracks will be the new songs. Guitarist Larry Parypa tells me his brother, Andy, plays bass on the new cuts, his first significant involvement with the band since the original lineup broke up in the 1960s.
Live versions of “Cinderella,” “Psycho,” “Strychnine” and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” recorded during tour stops in Europe, will fill out the b-side of the vinyl version.
The CD and digital versions of “8” will also feature two live bonus cuts, “The Hustler” and “Boss Hoss.” “It’s all their classic stuff, their original stuff, but with a lot of power,” said Ormsby, who also plays bass for seminal Tacoma garage band, the Fabulous Wailers.
Larry Parypa produced the new mini album with Northwest super-producer Jack Endino, well known for his work with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney and Seaweed, among others.
“I’m really glad they called me because I pretty much get exactly what they do and what they are,” said Endino, taking a short break from recording Seattle gypsy-punk band, Kultur Shock, on Monday.
“How many bands have I recorded that have covered Sonics tunes? It’s probably been quite a handful over the years here and there. So I feel like I know their music pretty well just from watching band after band doing these sort of respectful covers.”
But the trick was updating an iconic sound without straying too far from the Sonics’ roots.
“They’re not trying to sound like 1964,” Endino said. Laughing he added, “If I hang one microphone in the room and try and record (common on early Northwest rock recordings) everyone’s gonna scream at what a terrible job I did. And that’s not what they wanted, anyway. They wanted a good, modern sounding rock recording that sounded like a band kicking ass in the studio.”
Endino sounded pleased with the tracks the Sonics laid down at his studio, Sound House Recording.
“They’ll surprise you. They’re very lively, the stuff is very spunky,” he said. “You know, there’s a garage element. There’s a bit of an R&B element, all of which was in their music, buried in those dirty (’60s) recordings. (There’s) classic, old school type of guitar playing from the ‘60s. Larry has a very vintage guitar style that’s still very evident. And he’s very good, he’s a good player.
“This is what the Sonics might have sounded like in the early ‘70s if they had kept playing, gotten better and better and had access to better recordings and better studios. This is what they might have sounded like.” Joking, he added, “It doesn’t sound like the Sonics in the ‘80s.”
The latest Sonics lineup includes Roslie, Parypa, Rob Lind on sax, Ricky Lynn Johnson on drums and Freddie Dennis, who took over bass playing duties from Don Wilhelm last year.
Larry’s brother, Andy Parypa – from the classic Sonics’ lineup – lives in Seattle but no longer plays with the band. Drummer Bob Bennett lives in Hawaii and reunited briefly with the Sonics at their Halloween show at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre in 2008.