They thrilled us silly with their debut album Chalk Horror! last year, as crazy an album to have crossed these ears in years - Finbarr Bermingham has a word with Super Adventure Club to find out what lies ahead
Gordon ‘Sting’ Sumner, Jim Bowen, Ron Jeremy, Art Garfunkel, Stephen King… no, it’s not the line-up for the next Celebrity Big Brother. This illustrious lot were all schoolteachers in a past life. Not the most rock ‘n’ roll profession in the world, you may think, but there’s an Edinburgh outfit which might have something to say about that…
Who are Super Adventure Club?
Super Adventure Club are Mandy, Bruce and Waz: a curious but dazzling trio of hyperactive noiseniks from Edinburgh. Having previously played together in a band called Stepdads, Mandy and Bruce were the founders of SAC, but hopes of early success were dashed when their drummer left after just one gig. “Bruce had enough and wanted to call it a day,” recalls Mandy, “but I was too stubborn to give up, so he left it to me to find a new drummer."
Obviously impressed with what he had heard, Waz wasn’t long in accepting the invitation extended to him by Mandy. He explains, “I was playing for a couple of other groups up until then that hadn’t taken me to where I wanted to be musically, so I agreed to come along and try out. I’m still here, so I think it’s in the bag.”
With two music teachers (Waz and Bruce) and a former music student in their ranks, they’re a highly qualified bunch – a rarity in the days of MySpace superstardom. When asked about the potential to combine his two professions, Waz is philosophical:
“The pupils have probably got more of the ‘rockstar’ mentality than we do. They’re young and full of the dream; we’re jaded and know the whole rockstar thing is bullshit. My favourite part of the job is telling people they’ve got it all wrong! I tell them, if they want sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, they should just go to a rock club. Anyway, a teachers’ band can’t be trendy can it?”
Who do they sound like and where do they fit in?
SAC’s debut album, Chalk Horror! came out last year and is a crazy, intense sonic assault, vacillating wildly between strung-out post-hardcore, psychedelic guitar noodling and milder bass grooves. Super Adventure Club are hands down one of the most unique and exciting new bands in Scotland – to attempt to pigeonhole them would be nigh-on cruel. Naturally, then, we gave them the opportunity to do it themselves.
The range of influences the band enjoy are eclectic, not to our surprise. “I’m influenced a great deal by entertainers who put on a good show and who don’t just tear through their tunes,” says Waz. “Guys like Freddie Mercury, Alex Harvey or Bowie. I also take a lot of inspiration from the genuine on-stage intensity of bands like Sick of it All or Fugazi.”
Bruce, the chief songwriter for the band, continues: “Pavement, Wilco – Nels Cline is my favourite guitarist – Frank Black, Frank Zappa, Tom Waits. At the moment I’m really into the new Zu and Farmer’s Market albums.” His sentiments are echoed strongly by Mandy, who also admits to having a soft spot for Deerhoof and The Flaming Lips.
Despite having a wealth of musical know-how and no shortage of ideas, a large part of the band’s lyrical content could be perceived as tongue-in-cheek, perhaps unsurprisingly given that they take their name from an episode of South Park. Lyricist Bruce develops the point: “We take the music really seriously and the composing process is what I enjoy the most. But when it comes to lyric writing, I often feel compelled to use things that have annoyed or amused me as subject matter. I’ve had a pretty nice life so far, so I’d just feel like a chancer if I got all deep and meaningful in the songs.”
Where can we hear them?
The band’s aforementioned debut album came out last year and proved to be a favourite amongst critics – not least within these very sheets. “We were really pleased with the reaction we got from the album,” says Mandy. “It's our first release and we got lots of great feedback from it. It's all DIY, the artwork was designed by a good friend of ours, we recorded with another good friend at uni then Bruce mixed and mastered the album.
The ethos of Chalk Horror! remains, and it is a prevailing theme that’s all-too-often overlooked in today’s image-obsessed music scenes: fun. Super Adventure Club sound refreshingly like a band having the time of their lives, but was it as much fun to make the record as it is to listen to? “Everything was recorded live except the vocals,” explains Bruce, “so it was kind of like a really intense rehearsal. I enjoy recording – it's the mixing process that can drive you mad because you could keep striving for perfection forever, so you have to know when to leave it alone.”
So what does the future hold for the band?
The year gone by was a hectic one by anyone’s standards. While balancing full-time teaching jobs, the band managed to released Chalk Horror!, play radio shows and gig as though they were jobless troubadours. As Waz explains though, if it’s the quiet life they’re after, they’re unlikely to find it in ’09:
“We’re still not sure if we’ll do an EP, a single, another album or maybe a children’s popup book. So 2009 is the year to make that decision and follow through on it and maybe even a little tour somewhere too. There are another couple of possible things in the pipeline too but I’d have to kill you if I told you. The basic plan is to keep writing and keep playing our music to the people who want to hear it and hopefully that’ll keep us and them happy.”
Interested? Should be... check out the excellent Super Adventure Club here: www.myspace.com/superadventureclubmusic
And photo credit to Markus Thorsen.