SPORTS – Sunchokes


By Dr. D and Sean Deveney

Some time last fall, I was doing late night research, or, as it is commonly referred to in most academic circles; procrastinating. My procrastination toolkit, as all essential toolkits should be, was rather simple: Speedy Ortiz’s “Taylor Swift” b/w “Swim Fan” and “Ka-Prow!” b/w “Hexxy. My Speedy Ortiz addiction began as any serious addiction does – as an innocuous habit. I was in the right place, at the right time, suffering from the right heartbreak. On this night, I was listlessly browsing Speedy Ortiz’s discography sidebar trying to psychically will new sonic material into existence, when a never-before-seen Bandcamp feature offered me recommendations based on my browsing history – SPORTS’ album Sunchokes – it had worked.

The band SPORTS, originated as a dorm-room quintet at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. It was among the first bands I shared with comrade Deveney after reconnecting last fall at college. Almost a year has passed since that fateful evening and Sunchokes is still queued up rather frequently on our respective stereo systems.

Artist reviews on Autonomous and Loud are typically written by the person to discover the band. However, under certain circumstances, when a band holds special meaning to both authors, a joint effort, such as this one, is undertaken. Please enjoy and don’t forget to comment below!

Dr. D’s Prognosis

As Apollonius of Tyana posing as Hermes Trismestigus once said: “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.”[1] I firmly believe that this maxim can be applied as a framework for understanding the universal appreciation of music. The motivations and experiences of the individual can be empathized and understood by the many.

For me, Sunchokes is about one thing: abusive relationships and heartbreak. However, the side-effects of heartbreak, such as, struggling with PTSD from abuse, feelings of anxiety, guilt, fear, and depression, etc. are so universal in nature that they can also be felt and interpreted by the listener without relating to the direct theme of the material.

Certain types of projection performed by a listener who does not take an objective view and or place themselves in the role of the author can sometimes be damaging to the author of the music and result in their narrative being appropriated for causes they do not believe in or subscribe to. Continuing with the theme of Speedy Ortiz and Pavement on this blog, I will cite two examples from both bands:

Speedy Ortiz “Raising the Skate”

“Naw, you never knew me, man, not even a fraction
You just glimpsed your own reflection in a gold sheen

Pavement “Embassy Row”

I’m sick of the forms, I’m sick of being misread
By men in dashikis and their leftist weeklies

However, for both Sean and I, our intention is not to appropriate or diminish, but rather to relate our individual experiences and find comfort in SPORTS’ music even when there is no logical or causal relationship to the direct theme of the album Sunchokes.

 Sometimes a piece of music comes along and it perfectly describes a malaise or emotion you didn’t even understand you were experiencing; this is how I would describe Sunchokes. I still remember queuing up “Tiny Planets” for the first time and thinking, “oh great, lo-fi and four chords…” remaining rather incredulous as to the quality of the music I was about to hear, after all, it is Bandcamp and anyone can post anything… But as soon as Carmen Perry’s voice cut through the mix, I was sold. It was simple, it was clean, and it was gut-wrenchingly honest.

If I were to try and go through this album giving an analysis of each track, it would be futile, for the very reason that I would have to name each track chronologically and comment for each one, “someone has managed to write down exactly what I’ve thought and felt and not only that, they’ve done it well.” Instead I’d like to focus on one track in particular, “Where are you.”

While perhaps one could boast that this song is the catchiest of all of Sunchokes, it is also their most lyrically and stylistically advanced song of the album; finding refuge and maturity in its vagueness, its hooks and layering, and its cascading intermezzo before the coda. This song is perhaps my favorite because of how one can approach the lyrics. One can easily interpret the lyrics as accusatory. What exactly happened in your life that gives you the self-justification for behaving the way you do? Who are you? What do you want? Do you even know? Do you love yourself?

No, you don’t. You don’t have any reasons or justifications.

However, instead of taking the Personal Pronoun “You” at face-value, I tend to enjoy this song even more if I view the author as taking a Third-Person Omniscient approach, whereby the object remains the accused lover but can also become, interchangeably, the author his/herself.

Sunchokes is a painful journey about growing up and how much it sucks to fall in love with someone who doesn’t appreciate and requite your love. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.

P.S. “You’re jerking off to Al-Jazeera and making your bed, and I could be at CrossFit like you but I’d rather be DED,” are potentially the greatest lyrics of all time.

[1] Scully, Nicki. Alchemical Healing: A Guide to Spiritual, Physical, and Transformational Medicine. Rochester, VT: Bear &, 2003. 321.

 Sean’s Account

It didn’t take me long at all to love their album Sunchokes. It still feels like the album grabs onto me as soon as I put it on and doesn’t let go until it’s over. It’s remarkably easy to listen to it in its entirety without realizing it.

“Tiny Planets,” the opening track, has a strong feeling of urgency and desperation and is an incredible hook for the album. The riffs are simple, the drums are basic, and the lyrics are well-crafted and very relatable. This is actually pretty much true for all of the songs on this album.

Even though I say it’s simple, it is simultaneously original and captivating. When I first came across it a year ago, I listened to it as much as I could. For some reason, it seemed like it was exactly what I needed to hear, and I can’t help but think back to that time as I listen to it now.

Last fall was stressful and the constant effort I put into schoolwork frequently felt pointless. I listened to this album as I walked back from work and as I headed out again ten minutes later to the library to write some paper due the next day about Freud or Marx and how the ideas we discussed in class resembled something that I saw in my own life in order to demonstrate my understanding of the material. A lot of those days involved going from one building to the next all in one rather small area, trying to support or critique an idea I wasn’t that passionate about in the first place for someone who had been studying the subject for longer than I’ve been alive, and trying to get away with doing the least amount of the assigned reading as possible in order to retain a vague understanding (if not the feeling itself) of happiness.

I didn’t go to any shows last fall. I guess I was busy doing all of that and forgot who I was. The only real contact I had with music was when George and I would send each other bands and also when we would occasionally jam. Music is basically everything to me, so this was not a happy time overall.

This band helped me deal with all of that. Putting on one of their songs genuinely felt like a breath of fresh air after being trapped in a musty basement. I don’t know if George remembers this, but we listened to what I’m pretty sure was the song “Where Are You” in his apartment with his roommate one night. In that moment, I remember feeling as though we were at a show because there was beer, great music, and people to appreciate it.

SPORTS somehow seemed to understand what I needed to hear and how to say it in a way that kept me listening intently until the end. The song “Clean Jeans” starts with “You take the same walk home from school every day, and I’m staying inside watching TV and hiding away. You’ve got a death wish. That’s not my problem. Whatever, so what if I’m boring? I like it that way.” Some of the lines in their lyrics just made me feel like they got it even if I was completely misunderstanding the real meaning. It honestly didn’t matter.

Their music is the perfect antidote to campus life. Just in that one song, the notion of taking the same, repetitive walk across campus every day and hiding away in your room are both addressed. If it’s not clear already to you why one would hide away, I can explain by saying that campus life gives some people a lot of anxiety. Especially on small campuses, you may often find yourself in situations where you really don’t want to encounter certain people or you just get extremely anxious for a wide variety of other reasons including the impossible amount of work you have to do, which leaves you no free time and eats away at your sanity.

SPORTS formed at Kenyon College, so I can assume that at least in some cases I may not be too far off in my lyrical interpretations. The song “Nowhere to Be” starts off, “Spend an afternoon on freaking out or staring at a screen. Something dull to cut my teeth on. I try to tell you I’ve been dying here, but I can’t put it into words. You’re not listening to me.”

It can be very hard to put into words without sounding annoying or lazy (as I’m sure I did). Having the privilege of going to college and all that shit does make you seem less entitled to complain when you compare your struggles with those of others. I’m just saying I found it to be a very isolating experience (despite being surrounded by tons of people) a lot of the time because our campus was filled with a lot of sports people, and there did not seem to be much of a space carved out for the freaks and weirdos.

I can only postulate that SPORTS gets their name from noticing something similar either on their own campus or just in general. Playing sports seems to be quite accepted in this culture. Our landscape is covered in various fields, courts, courses, and other such places, while independent music venues, record stores, etc. can be hard to find or are completely absent in some towns. It could very well be that they named themselves that because all of them do like sports after all. Their lyrics, however, suggest a mindset that strays away from those accepted activities thus making their name some sort of critique or comment about them.

SPORTS very quickly became my go-to band for the rest of my senior year. I was listening to them the other day and naturally started thinking about the circumstances I found myself in when I first discovered them. Things are different now of course, but the music still grabs onto me the same as it did a year ago.

SPORTS Sunchokes

June 5, 2014

Sunchokes 03:04

See Through Dresses

I saw See Through Dresses (from Omaha, Nebraska) at a really great show in August at the Skid Row Garage in York, PA. It was definitely the best show since Pope played there two months before (also reviewed on this site).

This band has songs that have been stuck in my head for weeks. Drag Scene is one such song due to its highly catchy nature. I have also skated while listening to this song many times, so that’s probably another reason it’s been in there.

The first song I ever heard when I checked them out on bandcamp before the show was Haircut. It immediately made me excited for the show because it reminded me of a certain sound heard possibly in bands such as Pavement or maybe Speedy Ortiz. It’s melodic in a way you wouldn’t expect or think is even possible. The bass also plays a prominent role in certain parts, which I love. The effect of having the loud guitars suddenly quiet down or stop altogether to make the bass stand out is something I will always appreciate very much. I also have to mention the song’s beginning or hook. When I heard it live, I got really excited because I recognized it immediately and already loved the song. The muted guitar and the vocals give way to a thunderous explosion that brings the rest of the song with it.

The song Johnny (the chorus in particular) reminds me of Slowdive with its dreamlike vocals. I had one of those instances with this song where I could remember how part of it went from the show, but I didn’t know the name of the song. After finding it, I listened to it many times because of its strangely haunting feel that is somewhat reminiscent of Slowdive’s Machine Gun.

I guess there are too many great songs to talk about, but I also want to say that the vocals on So Long, Charlie are fantastic. The bass and drums really power it forward too and make the almost four and a half minute long song feel like only a minute.

See Through Dresses put on pretty much exactly the kind of show I was hoping for that night. It was an energetic set that kept my head moving without me really needing to think about it, and it also included a Dinosaur Jr. cover.

I’d love to see this band again sometime, and I hope the rest of their tour went well.


Snail Mail

Snail Mail are a band from Baltimore, and I only know about them because I just happened to find them on youtube.

Their album Habit immediately intrigued me with its opener, Thinning. The mellow and melancholy vocals give way to a short guitar solo and then return for the next verse. Lindsey Jordan’s singing creates that somber and disinterested tone that I really enjoy hearing at the moment in a lot of bands. I guess that just resonates with me for some reason.

This is not to say that the band is disinterested in the music they are making because it’s very clear they are passionate about it and are devoted to this specific sound. Maybe somber isn’t even the right word because there is the undeniable emotional intensity that inspired the music in the first place.

Static Buzz begins in a relaxed way and somehow contains shifts in intensity without shifting much in tempo. Adding Lindsey’s vocals to it creates a song that never stops being interesting. Her lyrics seem like the kind that are written lying on a bed and staring at the ceiling while no one else is around.

This is exactly the kind of band I would love to see live right now. It’s been too long since I’ve heard this type of sound at a show. Those strong vocals, the melodic and simultaneously melancholic harmonies, and the steady rhythm could do a lot of us some good.

I also just want to mention how great it is that I happened to click on their album on youtube and was then able to get their music on bandcamp not long after without even seeing them live yet (but I do really want to see them live now). For me, this find is a great example of how much fun the search for good music can be.


I saw Pope this past June at the Skid Row Garage in York, PA, and they pretty much immediately blew my mind.

It was my first time at the garage, and to all of a sudden hear this fucking powerhouse of a band launch into their set in a tiny garage in York was mesmerizing. I think it was the first time I actually felt ‘transported’ at a live show. Sometimes I would regain my self-awareness and notice that I was moving my head uncontrollably to the music, and it felt right.

Everything works with this band. They are extremely tight, and I remember thinking exactly that as I saw them. The riffs are catchy as hell, and the drums back them up with precision and intensity.

The song Red on Known Weed Smoker stands out with powerful vocals and urgent guitar and drums reminiscent of Joy Division. Maybe it’s what would have happened if Ian Curtis and J Mascis had collaborated.

When I saw them, I remember noticing their pedal boards, which play a key role in their sound. The riffs are fuzzed out to the max creating some sort of heavy melodic explosion all while retaining that precision.

One last memory I have from that show is that the guitarist and bassist switched instruments mid set and declared that we had now reached ‘part two’ of the performance. I just found that really impressive especially because there was no noticeable shift in the sound or precision.

This show basically opened up a whole new world for me. I hadn’t really come across this sort of sound before but have since discovered many other bands who share some similarities. They are on the label Community Records (out of New Orleans), which has an abundance of good shit and is very worth checking out.

As I said before, that was my first show at the garage, and it could not have been a better introduction. Hopefully Pope will be back in this area sometime soon to blow more minds.

Built to Spill

Built to Spill is a band that has come up many times in my life with lots of different people. They are the perfect mix of loud, fucked up sounds and melodic vocals and riffs. I love both of those things.

I love post-hardcore stuff like Shellac and Fugazi, and I love Belle and Sebastian and Neutral Milk Hotel. Somehow bringing those two worlds together is the ultimate sound in my opinion, and Built to Spill does a lot of that in their album The Normal Years.

The first track So & So  So & So from Wherever, Wherever starts off with a lot of short, dissonant notes but then quickly becomes melodic with both the guitar and Doug Martsch’s vocals. The verses have quiet sections that then explode in emotion giving the song a fresh and unpredictable feel.

It’s hard to predict where a Built to Spill song will go when listening for the first time. A good example is the song Liar from You in Reverse. The immediate vocals that are covered in reverb along with the quiet guitar are slow and apprehensive, but they quickly give way to one of the best bass lines I’ve ever heard.

This bass line is the most prominent riff in the song and sticks in your head for days. It does exactly what a bass line should – it brings everything else together and makes it into one cohesive sound.

What is certain when it comes to this band is that there will be incredibly intriguing guitar parts and vocals sung in the distinctive manner that only Martsch could achieve. For me, his vocals are always the dead giveaway that the song playing is by Built to Spill.

I realize they’re relatively well-known in the indie world, but it can also be easy to skip over bands like this accidentally. No one who is remotely interested in the kinds of music discussed on this site should skip over this band, and now you have no excuse.