When was the last time you fell in love with a band? Not just dug on ‘em, but completely, joyously, full-on ‘oh-god-I-can’t-believe-i-lived-this-long-without-‘em’ surrendered your heart? Meet Sourpatch. Fresh outta San Jose, CA, these four punk kids formed through a mutual love of Go Sailor and Tiger Trap – basically, Rose Melberg’s effortless way with a hook – and swiftly hooked up with Athens, GA’s Happy Happy Birthday To Me label. One glorious debut LP later (2009’s Crushin’), the band have driven back and forth across the US, playing countless shows and honing their addictive noisepop to the point of irresistibility. In their own words, they’re all about a “gender-freeing, queer-positive, all-ages, feminist-thinking, crush-worthy lifestyle”, and they just happen to rule too.
Wanna treat your ears? Pick up their latest album Stagger And Fade. Maybe it’s the sheer, obvious joy that pulsates in every note they play. Maybe it’s the way they switch instruments depending on which member wrote the best song that day. Hell, maybe it’s the constant volume competition between those thrillingly-fuzzy guitars and sometime-grindcore drummer Rich’s impressive chutzpah. Whatever: something about this band keeps them sounding fresh and – dare we say – vital, and it’s practically impossible not to fall for them. Best Fit caught up with Sourpatch’s Christine Tupou to learn a little more.
How did Sourpatch get together?
We got together in the summer of 2008. First it was an idea between Rich and I that quickly turned into a pop band. I asked Nicole if she’d be interested in being in a band like that, knowing she already had a bunch of pop songs we could all work on together. At the time, I lived with Mander in a big house in San Francisco, so I later asked him if he’d want to play bass.
Why did you choose the name Sourpatch? The obvious suggestion would be that you were inspired by a certain American treat…
No, we didn’t choose the name because of the candy. An old friend, who practiced with us as a bassist (before Mander was in the band) came up with the name. We liked the way it sounded, that’s really it. It’s interpretive, I guess.
Looking at your tour schedule and the bands you’ve played with, Sourpatch seem to be equally at home amongst the punks as with the indiepoppers. How do you define yourselves?
My brain always kind of shuts off when someone asks what we sound like, kind of like a computer malfunction after you impute too many commands. Granted, my brain is pretty small, so it’d be easier for me to talk about influences…
The four of us are all into different things, so Sourpatch is kind of where all of our influences converge. Our influences range from C86 bands to Pacific-Northwest ’90s riot grrrl, pop and indie to grind and ’90s hardcore to Selena (y Los Dinos) to top 40 everything and so on. As far reaching as it seems, I’d say that most forms of US underground music influences us or, like, anything from our childhood that we grew up singing. I learned a lot about how to make a song by watching my dad sing and play Tongan songs, and I learned harmonization from Tongan church and my grandma.
Twee is a kind of music we tend to be fond of. If twee were a house, Sourpatch would not live in that house but we would visit it.
What’s it like working with Happy Happy Birthday To Me?
I’m really glad they like our music enough to pay it any attention. Mike [Turner, label head honcho] is our fairy godmother.
Tell us something interesting about yourself.
I don’t put out.
What other bands have you played in/do you play in?
How was your trip to the UK in 2011?
We toured with Town Bike – they’re so great! We had a blast. We got into a little tiff with a man in Glasgow over where Mander’s camera was pointed (definitely not on him), but I resolved it with some solid words shouted loudly enough for him to hear. I hope we can go again soon, I like it there a lot.
The new album seems louder than your debut – was that a conscious decision?
We just all play that way now. We all like being loud, I guess… just as a general rule for life, haha. It was definitely not conscious, it just kind of happened like that. Mander, Nicole and I end up turning our amps up to however loud Rich plays his drums, and he plays really, really loud. Also, I think a lot of people were misled by the first album because we tend to play louder and sloppier than our recordings sound.
The first album seemed to revel in the sounds of its influences, whereas the new one seems more like you’re finding your own voice. How would you view the two records?
I think the two albums are still very indicative of what we like to listen to, they just both happen to represent different parts of our influential spectrum. More than the first album being about sounding like our favourite bands, it was more a matter of us not yet being as comfortable playing with each other as we are now. Kind of like a relationship, we can all better predict what each other wants out of a song and we don’t have to mess around with the awkwardness of ‘does this sound right to you?’
With that said, we also had more time and resources to develop the second album. So the sound is fuller to us, more intentional.
From the titles alone, Stagger And Fade seems more bruised than Crushin’, and that’s before we even get to the lyrics. What’s changed in the Sourpatch world?
Nothing has essentially changed but we have all grown up a little more and let go of a lot. Personally, I see the biggest difference in the two albums being the language we use. It’s more grown up, with a broader vocabulary.
What have you been listening to lately?
Scared Of Chaka, Teenage Fanclub, solo Evan Dando, Loretta Lynn, Mazzy Star, Swearin’, The Dicks, Stiff Little Fingers, Lois Maffeo, The Aislers Set, the Clueless soundtrack.
What’s been your favourite thing about being in Sourpatch so far?
Touring would be the best thing so far. We are on the road a lot and we have made a ton of friends because of it! Not many people get the opportunity to drive around different places for weeks at a time, meeting people and making noise in basements along the way!
What do you want to achieve with Sourpatch? World domination? Cult stardom? Just enough money to get to the next show tomorrow?
Definitely the third one!
What are your immediate plans for Sourpatch?
We are going on a six-week US tour which we are SO stoked about. It’s been a year and some since we’ve toured and we can all feel the itch.
After our tour, we are planning the second annual Think And Die Thinking fest in our hometown. It’s a fest focused on showcasing punk and indie bands in our community who push the boundaries of what “punk” and “indie” may look like to the majority of people. The aim of the fest is to introduce and reintroduce DIY to San Jose as a refresher and as a way of saying that all of these things can involve anyone.
As for Europe, we have a fantasy of returning for a longer stay and seeing more than before. That’ll probably be our goal once 2013 rolls around.