After turning heads out in New York and Austin this past summer, local psych rockers Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor prep themselves for their first Detroit headlining show in what’s seems like forever. The Doors-ian trio – consisting of vocalist/guitarist Sean Morrow, bassist Eric Oppitz and drummer Rick Sawoscinski – are set to hit PJ's Lager House this Friday (Nov. 19), sharing the bill with Electric Lions and Hi-Speed Dubbing . However, while being one of the grooviest acts around, they’ve gone mostly unknown to a majority of the world outside of Detroit. They’re bouncy enough to shake your ass to but abstract and loose enough to use for armchair space exploration. They released their debut self-titled album a year back to some pretty warm reception (including scribes from the Metro Times). Morrow recently took some time out of his Sunday morning to sit down with the Metro Times to enlighten the scene on what Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor are really about.
Metro Times: Sean, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us.
Sean Morrow: Oh, no problem, man.
MT: Okay. So, give us the history of the band. The saga, so to speak.
Morrow: 2005. Summertime. Eric and I met on, like, a message board. Then we had this one drummer; didn’t work out. And, then, we met Richard at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor one night, randomly. We were so desperate for a drummer, we just started walking up to people and asking if they played drums. And, lo and behold! He did.
MT: Could you elaborate on the reasoning behind the name change from Sik Sik Nation to Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor? Was it a change in musical direction that you guys felt needed a new moniker?
Morrow: Yeah, definitely. The sound had evolved. It’s was kind of like a rebirth, too. It was something that complimented the style of music that we’re doing. A kind of alpha and omega thing, you know? Going back and starting over.
MT: Give me a little personal music history, Sean. What were some of the first musical experiences that made you want to bang on shit and make noise?
Morrow: I think the first thing was
I was, maybe, fourteen years old and I was asking my mom for a guitar. And that was because I saw that George Harrison video, “Got My Mind Set on You”, where he’s playing and all the fuckin’ furry little creatures are popping out his house and stuff. You know what video I’m talking about here, man? Am I dating myself here?
MT: No, no. I know.
(For the record, the video in question was released in 1987, two years before this interviewer was born)
MT: Did you grow up in the city?
Morrow: Nah, I grew up in the ‘burbs.
MT: Oh, okay. I’ve been reading some interviews and I’ve noticed that you guys have voiced an eagerness to move from just being a great local to moving around the country a bit. Do you think you’ve come closer to actualizing that in the past year?
Morrow: I think so, man. At least every month we try to do out-of-state trips. We did the Austin Psych Fest and played New York a handful of times. Chicago. D.C. We try to get out of Detroit as much as we possibly can, so to speak.
MT: What’s your feeling toward the whole Detroit music scene? Has it been good to you guys?
Morrow: Yes and no, man. Two things are going to happen when you make the kind of music that really isn’t publicized: You’re either going to work that much harder because you don’t get the credit that you deserve. Or, it’s going fall by the wayside. It seems we’re sequestered in a pop market right now.
MT: Most definitely.
Morrow: It is. I’m not going to lie. I mean, we don’t draw that best in Detroit like we do other places. But, it’s hometown and there’s still some sort of love for it.
MT: I haven’t seen much in papers about this band yet. I think there was one write-up in Real Detroit back when you were Sik Sik Nation.
Morrow: There was a Blowout thing and one when we released the record about a year ago. One thing that we really pride ourselves on is that everything is done by the band. We built the studio. We recorded that record and produced it ourselves, mixed it. We do all our own merchandise. We silk-screen our own vinyl. We do all the booking. It’s one of those we want to have complete control over. If someone were to offer us something would we still have that complete control, you know?
MT: Yeah. You said that you don’t draw the best in Detroit. Has the reception been in any way significantly different outside of the city?
Morrow: I think. I mean, when we did that Austin Psych Fest, it was kind of like, “Wow, man. All these people came out.” And they were just genuinely excited. You go and play in New York and people will look up your band ahead of time and come out to see you. It’s hard enough to get people to come out to a local show here. But, I really don’t think people here will spend that time and do that research and come out.
MT: A bit disparaging, I imagine.
Morrow: Yeah. It’s just that everything’s so spread out around here too. It’s not like when you go to New York where people can just pop into a club and get on a train and go somewhere else. You go to the Lager House, you’re pretty much stuck there for the whole night because there’s nothing around there.
MT: That’s true. I heard this Lager House is the first headlining show in some time. Have things been slow for you guys?
Morrow: Well, we’re writing a new record and we’re trying to focus on that and trying to put shows in there every so often so we can play out new material. But, we’re just going to be really picky. We’re not going to take show just to take them. We’re trying to put together some good bills. Electric Lions are good friends of ours. We’re trying to find that comfortable medium where we’re not playing too much or playing too little.
MT: I know the band’s all DYI right now, but have you come across any label interest?
Morrow: Yeah, we have. It’s just one of those things where, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work out. Like, when we were in New York, some guy from Vice records was really interested in us. We set up a meeting and stuff. And then, for whatever reason, that guy stopped working for Vice records or something like that. We get these ties or these contacts and they just sparkle and fade, which could be part of the whole divine intervention thing to begin with. Maybe we’re not destined to being on someone else’s tip. But, we have fun with it now. And, if someone can help foster what we’re trying to do, in the pure sense that we’re doing it in, then yeah.
MT: Is the new record going to be disseminated in the same fashion as the last one? Given away at shows for free and free to download on the website?
Morrow: Yeah, man. We’ll probably do that same thing. Just press 200 limited edition vinyl and have free downloads. With that first Sik Sik Nation album, we pressed 1000 CDs and there are still 300 in the basement. People don’t buy CDs and you’re not really making a profit off of them anyway.
MT: Fuck, look at Record Time.
Morrow: Yeah, exactly. It’s bad. It’d be nice to get a few pennies for selling records, but at the same time, the most important thing for us is exposure. When you can get, like, 200 downloads a month, that’s great. You get people in Greece, in Russia downloading your stuff. That’s definitely the plan. Do some limited edition vinyl and give it away for free.
MT: Hell of an attitude.
Morrow: Yeah. When you truly love something, you don’t put a fuckin’ price tag on it. When people genuinely enjoy it, they’re going to go through the effort. Downloading music is still like selling records because people still have to go through that effort to do it. It’s not just a given because they’re not paying for it. There’s just no monetary effort. You still have to physically go to your computer and spend five to seven minutes to do it.
MT: I guess, man. Anyway, I’m always interested in knowing how the songwriting process is for bands of this vein. The tracks I’ve heard sound loose and spacey, so imagine there’s a fair amount of jamming going on?
Morrow: Oh, definitely. When it comes to songwriting, it kind of like a family process. It’s not just one person bringing in a completed product and teaching the other members. One person will have a small idea, a snippet, and it’s built upon and built upon until everyone interjects. And you work through it. And, because we have the studio at my house, we record the demo and then you go back and decide what needs to be texturized. But there definitely is a lot of free form to it, too.
MT: Is there a tentative timeline for the new album?
Morrow: We’ve got about five songs written and we’re probably going to go for eight. Hopefully right around Blowout time, like right around March.
MT: So, is this headlining show a sign of things to come?
Morrow: We’re trying to take it into the abyss and yet stay grounded as well. We’re still the type of band that wants people to be able to shake their ass and tap their foot to. But, at the same time within that, push those envelopes of what a song should be. A song doesn’t have to be verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-end, you know?
MT: Last question, and a pretty abstract one at that. At the end of the day, thinking of the future, how far do want this band to go? Is the ambition to sell out stadiums? What do you guys want the band to do for you? Like
Morrow: The epiphany? Is that what you speak of?
MT: [Laughs] Yeah.
Christ, man. If someone said, “Hey, we’ll pay you ten dollars an hour to keep doing what you’re doing,” I’d sign up right there and now. [Laughs] I guess just to take it to the point where it stays pure and decent and holy and it never becomes tainted. If it can grow, you know? There are a handful of bands that have done it. I mean, Guided By Voices, they recorded all their own shit and weren’t on a label for a while and were able to self-sustain. And I guess just being able to take it as far as we can without it being tainted and touched by some corporate record label who’ll water it down and just sugar-glaze it and take away everything that pure and decent about it. But for us, it’s just to keep having fun with it. We’ve been getting together sometimes two or three days a week for the last five years and it’s always fun and it’s always a good time. I think there are very few hobbies that you can attribute that to.
Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor hit the Lager House this Friday.