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FEBRUARY 2019: Sunwatchers

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Sunwatchers were a band that I'd been a fan of before we worked with them. I picked up their "s/t" debut (on Castle Face) while on tour drumming & driving for Ultimate Painting in 2016. Jack & I jammed out for many miles in the front seats to it, both of us marveling how they could seem so tight & so loose at the same time. Eventually seeing them live made it all make sense - they are a truly PHENOMENAL live act, seemingly ready to go off the rails at any moment. Just when you think it's all about to break apart, they slide into a soulful break & you realize they had each other the whole time. I think having roots in the experimental & jazz scenes coming up gives them a musical context & improvisational nimbleness that most bands operating in the "rock & roll" area of music (how's that for adjectives?) are lacking. It's been cool to see Jeff from Sunwatchers collaborate with Jack on his new project Modern Nature. It's fully in the spirit of the sense of community we've tried to foster among the bands on our label. I wish more of them would get together & collaborate (hint, hint).

Eventually a year or so later we received an email out of the blue from guitarist/electric phin player Jim McHugh asking if we'd be down to release the next Sunwatchers album. If I'm remembering correctly I think I actually yelled "FUCK YES!" out loud to my computer, haha. Not sure if Jim heard me, but I did reply straight away & long story short, "II" came out in 2018. When it came time to prep for the next album they'd mentioned that they were in the middle of recording it, but had a wacky idea for the album art & were waiting to see if it panned out. Months later I went to Gonerfest 15 (En Attendant Ana & Ethers both played that weekend) & the Monday after Sunwatchers were playing (not too far away from Memphis) in Nashville at Third Man with Sons of Kemet. Well OBVIOUSLY I had to stick around Tennessee & catch that gig, so I hitched a ride with our pal & former bandmate Mike & his family to Nashville & we caught the gig. Backstage at Third Man I was chatting with everyone (got to talk briefly with Shabaka Hutchings about Clifford Jordan & tried not to seem too starstruck. Dude is the nicest guy ever, but he's already a legend in my book) & Jim, Peter & Jeff from Sunwatchers were trying to tell me about what the art for the new album was shaping into. Keep in mind we were already a couple of months behind schedule at this point & I was like 'Uhhhh... guys?" & Jim says "Don't worry, our pal Scott Lenhardt is on it - he's done illustrations for people like Phish & snowboard companies & stuff. I told him it was called "Illegal Moves" & I wanted it to seem like an old Mort Drucker Mad Magazine-style watercolor illustration of the Kool-Aid Man dressed as Braveheart fighting off the arbiters of capitalism & evil like Uncle Sam & the Illuminati & Chuck Heston & the KKK & shit." Needless to say I had a hard time picturing it & sincerely had my doubts they could pull it off (sorry guys) but HOT DAMN did they ever...

(ABOVE: Sunwatchers "Illegal Moves" illustration by Scott Lenhardt)

When we finally saw the art Lisa & I just stared at it dumbstruck & laughing for a while. We also had to last-minute change the LP-print job & reformat it for a gatefold, because how could it NOT be a gatefold?? The boys are prepping their new one as I type this one - I can't wait to jam the "Love Paste"/"Brown Ice" medley LOUD on our stereo.

Cop your copy of "Illegal Moves" (and "II") HERE

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