Drummer Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers paid tribute to Taylor Hawkins during the band’s set at New Orleans Jazz Festival, after replacing the Foo Fighters headline slot.
INTERVIEW: Henry Chappell Meets The Sukis
The Sukis are a Hertfordshire-based garage band, composed of four wonderful humans from Hitchin. They have quickly gathered a huge online presence with their pulsing and incredible indie rock. On a harsh January afternoon, they kindly joined me on Zoom to talk about all things Suki.
The Sukis is led by Tige, their main songwriter, who sings and plays the guitar. There’s Jem, who, when asked, says, “I do the drums and that’s kind of it.” Then here’s Leo, who can “play the bass guitar” and “do a bit of singing sometimes” — and who then takes the reins to describe Joe who as someone who just “sits there and looks pretty”.
“I just look good–that’s my role,” agrees Joe. “I am here to bring the people in. If I have to, I’ll play the keys.
On the 18th of January, the band released their debut single Becca, an instantly memorable track with a vocal line that punches through the speakers and hooks you continuously for almost four minutes, focusing on the elusive ‘Becca’ and combining irresistibly groovy drum beats with bouncy guitars to create a solidly brilliant piece of indie rock. When asked how the reaction has been, Leo replies succinctly, “positive,”.
This one word doesn’t even begin to describe the reaction. In the past month, hot off the release of Becca, the Sukis have reached heights typically reserved for bands on the verge of a debut, garnering an impressive 34,000 Instagram followers and an eye-watering 92,000 Spotify monthly listeners at the time of writing. Sensational off the back of a self-released debut single from a band who haven’t even finished their A-Levels.
“It’s been really sick. We were really lucky to end up recording it because we recorded it in a very brief window when we were allowed to go and do things,” Jem explains.
Tige adds, “The day we recorded it was my first day out of isolation, and then in the next two days we went back into a lockdown, so we had one day to do it. If we hadn’t done it on that day, we wouldn’t have been able to do anything until March this year. But the reception at the moment has just been absolutely insane.”
Joe goes on: “What was really weird this time is we have gone from having supporters, our friends and family listening to our staff, people who have heard of us from Hitchin and the local area to having people from Turkey and America, listening to our stuff. They don’t have to–that’s what I find so strange. It is just really heartwarming. Mental, really. Really mental.”
With a release in the middle of a pandemic, it has been proving hard for bands to gain new support and get their music out there with the collapse of the in-person gigging experience. In an ideal world, Becca should be blasting around independent venues, with the band witnessing for themselves the massive appreciation the single is getting. In the world, we live in now the way in which fans find music and show their appreciation has had to change. This new exclusively online following has been a launchpad for the four, throwing them into the world of fan pages, fanfic, and fan art.
“Yeah, the fan pages are wild,” agrees Jem. “We have all interacted with them a little bit. They all seem very sweet, they all seem quite nice, and some of the stuff they have picked up on and made running jokes is quite amusing. Like Tige’s love affair with Ed Sheeran. A lot of them are about Tige and his love affair with Ed Sheeran.”
“I don’t know how this Ed Sheeran thing came about,” Tige says.
“I think it is a subtle nod to the fact you are ginger,” jokes Joe.
“You have been getting Ed Sheeran comparisons, from my memory, ever since I joined the band, all the way back in November 2017,” Jem remembers. “Now, it’s on a much bigger scale. But I remember we were out busking and a girl asked you to play an Ed Sheeran song, and you told me you got that all the time.”
“This girl asked me to play Shape of You, like, five times when we were busking–but only Shape of You, no other song,” Tige explains. “The thing is with these fan accounts, it is just really cool because we have just never had that support before. Even if some things, like writing fanfic, is a bit weird, we still appreciate it because it is still people putting time and effort into thinking about us. At the end of the day, they are listening to our music and they are helping us out–and that is the main thing that we care about.”
I first became aware of The Sukis back in May, in those blissful summer days out of the first lockdown, following the release of their initial set of demos Skinhead, Pt 1 and Hometown, Pt 2. These demos, laced with the “breakneck” and “immediate” flavour of an early Arctic Monkeys sound, captured my attention.
“Yeah, I think the Arctic Monkeys influence is one we wear on our sleeve,” admits Jem.
Tige agrees. “When me and Leo started the band a couple of years ago, we were obsessed with Arctic Monkeys. Not like, ‘we listened to it and we knew all the lyrics’ obsessed. We would sit down in a room for hundreds of hours, listening to every song, learning every snare hit, and we would get completely obsessed.”
On listening, the influence is clear. Yet, instead of a blatant carbon copy of the Arctic Monkeys’ music, The Sukis take the mould and run with it, not shying away from the comparisons, but embracing them to create a solid sound that is distinctively their own. A sound stamped with the label indie and emblazoned with syncopated and dancey drums, distorted solos, and intricate vocal hooks.
“We take inspiration from a lot of things, not even just rock, just music that we like in general. We take inspiration from everything because now every piece of music ever is available. Especially for me when I am songwriting. A couple of months ago, I got really into shoegaze and started listening to loads of it, and I said, you know what, I’ll message Leo and be like, let’s only be shoegaze now. You go through phases all the time. Like, I’ll listen to Ed Sheeran and go mate,” Tige laughs.
Jem adds, “As a rhythm section as well, Leo and myself, we like to get funky, and I think that works well with the fast Arctic Monkeys type thing because it adds a little bit of spice.”
The journey this band has taken in just the first month of 2021 feels something like a dream. In a climate where it appears almost impossible to attract new listeners, they have done just that. The Sukis have adapted, embracing this opportunity, using TikTok, Discord and live streams to stay as engaged as possible. Time at home, physically away from others, socially isolated, provides us with the chance to dream of a future without Zoom, a future with the freedom to create and to perform without restriction, without the worry of postponements and cancellations. I asked the Sukis about their plans for that lockdown-free future we are all craving.
“My personal goal is to say ‘21’ every day this year,” Jem tells me. “Yeah, I have done it every day so far.” This seems a realistic goal. “And also buy a sitar.”
“Legend. Waste all your student loans,” jokes Leo. “For ‘21, in terms of the Sukis, I think that what we’re planning to do is grow our audience and keep ‘em keen and keep ‘em around–and get our next musical and audiovisual releases as much excitement as we can. Then in 2022, when live stuff is up and at ‘em, we can get signed or get a manager or get an agent–or maybe all three. And do big good old shows. And I think it’s just all about staying afloat and thriving as much as we can now so that when we can actually do the stuff that bands are about we’ll be ready for it.”
“The other big thing is that we’re all gonna move to Liverpool this year,” Tige tells me. “We’re gonna do that after summer. It should be really fun, and we’ll just see how it goes. We’re playing it by ear at the moment. I wouldn’t say we had a definite plan before all this… what’s the word… this good reception. But now, we’ve just gotta play it by ear a bit. It’s not gonna be as simple as just ‘we release a song and it suddenly progresses’ like that.”
The conversation turns to dreams. Dreams that typically would stay as dreams for the average teenage indie band, but for The Sukis, it feels like right now anything is possible, and the dreams could realistically escape that magical world of imagination, and manifest themselves, into something much more real.
“Have you got a dream venue?” I ask, expecting somewhere small like Brixton Academy or something similar. But Leo doesn’t hesitate.
Tige is clearly happy with the prospect. “Fun little story. At the school I went to, which I hated, the only good thing that came out of it was that in the yearbook I got voted ‘Most likely to headline Glastonbury in ten years.’ I’ve got eight years left, so I’m running out of time. Every day I wake up and do a tally on my wall.”
“I’d love to play Hyde Park,” adds Jem. “I’ve seen a lot of gigs in Hyde Park and it’s such a sick venue. Like, open-air gigs are– I love any gig– but open-air gigs are just fantastic.”
Reminiscing about better times, I ask the group, “What was the best gig you have ever attended?”
“I have one,” Tige tells me. “In our town, Hitchin, we played this place called Club 85 and we bumped into every type of musician. We were supporting this band called Salpa Salpa–they weren’t the ones. It was this band called Butterfly which are this ‘70s, psychedelic rock band. And it was the first time I’d ever watched this style. It was on my birthday as well. It was so cool–they came out wearing these ‘70s flares and these massive haircuts and stuff. It was just awesome.”
“They looked pretty glum,” adds Jem. “They were among the nicer bands that we’ve played with.”
“Watching Aries was probably my favourite,” says Joe. “I haven’t been to many live shows apart from watching the people that support us or if we’re supporting other bands.”
Jem’s turn. “I went to see Raekwon and Ghostface Killah from the Wu-Tang Clan, and, long story short, I rapped with them and that was like the highlight of my life to this day. It was so good. It was the day before my 14th birthday, I was a couple hours shy from being 14, and everyone loved me because they didn’t expect this scrawny little kid with long hair to come up and kill a Method Man verse. I was with my cousin and some friends, and they all lifted me up–they were like, “We have to pick this kid.” So I went up and I did it and it’s probably one of the best nights of my life.”
Finally, Leo. “My favourite gig was probably the one where we watched Pig and then Walt Disco and then Sports Team. It was such a memorable, amazing night. I was with Louis and Charlie of Honeybees. It was so sick.”
And it was. The energy, electricity and excitement of Sports Team’s sell-out Electric Ballroom gig all the way back in March 2019 now like a lifetime away. But the dreams this band have do not feel as far away as that memorable night. Whether it be Mainstage Glasto, Hyde Park or a headline slot at Liverpool’s O2 Academy, if The Sukis continue at the same pace, nothing is out of reach. There is a real sense of musicality in their songwriting, intertwining their influences to create a truly unique and exciting sound–a sound that will carry them to heights unparalleled by anyone else their age right now. Following in the footsteps of their heroes the Arctic Monkeys, this band is going places. Fast. I cannot stress this enough; remember this name: The Sukis.
Finally, after two years of us all sitting around our computers, watching live streams, desperately trying to recreate that festival feeling, The Great Escape is back and ready to take over Brighton. For 4 days in May, music lovers, industry experts, and artists from all around the world will decent on the seaside town, ready to explore the 30+ walkable venues and discover some incredible new bands.
Today, Abbey Road Studios, the world’s most famous recording studio, announces the inaugural Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards 2022 in association with Hennessy – the first-ever awards to celebrate the art of music photography.