For Sonny Alexander, forming a new band is not something to be taken lightly. As he tells it, the Apache Dropout singer and guitarist believes in creating something special that affects audiences – and this is the case with his newest band, the Submarine.
"Since I'm a 'band guy,' I feel compelled to look at what a band means as a unit of cultural expression," he says when we talk about his new project. "And I think a band is an opportunity to affect the world, or a community, with a sound, a look, a perspective."
Alexander first dove into the new project on his own, playing a collection of songs he'd written over the years that he saw as "too chord-y" for Apache Dropout. But the songs needed more. So he decided to assemble a rock and roll band that he felt would fit the sound he was aiming to create. Conveniently, the Vibes Music employee didn't have to look much further than the record store where he works to find himself a rhythm section that fit just right. He called on Jorma Whittaker (Marmoset) to be his bassist and Rachel "Miss Mess" Weidner (Shame Thugs, Thee Open Sex) to be his drummer and back-up vocalist.
"Since me and Rachel and Jorma have all been working and hanging at Vibes, it was pretty natural that we would find common ground with our favorite weird, crusty records," Alexander said. "Jorma has an affinity for obscure '60s and '70s psych, and that's really the sound that I want for the Submarine. I thought it was important to have other people in the band who are as obsessed with records as I am."
She's played in bands with Alexander for years, including The Bloody Mess most recently, but Weidner sees the Submarine as a musical milestone for the band's compelling captain.
"Within the Submarine, [Sonny] finally has the wherewithal and confidence and skill set to expand on ideas that he was just grazing upon with previous projects," she said. "With the Submarine, his complicated melodic patterns and heavy lyricism are met with dynamic support from trained musicians, allowing him to be more experimental without fear that the music itself will fall apart. As we keep saying about the Submarine — it's heavy, but it floats."
Alexander also tapped Jacob Gardner (Raw McCartney, BIGCOLOUR) on synth and Joe Fawcett, (Black Rider, Bonesetters,) on organ, creating a sound that Alexander describes as "a weirdo, or bohemian, or non-normative, or 'stoned' take on psychedelia using references to obscure recorded music to project romanticism and confusion on a world that sorely needs romance and relates profoundly to confusion."
The band's first performance came in the form of an impromptu house show on Morris Street in Fountain Square, followed by a gig at the Melody Inn the following week. Since then, the Submarine have continued playing shows around the city, whenever all members are in town and not out on the road with their other projects. The group hopes to record after Alexander returns from his month-long tour with Apache Dropout later this year if not before.