The band Sun Room released their newest EP on Feb. 24, titled, “Outta Their Minds.” Consisting of former Point Loma Nazarene University student Luke Asgian and his local friends, the band has been a popular act for PLNU students over the past several years. Hot off a show at Soma earlier this year, the band has released four new tracks that are rooted in 60s rock and surf culture with such a wide range of musical influences, it’s hard to keep track.
The opening track “Cadillac,” also the strongest song on the album, enters with a punk-inspired guitar rhythm that sounds like it comes from a Chuck Berry song, and call-and-response group vocals that lead up to a punchy chorus. Each chunk of the song builds on the other and by the time the guitar solo comes in, it devolves into a Marty McFly-like outro à la “Back to the Future.”
The following track, “Kaden’s Van” sounds like it was EQ’d to sound underwater, but otherwise the mix is significantly more balanced between all the different instruments, and the verses build-up to an exciting chorus. The repeating vocals and dredging guitars are immediately reminiscent of The Killers, which makes for a glaring tonal transition from the previous track, but it isn’t damagingly drastic.
“Sunset Garage” is the most derivative song, with an opening that sounds almost identical to The Neighborhood’s, “Sweater Weather” before transitioning into a Beach Boys like verse-chorus structure. This song feels like filler and for a four-track album, that’s a large chunk of time to be so repetitive and unexciting.
The album’s eponymous “Outta Their Minds” sounds as if The Beatles were singing a cover of “These Boots Were Made For Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra. For a track titled, “Outta Their Minds,” there isn’t anything really crazy going on here, but it is a much needed energy change from “Sunset Garage” and serves as a strong closing track on the project.
There are also some noticeable instrumental highlights scattered on this thing. Gibby Anderson’s drumming, when you can hear it, is technical, interesting and full of charisma. There are some fills on “Sunset Garage” that felt so syncopated and irregular that I expected it to fall off beat, but it coolly composed itself right on track with the rest of the band. Asgian’s singing is, for the most part, charismatic and energetic, when the melody isn’t doing variations on “Hot Cross Buns.” The effect on the vocals is trying to sound like what Surf Curse does, with that garage-band metallic sound, but it sounds like a cheap plug-in and the buried lyrics kill any sort of human connection; it sounds like Asgian is singing through a hollow soda can and it does more harm than good.
What Sun Room is trying to do on this album, they do well. The songs are catchy and tight, and I can imagine that there’s a lot of live appeal to this band, but that energy and excitement doesn’t translate onto the record. A lot of the busier moments of the mix get muddy, and I understand the intention seems to be to capture a 60s rock style, but an artist can mimic that sound while still taking advantage of modern equipment to improve on it and make it their own. A throwback aesthetic is great, but sounding like bands that already exist defeats the purpose of writing songs or being a band at all; they might as well just play covers.
The personality and the charisma is there, but there’s a dire lack of creativity on this record, and I think if Sun Room expects to be more than just an elevated garage band, there needs to be some effort redirected into ingenuity, exploration and recording technique.