Sandrider
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Sandrider

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Metal

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I’ve toyed with the idea of skipping a Best Albums of 2011 list this year and going with a Best Riffs list instead. I’ve already started compiling some contenders—the mathy breakdown at 2:24 on Mercy Ties’ “Cave”, the central Entombed-style guitar line on Rotten Sound’s “Choose”, the opening fuzz riff on Helms Alee’s “8/16”, the inexplicable palm muted chug that keeps changing tempos at 2:23 on Craft’s “I Want To Commit Murder”, and that moment of genius at 2:37 on Adebisi Shank’s “Micromachines” where they drop into halftime while the guitar loop churns at double speed. But then a record like Sandrider’s debut 12” comes along and gums up the whole plan. The seven songs on the record are all total riff-fests. Picking just one isolated moment off the album would be damn near impossible.

Not that this should come as much of a surprise. Sandrider is comprised of Nat Damm and Jon Weisnewski, best known as 2/3 of Akimbo, a band whose slogan is “eat beer, shit riffs.” Add bassist Jesse Roberts of the syncopation-punks The Ruby Doe and the bottom-heavy hooks are inevitable. Perhaps the only surprising thing about the Sandrider album is that it took so long for these seven songs to see a proper release. Though recorded by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, ISIS, Blood Brothers) back in April 2009, the band’s side-project status and intermittent show schedule apparently made pressing the album a low priority. Fortunately, new Seattle label Good To Die Records swooped in to make the self-titled record one of its first releases. And good thing too—it would be a shame for so many mean riffs to go to waste.

Let’s do a quick inventory. “Children” kicks off the album with an orgy of big chords and kick-and-crash drumbeats straight out of the Karp textbook. It’s this kind of massive open-power-chord stomp that characterizes the bulk of the album. “The Corpse” mixes up the attack plan by opening with some serpentine single-coil John Reis-style guitar licks before getting back to the overdriven bash at 1:15. The two riffs intermingle throughout the course of the song until fusing into one blown-out monster at 3:53. The third track, “Crysknife”, is pretty much one five-and-a-half-minute-long steamroller, but get to the 4:55 mark and you’ve got yet another contender for the Best Of list when the trio launch into a polyrhythmic beatdown. “Paper” uses the same tactic at “The Corpse” by mixing single-string riffs with thunderous chord progressions at the 2:23 mark. Then there’s the moment on “Scatter” at 2:05 where the initial note progression—already pretty fierce in its own right—gets beefed up with a dose of distortion.

All in all, Sandrider’s debut is a relentless 40-minute ride. And while I’m still toying with the Best Riffs idea—someone’s gotta celebrate the throbbing scuzz of Part Chimp’s “Dr. Horse”—I don’t like the idea of having to pick out the pinnacle of Sandrider’s album. - The Stranger


Fans of Seattle post-sludgecore outfit Akimbo’s 2008 Jersey Shores maybe-swansong will be happy to know that some of the same jangly-guitar groove that so well permeated that concept album also shows up on the self-titled debut from Sandrider. No mystery why, as two-thirds of the new trio (releasing their album via Good to Die Records) are culled directly from Akimbo’s ranks – namely guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski and drummer Nat Damm, joined in Sandrider by bassist/vocalist Jesse Roberts (The Ruby Doe), who meshes with the established duo as well as anyone could possibly ask on Sandrider’s seven tracks. The songs aren’t exactly an extension of what Akimbo accomplished so well on Jersey Shores, marking a shift in the band’s methods from the raw bombast of their earlier work to something more grounded and melodically ranging, but the trio (who still call Seattle home) are definitely aware of where they came from, and mid-tracklist cuts like “Voices” and “Paper” share some similar turns and sparks. Part of any perceived similarity, though, could also easily be attributed to the consistency of tone through which Weisnewski finds himself in the lead position in Sandrider. His vocals and playing style will be immediately recognizable to anyone who heard and/or dug Akimbo (even though he serves as bassist in that outfit), and likewise, Damm’s snare has a similar pop on Sandrider as it did on Jersey Shores, if bolstered by the production here of Matt Bayles, who produced Mastodon’s best albums, Botch, Isis and several other landmarks along the way.

So if Sandrider marks a shift for Weisnewski and Damm, it’s more in the inclusion of Roberts and the overall presentation of their sound than in the style of their play. That said, Sandrider does have a more grounded feel to its material than did Akimbo; a maturation and natural next step from what they last presented. Songs vary in memorability, but each proves worthy in one way or another, and for the flow Sandrider establish across the album as a whole, nothing is out of place or unjustifiable. Roberts is an excellent complement for Weisnewski vocally, the two blending so well together that it’s hard to tell where tradeoffs are (other than backing spots), and Damm’s percussion adds a punk-ish sense of danger to the whole affair, whether it’s the rhythmic shifts of “Crysknife” or the driving finale of closer “Scatter.” Sandrider, because they’re not really a new band, don’t fall prey to what a lot of others might on their first record in terms of not fully realizing the vision of what they’re trying to accomplish, but at the same time, there’s a sense of potential in opener “Children” that speaks to the development of Sandrider as its own band and a hopefully ongoing project. The song has some surfy swagger and sway, and Weisnewski’s scream tops the cleaner singing excellently. His guitar is at the fore, but the balance of the mix is excellent, and Sandrider can strike into either accessibility or riffy abandon depending on the band’s whim.

It’s the latter with “The Corpse,” a song that gets underway with a minute of guitar groove in the intro and probably the best opening line I’ve heard all year – “Breaking bread with the dragon!” – from Weisnewski. Hard not to get into a piece of music that depends like that, and the overall live feel of Sandrider speaks to the band’s awareness of audience, but like a lot of the record, the ethic isn’t anything new for Weisnewski or Damm – or for Roberts for that matter, as The Ruby Doe’s punk-minded altern-art-ive rock has that kind of vibe as well. “The Corpse” benefits from Roberts’ crispness of tone, which doesn’t so much follow the guitar as run alongside it, and effectively. Amp noise serves as transition into “Crysknife,” but really, the tracks especially on the first side of the album stand on their own, the opening trio of “Children,” “The Corpse” and “Crysknife” showing some similarity of approach and a runtime between five and five and a half minutes. They’re not all the same sonically – “Crysknife” feels burlier than “The Corpse” and has a more impatient performance from Damm – but Sandrider aren’t shy either in their appreciation for structure or their handling of it. These are songs with a beginning, middle and end, and each unit in the best of them (I’d include “Crysknife” in that thanks in no small part to the bass line that underscores the bridge) makes the whole stronger. The whole song and the whole album. “Voices” closes out the first half of Sandrider with a quiet creeping-guitar opening and piercing lead line that leads to hits and stops in place of a traditional chorus and provides suitable change to the established modus of the record.

Sandrider’s second half is less balanced but perhaps more exciting, getting under way with the shorter “Paper” (3:50) and presenting about 50 percent of its runtime in the form of the 10-minute “The Judge” before “Scatter” caps the proceedings with further melodic - The Obelisk


Discography

December 6th, 2011: Sandrider - Sandrider LP

Light rotation on KEXP and KISW: Children, The Corpse, Paper

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Bio

In the mythology that is Frank Herbert’s Dune books, a sandrider is a person who has managed to capture and ride one of the gigantic sandworms that live on the planet Arrakis. If you can imagine someone managing to wrangle a huge wriggling creature, you have some sense of the musical power that the Seattle hard rock titans Sandrider has managed to tame and keep control of.

That should come as no surprise to anyone who follows the Seattle rock and metal scene, as Sandrider features three of the city’s most unstoppable forces: drummer Nat Damm and guitarist John Weisnewski of Akimbo, and bassist Jesse Roberts of The Ruby Doe.

Says Weisnewski: “I decided to start putting Sandrider together when I got an itch to start playing guitar in a band again. [He plays bass in Akimbo] Originally it was just me and Nat playing around, but it didn’t really come together until we started talking to Jesse. I think we were bullshitting while he was tattooing me when I originally brought it up. He came down to our practice space and things clicked really well. After the first practice we were all pretty happy with how things were sounding.”

Things have only improved from there. They’ve already been touted as one of the best bands in Seattle by alt-weekly The Stranger and have quickly found themselves sharing the stage with other NW rock luminaries as Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Lesbian, and Helms Alee.

Sandrider’s next stop is world domination, which should come in short stead once their commanding debut self-titled LP is unleashed by Good To Die Records. This long awaited disc, recorded by Matt Bayles (Pearl Jam, Isis, Mono, The Sword), is a simmering, brooding masterpiece that gives way throughout to massive eruptions of oozing fire and fury.

While they drop the name of influences such as Northwest icons Mudhoney and Soundgarden, as well as such indie favorites like The Jesus Lizard and Drive Like Jehu, Sandrider has hit on a sound that is all their own, and one that is sure to be burning up the speakers on stereos and computers for years to come.