Fifteen minutes into Sugarcult’s set at St.Andrews Hall on March 6, the floor started caving in. Patrons of The Shelter – the club below St. Andrews’ stage – started complaining. The stage manager responded by ushering St. Andrews’ crowd of riled-up punk rock kids directly to the pavement outside where Unwritten Law (the main act), Mest and Sugarcult performed acoustically and all of the bands handed out stickers and free CDs. Tomorrow, Sugarcult is returning to Detroit to headline their own show – this time on safe ground at The Shelter.
The Daily caught up with Sugarcult guitarist Marko 72 last Monday via scratchy-cellphone (“This phone is not giving me any love tonight”) before their Boston club date. “Even though we only played for 15 minutes, that’s the show I remember most vividly,” he recalled. “I think with rock and roll, and I know this sounds cliche, but so much more of it is about the spirit that’s behind something and not the length of time you play. The Ramones used to play 10 minute sets in their heyday and they made history, whereas you could go across town and hear Peter Frampton play for three hours, and what does that amount to?”
After the release of their album, Start Static, the band spent last winter opening for Unwritten Law in their cross-country tour. They also appeared in the Vans Warped Tour in 2001. Sugarcult, with their high-energy new-punk rock sound and earnest lyrics have been quickly rising the musical ladder of popularity. The band has been compared to Elvis Costello, Green Day and Cheap Trick. Four of Sugarcult’s songs appear on the soundtrack of Tara Reid’s latest movie, “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.” Their single “Bouncing of the Walls” was made popular by the Reid film and also is featured in the movie’s preview.
Above all, however, these kids put on a good show. They easily pull off numerous jokes and anecdotes between songs, and the energy in their playing is contagious even to those unfamiliar with the band. When asked about touring with Unwritten Law, he told us: “Each night is like our audition. We’re auditioning for your love. Every night on tour, when you’re a band like Sugarcult, is like a first date, you know? You’ve gotta like, pull out all the cheesiest one-liners, do 30 push-ups right before you get to the door, you know? And pull out the best bottle on reserve.”
Sugarcult is well-known enough at this point that the crowd is sure to know the lyrics – and yet they are just underground enough to still look surprised when the crowd knows the lyrics. Marko cites the internee and word-of-mouth as major benefits to the band’s success since they began playing in 1998. “We’ll play a city we’ve never been to before and have fans show up and we’ll be like ‘Do you play us on the radio here?’ And he’ll say ‘No, my friend across the country saw you in the Warped Tour and turned me on to you.’ Our fans are just as important as our drummer, or our singer or the manager on the record label, they are an integral part of the whole process of getting a band out here. I call it ‘gossip distribution.'”
The band hails from a strong rock-and-roll ‘neighborhood’ of sorts in California. Unwritten Law, who invited Sugarcult on their tour, is from the area, in addition to numerous up-and-coming punk rock acts like Yellowcard.
“Santa Barbara is a really tight-knit music scene. So many bands come from Santa Barbara from different styles of music, but we all drink at the same dive bar. It’s not like there’s the punk rock scene and then there’s the Dishwalla scene. Its like there’s the guitar player from Dishwalla having a drink with the singer from Lagwagon and going outside to have a smoke with the bass player from Toad the Wet Sprocket. And low and behold, a truck goes by with the Mad Caddies in it. You’ve got members of folk rock, pop rock, ska and punk rock all hanging out together, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of diversity.” Later, as Marko exits his cab, he exclaims: “Oh my god, speak of the devil – guess who’s walking across the street right now – Dishwalla! I was just taking about you – this is the point I was just making – here we are in Boston, in the east at a little punk rock dive, and I get out of the cab and who’s there but Dishwalla. Can I call you back?”