Sunglasses are the ultimate totem of coolness, something essential for anyone on drugs, something that can be ironic or not, depending. This is true not only of the eye-covering accessories as it is with the band of the same name, a pair of art students from Georgia that is about to release its debut EP on Lefse Records. Lefse also happens to be the home of chillwave behemoths Neon Indian, which is convenient, since the former's mix of playfully ominous sound effects, dance beats, almost-rapping, and cascading synth harmonies definitely recalls the latter, without ever sounding derivative. Band members Baby Seal (known to his professors as Brady Keehn) and 8000 Bam Bam (Sam Cooper) recently stopped in New York to play a few shows before decamping to Baby Seal’s parents’ lake house to finish their first album, due out later this year. Here, they discuss filmmaking, performing, and building a resume.
You guys met in school while working on a student film. Just for the record, would you talk a bit more about how you actually got together and started recording?
Brady Keehn: Our friend introduced us. We were just out and about, hanging out. And she told me that I needed to work on Sam's film.
Sam Cooper: She was a producer on it, helping find people to help out. He was a sound design major, and I was a film major. I wrote the film and directed it. There was a lot of original music we wanted to do, and he’s really great at mixing and added a lot of stuff I was lacking. I was working with a lot of samples, harmonies and vocal stuff. I needed some bass, a low end, and I needed my stuff to be mixed really well. Brady was cool with what I had, and I liked what he brought, and that’s just how it worked out.
Could you tell me what the movie’s like?
SC: It’s really Fellini-inspired. It’s black and white. It’s kind of autobiographical, as well, as far as where I was at the time. I also act in it. I’m playing my music, dealing with samples, playing instruments, and also dealing with things the character does, like ripping people off and just thinking it’ll be OK.
Is that something you do?
SC: Like I said, it’s autobiographical.
Would you call what you guys do “dance music”?
SC: No, no, definitely not. We do try to put a lot of energy into it, but...
You guys dance the whole show, though. Do you want the crowd to be dancing, too?
SC: We encourage dancing. We want to have fun. We’re dancing because that’s how the songs make us feel, and I guess we want people to feel that way, too.
Does that usually end up happening?
SC: Yeah, that’s usually how we do it. The last party we played in Savannah was a house party, and the crowd broke the floor, which was actually the ceiling cause we were in the attic. We had to tell everyone to stop dancing.
So you guys almost killed a bunch of people?
BK: Yeah, literally. I had to get on the microphone and be like, “Please, this is for your life. You are saving your life by not jumping up and down right now. Just shuffle around.” We kept playing, though.
SC: We did keep going, yeah. [laughs]
When you guys play, what percentage of the show is improv, and what percent is always the same? When I saw you, it seemed more like it was happening right then.
SC: Yeah, that’s how we have to have it. The whole point of the live show is to explore things we haven’t done. We have a shitload of samples --
BK: And sounds that we know we like --
SC: And drum hits, sound effects and whatnot. And then we use them, but we put effects on those, too, so they usually sound different every time. And anything I play on piano is usually improvised, too.
What is Sunglasses?
SC: I think our overall goal is to just be artists in every form of art we like, hopefully combining them all. The next thing we want to do is make a movie. Visual things influence our music, and our music influences any visual stuff we do. Brady started in sound design, which can incorporate a lot of different things. In school, they really stressed making movies, but --
BK: But I got fed up with that, and started designing synthesizer sounds, started getting into electronic music more. Sam's right about what Sunglasses is: It’s all the art that we like combined into one thing.
I saw a photo of you guys out in the woods. Do you guys like being out in the woods?
SC: Yeah, I was in Scouts. I was an Eagle Scout.
BK: I didn’t make it past Cub.
SC: I liked doing all that stuff. I’m from north Georgia, so there’s a lake, and a river, and mountains, so we could go to all these different places. Everyone was always like, “It looks good on your resume,” and I’m like, “I don’t have a resume.” If I had one, people would see Eagle Scout and think I was lying: “This kid never did shit.”