Syracuse, NY’s Blood Sun Circle (featuring brothers Bobby, Ryan and Brad Gorham, previously of Engineer) have just released their highly-anticipated sophomore LP, titled Distorted Forms. The album picks up where they left off with 2014’s stellar Bloodiest/Sunniest, yet takes their dark and intense noise rock sound to a new, even heavier level (if you didn’t think that was possible, well, it is). Distorted Forms is comprised of 11 thoughtfully formulated tracks that combine harsh, gritty rhythms with beautiful, soaring melodies, and layered with extremely dynamic, powerful vocals.
In this recent interview with Svbterranean, Gorham brothers Ryan and Bobby, as well as drummer Aaron O’Hara, took the time to discuss Distorted Forms. They talk about the writing and recording process, lyrical approach and how Blood Sun Circle compares to Engineer (still searching for those bongos though!). They also touch on what it’s like to work together at Gorham Brothers Music (it can’t be that bad, guys), as well as their latest endeavor Drops of Us, and more.
You guys are commonly referred to as “the Gorham brothers” who used to be Engineer. What’s the story behind Blood Sun Circle’s inception?
Ryan: Our drummer, Aaron O’Hara, used to be in a band with his brothers (Keith and Alex O’Hara) called Sparhawk. They grew up in the same backwoods town as we did, so we’ve all known each other for a while. That band didn’t give a shit what was cool or what people thought. They were awesome. We figured if Aaron could play in a band with his brothers, he could play with us. Does that work? You’ll have to ask him. We yell at him a lot. And each other. It’s amazing we get anything done.
Aaron: About 70% of the time people ask me if I’m a Gorham. I say “No, my name’s Biff.” I don’t mind the yelling for the most part except for when Ryan gets disappointed in me. I don’t like letting him down.
How are you feeling about the outcome of the new album, Distorted Forms?
Ryan: I think it’s a good mix of songs. Some of them were written right after Bloodiest/Sunniest came out. “Learn to Love” was written shortly after that record and I think you can hear the same sort of vibe. So this new record spans a good deal of time as far as when it was written. We always try and balance out a record by adding what we think may be missing. There were a few times we tried to take a really simplistic approach to writing a song. Like on “Mercy Kill” – I wanted to write a whole song on one note, with as little variation as possible. It was harder than I thought, but it turned out to be a really fun song to play. I think we threw out more songs and ideas than we recorded on this record. We have a back-burner of ideas to pull from and remold into something new for future recordings.
What was the writing and recording process like for this release?
Ryan: I almost quit the band. It took us two goddamn arduous years to write this record. We couldn’t convince Brad to turn his bass down so we could hear the guitars until about a year-and-a-half into the writing process. By then, it was too late to throw out most of what we wrote so we just kept it. The best part of writing and recording a record is always the time in the studio. Jocko at Moresound Studios here in Syracuse couldn’t be more generous. He welcomes a bunch of scumbags into his luxury suite FOR A LIVING. Try swallowing that pill on a daily basis. This recording process was pretty fun. Did you hear the xylophone and cello? And the claps? Brad didn’t want to clap. I think it came out pretty good considering.
Aaron: There’s also bongos.
How do you feel this album compares to the previous LP, Bloodiest/Sunniest?
Ryan: I think Bloodies/Sunniest found its sound in the studio. I don’t remember hearing some of the songs we finished on that record with vocals until we got into the studio. Once the vocals are laid down, it gives each song its final direction and frames it in a way you couldn’t have anticipated. With Distorted Forms we honed in on a direction that we wanted to go and tried to push that a lot farther. It’s heavier and grittier, vocally and musically, but still maintains dynamics throughout. It was recorded live in the studio, in the same manner as Bloodiest/Sunniest. We tried to make Jocko as uncomfortable as possible the whole time. I think some of it worked.
Blood Sun Circle is quite different from Engineer. Did you intentionally set out to do something so different when you started the band?
Ryan: Absolutely. We threw shit at the wall for months, maybe over a year before some sort of direction stuck. I don’t think we set out with any real intentions. I don’t think we even knew what we were doing in the beginning. We just wanted to have fun. Engineer was so serious. Mostly the audience; they were so serious all the time.
How does Blood Sun Circle compare to Engineer as a creative outlet for you?
Ryan: They both are, and could be incredibly creative outlets. We tried to be creative in Engineer within the same musical direction. I think Engineer was the most creative while we were on the road touring, meeting new people, and seeing old friends. We drew a lot from playing with friends and the people who cared to watch our band. I don’t think Blood Sun will be pigeon-holed in any one direction or genre. It feels like we’re making it up as we go along, and it will change in the future. We want to constantly experiment and expand on what we’ve done in the past, without repeating ourselves.
The two words I always use to describe Blood Sun Circle are “heavy” and “intense.” How do you describe the band’s sound?
Ryan: Halloween music, Horror Punk, garbagegaze, or drunk. I want it to sound Egyptian. Does any of it sound Egyptian?
What are your influences, musical or otherwise?
Ryan: If you find yourself marching in place, or in headbang prayer formation, that. That’s mainly what we try to hone in on. If you don’t have that vibe going you’re probably working too hard. The hardest songs are always the worst anyways. Ben & Jerry’s. Ben & Jerry’s is an influence. And anything that sounds Egyptian. Nile knows what I’m talking about.
Lyrically, is there a specific theme behind Distorted Forms?
Bobby: My lyrics are usually about people or humanity in some way. I had the title for this record for a long time before it was finished. Most of it has to do with modern narcissism or the idea of this second, public version of self people can now create and edit at will. A warm dream of self-importance. Photographing your own face. Taking the microscopic blip of time we’re all afforded in this universe and shitting on it by trying to make yourself the center. Aside from that, if I have weird dreams I’ll always try and incorporate those too; I think both our records have a song I wrote immediately after waking up.
Are there any specific advantages and/or challenges that go along with being in a band with your brothers?
Ryan: Like I don’t see them enough already. Working all goddamn day with them, then staying after close to practice with them, because your practice room is your own store you work at? That’s some shit. Can’t get away from these clowns.
As well as being in a band together, you guys run the aptly-named Gorham Brothers Music. How has it been also working together in a business respect?
Ryan: I’m a well-respected business man. I don’t know who hired these other guys, but they fucked up. Terrible. It’s been terrible. The coffee’s always burned, since we burned up our first two coffee makers. The phone’s always ringing with the guys over at Yelp calling us trying to improve our “visibility.” Apparently they haven’t seen our eight foot sign that says “GUITARS” in the windows. (We’re all set, guys.) And we’re always winning a cruise over the phone. When can we cash THAT in? I wanna go on a cruise – just not with my brothers.
On top of all that, you’ve also started your own label, Drops of Us. How important is it for you to be able to do things completely DIY?
Ryan: We envision it as more than a record label. It’s an outlet for art, music, and whatever else we dream up. It’s extremely generous to have someone pay to record and press your record. There hasn’t been too many downsides to the conventional way of doing things, but when you’re a band in our position that can’t really tour or play too many shows it feels weird for someone else to be putting money into your band. It’s not super important for us to do things completely DIY, but we’re learning the ins and outs of the whole process, and it’s nice to have full creative control and see what happens with it. We just want to keep writing and recording records.
To me, there just seems to be an endless amount of talent in Syracuse. What are your thoughts on the scene there?
Ryan: Well now that we no longer have the points system, I’m sort of at a loss. At least it used to be organized back then. Now kids are just running around Willy-Nilly. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Can someone fill us in on emocuse? Syracuse has a lot of amazing music venues for a city our size. Some have been around for decades. I hope to see that continue because every music scene has ups and downs within certain genres of music. As long as we continue to have places for bands to play I think it will hold up. Certain genres of music will always fall in and out of popularity. Show attendance is pretty low at a lot of shows where if they would have happened five or more years ago, the attendance would have been more than double. I think more people are just taking selfies and playing Candy Crush on their phones rather than hanging out with their friends.
Bobby: Whether people pay attention or not, Syracuse does seem to have a huge amount of talented musicians for such a small city.
What’s coming up next for Blood Sun Circle?
Ryan: Mini bikes. We plan on riding our mini bikes as much as possible, and playing a few shows here and there. A couple of them with this band Rozamov from Boston, and one with Snake Blood Drinker from Ogdensburg. We should probably do a split with that band. Look ’em up. We’re continuing to add more Gorhams to our clan. So hopefully our kids will grow up hating what their parents are into and they’ll never play music.
Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Ryan: Thanks for taking the time to put this together. You can listen to our new record through the usual internet portals, and order a copy at http://www.dropsofus.com.
Bobby: Thanks for having us.