The best way to describe the sound of local Brighton band Stone Sun is with some big, dramatic, Hollywood style visual metaphor. Bear with me on this. I need you to concentrate. Stone Sun is their name, and I want you to work from that, imagining scorched desert sand in Nevada, somewhere outside Las Vegas. The occasional large rock is dotted around the landscape, but watch out, because this is bat country.
In the distance through the mirage you catch sight of a lone motor vehicle cruising through the heat, making its way across the arid landscape towards you. Don’t worry though; it’s still far off in the distance right now, driven by a lone figure. The breeze brings you the distant sound of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The song has taken on a unique tonality telling you that the driver of the car is playing his music loud.
Without warning, the camera cuts to right next to the open top car, placing you inside the noise blasting from the car’s speakers, distorting the air around them as they frantically push out bar after bar of human emotion. Pushed to their maximum capacity, they add an extra layer of distortion to an already ferocious sound.
That’s the closest I can get you to Stone Sun’s sound live.
I saw the band perform on a Sunday at The Hope, a small venue for a band with a sound like this. Their sound is full-bodied grunge, with an appreciation of the more subtle dynamics required offset against the potency of a truly beasty riff. At their most powerful, you hear snatches of influences in bands like Smashing Pumpkins or Pearl Jam but these moments contrast with the technical proficiency of bands like Incubus.
Take their song “Memories” for instance. It somehow manages to remind you of moments sitting with your Dad, or perhaps a more elderly relative, in his workshop, the sound of hard rock reproduced via a small, tinny radio. The song suddenly twists; it speeds up and takes on an altogether different connotation of something like anger, or intense sadness. The mental image becomes that time when you were left standing alone as a teenager. At the last moment the song twists again, this time into a euphoric guitar solo reaching a peak and pushing the energy level in the room up over the edge for the final chorus.
One of my pet peeves with local bands is throwing in different time signatures just because you can. When you turn around and realise all your songs are in 4/4, that doesn’t mean you suddenly have to write one in 6/8 just because you can. Stone Sun have matured past using time signature changes as toys, and use the different pulses throughout one song to take the listener on their own musical journey, leaving your head bursting with imagery as you’re lead on an exploration of songwriter Ricky Gallimore’s inner feelings and desires.
The crowd at any gig on a Sunday can be hit or miss. A Sunday drinker doesn’t care about Monday. A Sunday drinker could be a stiff figure, hunched over their drink, staring into the lonely chasm of their glass, or be a hardcore party animal, determined to spend their time on the planet enjoying life and ignoring the pain in their liver. Any band playing on a Sunday has to be prepared to draw people’s attention away from issues of work, play and memory destruction and into the music. The crowd that evening seemed to be a mixture of friends and genuine fans, there to enjoy the explosive music.
Stone Sun ultimately engage the audience; they go through all the magical lost moments in rock and bring them back to the surface together. The feeling behind their songs is undeniable when you watch the band live, the passion fires out of them in all directions. Their live set is a furious drive at full speed through a singed, discoloured landscape, populated by memories of your past you didn’t realise music could evoke. Until now.