Sunnata Interview

Peter Sadowski

The Polish stoner/sludge band Sunnata just released their latest album Chasing Shadows. We caught up with drummer Robert Ruszczyk, who fills us in on the record, tour plans, the metal scene in Poland and other topics.

Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Chasing Shadows compared to your previous albums?
Robert Ruszczyk: We’ve stuck to the same songwriting process for over a decade now, starting with the instruments first and pushing it to the point when the music tells the story and reveals the emotions, even without the vocals. Then we went with vocal arrangements. What was different was the recording session took us two weeks total, 8 hours a day (so 112 hours spent to record an hour of music) due to the complexity of the new material. All that while keeping in mind, that we use a faster method of recording. We start with instruments live, captured altogether, then add the remaining instrumental layers: synths, doubled guitars, other effects, percussion, and after that we go with the vocals.

Did you write or record more songs than appeared on the record?
It’s never the case for Sunnata. We are very strict when it comes to selection criteria, we never complete songs that ain’t worth publishing as part of the album.

Your other albums are between 45 and 50 minutes long, while this one is just over an hour. Was that planned or just how things turned out?
It turned out this way – just like we mentioned before, once we write the songs, they are all meant to be the part of the new record. If it’s over an hour, then it is what it is and we have to live with it.

What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Extreme immersion in the process. Days blended with one another, we couldn’t tell what the day of the week was or what hour it was. We went all in, almost burning out because of the complexity of the material, but looking retrospectively – it was absolutely worth it.

What was the biggest challenge in its creation?
When you’re about to write your fifth album and you are us, the bar is extremely high. Sunnata’s only constant is change, we love trying new things, but also hate repeating ourselves. At this point of our existence, we wouldn’t accept just doing the same thing over and over again, so having that in mind means that you have to be ready to go beyond your limits. Explore new, challenge yourself, iterate, iterate, iterate until you’re happy with the outcome.

How has your sound evolved from Burning In Heaven, Melting On Earth?
From a creative perspective – Chasing Shadows is more diverse than Burning in Heaven, Melting on Earth. Each song is completely different, yet when you listen to them altogether, they take you on one journey. It is, on one hand, more extreme and heavy, on the other – lighter in parts, so the sound spectrum is wider. From a sound engineering perspective – the previous record was more compressed and had less “air” or “breathe.” The new one has very little compression, just the tiny bit required here and there, which is quite unusual for the modern music production standards. It’s very organic, spatial, huge. Pure pleasure to a listener.

What lyrical topics do you cover this time around?
In contrary to BIHMOE, which was mostly about religion vs politics, this time themes are more personal, inspired by our various experiences and thoughts: from a tragic loss of a friend (“Torn”), through a reflection upon greed (“Hunger”) and never feeling fulfilled, memorable painting (“Saviour’s Raft”) and such.

What inspired the album title?
Two things – first is our aspirations and creative force which we’re always trying to catch, but never feel that we have, because we push our limits further and further. Second – all the different experiences we went through since the last record, which we tried to chase and capture in the songs.

You’ve self released all your albums. Why is it important to keep your independence instead of signing with a label?
It was more important in the beginning, when we were too small and inexperienced to land a solid deal that wouldn’t compromise our creative vision. Now, we were rushing to get the record out before the tour, so the schedules were tight and there was no space for advance planning with a label. However, we’re open to the idea for any label that can set a real partnership with us.

How much attention do you pay to reviews?
Depends on what you’re asking about – we are curious about the reception of our music, yet it doesn’t shape the direction we’re headed. We do what we feel and want to – so far it has brought us only good.

The album is also being released on vinyl. Are you a collector?
Not really, but we do value this format as a collectible that you can build an entire listening ritual around. We love its idea actually.

What has been your most memorable Sunnata live show?
We played more than 200 shows now, so there’s plenty! We’d pick two – one, when we had a car crash on our road to Lithuania. We managed to get the car back on the road and arrived like 3 hours late to the show just to see a venue full of people waiting for us. Incredible feeling. Another one was the Desertfest Belgium – when you have like 700 people vibing with you, it’s something really special.

What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
So far we have a nice run of European/UK shows:
10.05.2024 – Warsaw (PL) – Hybrydy – Release Party
12.05.2024 – Płock (PL) – Rock Tower Festival
13.05.2024 – Brno (CZ) – Kabinet Muz
14.05.2024 – Budapest (HU) – Robot
15.05.2024 – Salzburg (AT) – Rockhouse
16.05.2024 – Jena (DE) – Klub Kuba
17.05.2024 – Liege (BE) – La Zone
18.05.2024 – London (UK) – Desertfest
20.05.2024 – Lille (FR) – La Bulle Cafe
21.05.2024 – Brussels (BE) – Le Lac
22.05.2024 – Nijmegen (NL) – Merelyn
23.05.2024 – Dresden (DE) – Ostpol
24.05.2024 – Poznan (PL) – 2Progi
25.05.2024 – Cracow (PL) – Studio
26.05.2024 – Berlin (DE) – Desertfest
31.05.2024 – Esbjerg (DK) – Fuzztival Esbjerg
17.08.2024 – ArcTanGent Festival (UK)
07.09.2024 – Summer Dying Loud Festival (PL)

How is the metal scene in Warsaw these days, and in Poland overall?
Poles always know how to play metal, but the past 10 years has seen an enormous growth. Warsaw is certainly a home for many of the doom/stoner/psychedelic bands (think: Dopelord, Weedpecker or us), but Poland itself is huge, especially in black metal and related genres (think: Mgła). Not to even mention dinosaurs like Vader or Behemoth. Also, a funny observation: back like 20 years ago it was extremely rare to see a foreign band pick a Polish word to name themselves. Now we can see it all around. The Polish language became accepted and even a bit trendy here and there.

What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
Gravel cycling, kettlebell trainings, coding, cooking, outdoor trekking/hiking.

What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Whores – War, Idles – Tangk, Lankum – False Lankum, Big|Brave – A Chaos Of Flowers and Tarantula Heart by Melvins.

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Bring us to the States!

(interview published May 12, 2024)

Listen To Sunnata – “Saviour’s Raft”

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