This is the last episode of the podcast! We start with comments from Sunburned members reflecting on the impact of press coverage and ensuing exposure on the band. This shifts to general comments about how they’ve navigated – and oftentimes defied – external expectations. This section closes on the role humor has played in the band. Then we shift to comments and stories shared by friends, collaborators, and fans of Sunburned Hand of the Man, including thoughts from Thurston Moore, Ethan Miller, Neal Campbell, and more! We close out the episode and the podcast with a final thought from each of the band members interviewed for this project.
In this week’s episode, we try to wrap our brains around how Sunburned Hand of the Man actually makes their freeform music. Through the episode, we consider the semantics of improvisation and practice in the context of this free form entity. In that context, we learn how the open nature of the band manifests in unspoken rules of not telling each other what to do. This, in turn, allows the band members to enter and commit to the jam in a way that is more authentically connected and elevated.
This week, we shift from the band’s chronological narrative to consider the many factors that bind this chaotic mass of people together in this creative yet uncommercial experience. We open with our focus on the role that music has played in the band members’ individual lives and how a shared love of music brought them all together. This morphs into a consideration of the band’s many artistic influences, with a close look at the impact of the Wu-Tang Clan on Sunburned. We hear about the complicated and often difficult backgrounds of many of the Sunburned musicians and how jamming with the band can often serve as a type of group therapy.
This week, we finish the band’s chronological story then pivot to take in Sunburned’s many artistic collaborators. We hear about the personal impact of the band’s non-stop touring and the eventual burnout that ground things to a halt. Moloney and Thomas then describe how this was followed by several “wilderness years” where the band was just there but they weren’t really doing anything with it.
At this point in our story, Sunburned Hand of the Man morphs into a many-headed hydra with varying manifestations in the loft and on each tour. To get through this vague period of 5-8 years, we focus on the band’s tour stories. We learn how a years-long period of heavy touring was kicked off with a family-band excursion to play a wedding in Alaska. After a conjunction of high-profile press coverage, Sunburned suddenly found themselves in high demand on the international festival circuit. So we focus on stories of their extended tour of Europe and the UK in 2003. Our story gets blurry after that first European tour, so we step back and focus first on stories of Sunburned’s many North American tours – including the 2004 cross-country trek out to Arthur Fest and back where they picked up the “no way out” rallying cry. Finally, we hear a conglomeration of stories from the band’s later European tours.
In this week’s episode, we hear stories of Sunburned Hand of the Man’s earliest jamming and meet more members of the band. We learn that, after jamming namelessly for a year and a half, the band finally started using the Sunburned moniker. Then we tune in to learn about their earliest excursions playing outside the Charlestown loft, including their first show as Sunburned as part of an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. We hear how the interplay between these new locations and contexts provoked new modes of performance and artistic connections.
This week, we hear about the origins of Sunburned Hand of the Man. Here’s an amazing and extremely early glimpse of Sunburned playing live in late 1997. You can see many of the musicians described in this episode! You can check out Shit Spangled Banner’s Ass Run release here, and this is the Discogs entry for the “other” version. Click through the images to see the accompanying note from Byron Coley. Also, here’s Byron’s piece remembering Marc Orleans published in The Wire. And this is an album by Marc Orleans’s band Juneau. We were wondering if Lothlorien – the Tolkein-themed space in southern Indiana was real.
Our pilot episode introduces the concept of the podcast and takes a close look at Sunburned’s iconic album, Headdress. We hear about the origins and goals of the podcast—grappling with the complexities of Sunburned’s chaotic narrative. Music journalist Allison Hussey joins us to provide an outsider’s perspective of the band. Byron Coley describes Sunburned’s impact on the wider music scene. Then we focus on one song in an attempt to discern a bit of what Sunburned does when they jam. Finally, we turn to Sunburned’s iconic 2002 release, Headdress, and that album’s recent 20th anniversary reissue.
With this podcast, we embrace the full force of Sunburned Hand of the Man. The final result is assembled from conversations and recordings with 15 current and past members as well as outside commentary from friends, fans, and collaborators. Across eight episodes, we unravel the band’s complex history and examine the hows and whys of this bizarre creative endeavor. Coming August 14th from Aquarium Drunkard and Talkhouse Podcast Network.
The brilliantly colored and exquisitely crocheted hand talisman on the cover of Headdress beckons you in. The fingertips of the sunburned hand touch the waning crescent moon. It is a good reminder that Sunburned Hand of the Man knew how to sling that cosmic slop. Of all the free rock bands that emerged around the turn of the millennium, Sunburned were definitely the loosest and funkiest.
Sunburned’s latest record, the exhilarating Pick a Day to Die, comes out in early March on the Three Lobed Label. It’s the quintessential pandemic project, pieced together out of what’s at hand in a long, solitary lockdown. We talked to one of the founders, John Moloney, about his long-running band, their influences, their process, this current album and how and when music can get back to normal.