It's hard to pick a standout track from Boise band Sun Blood Stories' upcoming release, Haunt Yourself. While a lot of albums shine because of a track or two that provides the driving force behind the record, Haunt Yourself flows effortlessly from track to track.
The title of the album is appropriate. With wispy melodies and dark, harmonious tracks, Haunt Yourself is a mesmerizing shoegaze anthology.
Sun Blood Stories' upcoming record, which gets its official release at Neurolux on Saturday, Sept. 21, is a departure from the band's previous works. Haunt Yourself took nearly two years to make, the band's longest effort in creating an album, where the members sat down with the intention of creating an album rather than gathering songs over time. The result is a cohesive and momentous work that stands better as a whole album rather than a collection of individual songs. Every track feels intentional, thoughtful and placed exactly where it is meant to be. While it is neither revolutionary or groundbreaking, the band's vision and cohesion as musicians and friends shines through.
The seamless and almost effortless flow of the album reflects the recording process, which member Amber Pollard said was a different from previous albums. The band decided to try and cut a record from scratch, starting with no pre-written songs. While the nature of the band is collaborative, each member influenced the direction of the album in ways previously unexplored.
"It's a whole new sound because it's the most collaborative album," Pollard said.
The album begins with "Time," a soulful and bluesy rock track that transitions to "Up Comes the Tunnel," a dark and mystic-sounding shoegaze tune, full of harmonizing vocals and gazey overdriven guitars. The transfer between the two tracks and those that follow is effortless. The album dances between tempos, mood and overall sound, but maintains its oneness as a complete work.
The difficulty in the recording process, because everything was done in the moment, is reverse engineering some of the songs. Essentially, the band had to relearn a number of its own songs. Many of the tracks have multiple parts for each instrument, with only three members, achieving the same effect on the stage is no small feat. Some of the tracks included up to nine individual parts.
"They all still sound very similar, it's slightly reworked but not totally different," Pollard said. "Anything could happen at one of our shows."
The album should pair perfectly with the band's live performances, for which it also crafts cohesive experiences. Sun Blood Stories plays without breaks between songs and avoids banter with the audience. It's less of an aesthetic decision, and more of a way to avoid awkward pauses.
"We're just really bad at talking to people, especially on stage," Pollard said.
The band decided to stop talking between songs back in 2014, but has added some instrumental breaks that tease the next song.
"It's so much cooler to fill that space with instruments than bad jokes," she said.
Pollard, who plays bass, guitar and slide guitar said collectively, the band's ability to independently contribute but work collaboratively on ideas was a huge driver for Haunt Yourself. Many of the tracks started with a single part and it would grow out from there. At the time of the recording all members of the band were living together, and at times if one of them couldn't sleep, they would start working on new tracks.
"We decided to take a totally different approach," she said. "We wrote them while we were recording them."
Sun Blood Stories also independently records and mixes its own records, which adds to the cohesion of the record. If you ask the band members, they wouldn't have it any other way.
"I don't think we would ever be able to record in a studio," Pollard said. "If we're not feeling it, we need to be able to play cards, or make spaghetti or sit on the back porch and drink whiskey."
Each member of the band, the others being Ben Kirby and Jon Fust, contributed equally to the record, Pollard said. The tracks are not necessarily written by who is singing.
At the time, the band was living together, which allowed for recording at pretty much any time. Now, Fust no longer lives in the same house as Kirby or Pollard, but they've found time to practice all the same.
"What we found is, we have a pretty definitive sound," Pollard said.