Sacramento has long been home to a wide variety of talented bands and artists. One group that’s been making music together for nearly a decade is Sun Valley Gun Club, a self-described “Punk-Influenced Alt/Country Band” that has been growing in popularity over the last few years, including opening for The Front Bottoms at Cornerstone in Berkeley and performing at Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho.
Though officially formed in late 2011 by original members Evan Bailey, Justin Butler, Travis Quinn, and Therron Francis, the band’s history goes back further. In 2010, lead singer Evan Bailey began recording a solo album at Paradise Studios in Sacramento with friends and former bandmates from previous projects. The decision to record came from Bailey’s desire to continue to play music after a long period of not performing when it seemed difficult to get people together consistently.
That’s when Bailey says he decided: “If you want to do this, just do it. It doesn’t matter who wants to be involved, or how they’re going be involved. Ironically, I guess that decision two years later is what caused Sun Valley to form, because I put it out into the universe saying ‘I’m gonna just do it. I’m going to write something and record it, and it’s gonna turn out however it’s gonna turn out.’” What resulted was a renewed desire from the band to continue to create and perform music together. According to Bailey, “That first Evan Bailey solo record is really the first SVGC record, it’s just not credited as such. Because it’s basically the same lineup, but Will [Crew] was playing bass, and I was playing guitar. Then I played bass and Therron [Francis] played guitar, now I play guitar and Ashley [Maiden] plays bass. There’s three-fourths of the band that hasn’t changed since 2010 or so.”
The band has gone on to record three full-length albums with Jack Shirley at the Atomic Garden, whom they were acquainted with via their early guitar player Therron. Shirley has worked with other notable bands including Jeff Rosenstock, Deafheaven, and Oathbreaker. “[Shirley] still has a DIY ethic,” Bailey says. “One of his strengths is the fact that he does view it as a capture and he doesn’t want to cut a lot of the things that make instruments ‘rough.’ A lot of modern producers will cut those things out. You know there’s like a little bit of a buzz on something, or something has an overtone or something that’s weird, most people just polish all that shit out.” It’s that attention to what humanizes the music being produced that keeps the band primarily recording with Shirley.
The band released their third full-length album The Water, The Stars on Lauren Records this past June. Much of the writing duties have been shared by the man behind the curtain since the beginning, John Allen, who has also previously contributed percussion and backing vocals on the band’s recordings. “Our writing relationship is more cohesive, he’s actually more involved probably than he was when he was playing in the band,” says Bailey. “John’s not writing lyrics, he’s writing long-form prose, but the words are his. His involvement has definitely increased over time.”
Most recently, Sun Valley Gun Club decided to re-record two older tracks for a split 7” with Portland band The Hague. This time, the band went to Pat Hills of Earth Tone Studios, with whom they had previously worked with on their 1994 cover album released on cassette tape through Pleasant Screams Cassettes. The songs, “You Were My Friend” and “When You Die” have both been previously recorded, although only the latter had been released as a track on the Evan Bailey solo album. This time, both songs were recorded, mixed and mastered at Earth Tone. “There are a few people that really like that record, and Pat reached out to us. We all love Pat, we all love Bastards of Young,” Bailey says. “We all like what he does, and it just felt like the time to do it.”
The Hague and Sun Valley Gun Club will be performing at Old Ironsides on Friday, February 22nd at 8 pm with Ghost Pines and Clevers will be opening the show. The event is for ages 21 and up only.
Words: Sven Olai.
Photography: Melissa Uroff