At this point, rock has died and returned from the grave so many times that we’re asking ourselves if it’s worth keeping track anymore. Right now, it seems like the genre is dying of old age, since there are fewer and fewer young artists attempting to play the music with the spark that made it as exciting as it was for so many decades.
Native Sun might just be the band to give the movement a kick. The Brooklyn quartet puts a warm spin on rock, with plenty of melody and attitude, resulting in a collision of classic rock, CBGBs punk, and power pop melodies. Witness to this practice is their brand new EP, Songs Born From Love and Hate, a five-track slammer. Opener “Sister” hints at 60s soulfulness at its best, while “Palindrome” marches ahead with guitar-burning solos. “Blow” is a scorcher that builds from a slow tempo. Later, “I Don’t Mind” channels cheerful, Raw Power-era Stooges.
Native Sun started when vocalist and guitarist Danny Gomez began writing songs on his own. He was interested in composing songs that “carried a certain swagger and sincerity,” as he explains in an interview with Remezcla. The project didn’t transform into a proper band until Gomez and guitarist Jake Pflum reconnected after years of being out of touch. Gomez also convinced his best friend Alexis Castro to learn to play drums – “basically making him learn the instrument,” he says – so they could play live. Mo Martinez was the last member to join, recruited as the band’s bass player even though he had been a guitarist up to that point.
According to Gomez, they were not thinking about playing a particular style of music. “Nothing is fabricated or overcalculated, because then I feel you start treading along the line of dishonesty.” Castro continues, “I think the nostalgia in rock n’ roll right now is driving a lot of bands to adopt similar sounds. I think rock n’ roll is at a point where so much has been done and it’s difficult to see where it could even go next, and I think our approach is at least partially to take rock n’ roll from its beginning and see where we could trace that line.”
Their approach is directly influenced by the members’ Latino backgrounds. At the age of 7, Gomez moved to the U.S. from Colombia; he recounts helping with his father’s cleaning service on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and in return he received a CD he would listen to all week long, planting the seed for his musical obsession to grow.
Gomez also cites the influence of Caetano Veloso, salsa, bossa, cumbia, and tropicália, as well as a special appetite for country, blues, doo-wop, and soul. Castro grew up in Watsonville, CA, sidestepping a life spent in gangs thanks to his family and his love for the Beatles. The pair grew up listening to cumbia sonidera, mariachi, and Selena in their homes and at family parties, no doubt an indirect influence in their musical upbringing.
As they see it, Native Sun’s mission is about liberation and the exploration of multiple identities. “Music’s goal should be to showcase all these different worlds while ultimately possessing a sense of humanity universally throughout it – all art should,” says Gomez. Pflum complements the sentiment with three words. “Acceptance. Freedom. Individuality. I hope coming to a Native Sun show makes every single person feel all three of those things at the same time.”
Native Sun’s Songs Born From Love and Hate is out now on Buen Día Records.