Sonic Graffiti is a high balling ferocious rock and roll hurricane of loud screaming buzz-saw electric guitar and super thumping devastating crashing chop drums, bellowing soulful anger sex vocals and a million bass notes that run up and down the fretboard all humming and buzzing and slurring—horrifying your father and making your sister the opposite of whatever she was yesterday.
The trio comes from St. Petersburg. They are one-hundred percent D.I.Y.
When I met them last fall, Sonic Graffiti was operating out of an old mansion in Roser Park Historical District, downtown, where they lived and rehearsed and produced their own merchandise among a colony of millennial bohemians—artists, writers, musicians and students, punk hipsters: all good freaks; and now, the band does this in the house next door, which they recently moved in to. There are good things happening in Roser Park.
Here, they write & record their music and screen press Sonic Graffiti t-shirts and albums, and market the band via digital media. This is the modus operandi of good rock and roll—There is no compromising sound and style for commercial success, or some manager/producer type telling anybody what to do. Sonic Graffiti’s product, the music, is totally honest, and good—on its own terms. And it’s among the best stuff I’ve heard in years.
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Saturday night at 9:45 I pulled into the parking lot behind Growlers Pub on U.S.-41, in Sarasota. I frequently miss this turn, or almost miss it while wondering if I’ve missed it, and tonight was no different. A weird moisture was floating in the air, and it had had a disorienting effect on the drive. I was pleased to have made it down without running anything over—there was one close call, but no physical damage:
My windows had been fogged, and I was engaged in a somewhat compulsive routine trying to clear them by rolling and re-rolling all four of them up and down at once, when suddenly I saw the big red letters spelling “P U B” on the roof of Growlers and pulled hard on the wheel.
My right tire caught the curb and shifted the car’s direction toward the bar’s outside patio, which was flooded with long-haired vintage button-down freaky people—New College kids and other Sarasota subterraneans—and if I hadn’t corrected with total precision, there is no doubt that my five-thousand pound Japanese SUV would have plowed straight in to all of them. It would have been an ugly scene—and all on account of weird Florida weather.
Could any of them have sensed how close they’d come to death or total pain? Probably not. But this question was on my mind as I rounded another turn looking for a space to park. I passed two beautiful cigarette smoking girls hanging on a picnic table by the back door. I wanted to talk to them, but decided to park first—Ditch this rolling death trap and secure all valuables, smoke a cigarette, and get behind a tall glass of ale. The girls will be there, I knew, when the time was right. But now it was time to park. There were no open spots—It was going to be a good show.
Shows at Growlers tend to go well; good turnouts, good music. It’s the kind of place that caters to a particular group of the local populace; which in this case involves the kind of folks I’ve described here—young and cool intellectual people, who listen to good music.
On the bill tonight with Sonic Graffiti were three good Sarasota acts: Sean Proper, Buffalo Wizards, and Physical Plant. It was a psychedelic-indie-folk night with a splash of raw nerve from St. Petersburg, and I was anxious to get to it.
I could hear Proper’s experimental acoustic guitar stylings from outside, and eventually saw taillights and bombed in from the middle of the lot. Through my opened passenger window I noticed Sonic Graffiti members Drew and Dane—guitar/vocals and bass, respectively—leaning against a beat station wagon parked beside me. It was full of equipment, drums and amps and guitars packed to the driver seat. And Trevor, the drummer, was sitting up front.
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Sometime around 11 p.m. Buffalo Wizards had finished a good set, and Sonic Graffiti was setting up. I went to the patio for a cigarette, and made sure to keep an eye on traffic while digging the scene.
The patio was still packed. A USF student asked me for a smoke and I gave him one. We ended up sitting on stools around one of the tables and chatting with a friend of his who goes to New College. She was drinking craft beer from a goblet and suggesting I do a story on Open Mic Nights that happen in the area.
Inside, a good mob was assembled on the dance floor. I joined them, and Sonic Graffiti took off.
Trevor hit the drums so hard. He was beating them, and stomping the kick drum pedal through the floor of the stage. He did this for most of the show, keeping the time and the power. And you could really feel the power, blasting at you with that screaming buzz-saw electric guitar and rock-n-roll thunder voice—or whatever I called Drew’s incredible crooning at the start of this thing. They were all over the stage, Drew and Dane: bending and rocking and jumping, picking and plucking hammer down leads and riffs and ripping the new thrash to bones.
The dance floor mob was howling, and smashing their palms and taking long slugs of beer and twisting and shouting. And I was stomping, along with Trevor—I couldn’t help myself; I stomped so hard and so fast I’d lose my balance, take a sip of ale and switch to the other foot before it happened again. A friend of mine showed up and she got into it—everyone in Growlers, in addition to the dance floor rockers, was into Sonic Graffiti. Each song got a roaring applause, and finally an encore was demanded and the band delivered.
They played a lot of new songs. They were good. In the parking lot after their set I caught up with Drew and Trevor for a smoke, and we discussed this. Sonic Graffiti will be recording a new album soon, they told me, and those songs will be on it.
We got to talking about their sound, and Punk—and they way that Sonic Graffiti is a new form of punk. The beat is different, and the lyrics are changed, but the rest is somehow there—unfiltered and excellent, like the Clash, or Fugazi, but New.