The Sonics get back together after decades apart
The Sonics are one of the most influential bands in rock history, but it took a few decades for that news to reach Sonics saxophonist and founding member Rob Lind.
The Sonics, who play the Majestic Theatre on Saturday, have been widely noted for prototyping the sound of punk rock, adding an aggressive edge to the sound of traditional rock 'n' roll during their original run in the mid-'60s. The band has been cited as an influence on '70s punk, '90s grunge and '00s garage-rock revival.
But in the late '60s, the Washington state-based band broke up and most of the Sonics put the music world behind them for a long stretch. Lind became a Navy fighter pilot in Vietnam and then spent 25 years as a commercial airline pilot. He was unaware of his band's legend until 2005, when a promoter asked the Sonics to reunite for the Cavestomp festival in New York City.
"I was kind of like, 'A-ha!' " Lind says. "I had no idea. And I had no idea about the groups that had cited us as an influence."
The Sonics initially resisted requests to reunite, but in 2006 they decided to take a shot at some rehearsals. Lind had rarely played saxophone since the Sonics disbanded; guitarist Larry Parypa hadn't touched his guitar in 30 years. Lind says the band viewed the new rehearsals as a trial period, rather than a precursor to a reunion.
"The three of us made this deal that I'm still pretty proud of," he says. "We have a good reputation because of the '60s Sonics, so if we can go onstage and be good, we'll do it. But if it looks like we're going to be pathetic, we won't do it. We don't want people standing there with their arms folded, shaking their heads, saying, 'Ah, geez, I remember when these guys used to be good. This is sad.' "
The Sonics rehearsed for over a year, finally feeling comfortable enough with their performance to make an official return at Cavestomp in 2007. They were almost immediately offered more gigs in London, and have since toured Europe extensively. But the modern touring life presented another learning experience for the band.
"Back in the '60s, we didn't do tours like people do now," Lind says. "A tour for us was Friday through Sunday. Sometimes in the summer we'd go for a week. So we were all new at that, and we were new at the technology. We'd never used stage monitors, wedges. We never had those before."
The Sonics are now on the first full-fledged American tour of their career, supporting "This Is the Sonics," the group's first album in 35 years. Although the Sonics have gone down in history as the original bad boys of punk, their routine on the road is as responsible as can be. Laughing, Lind relates the answer he gives when eager fans ask what the band does after a show.
"We get the first ride we can back to the hotel, take a shower and go to bed, because we probably have a lobby call at 7:00 or 8:00 the next day to travel all day to do another show," he says. "It's all about trying to get enough rest and stay healthy."
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.
with Barrence Whitfield
and the Savages and the Henchmen
8 p.m. Saturday
4120 Woodward, Detroit