The Sonics skipped a few decades before reuniting
Reunited rock bands are a dime a dozen, but The Sonics are one of the few to have found new relevance.
The Tacoma, Washington-bred garage rock progenitors, who play El Club on Sunday, gained a loyal following in the Pacific Northwest in the mid-’60s for their nitro-fueled R&B-inspired rave-ups like “Have Love, Will Travel” and “Strychnine.” But fame eluded them during their brief heyday.
After releasing just two albums, they hung up their guitars.
In the intervening decades The Sonics’ reputation snowballed. They’ve been cited as a major influence by Nirvana and the White Stripes, and household names like Robert Plant and Bruce Springsteen have covered their songs.
“We knew we had a good reputation in the Pacific Northwest, but I didn’t really start learning that people had done our stuff for quite a while,” says saxophonist and founding Sonic Rob Lind, who became a commercial airline pilot after the group disbanded. “It kind of seeped into our awareness.”
In 2007 The Sonics returned to the stage by popular demand at New York City’s Cavestomp festival. They’ve since become a sought-after international touring act, and in 2015 founding members Gerry Roslie, Larry Parypa and Lind joined newcomers Dusty Watson and Freddie Dennis in the studio to record an acclaimed comeback LP, “This is the Sonics.”
A decade into The Sonics’ triumphant revival, Lind is the last original member in the touring line-up. Extensive touring has taken its toll on the group. Roslie and Parypa have retired from the road, but they remain in the Sonics family. Both are at work writing new material for the band’s next record.
“Sometimes leading up to it isn’t fun,” Lind says of playing live. “The lack of sleep, particularly when we go to Europe for a month … for those guys it ceased to be fun. If I ever stop having fun, I wouldn’t do it.”
Filling for Roslie and Parypa on The Sonics’ spring tour are guitarist Evan Foster (who also plays in Tacoma’s Boss Martians) and keyboardist Jake Cavaliere (a member of L.A.’s Lords of Altamont).
Both are a few decades younger than Lind, who’s in his 70s, but Lind says they’ve been Sonics fans since they were teenagers.
“Those guys were Sonics (fans) ... so bringing them in was not a hard chore,” he says. “The first time all five of us got together, it was just, ‘Bingo!’ They just exude fun and confidence, and they’re both killer musicians. They’ve upped our game.”
This fall the revamped Sonics hope to return to the studio and reunite with former Detroiter and Dirtbombs alum Jim Diamond, who produced the band’s 2015 LP.
Diamond’s direction, Lind says, taught him how to harness his inner teenager on record and on stage.
“He was the heart and soul behind that album,” Lind says, “He said, ‘What I’m going to try to do is capture the energy and the fire that you guys had on those first albums when you were 18, without copying them. He kept telling Larry, ‘No, you need to be more nasty. That’s too pretty. Imagine that you’re 17!’”
with The Idiot Kids and Unlimited Head
8 p.m. Sunday
4114 W. Vernor, Detroit