By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
With a simple post on her stlpunk.com profile in early January, Sullen vocalist Shanna Kiel announced that the much-beloved local band is back together. “YAWN....STRETCH...AH, HELLO,” Kiel wrote. “sullen has risen from the dead. i am beginning to update the sullen page. stay tuned for new mp3‘s, photos, news.”
Anyone who attended the last Sullen show nearly two years ago at the Creepy Crawl a gig Kiel charitably describes now as a “car crash” might be shocked to hear that she and guitarist-vocalist Justin Slazinik, both of whom now live in LA, are creative partners again. But if A to Z‘s recent phone conversation with Kiel is any indication, it seems that time has healed the raw emotions that spilled over onstage that night.
“Me and Justin have known each other since we were thirteen,” she says. “But pretty much when we met, I‘m really not exaggerating, we spent every day and night together. We skipped a lot of school together. We started playing music together, learned guitar together, started our first band together.
“That last Sullen show...some of the toughest times we‘ve spent together, we spent in front of everybody. We had so many fights. We decided, ‘Well, OK, we‘re going to kill each other. If you love something, you let it go. And if it comes back, it was meant to be.‘”
After Sullen‘s split, Kiel started the band Sibylline with friend Stephanie Sandman. The pair moved out to LA in May 2005 and, independent of them both, Slazinik followed last August. But Kiel soon felt that she was “dragging everybody with me” in Sibylline.
“I was writing the songs and begging everybody to put more work into it,” she says. “Stephanie‘s still my best friend, we still live together. [But] it was falling apart.”
Kiel and Slazinik‘s long-time friendship, in fact, was the thing that sustained them when the pair renewed communication in LA.
“It was weird when we first saw each other again after seven months,” she admits. “After a couple of weeks of awkwardness and catching up, it was back to normal. It wasn‘t that weird recording with him.”
Recording? Why, yes. In a way, the bandmates are picking up where they left off: They‘ve been in Chicago at Andy Gerber‘s Million Yen Studios, constructing an album for Thick Records, which released 2003‘s Paint the Moon.
Moon‘s hard-rocking tunes and noisy vocals garnered comparisons to Hole and Sonic Youth, but what are the new songs sounding like?
“They sound like Sullen,” Kiel says. “I think there‘s different stuff in there, from what we were doing before. [This comes from] just having more years of experience, our music tastes growing. Anybody that‘s heard that other record, it‘s not going to be too far from that. Just me and Justin.”
Kiel tells fans to expect the record out by “spring-summer,” with touring to follow. (In fact, the band is looking for a bass player.)
On another note, veteran blues act the Soulard Blues Band has experienced a lineup change although the additions should be familiar to long-time fans.
The next chance to check out Soulard Blues Band‘s new-old incarnation is at BB‘s Jazz, Blues and Soups on Saturday, February 18.