Marshal, drummer for Newark, New Jersey based band, Sunny Gang, broke his nose jumping around in their guitarist’s basement the night before a festival audition. They were not practicing. He was not drunk. This is a member of Sunny Gang off-stage in everyday life. So imagine what this band brings to its audience, all hyped up and high on musicians’ adrenaline.
I had to hear this story when the guys told me that Marshal took the stage at a show with a tampon in his nose. The pictures were gruesome and totally awesome. Kind of like the band themselves.
Composed of four college business and marketing majors from various parts of New Jersey, Sunny Gang brings together rap and punk music in raw way that is impossible not to like. Unless you suck. Despite the fact that the guys are self proclaimed “shitheads,” they’re very serious about their music and where it’s going, and they have a clear-cut plan to make things happen.
“My whole thing is that I’m trying to dive headfirst right into this whole music thing,” Marshal says, “because that’s the only way that I feel like we can do actually make something of it. With that, it’s kind of like you HAVE to make it your main focus.”
The rest of the guys agree that, though they are balancing college and their music, seeing the band come to fruition successfully is the ideal route, and they approach it with the hearts and determination of kids but the minds and intelligence of grown men.
“Even though we like to act like shitheads, we wanna make something out of ourselves,” guitarist Chris Bacchus admits. “I feel like that separates us from a lot of people. When you’re in the studio, these dudes don’t fuck around. Marshal came up with the idea, but the way we look at it is, basically, we’re all in a relationship with one girl, and we just gotta make her happy all the time.”
Not only is their approach to the band unique, the Sunny Gang sound comes from a healthy blend of what each member brings to the table. When they met, Marshal, Bacchus, vocalist, Nasty Nate, and bassist, Joe Sap, were already into music on their own separate terms. Marshal relocated to the college campus for the sole purpose of gathering fellow musicians, Sap was keeping his talent alive, Nate was working on an album as a solo rapper, and lil Bacchus was playing in a metal band known as Babies in My Septic Tank (formerly First Aid). Once they started playing together, the guys settled on being a “punk band with a rapper” because it remains the only style of music through which they can take care of business and properly release as a group. They know what they have to do to keep that outlet alive and they know what they’re aiming to accomplish with each show.
“I didn’t wanna be in a band at first,” Nate shares, “but I was warming up to the idea because I wanna be a rock star. Rap stars are too worried about their image and their nice shoes and their jewelry, and I wanna go out with no shirt on and bummy ass sneakers and just wild out. I think that’s why we did go with the punk sound, because we’re pretty obnoxious, and the energy is just better. You look in the crowd and see dudes with Nike foamposites on and baggy ass pants vibin to your music you know you’re doing something right.”
As much as any band loves to see fans, Marshal maintains that the positive reactions aren’t the only important ones.
“At the same time, when we play our shows you always look into the back and you always see somebody leaving,” he says, “and I always say that means we’re doing our job right. If we piss somebody off, we did our job, because that’s what kind of music we’re going for.”
Clearly they aren’t the only ones fond of their sound. The guys played this year’s Afropunk Fest as an opening act on Sunday, thus fulfilling a goal they set for themselves last August. Not a group to wait around for luck, Sunny Gang took active measures to make this goal a reality. Bacchus applied for an internship working with the marketing department as a social media guru. According to Nate, not only did Bacchus blast info on the festival’s social media, he also blasted from their own, Sunny Gang, accounts to be sure the Afropunk crew knew they had the band’s support. Though the guys were runners up in the Afropunk Battle of the Bands, they were impressed with the positive outcome of the competition and have stayed in touch with the organization.
“That battle of the bands at Afropunk is the only battle of the bands that we’ve been in that actually gave back,” Bacchus maintains, “because even though we didn’t win, we’re seeing all this positivity and our music getting all over the place because of Afropunk. We owe a lot to Afropunk. Even though we didn’t win first place, they still were trying to help us out because of that relationship.”
Having achieved that goal and seen satisfaction with their results, the guys now have their eyes set on the career-making South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, and they intend to work just as hard to earn a place on that bill.
“We filled out the application, sent in a press kit and everything, and now it’s just a waiting game,” Sap says.
In the meantime, Sunny Gang is working to find funding for the festival if they’re accepted. Sap says it could cost up to $2500 for the four of them to make the trip to Austin, but Bacchus maintains the cost is worth it.
“We’re looking at festivals that can bring us to the right people,” he claims. “South by Southwest is good because it’s for up and coming artists–even though Bruce Springsteen was there last year. It’s his second time around the block.”
Funding and attending SXSW is a daunting task, no doubt, but if anyone can do it, it’s these guys. From frat parties at Rutgers Newark to one of Brooklyn’s biggest music festivals, Sunny Gang hasn’t stopped yet, and it doesn’t seem as though they have any intention of doing so anytime soon, a fact I, for one, am happy about. Sunny Gang brings a refreshing, organic, organized chaos to the New York music scene, and once they’re released into the world, it won’t be long until their sound grabs ears across the nation. My advice? Get on it right now, so when they’re on and poppin’ you can pull the hipster card and say you knew them before they were huge.