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Music of the Modern Age

Sonny Smith
Sonny Smith

California’s Sonny & The Sunsets current release, Moods Baby Moods, is a contender for 2016’s album of the year. The record’s elements are familiar: ’70s and ’80s English New Wave and New York art-pop grooves mix with Lee Scratch Perry-style studio experimentation and wubba-wubba dub atmosphere.

From the song “Modern Age,” bandleader Sonny Smith disaffectedly deadpans: “I found a piece of art in the trash/ I don’t know anything about art.” Which is laughable, because, if any band deserves to be called arty — in a good way — it’s Sonny & The Sunsets. 

“We wanted to get in the studio and take risks,” Smith recalls. “Let’s just glue it all together in weird ways,” he adds, describing the band’s creative process.

Smith continues: “That’s why a lot of the songs take 90-degree turns. We went into it wanting to do some stuff that sounds like Orange Juice, Tom Tom Club or Young Marble Giants — a handful of music that we all mutually love.”

But Smith says Lee Scratch Perry was a definite inspiration on the album’s production. “We didn’t make a dub record per se,” he says, “but I’m sure more than once we said, ‘What would Lee Scratch Perry do?’”

Sonny & The Sunsets play with Sarah Bethe Nelson and Eugene’s Pluto the Planet (soon embarking on the band’s first ever West Coast tour) 10 pm Saturday, June 18, at the Hi-Fi Music Hall Lounge; $7 adv., $10 door, 21-plus.