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Q&A with Quinn Walker of Suckers

The Cool Kid

As a youth, Quinn Walker never was a part of the cool crowd. Growing up, he chose to be different, remaining on the social fringe — something that today his far-out psych rock still reflects. As the lead singer for the Brooklyn-based Suckers, Quinn has finally found his group alongside bands like MGMT, Yeasayer, Grizzly Bear, and Cocorosie, but getting there wasn’t easy. Suckers performs at the Great American Music Hall on September 14th and 15th. While touring on their way out West, SF Station spoke with Walker in a phone interview.

SF Station (SFS): When did you scrap the dream of being a basketball player to become a musician?

Quinn Walker (QW): Probably around the age of twelve. I got into a scuffle with the freshman basketball coach and threw a basketball at his head.

SFS: Is it true that when you were young you liked to dress up in costumes?

QW: Yeah, as a kid I used to dress up in costumes all the time. I would cover myself in mud, or wear underwear on my head.

SFS: Sounds like you had a wild imagination.

QW: I guess so. I was always trying to come up with a new alter ego, I guess.

SFS: Were you trying to be something that you weren’t?

QW: Up until third grade I wouldn’t use my actual name on school papers. I’d write down names of musicians I liked, or people I looked up to like older-brother type characters.

SFS: What was the reason behind that do you think?

QW: Part of it was that I was uncomfortable with my name because nobody else had the same name; mostly just trying to be somebody that I wasn’t.

SFS: How would you describe your stage persona?

QW: Well, I definitely feel more comfortable on stage wearing makeup or digging some sort of costume. The voice I use, I’m never really comfortable using my own voice, so I have a lot of different voices I use on songs.

SFS: Do you consciously try to make each song different from the next?

QW: Definitely. I start writing, or we as the band start writing something, and if it sounds similar to anything we’ve already done we will stray from it. It bores me to make something similar.

SFS: How do you scrap together your own collage of music?

QW: It comes naturally. Part of it is innately in the brain, and part of it is outside sounds or experiences that are implanted and come out. It’s not really a thought process necessarily. Writing a song for me, particularly, just falls into place.

SFS: Why is it important to make things different?

QW: For the most part, to keep myself interested and keep the fans interested in what we are doing. We are always trying to do something that we’ve never heard ourselves doing.

SFS: Didn’t your mother tell you not to stand out — those were the kids that got beat up?

QW: (laughs) No, not really. My mom was all for that.

SFS: I’ve read a lot of your stories of people you’ve known who are runaways, homeless, or social outcasts, which, as you tell them, seem almost endearing. Is there a part of you that feels an emotional attachment to these individuals?

QW: When I was in Seattle, the only people I hung out with were schizophrenic homeless people. I didn’t feel like I had anything in common with the people I went to school with, and didn’t enjoy their company. All they wanted to talk about was “What’s your major?” or “What do you want to do?” or “How’s school going?”

SFS: I know when you were younger you dabbled with some serious drugs (heroin), and have already lived a pretty adventurous life. Do you ever see yourself settling down?

QW: (Pauses) Yeah, once I have my tenth kid maybe. I made a promise to myself to stop smoking once I have a kid; if I have a kid.

SFS: Are we talking cigarettes or pot?

QW: Cigarettes. I’m going to start my kid early on smoking weed. I’m going to clam bake his crib.

Suckers perform at the Great American Music Hall on September 14th and 15th. Tickets are $16 in advance, and $18 at the door. Doors open at 7pm. The show begins at 8pm.