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Sammy James Jr. of The Mooney Suzuki

Bi-Coastal Curious

Itís been a journey full of ups and downs for New York garage rockers The Mooney Suzuki, but the band made it to the 10-year mark, despite a steady shuffle of members --Sammy James Jr. (lead vocals/rhythm guitar) and Graham Tyler (lead guitar/vocals) are the only remaining founding members. The group returns to San Francisco for a June 29th show at the Rickshaw Stop following the release of its fourth LP Have Mercy.

SF Station (SFS): I heard that you relocated to L.A.?

Sammy James Jr. (SJJ): We did the last record in L.A. and spent a few months living there, but we didnít move there permanently.

SFS: Would you ever relocate permanently?

SJJ: Maybe not 100 percent permanently, but if I had the opportunity to go bi-coastal, I certainly wouldnít turn it down. I do enjoy the sunshine.

SFS: What else did you like about California?

SJJ: I like it all. I think L.A. is the least West Coast of the West Coast. Everybodyís affectations are right on the surface. Itís more honest and itís similar to New York, where everybody is very face value -- at least on the Sunset Strip and in Hollywood everybodyís persona is at face value. I like that.

SFS: Thatís funny. When some criticize L.A. it is often because they think the people there are superficial.

SJJ: Yeah, exactly. Itís so superficial, for me it comes back around to being genuine. The type of person that decides to go and make a persona is an L.A. person. At least they are not going to some other place in the world to try to pull off a false identity. They live in a town meant for creating imaginary impressions, so to me it seems more honest. The fact that they are there is a license to be superficial.

SFS: So it wouldnít work out as well in Omaha or some place like that?

SJJ: Um, I guess. Maybe it would be just as endearing or charming in Omaha.

SFS: The last time I saw you in SF the band was climbing on top of the PA and getting pretty rowdy. Have you toned it down at all?

SJJ: Yeah. You will see none of that. Weíre all grown up now; weíll bring a couple of stools onstage and we donít even use amplifiers. Itís just 100 percent acoustic. We wouldnít be caught dead doing those shenanigans anymore. Weíve long since outgrown the routine.

SFS: Youíre really going all acoustic?

SJJ: Maybe, there was a tinge of (sarcasm) in that statement. That probably was a while ago, and Iím sure there are some differences. Whenever the spirit moves you on stage you have to go with it.

SFS: But, your new album is a lot mellower than your previous releases, right?

SJJ: Yeah, certainly there is a lot more acoustic guitar and less out-of-control tempos. A lot more prominence is given to the vocals, as opposed to the tambourine or electric guitar, but I donít know if it is necessarily mellower.

Each album of ours was getting progressively over the top, and finally we got so over the top that we came back around and started from the ground up again.

SFS: Youíve had a steady rotation of bass players. Are they just not getting enough of the spotlight with Grahamís guitar solos?

SJJ: Weíve pretty much had a steady rotation with every album, so I donít know. Maybe itís me. Who knows, but we have a great fuckiní lineup now and Iím very excited about playing with the current band.

SFS: Do you think you are difficult to work with?

SJJ: I hope not. I hope Iím at least getting easier to work with. I guess you would have to ask some of the other guys. Itís hard for me to be impartial with that question.

SFS: Probably the funniest song in the bandís history is ďGood Olí AlcoholĒ, on the new album. Is there much drinking when you are on the road?

SJJ: Well, sure. Itís an environment where you are surrounded by free drinks and you have hours and hours of time to kill, so one follows the other.

SFS: Whatís your favorite libation?

SJJ: I can go for a Guinness, when available, and I like a nice straight whiskey. I can do a martini or a beer if it goes with a meal.

SFS: Youíre not too picky?

SJJ: No, there is a lot that I wouldnít be interested in, but as my grandfather used to say when asked what kind of wine he wanted, ďI donít care what color it is as long as it does what it has to do.Ē

The Mooney Suzuki perform at the Rickshaw Stop on June 29th with Music for Animals and Photo Atlas. Admission is $10 in advance and $12 at the door. The show starts at 8:30pm.