Sunstroke Interview

By: Matt Horowitz /  | 10.12.23       
Philly/New Jersey-based Revolution Summer Punk/Hardcore revitalists SUNSTROKE have re-emerged with the latest Earth-shattering two-song/7-inch release. SUNSTROKE has joined forces with Somerdale, NJ record label and brick and mortar store, Sky Valley Records for said release. 

"Frank" is now available for pre-order in a number of unique vinyl variants directly from Sky Valley. "Frank"'s B-side showcases a cover of Memorial Day's "Ceiling" from their 1999 Demo 99/A Song with Evil Meaning, on which SUNSTROKE's current drummer, Brandon Wallace, originally provided drums, as well.

SUNSTROKE recorded "Frank" and "Ceiling" in Arlington, Virginia at producer and engineer Don Zientara's original Inner Ear Recording Studios' basement home studio location; SUNSTROKE we're in the same room wherein Zientara recorded Bad Brains' Black Dots (AKA The Zientara Sessions) and Fugazi's Repeater, plus, iconic genre-shaping records from the likes of Dag Nasty, The Faith/ Void, Scream, Bikini Kill, and countless others. 

While at Inner Ear, SUNSTROKE ventured to The Dischord House to meet up with MacKaye that was filmed by Sunny Singh (hate5six) and turned it into the SUNSTROKE x Memorial Day, A Tribute to Frank "Skip" Candelori mini-documentary chronicling the "Frank" B/W "Ceiling" recording sessions. 

SUNSTROKE, then, commissioned New York-based artist/musician Chad Harley Leddy (ROLL CALL, Perfect World) to paint the image displayed across the "Frank" single cover. Check out my latest comprehensive interview with SUNSTROKE's Sean Farlow, Brandon Wallace, and Christian Debuque below. It has been lightly edited for general clarity.


1. Who are each of you, what is your role on SUNSTROKE, and how long have you been a member of the band?

Brandon Wallace: First off, thank you for the interview, Matt. This current incarnation of SUNSTROKE is Sean [Farlow] on vocals and art direction, Ian [Strang] is on guitar along with [GHOST BONGO]. [Matt Myers AKA] T.B. Player (short for The Bass Player) plays bass and is, basically, the reason we get anything done. Mikey [Messenger] is still around and contributes in his own, adorable way. Honestly, Christian [Debuque] & I have been doing it with Sean & Ian for a few years now. I feel like T.B. has always been here, but he joined a little after we did when Mikey had to go Overseas to volunteer to build houses or something. 
Christian Debuque: What’s up Matt!? I’ll clear up that I go by GHOST BONGO [@ghostbongo] on Instagram, so that’s why Brandon is referring to me as that lol. Pretty much everyone in the band refers to me by that. I first met Sean when he asked me to design a shirt for the band back in 2020. Around then, I put the offer on the table to play guitar, if the ever needed. And I’ve played guitar with SUNSTROKE since fall of 2021—so, well over two years now.

2. Who is “Frank?"

Sean Farlow: Frank could be in all of us or none of us and if we speak on the true identity of Frank, someone has to die.
Wallace: Frank is less of a “who” and more of a “what.” We all try to live with it, some don't make it, some do, just know you're not alone in your struggles.          

3. When, where, and how were “Frank” and “Ceiling” recorded?

Farlow: We recorded the 7-inch at Inner Ear [Recording] Studios with Don Zientara. After closing down the large studio in Arlington that Don ran since 1990, he moved back into the basement of his home, where he started recording. We recorded in September of 2022 and the “how” is all the magic of Don Zientara.

4. How did the writing, recording, production, creation, etc. processes for “Frank” and “Ceiling” differ from your previous recordings and/or those since?

Debuque: It was all pretty straight-forward. Most of it was recorded on the first or second take. “Ceiling” was the most challenging for me—having to learn the song by ear and trying to uncover what’s happening in the original recording [by Memorial Day]. All in all, it was the most fun I’ve had recording with any band.

5. How did you guys link up with Chuck Miller at Sky Valley Records for the "Frank" 7-inch release?

Wallace: I've known Chuck since I was 19 or 20, so 22-23 years now. We haven't spoken for a little while now, not due to anything in particular, but just getting on with our lives, He re-emerged in my life because he wanted to release a discography of a band I was in called, CHRIST that he initially put out on his old label, Temperance Records, and, now, wanted to release them together on his new label, Sky Valley [Records]. We started talking again and we talk almost every day. He really likes SUNSTROKE and wanted to release a record for an active band. The timing of his ask fit with the timeline of what we are trying to accomplish, so we were down.  

6. At this point, SUNSTROKE is pretty well-known amongst the Punk/Hardcore scenes for your vinyl variants and packages. What do you have in store for us to accompany Frank’s wide release?

Farlow: There’s a bunch of special copies; a lot of this you’ll just have to wait and see! I can’t spill all the beans.

7. Who or what would you readily cite as some of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence while creating “Frank” and/or “Ceiling?”

Debuque: Personally, I’m inspired by the people in this band and their attention to detail and ability to dial in on a sound they’re looking for. Brandon is great partner to rock with. He plays like he means it and stays in time, so it’s easy for me to lock in and nail it in as few takes as possible. So, being around other skilled and talented musicians is what inspires me most.       

8. What can you tell us about the cover artwork, album packaging, etc. for “Frank?” Who designed the piece of art?

Farlow: The cover art was painted by Chad “Leddy” [Harley] (@chadleddyart)]. I came across his artwork through Instagram and really liked his style and it seamlessly melded with our aesthetic. After that, I realized we had a ton of mutual friends and he’s in the bands Perfect World & ROLL CALL. Check those bands out!

9. So, did you give the artist and sort of direction or did they just come up with this "sad clown" design on their own?

Farlow: I sent Chad lyrics at his request and he came up with the concept himself and it was perfect.

10. What can you tell us about the mini-documentary Sunny Singh (hate5six) filmed and edited together that will be released coinciding with “Frank,” as well?

Debuque: It will give you a glimpse into what went into the recording process and members of Memorial Day speaking on their personal experiences with the band when it was active. And I’m just kinda there.

11. What are some of the greatest lessons you guys learned from your time spent with Don Zientara at Inner Ear Recording Studios while making “Frank,” “Ceiling,” and SUNSTROKE’s previous two singles, “Buzzer Beater” and “Everyday Bouquet?”

Wallace: Don is pretty simple. He doesn't say much, but when he does, he holds enough experience that you really should listen. It’s funny, before we went to Don’s, we went to The Dischord House and met Ian [MacKaye]. He was talking to us about recording in Don’s tiny studio; he said, at the end of the day, “you gotta bring the songs.” Implying that if you have good songs, the recording will find itself. 

12. What are your favorite albums, singles, EP’s, compilations, or projects produced, mastered, and/or engineered by Don Zientara and why for each selection?

Wallace: Personally, almost everything on Dischord [Records] is gold. Embrace, [Minor Threat], Bluetip, Dag Nasty... the list goes on. Bad Brains started it all. Just incredible stories.

Debuque: Embrace, [The Faith / Void] Split, obviously, Bad Brains… I mean, come on!

13. How would you say Don Zientara's recording and production techniques from your sessions together differed from producers and engineers SUNSTROKE has worked with in the past?

Wallace: If you take away the fact that you're, literally, sitting in the room that [Fugazi’s] Repeater was recorded in, then, it's a pretty standard process haha.

Debuque: Don’s very down to earth and easy to work with—he just wants to help you get what you want out of the recording experience.

14. Do you have any upcoming SUNSTROKE gigs in the Tri-State Area or across the nation you might like to mention or shout-out within this space?

Farlow: August 4th with Gouge Away at The Ukie Club in Philly! It’ll be a record release [show] for both “Frank” and our split with Bent Blue.

15. What's planned next for SUNSTROKE?

Wallace: We have a record release show with Gouge Away in August and after that, we are going to hunker down and attempt to finish this LP. So, if all goes as planned, we should start to demo these jawns in August with Vince Spina (Edgewise/Harvcore/Ultramantis Black) in West Chester, PA. So, check back in the fall. Thanks, Matt. Talk soon.

Debuque: Catch us August 4th at The Ukie Club with Gouge Away, Nine of Swords, and Harm Assist. I did the flier and I’ll attach it to this email lol.