“I don’t remember that song!”
Chan Poling was startled to see the video we posted from 1980 of the Suburbs’ last performance in New York. Studying his fellow band members, he allowed that lead singer Beej Charney looked great — “And we don’t sound so bad either!”
It’s been a while since Minneapolis’s most popular new wave band performed in New York. On their tour’s swing along the East Coast, they traveled in an RV that was parked wherever urban laws allowed. For one date, we remember them sheltering under a particularly nasty highway overpass on the edge of Boston. Glamorous it was not. “I’ve been with the Suburbs since 1977 when I was nineteen. We traveled in a retrofitted Greyhound bus for some Midwest shows and a car with a camper trailer we pulled behind,” Chan recalls. “This time, we’re flying. It’s age-appropriate touring.”
This Friday, the Suburbs are playing in the LES at the Mercury Lounge, celebrating the release of Si Sauvage, their first album in three decades. But getting there wasn’t so easy. “We felt stymied by the chasm that’s opened between the process of writing, producing, recording and distributing music and making a living,” Poling told us. “It threatens the very existence of original indie music.” So they turned to a 21st century solution, Kickstarter. In thirty days, the project raised $75,000, $10,000 over their goal.
Its resounding success is a testament to their enduring Midwestern appeal where they consistently sell out live shows: “We were stunned how quickly the money came in. But there are no fans like Suburbs fans.”
Recording again felt like starting over. “We had lost our guitarist, dear Bruce Allen, who died in 2009, and our bassist, Michael Halliday, had retired from music. That left Beej and me and drummer Hugo Klaers.” They added some new members and some horns and got to work. Their song, “Turn The Radio On” is enjoying Top 40 rotation in the Midwest and is posted here. Give a listen, we think you will like it.
All in all, it’s been a good year for the Suburbs. When they partnered with Minnesotans United to advocate for marriage equality, their 1983 “Love Is The Law” became the campaign’s unofficial theme song. When Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill, he proclaimed, ”Celebrate, Love is the Law.”
And now their return to New York. “We’ve got goosebumps coming back to the Lower East Side, we’re all so psyched,” Chan Poling said. They will be sure to play the new songs from Si Sauvage and some old hits as well. Maybe they will even play that song Chan didn’t remember.