Tacoma's most emulated garage-rock band, The Sonics, will return to Seattle for the first time since the outfit celebrated the release of its critically acclaimed “This is the Sonics” album at the Moore Theater and Easy Street Records in 2015.
The band – featuring sax player Rob Lind from the classic 1960s lineup - will perform “The Witch,” “Psycho” and other high-octane classics as headliners of Elysian Brewing's Search Party. The event will kick at 2 p.m. July 1 at Seattle Center and also feature supporting acts Thunderpussy, Black Pistol Fire and the Struts.
In anticipation, we caught up with Lind, who discussed the departures of band mates Jerry Roslie and Larry Parypa, returning to the studio and the odds his band will ever play its hometown again.
Tacoma Weekly: You guys disappeared for four decades; and now, coming up in December, is the 10th anniversary of your first comeback shows (at New York's Cavestomp Festival.) What stands out most about this run as The Sonics, version 2.0?
Rob Lind: Back in the '60s, if we went to Eugene, Oregon and then went to Salem the next night, we considered that being on tour. We thought we were hot stuff, you know; then we'd get in the car and drive three hours and be home.
When we started going to Europe for a month and things like that, that was all new terrain for us, and we really had to learn how to do that. We've been doing a month-long tour of Europe at least once or twice a year since then, and we've done Australia twice. We did Japan and New Zealand. At this point, 10 years later, I would have to say that we're combat veterans. We're a pretty experienced touring band now.
TW: Sixty years in, and you're finally hitting your stride.
Lind: (He laughs.) We're slow learners, I guess, Ernest. Eventually we'll get there.
TW: How would it have been different getting to do all this stuff at 25?
Lind: I've thought about that in the past. What if there was no Vietnam War, and I didn't have to go? What if the band stayed together, we kept playing and doing all that stuff? Nineteen sixty-seven was about when we stopped playing. What happened was we missed all the influences that could have polluted us. … We missed all the Bill Graham-like shows and psychedelic (rock.), We missed folk-rock and 12-string guitars and all that stuff. We started back up right where we were in 1966. It's like we were freeze dried; add water in 2007, and here's the Sonics.
TW: I started noticing Larry and Jerry missing from the promo photos a few months ago. When exactly did they leave the band, and what were the circumstances?
Lind: It started about two years ago with Jerry. We did a five-week European tour, and it killed us. It was really hard on us, and it was even worse on Jerry because of his health issues. So when we came back we did one show in Central America, and that was Jerry's last show.
TW: What city was that in?
Lind: It was in San Juan, Costa Rica. We could see it coming on. We could see the effect it was having on Jerry, and it wasn't good. We were all actually relieved when he said, “I can't do it any more.”
He asked me, “Can I still keep writing? Would you guys be interested in me the next time we go in the studio?” I said, “Jeez, Jer. Of course.” I've known him since we were 15. Up until he quit playing in the Sonics, I never played in a rock n' roll band – and I've played in several – that Jerry wasn't in.
Larry's health was fine. He just doesn't want to tour any more. The way Larry came to a conclusion, was we had been contacted by Robert Plant's organization as he was in the middle of a tour. I can't remember who was opening for him (but) they couldn't complete the tour for whatever reason, and he had five more shows to go. So they called us.
TW: That's a big deal.
Lind: So we went up to Toronto and hooked up with Robert and his band, played five shows and finished it in New York.
Well, about a month or two later the phone call came in, and he and his people had set up a tour of the entire South and Southeast. ... We did the whole tour with Robert. Then, when we came back from that, we got an offer to go to Australia for three weeks, and that drove Larry out of the business. He said, “I'm not going to Australia.” At that point, we got Evan (Foster of the Boss Martians) and moved on from there. Larry was just fed up with it. He didn't want to stay in another hotel room. He didn't want to get on another airplane, and I understand that feeling.
TW: But it sounds like the door is open to them when it comes to recording.
Lind: Most definitely. We've been talking to our public relations people about what would be better; to do an EP, to do a full-length album, to do a single. We've got a good single we're sitting on here which is “Leaving Here” with Eddie Vedder singing lead on it, and we've contemplated releasing that.
TW: We've gotta talk about that. That's something you've recorded already?
Lind: It's off the live album, “The Sonics Live at Easy Street.” Eddie came up and did “Leaving Here” with us (from the) “This is the Sonics” studio album. We found out that Pearl Jam occasionally plays it live, so Eddie was real familiar with it.
We never rehearsed with him. He did a great job. Eddie is a wonderful guy and a good peformer. So it's on that album, and we haven't made a decision, but we thought maybe we'd make that the subject of an EP; maybe make that a single.
TW: I remember talking to you about the “8” EP (released in 2011) and how you thought it was OK but didn't really capture your sound. Since then, you released “This is the Sonics.” How well do you think you hit the mark with that one?
Lind: Our manager at the time, Bryan Swirsky, said, “If you guys are gonna do an album, you need Jim Diamond to produce.” I didn't know who that was. I had to Google him. He worked with Jack White, and he worked with the Dirtbombs and all that stuff; he was from Detroit. So we said OK.
Well, this guy Jim flew out. We did a week of rehearsals (and) he said, “What I wanna try and do here is capture the fire and the energy that you guys had on those first two albums without doing direct copies.”
He kept our nose to the grindstone in terms of being honest. … So I totally credit that album to Jim. He lives in France now. I'm trying to figure out if I can afford to bring him over from France. I don't want to do another album without Jim being involved. He did things we'd never seen before.
TW: The Pantages show (the band's only performance in Tacoma since 1966) was in 2012. I've heard through the grapevine you guys weren't totally happy with how that all came together. I wonder what the odds are of you playing Tacoma again, back where it all started?
Lind: I used to go to that theater as a little boy to watch monster movies. My mom used to give me money to ride the bus, and I'd ride the bus downtown to go see “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” So it was kind of cool.
The problem with that – and I don't want to cast aspersions on somebody who's no longer with us – was Buck (former manager and Etiquette Records co-founder Ormsby.) He was running short of cash; and he didn't have enough money to advertise it correctly. He didn't have enough money to pay us. It's the only show we've played since 2007 that we didn't get paid for. The reason for it was our own manager set it up. I don't say that to hammer Buck. He bit off more than he could chew.
We'd have to have a professional promoter doing advertising and the radio stations and so forth, but I'd love to go back and play in Tacoma again. We just kind of got our fingers burned on that one.
TW: I floated the idea by Jerry that it would be cool if you played Tacoma Armory, given what that venue meant during the first run of the band.
Lind: Well, that was a big place to play back in the '60s. We were pretty impressed when we got to play the Armory. Yeah, I'd love to go back and do that again. But like I said, it would have to be professionally done.
TW: When you're back in this area (Lind lives in North Carolina) are there things that you make a point of doing? Do you have time to visit people?
Lind: When I do have time, I definitely do that because my entire family's up there. I know you know Kathlyn Neal, my niece (formerly a member of Tacoma garage-rock band, The F---ing Eagles.) My other nieces and nephews all live up there. My grandson, Jason Kertson, is up there. He's a fabulous guitar player. As a matter of fact, I think he's gonna be with me at that show. So I do see him and his mom and my brothers.
TW: Tell me about the event you're playing at Seattle Center.
Lind: It's for the Elysian Brewing company, and they do a big outdoor show at Seattle Center. We're playing in Vancouver, Canada, and then we're coming down and playing Bellingham. We tacked that on at the end of it.
The girls, Thunderpussy, are playing the show; and I heard from an interviewer the other day they're doing real well in the Pacific Northwest lately. We met the girls in Iceland. We were there to do the Iceland Airwaves festival last year, and we were staying at the same hotel; and so, in the morning we'd always end up in the lobby with the girls, chatting about music and going places. They're nice girls, and I look forward to seein' 'em again. It'll be a lot of fun.
2 p.m. July 1
Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle
Tickets are $35 to $40 (includes four drink tickets); www.strangertickets.com