An Interview with Sun Cop
Sun Cop is the moniker of Chicago-based musician and record producer Andrew Humphrey, who has produced albums for the lauded garage-rock band Twin Peaks and played in dream-pop outfit Sister Crystals. In his words, his debut solo release When You Hear The Drum You May Speak is, “39 minutes of ghosts, sun gods, oracles, Cane & Abel, augury, Gaza, apocalypse, sex, death and Donald Trump”. It is also a gritty, glammy, psychedelic rock voyage with striking immediacy. Here is our exchange:
What happened over the years that led to When You Hear the Drum You May Speak?
I basically don’t remember anything that has happened in my life except these facts: I dropped out of high school, moved to Ireland about a year after that, moved to Chicago about a year after *that*, then spent two or three years drinking and doing drugs while helping to run two DIY venues (FeelTrip and the Observatory) while nominally attending Columbia College of Chicago. Musically I’ve basically just been recording and producing stuff for other bands, most notably Twin Peaks, who I’ve recorded two LP’s with.
This being your first release as Sun Cop, how did you first begin writing? Was there something on your mind? Was there an epiphany?
Honestly I was just trying to make a big dumb pop record and failed. I have a hard drive full of half-formed New Order-esque synthpop junk that has one verse and no chorus, dating from probably 2009-2013 or so. Then summer 2014 came around, ISIS declared a global caliphate, the IDF invaded Gaza, someone shot down a passenger plane over Donetsk, I got obsessed with the album Hot Dreams by Timber Timbre and re-read Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore. I wrote Oracle Teeth, Rulebreaker and Golden Son all in a week in late July.
If you directed a short film for each track on the album, what would take place in each one?
I only really have an idea for Golden Son:
A farmer tends a tiny plot of wheat beneath an overpass in a run down Chicago neighborhood, using flourescent grow lights attached to the ceiling instead of sunlight. One day a handsome 20 something man, dressed very hip and always wearing sunglasses, sets up a lemonade stand nearby. The farmer must watch as the pinkish lemonade becomes an instant success, bringing money and fame, while the farmer toils with his hands in barren soil. The stand gets bigger, becomes a truck, selling pink lemonade out of the window for $15 a glass to long lines of yuppies, who scrunch up their noses at the farmer and his dirty hands. The man smokes an enormous cigar as he watches two exhausted, sweating teenagers work the truck for him. The farmer loses everything one morning when a stampede of eager tourists trample his plot on their way to get in line, but the man is unmoved, rolling up the window of his limousine with a smile on his face. One night the farmer awakens with a start to find the man kneeling by his simple cot with a syringe in his hand; the man has been spiking his lemonade with a secret ingredient: the farmers own blood. The farmer takes up his enormous, rusted sickle and kills the lemonade man brutally, just as the sun begins to rise.
What horrifies you most?
What is your sleep schedule like?
Fucking awful. At least twice a month I’ll stay up till like 9 in the morning and end up having to do shit to try and correct for it like staying up for 36 hours or taking a shitload of advil pm at like 8PM. Sometimes I get locked into like a weird vampire anti-schedule where I’m sleeping during the day and awake at night, and I will go an entire week without having a meaningful social interaction.
What non-musical art inspires you most?
Movies. I’ve been watching a ton of old classic noir lately: M, The Big Heat, The Third Man, Odd Man Out, Sunset Boulevard, Touch of Evil, Night of the Hunter, Kiss Me Deadly, In A Lonely Place...
If you have any thoughts on your future music/projects, describe it in a word.
Why “Sun Cop”?
In the notes app on my phone I have a huge list of weird phrases to use as band names or song titles. Most of them are terrible, about half of them are jokes and all of them are two words: “Cigarette Grease”, “Plastic Sauerkraut”, “Jazz Accident”.
When I was playing bass in Sister Crystals I remember showing a few of these to Lauren, our singer (who sings on the Sun Cop record in a few places) and she singled out “Sun Cop” as one she actually really liked. Honestly it’s as simple as that.
Since I announced the record in the fall though I’d been having a lot of second thoughts about the name and was actually pretty close to changing it. Mostly I think band names suck and don’t care about them, but I fucking hate the police and given the political climate I didn’t want to accidentally give a different impression. I came around it though a few weeks ago after I read this essay by Sam Kriss.
It’s become my adopted manifesto for the band (I’m making everybody in the live band read it) because it crystallizes a lot of thoughts I have on power and politics and now I like the idea of playing with old archetypes in weird ways: Sun King, Sun Cop, Sun Supervisor, Sun Vice President of Marketing.
What song do you love right now?
“The World’s Best American Band”, from “The World’s Best American Band”, the second album by White Reaper, who are the world’s best american band. I’ve also been obsessed with Timber Timbre’s “Western Questions”.