Few bands can make as immediate an impression as So So Modern. With four hooded guys flailing about the stage in a flurry of colour, swaying between guitar-driven dance music and a chorus of fizzing keyboards, this is a show that demands energy and generates enthusiasm. To flawlessly recreate the same dynamic over 200 times a year, however, requires a lot more than just an unwavering will to party.
When the band left their native New Zealand, they headed out on a life-changing jaunt around the world without the backing of a record label and with their entire live savings on the line. Yet rather than be daunted by the prospect, the band relished the opportunity to test themselves with this extreme exercise in survival.
“There’s something quite empowering about doing it all by ourselves,” says singer and multi-instrumentalist Mark Leong. “We find that a lot of bands give up the chance to learn how to self-sustain too early. There are plenty of people in the business who try and make you rely on them and we’d prefer to keep our independence. We have four managers and they’re all in the band!”
Taking their fun-filled displays of 8-bit pyrotechnics on a seemingly never ending tour, the finer details of working their way throughout America and Europe were something the band felt comfortable leaving to chance. “When we arrived in New York, we only had two shows booked,” says Leong. “But by the time we finished we had played almost every night. A lot of it was relying on favours, borrowing cars and then figuring out where the next meal would come from…so it has definitely been an adventure.”
Whereas most bands would consider landing a record deal along the way as an ideal finish line, So So Modern have slogged on tirelessly, rolling into town as guerrilla performers prepared to play wherever a welcoming opportunity arises.
Whether it be hauling their equipment along the London Underground with more instruments than they can hold or sending out MySpace bulletins appealing for fans to put them up for the night, the challenges and experiences that this capering odyssey has thrown up have only enriched the journey.
As distinctive from a myriad of guitar-wielding contemporaries as their music may be, it’s So So Modern’s indiscriminate hunger for shows that truly sets them apart. That they regularly perform at schools, workshops, community halls and house parties reflects well on a band that avoids being pigeonholed.
“We do a lot of random things that other bands wouldn’t do,” he agrees. “I think the general idea is try to make every show as special as we can and to communicate to people that this is an event they can participate in. After all, having fun is actually quite a serious thing to do in this day and age.”
The agenda, Leong concludes, is simply to have fun and share it as they go, making the many sacrifices of a delirium-inducing tour worthwhile.