EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Steve Summers from San Diego band Sprung Monkey

Sprung Monkey singer Steve Summers discusses the new Sprung Monkey album, Dead Is Dead as well as Taylor Steele and much more! Photo: Sprung Monkey/Photo: Pacific Records

LOS ANGELES, November 26, 2013 — Sprung Monkey formed in San Diego in 1991. The band gained notoriety after having their music appear in Taylor Steele’s surf videos. From there, the band toured the world, have seen their music appear in various television shows and movies. Today, Sprung Monkey released its fifth studio album and first since 2001, Dead Is Dead. Sprung Monkey singer Steve Summers took some time to discuss the new record, as well as Sprung Monkey’s early days, Taylor Steele, touring with Suicidal Tendencies and getting away from corporate labels and back to their roots.

Kevin Wells: What bands made you want to start your own band?

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Steve Summers: F**kin’ Black Sabbath! Still love Black Sabbath, will always love Black Sabbath. Just went saw them out in Las Vegas, doing my whole good bye thing to ‘em in case I never get to see ‘em again since they were as close as you will get to the real Black Sabbath, you know, minus Bill Ward the drummer of course, but love Black Sabbath, always have, always will.

KW: How did Sprung Monkey form?

SS: It started with my brother and actually the original guitarist a long time ago, they both played guitar, and just playing in the bedroom. I was in another band at the time and so I would get to see them try to put together the band. They have a local paper here called, The Reader, here in San Diego and they had a musicians list in it, you know, try out, all that s**t, people to call, and they were going through tryouts and tryouts and I’d watch the whole thing. Finally, they got it all done and they were just lacking a singer. I never sang before, I played guitar in the band I was in, but I’d go to his things with him and watch the singers go through their stuff and just be like, “Nah, that’s not it for you guys,” and finally I was like, “You know, f**k, let me give it a shot.” You know, I already knew the music by then. I knew what they were kinda looking for. Listening back, I don’t think I was a better singer than anybody, but I think they were tired of looking for somebody [laughs] and it just kind of worked out. So, I was the man and moving forward, I’d like to think we’ve gotten a little better, but who knows?


KW: How much of a role would you say the Taylor Steele surf videos had on your early success?

SS: F**k, like 80 percent. I mean, we were banging it out here at home in San Diego getting a good name for ourselves, you know, s**t was clicking here for sure. And Taylor came out to one of our shows and he was like, “You know, I love your guys’ music, you mind if I use it in a video?” And we’re like, “Sure, go ahead, man.” You know, any promotion is good promotion. It turns out his videos become the s**t for surf videos. Now we’re getting all kinds of attention. His videos and the soundtracks for his videos actually went on tour back then.

So now we’re going on tour with 7 Seconds, going on tour with Pennywise, you know, anywhere there’s water and surf we’re pretty much gold now, you know? We’re getting all kinds of new exposure, new from management to bands to labels, everything just started popping from his videos. We’re still stay in contact with Taylor. We went to Australia to do his 20 year anniversary of the first Momentum video. That was, I think, last year or something like that. Yeah, I mean, that thing opened everything for us, his videos. We were in the first four, I think. So, to answer your question, I’d like to say 100%, but I can’t give him 100, so I will say 80% all due to him. A couple of those songs were written because he said, “You know, I got a movie coming out called Good Times.” So, we wrote a song called Good Times. We wrote a song called Momentum, you know? He kind of let us know what was coming down the pipeline. The early ones though, Bleeding, Stay Down, and all those things, you know, those were just songs we had recorded already and those were the ones he just chose to use. Who knew that he was gonna have the Kelly Slater’s, the Machado’s, you know, all those dudes on his video? It just turned out to be the greatest surfers of all time, you know? It’s all kind of dumb luck.


KW: Dead Is Dead is your first album since 2001. What made you guys get back to recording again?

SS: After we did our last album in 2001, you know just the music industry, a lot of weird vibes were going around after the whole 9/11 thing and the energy and the conviction, I don’t know, the lack of something wasn’t there anymore, the morale. So we just stepped away a little bit. We never really broke up, but I took some time to go work on some things that I had been working on for a long time, more mellow singer/songwriter piano based music. Ernie went off to work with Marcos from P.O.D. in a side project he was doing. We would still play shows locally, but the emphasis and the drive for Sprung Monkey, that wasn’t our main focus. It was more just take a little breather and then I don’t know what happened, why we started playing again, but maybe five years had passed and I wish I knew the moment, but we all got back in the room and just started to play again more seriously and realized, “Damn, we’re good at this.” It was almost like we never took any time off and we realize that we write music really good together, you know, we enjoy each other as people. We always have. It’s not like there was any sort of, “F**k you, man,” or anything like that for the reason we stopped playing. And then everything was coming so easy, it was like, “F**k, let’s write a new record.” Now, since we didn’t have the big business, the corporate major record label pulling us, you know, “Hey, you guys need to write a song that can go for radio,” and this and that. It was more like this time around let’s do it full circle, why we originally started this band. Let’s do it to have fun. Let’s write a record that we want to write, that we will enjoy playing from start to finish on stage. You know, because a lot of the songs we did in the past were more studio contrived or they were too mellow to play stage. This album, Dead Is Dead, from start to finish is good old rock n roll, in your face, Taylor Steele surf soundtrack type songs. It gets you out an excited to do whatever you’re gonna do.

KW: The first single features Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies. What was it like working with him?

SS: Well, I’ve been working with him. I have been tour managing Suicidal Tendencies for about six years now, so that, when I first met him, that moment was like, “Holy s**t,” you know? I mean because that is one of the huge influences of mine, you know, I love Suicidal. And then to get to meet him and work with him was a dynamic in and of itself, to get to know the man behind the legend and the myth. So, he’s known of my band and was like, “Oh you’re gonna go record a record? Cool.” It’s never really gone passed that. I would never talk about it too much and he would never really ask about it too much. Finally when the demos got done of the new stuff, I was like, “Here, man, I want you to hear what I got and give me your thoughts.” He listened to it and was like, “Holy s**t, I had no idea. I had no idea you guys were bringing it like that.” I’m sure he gets a million f**king CDs from people in bands. He was like, “Wow, that s**t is really good. You know, what do you think about me singing on that chorus part?” I’m like, “Are you kidding? F**king do whatever you want. You can f**king burp all over the track, I’m just honored that you’d be a part of it.” For me, personally, it was an honor because regardless of what happens, that s**t is forever and he’s on one of Sprung Monkey’s songs. It’s a huge honor to me.

KW: Are you excited to be touring with Suicidal Tendencies?

SS: Absolutely. That is just kind of a throwback to the kind of man [Mike Muir] is. There’s a lot of bands that we’ve come across, been friends with and worked with and everybody says, “Hey, we’ll hook you up,” but when it comes really down to it, it’s all about dollars and cents for a lot of these bands, you know, “Yeah, we’ll take you out on tour,” then we’re ready to go on tour and, well this and that. You really realize not that they’re not our friends, but really what the pull is, how much say so they have in s**t, you know? Especially in this economy these days, everyone’s just trying to make it. You gotta have a band that draws or is worth something. So for him to go out and say, “Here, open this tour for us,” because right now we’re pretty much a new band again. It’s been so long, you know, people forget about you real quick. For him to give us the platform of his audience to get out there and kind of get our feet wet again and try to get the ball moving again is huge. He’s doing us a favor and we really appreciate it.

KW: Do you have any other touring plans set for 2014?

SS: Well, if everything goes well, we just got a new booking agent and he books a lot of bands that are still hitting strong in Europe. So that’s kind of the tentative plan right now, nothing’s been solidified, it’s all just been talked about, but we’ll finish this tour and then hopefully do another kind of States run and try to start banging on that European market and then get back over to Australia because Australia was ultimately our strongest market overall. That’s kind of the plan to get back down there for those big festivals they do. Like I said, nothing’s been solidified. Everything is kind of new right now. So, in about six months, we’ll either be really pissed off or really stoked. [laughs]

KW: Will fans have to wait another 12 years for the next Sprung Monkey record?

SS: I don’t think so. Right now, everyone’s excited. Ultimately, everything changes, but we got about five tunes ready to go for the next record and that’s what we’re doing right now is just writing. Although this is the new stuff, we’ve had a lot of it for a couple years now. It’s amazing how time slips away from you, you know? You said it had been ten plus years since we put a record out, I’m like, “Damn, that’s crazy,” you know? It seems like it came out just a couple years ago. All those clichés people tell you, appreciate time, it’s like, f**k, they’re true. [laughs] Tell your parents you love ‘em, tell you friends you love ‘em, you know?

KW: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you or anything else you’re working on?

SS: Everything is more band motivated. The record comes out [today], just give it a listen. There’s a lot of people who kind of know about us, half the world knows us from the surf videos and things like that or the X Games type things, and the other half knows us from the radio success and that was more of a poppy thing, but if anything, we’ve come full circle and it’s more the bangning, X Games, extreme music coming out. It’s just a solid record, rock n roll record all the way through. Just give it a chance, listen to it, you’ll probably like it. Come on out.

Sprung Monkey’s Dead Is Dead is available starting today on Pacific Records. You can see Sprung Monkey live with Suicidal Tendencies in California and Las Vegas starting November 27 through December 21.

Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for The Washington Times Communities and also writes about Major League Baseball and punk rock music. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball


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Kevin Wells

Kevin J. Wells was born and raised in the Los Angeles area in a town called Montrose.  He currently plays guitar for and is a founding member of the Los Angeles punk rock band Emmer Effer.  He has worked in a number of different career fields including Behavioral Therapy, Commodities, Insurance, and most recently a food cart in Portland, OR.


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