Currywurds - Devourable Content
July 2018

Side Projects Gone Rogue: Sonola Debuts Second “Art Rock” Album Three Years After Recording It

Mackenzie Patel
︎ ︎
Tampa, FL - The music of King Complex isn’t ordinary rock with riffs played a thousand times or lyrics so bland my grandmother would eat them for breakfast. It’s bizarre and mesmerizing, especially with the performers elevating their show from casual Friday night to faceless thrashing.

However, before the masks of King Complex – before the electronics stampeded the stage and beats were served fresh with eye candy – there was Sonola, an “art rock” band started at Florida State University. Originally a collection of solo songs written by Cody Doss (drummer for King Complex), Sonola morphed into four college guys playing instruments in a house.

Sonola’s second album, TFW, will be released later this month and is a tumult of ten songs ranging from God Song (pt. 2) to Vigor Mortis. Although it was recorded in 2015, Doss recently edited the music that’s been collecting dust for three years. 

“I wanted to make songs that were strictly for fun,” said Doss, his speech getting more eager and interspersed with So I thought, “fuck it”.

Image from Sonola Facebook Page
His music became experimental and gelatinous, morphing into whoever he played with at the time and whatever it was meant to be. After meeting Bracher Brown (guitar and vocals for King Complex) at a party and recruiting friends John McGovern and Ben Weinbaum, Sonola became an actual band and a precursor to his present success. Contrary to the Urban Dictionary definition, TFW means “That face when…” in the context of Sonola. Faces, specifically John’s face, is the inspiration behind the *fantastically edited* lyric videos that are also being released.

I spoke with Doss last week about the background of Sonola, the meaning of “art rock,” and how this collaboration with 21-year-old Cody and Bracher grew into King Complex.

“I basically said to Bracher, ‘come sing in our storage unit,’” said Doss.
With Cody on guitar, Bracher on bass, John on drums, and Ben on lead guitar, it’s easy to hear the newness and enjoyment between notes. Drums mimicking anxiety – jitters on each track – screams: their music is different than the electronic outgrowth, but it’s equally satisfying.

Come and Go is five minutes of complex (almost angry) guitar that could’ve narrated my fishnet phase in high school. New World Order is creeping, danceable, and the most King Complex-esque of the tracks. And as for Truth, that repetition of “thousand times, thousand times…” raises hairs. I listened to the songs in order, and there’s a definite right-skewed distribution to the songs. The louder songs open the album with dynamite and taper into quieter, more thoughtful songs – except for Vigor Mortis, which closes the album with finetuned angst.

The instrumental nervousness was explained by the emotions framing Doss’ state-of-mind.

“I wanted to write this music because there’s this weird underlying anxiety to everything I do. I bottle that boredom and un-subtleness into songs,” he said.
But how exactly does one characterize these songs, these minutes of shifting rhythms, screams, and eerie alternating with sweet? It’s self-described as “art rock,” which Cody summarized as “out of the ordinary…a little out there and takes you aback.” It’s the unexpected, the what the fuck?

Image from Sonola Facebook Page
As a listener, the initial confusion was overshadowed by my engagement with the music. The songs were a two-way street, with Sonola dropping difficult compositions and lyrics and my brain attempting to sort them. Our culture is consumed with idle listening, but TFW was engaging on a level Clairo or Peach Pit could not compete with. That probably comes with the territory of experimental art rock, but it’s refreshing breaking up the monotony of Pretty Girl with Scirroco.
It was also refreshing for Doss to hear these songs three years after recording them. Like Howard Carter unearthing King Tut’s tomb or ­­­­­Mariottini stumbling on the Riace Warriors, it felt like discovering tracks that weren’t even his for the first time.

“There was a cool degree of separation that allowed me to mess with them more,” said Doss.
Although tempted to add electronics, Cody resisted the itch and instead relied on the memories of making TFW. He wanted the music to reflect the “true experience” of the house recording, not a remixing according to King Complex principles.
These principles today include weird synth and catchy beats, although Doss originally hated electronic music.

“I had a vendetta. I thought it was all drug-dependent, music festival people and ‘the feeling they get man.’ I was very pro band and all about song writing and guitar.”

Now, working on Sonola and King Complex simultaneously is the sweet spot for Cody; switching between the two genres is invigorating, and when he’s frustrated or bored with space rock, he can return to Earth with a trumpet and stripped-down guitar (featured on yes / no). He doesn’t have a preference – they’re just different, the way the Beatles’ Revolver was a far cry from Please Please Me.
The musical relationship between Sonola and King Complex is clear – maybe it’s Cody’s voice, the multiple King Complex shows I’ve been to, or the avant-garde aura of the album, but Sonola seems like the brother (or weird cousin) of today’s masked duo. Because it’s the essence, the reason for creating in the first place that matters– the arrangement of notes, inclusion or exclusion of synthesizer, or variety of face-wear with four members or two is secondary. That excitability for music, so pure and apparent, makes effective experiments out of any sound waves. 
TFW was premiered on Creative Loafing on July 27th. Their first album, Strange Karma, is also available online, and a third project (“dark, gory, quiet and crazy”) is underway. TFW is dedicated to John Stamos.