Photo | Courtesy Sun N Eye
Band: Rock ’n’ Roll Pizza Party with Jerry Grotto, Bankhead Boys, Sun N Eye
Date: Friday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m.
Venue: Satori Coffee House, 5460 Old Shell Road, 251-344-4575
Tickets: $5 at the door
One of the Azalea City’s most beloved musical institutions will be featuring new sounds from the local underground scene. The “Rock ’n’ Roll Pizza Party” will feature a three-band bill that includes two of Mobile’s newest bands.
Bankhead Boys will be celebrating its second show. Featuring Ian Taylor (guitar) and Allin Killpatrick (drums) of Black Titan fame, Bankhead Boys’ first show featured an intense delivery of impressive rock.
Jerry Grotto will also be performing. This unique music project trips between the aural worlds of Daniel Johnston, Sonic Youth and Tim Fite.
Sun N Eye will complete this lineup. This guitar/drum duo will pummel the crowd with a metal-infused, riff-heavy punk sound that will show no mercy. While Sun N Eye’s original repertoire will be a welcomed addition to the scene, another aspect of this band makes it a standout. Sun N Eye is a father/son project featuring scene veteran Arthur Alexander and his 14-year-old son, Xavier, who is a student at Dunbar Creative & Performing Arts Magnet School.
The elder Alexander is best known for his work with the classic underground rock outfit Sucking Diction, which also featured the late, great guitarist JD McLaughlin, bassist Julius Nicholson and drummer Greg Washington. Throughout the ’90s, Sucking Diction established its place in the Azalea Music scene through unforgettable shows at venues such as Four Strong Winds Coffee House, Culture Shock and Nomads. Alexander says it is hard to describe the underground scene in those glory days. However, he does recognize the important role it played in the lives of many local musicians at the time.
“It was cool, and it was vital, particularly around the early to mid-’90s,” Alexander said. “There were more venues and more bands of all types everywhere.”
Sucking Diction had a 20-year run with the ’90s serving as its apex. Eventually, Nicholson got married and moved to Canada. In an effort to cultivate a music career, Washington traded Mobile for Atlanta. After the departure of Nicholson and Washington, Alexander says he and McLaughlin maintained their musical bond through casual writing sessions. Sucking Diction also performed sporadic reunion shows over the years. During that time, Alexander started noticing that his son, Xavier, had an ear for music.
“It started with him picking up on the music that I was listening to when he was about 3 years old,” Alexander explained. “I used to pick him up from daycare, and I would start hearing him hum. He was humming along to Disturbed and all the metal that I was listening to at the time. So, he was catching onto the songs. A couple of years later, I got him a guitar and it didn’t quite pan out.”
Eventually, McLaughlin lost a battle with cancer in 2012. Alexander says this tragic event brought an ultimate end to Sucking Diction.
In the years that followed, Alexander maintained his musical prowess through solo jams, some of which he would post on social media. This all changed three years ago. While the guitar might not have been attractive to Xavier, he became focused on playing the drums. Little did he know, Alexander was investing in his next musical endeavor. Sun N Eye began to take shape with regular, casual practice sessions. These sessions had a two-fold benefit: Xavier was able to hone his drum skills and Alexander was able to jam with a drummer on a regular basis. Alexander also saw these sessions as a “magnified extension” of the duo’s father/son bond.
“I can’t play drums worth a lick,” Alexander admits. “At that point, I figured the best way to try and help him learn the drums was just to jam, which is something that I can do. So, we just started jamming. I noticed some of the things that he was doing, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is kinda cool! He’s catching on.’”
Alexander began streaming footage of Sun N Eye’s rehearsal sessions on Facebook. Immediately, his social network began encouraging the duo to make this project more solidified. These regular postings were also a chance for the masses to witness the musical growth of both Sun N Eye and Xavier. The younger Alexander also received pointers from Sucking Diction’s drummer, Washington. After moving to Atlanta, Washington went on to work with a number of impressive artists including Outkast. He also became a drum instructor at School of Rock Snellville.
“Greg is an awesome drummer,” Alexander said. “I never even pictured myself having kids. Now that I have one, I’m like, ‘Wow, my drummer is teaching my kid to drum.’ It was so surreal when it first happened. It was awesome. Greg Washington and Guy Gallagher were my two favorite drummers here in Mobile.”
As far as Sun N Eye’s creation process, Alexander says it is a team effort. When he’s not jamming with Xavier, Alexander acts as a security guard at the Mobile Museum of Art. Alexander says he sometimes takes a guitar with him to pass time on the night shift. Lyrics sometimes come to mind, and he is prepared to lay down the riffs to give the song a heartbeat. The next day, he will present his song foundation to Xavier, who lays down the drums. Alexander says Xavier will sometimes brainstorm a drumbeat, which he will then fill with guitar and vocals.
Alexander says live performances such as the one at Satori are part of his son’s learning experiences as a musician. The most admirable feature of a drummer is the ability to maintain rhythm in a variety of contexts. Alexander says the Satori show will be a chance for Xavier to polish his drum technique in a live setting.
Xavier will also be getting studio experience in the very near future. Alexander says he is planning to take Xavier to Atlanta to record with Washington. While the father/son lineup makes this band unique, Alexander knows Sun N Eye has one secret weapon they plan on aiming at all their listeners.
“We’ve got the power of music, especially since we’re father and son,” Alexander said. “Music brings people together. Emotion is everything, and it’s just a beautiful experience.”
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