Hallowfest gets hardcore (and hip-hop) with Newark, New Jersey’s Sunny Gang
Hardcore and hip-hop are sonic cousins. The genres were birthed from rock ‘n’ roll and funk and soul, which both have blues and jazz to thank for their creation. That they play well together isn’t news — musicians have been putting the two together for years — but Newark, N.J. Sunny Gang do so with a musical intelligence and youthful vigor that demands attention.
The band originally formed as accompaniment for rapper/vocalist Nate Hitchcock, but it wasn’t long before Sunny Gang members Chris Bacchus (guitar), Joe Sap (bass) and Marshal Majchrzak (drums) threw their collective hardcore influences into the mix to create a jagged-edged canvas for Hitchcock’s rhymes. According to Bacchus, the genre doesn’t matter — music is about misunderstood kids taking the best qualities of themselves and expressing those qualities through music.
“It’s almost like an escape,” Bacchus said. “When you listen to hip-hop music it can take you away from the trials and tribulations you’re facing in your life. When you listen to hardcore music you can go in the mosh pit and get everything out. That’s what it’s all about, freedom of expression and being who you want to be.”
Sunny Gang’s expressions vary from song to song. First, Bacchus, Sap and Majchrzak take a guitar riff and add drums and bass. Then they meet with Hitchcock, who tries to find a flow — if the track doesn’t lend itself well to the resident wordsmith, they’ll sit down together and retool the music into a conducive mixture. The collaborative effort caps with Hitchcock’s lyrics, which are tonally inspired by each song’s personality.
“The first thing I’m trying to decide (while writing) is what I’m trying to say,” Hitchcock said. “Does the song have a natural message to it? If the song sounds more gloomy or depressed then I’m probably going to say this is something that should be a little more conscious or introspective or insightful. If it’s something that’s a little faster or more active, it can be fun and doesn’t need much structure.”
Fans of faster and more active will be happy to know Sunny Gang is bringing its live show to Northeastern Pennsylvania Sept. 24, when they play the 1 p.m. slot at Hallowfest II in Scranton. The next day, band will return to Newark to open for hardcore legends Agnostic Front. The 20-somethings of Sunny Gang are starting to reap the rewards from years of pushing for their passions — something they aren’t taking for granted.
“It’s kind of a blessing at our age to be able to go out and play music,” Hitchcock said. “So many of our friends are so caught up with their jobs that they get out of work and all they want to do is sit and watch Netflix. To have something like this that’s productive and fun and allows us to travel and meet people is kind of a blessing.”
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts
IF YOU GO
What: Hallowfest II, a music festival
When: From noon to 8 p.m. Sept. 24
Where: Nay Aug Park, 1901 Mulberry St., Scranton
Who: Karate Camp, Sunny Gang, Family Animals, Cut Up Naked Teenagers, Silhouette Lies, Phallitosis, Earthmouth and Sakrillejist.