Saccharomyces yeast, or “Sugarfungus”, has been an integral component in winemaking, baking and brewing since ancient times. The fledgling indie band from Vancouver, SUGARFUNGUS, very much lives up to its nerdy namesake: a little sweet, a little funky and a whole lot of fun.
SUGARFUNGUS, comprised of bandmates Tess Meckling, Alex Marr, Bradan Decicco, Jackson Moore and Ivan Barbou, is an unexpected assembly of two UBC PhD scientists and three Capilano University jazz students. But their diverse educational backgrounds allowed them to draw from a deep well of inspirations, including nature, vaporwave, childhood experiences, romance and 90s alternative rock.
With such assorted inspirations, it’s hard putting SUGARFUNGUS’ music in a box. Though reminiscent of the tangy, bittersweet ambience of artists such as Tame Impala, Beach House and Japanese Breakfast, SUGARFUNGUS is constantly experimenting with new sounds and diversifying their discography to expand their stylistic choices, such as dipping their toes in house and dancehall music.
“We like to strike the balance between accessibility, dance-ability, but not sacrificing any sort of artistry,” said Meckling, lead singer of SUGARFUNGUS. “We’re just trying to find something that is in the middle somewhere.”
In their 2022 EP Letting Go, Moving Still, the band does just that. In merely six songs, SUGARFUNGUS finds range in production, themes and style.
Songs such as “Catch & Release” and “What’s A Used One Worth” embrace peppier backing tracks, tinged with funk, hi-hats and a more digital sound. Yet, the lyrics tell a visceral story of heartbreak and loneliness, claiming that “I’d be better off if I never met you.” The ability of the band to paint a picture in listeners’ minds is a big strength — you feel the decrepitness of a forlorn heart when Meckling liltingly sings the chorus for “Catch & Release," or the reclusiveness of someone who has been hurt before in “Ghosts.”
“We try to keep our lyrics pretty genuine and not forced. We don't rush through that process,” Meckling said. “So if we want to do a weird time signature for a bit in there or if we want to do something that sounds a little strange to the ear, we don't say, ‘Oh, well, that's not gonna please everyone,’ we kind of just go for it.”
When asked about advice to other up-and-coming bands, Marr reminds others to “be as authentic as possible and be consistent because nothing happens overnight.”
This maturity and self-assurance is shocking considering that the the band only began rehearsals a year ago during the pandemic. Unable to meet in person, the band often hosted weekly Zoom meetings to bring together self-written lyrics and “somewhat fleshed-out ideas.”
Once they could meet in person, SUGARFUNGUS hit the ground running with three singles, an EP, music videos and a six-part visualizer (animated imagery that is generated and rendered in real time by computer software).
Working with local Vancouver creative artists such as Katrina Wong and Harry Sung, the band say they try to find collaborators with “influences the same as ours,” as evidenced in the sci-fi art interpretation of flowers in SUGARFUNGUS’s EP and single covers.
SUGARFUNGUS’s creative endeavours are not stopping here: lofty plans are in their future. Their new single “Weekends At Toast’s,” as well as an accompanying music video, debuts on October 5 and 12 respectively. But this is only the beginning: aside from festivals and gigs all around Vancouver, they plan to release an album next year, with four songs written already.
The dreamy, blissful SUGARFUNGUS has already dug in their roots; it is only a matter of time before they truly blossom.