The ‘burbs at the Bash: A Q&A with The Suburbs’ Chan Poling

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The Suburbs will play Summit’s Backyard Bash on Saturday, Sept. 12 // Photo via The Suburbs’ Facebook page

This Saturday, The Suburbs are coming to a backyard near you.

Summit Brewing Company’s Backyard Bash, a celebration of the brewery’s 29th anniversary, will feature live music from The Suburbs, Gramma’s Boyfriend, Toki Wright & Big Cats (featuring Lydia Liza), Al Church, and Black Market Brass, and will raise funds for the non-profit Minnesota Music Coalition (MMC).

Formed in 1977, The Suburbs quickly rose in popularity from local releases with Minneapolis’ now-defunct Twin/Tone Records to major label deals with Mercury and A&M before disbanding in 1987. Their early 2000s reunion spawned a new wave of fans for the band, and in 2013 they released a new record. Another one is currently in the works.

The Suburbs’ presence at the Backyard Bash isn’t as a nostalgia act. It’s a symbol of how Minnesota culture is prospering and growing, showing that appeal for classics like Summit EPA and The Suburbs’ 1979 single “World War III” span generations even as newer hits like Hopvale and 2013’s “Turn the Radio On” come onto the scene.

The Growler caught up with Suburbs founding member Chan Poling to talk about his band, Summit’s history, and where and how the two have intersected over the years.

The Growler: First, how did you end up playing the Backyard Bash?

Chan Poling: I think it was MMC’s idea, but I have played my buddy Mark Stutrud’s Backyard Bashes before in other bands, first with the XBoys and then with The New Standards. This is The Suburbs’ first foray into the backyard picnic environment.

G: Who will be on stage with you?

CP: The Suburbs are now me, Hugo (Klaers), Steve Brantseg, Steve Price, and Jeremy Ylvisaker, with longtime horns Max Ray and Rochelle Becker and Steven Kung, who also plays a little keys. And Janey Winterbauer is our newest and loveliest addition. She helps me sing pretty.

G: How is a show like this different than a standard indoor club gig?

CP: We love playing outdoor summer/fall events. We just played a few weeks ago with Cheap Trick at a big outdoor fest in Mankato and loved it. The last time in town, I guess, was at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand with Trampled by Turtles and POS.

They are different, the energy is different and the sound is always compromised in a way—the guitars need to be pushed louder, that sort of thing—but what you lose in artistic control you make up with in vibe. And beer.

G: What makes Summit a natural pairing with The Suburbs?

CP: We only look for cool simpatico sponsors for our events. I love Summit and respect Mark’s vision and soul, without question. We’re thrilled to be part of Summit’s special day. I personally think it’s one of the great parties of the year and we’re proud to be part of it.

G: What are your memories of when Summit opened? Did you know anything about craft beer at the time? As a touring musician, were you familiar with craft beer from the coasts?

CP: Personally, I was always into beers like Summit, Sam Adams, Anchor Steam, et cetera, when we were touring. We’d seek out the best and most unique beers—when we could afford it!

G: Do you remember your first Summit?

CP: I do. And, honestly, it’s what I always order when I want a beer. No shit. Well, almost always. I like to see what’s around.

G: It’s more and more common for breweries to host live music and even make one-off beers in honor of bands. How do you think the two crafts are connected?

CP: Beer and music go hand in hand. […] They are ancient crafts that take discipline and skill to master and require a love of connecting people.

G: What’s your favorite Summit offering?

CP: I’m an EPA man.

G: What are you most looking forward to this Saturday?

CP: Playing some new tunes and just enjoying the afternoon with good friends and our awesome fans.

G: You released a new record in 2013. What is next for The Suburbs as 2015 comes to a close?

CP: Just got done working on our new record. It’s in progress now. And it makes me smile, and cry, and laugh…so we’re on the right track.

G: Anything you’d like to add?

CP: Looking forward to seeing everyone down at Summit on the 12th!


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