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Get Suckered

Stewart Oksenhorn

Sucker, a band born in Vail some three years ago and now slowly taking the hard-rock world from its Colorado base, is about to let loose its debut CD on the world. The disc, out next week, is titled “Get on Board.”

“It’s about getting on board the Sucker movement,” said the band’s 29-year-old founder, singer and percussionist Scott Stoughton. “Get on board this high-energy Sucker movement. Or get on board whatever you get on – snowboards, ski boards.”

Despite the heavy sound, rapped lyrics and intense musical energy – a combination that can bring up images of reckless moshing and general misbehavior, la Woodstock ’99 – the Sucker movement is about peace, love and understanding. Stoughton grew up on the New Jersey shore a huge fan of reggae music. Almost as much as hard-edged funk, Sucker’s music is built on reggae grooves and the music’s message of tolerance and freedom. People seem to be getting the idea.

“Our crowd is diverse – young, old, hippies, freaks, cowboys, skaters, punks. We play all ages shows and we have 50-year-olds and teen-age kids,” said Stoughton, who is joined in Sucker by bassist Sid Greenbud, guitarist Rodney Coquia, and recent addition Aaron Ficca on drums. “I’ve never had anyone walk out of a show with a negative thought about us. I sign CDs for people in their 50s.

“We’re showing them a connection, that the hardcore music doesn’t have to be negative. We put out lots of energy, but our whole message is a positive one, and people hear that and can relate to that. Our message is that music can be a source of tension release.”

Stoughton draws a bright line between Sucker and other bands with a similarly hard-edged sound that seek to instill rage in their audience.

“Bands that are going for the young audience – Slipknot and even Limp Bizkit – they’re about creating tension,” said Stoughton. “Which is great for the young crowd, but that’s not what we’re into at all.

“And we’re not that heavy. People think we are, but we’re not. We might start a show with more of the reggae stuff, then in the second set get a little harder.”

The band has seen plenty of folks getting on board the Sucker movement, but it hasn’t been a smooth uphill passage. After moving to Vail in 1994, Stoughton started up the band Short Term Memory. The group became a quick hit in Vail, regularly drawing large crowds to the now-defunct Garton’s Saloon. Stoughton and his mates figured the time was ripe to launch a shot at the big time, and Short Term Memory relocated to Los Angeles.

It was an unqualified disaster. All the band members quit within three weeks of the move. Several stole away in the middle of the night; Stoughton still has not heard from the bass player. After the six-month detour, Stoughton headed back to Colorado. Properly schooled in lessons of ups and downs and commitment to the music, Stoughton promptly fired up a new band. With the recent down times fresh in mind, Stoughton dubbed the band Sucker.

From the beginning, Sucker has experienced a steady climb. The band was included on last year’s One World Festival in Crested Butte, a bash that drew thousands. They were part of a festival at Lake Havasu, Ariz., that included Pennywise and the Long Beach Dub All-Stars. Last winter, they toured for several weeks with Spearhead.

This summer, Sucker toured through some 20 states, playing festivals, opening dates and headlining. A recent headlining date drew 800 people to a club in Detroit; the band had an advance sellout of its show in Breckenridge two weeks ago.

Tonight, Friday, Aug. 18, Sucker comes to Aspen, to play the Double Diamond. Also on the band’s upcoming schedule are an appearance at the still-in-the-works One World Festival at Boulder Reservoir, a CD Release Party at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, a show with Fishbone, a set at the KTCL show at Denver’s Gothic Theater, and a trip to northern California.

But Stoughton has his eye on next weekend, when Sucker throws its Funkin’ on the River party at State Bridge Lodge near Bond. Stoughton, who lives in a tepee at State Bridge when Sucker is off the road in the summer, chose the three-day Funkin’ on the River fest, Aug. 25-27, to release “Get on Board.” The three-day gig features such Colorado bands as Jive and Chief Broom, along with an assortment of special guest musicians and DJs, and festival-closing set by Sucker.

“It’s gonna be unreal,” promised Stoughton. “That place is incredible. It’s an end-of-summer CD release party, and we draw huge out there.”

Stoughton and Sucker have maintained their enthusiasm despite the usual horror stories of life on the road for a band without the support of a record label. Stoughton calls himself and his mates “the brokest people around.” But he finds benefits to doing it all by themselves.

“We’re not in debt. We don’t owe anything to record companies,” he said. “But every day is trying. It’s hard. There are highs and lows. It’s a 24/7 job – booking, managing, driving, playing, writing. There are hard moments – you have a bad show on the road and they don’t give you a hotel room and you end up sleeping in your van in the middle of Iowa and you don’t know anyone. You think, `What are you doing?’

“But then the next night, you play for 500 people, and sell a lot of merchandise and you know you’re doing the right thing. You’re bit. You make people jump up in the air and you have a good time and there’s nothing like it.”


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