Locals: Sonic Roach leavens punk tunes with zombie humor

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From the June 5, 2014 edition

Those listening to the NPR car enthusiast talk show “Car Talk” back in 2003 may have already heard Sonic Roach Destruction Unit. The band's self-proclaimed claim to fame arrived when their tune “Buckle Up” appeared on the show that year. Though Sonic Roach chuckles with pride at this connection, one wouldn’t think the typical lyrical themes of these old-school punks warrant international syndication.

The 14 songs that make up Sonic Roach's upcoming Partially Devoured, for instance, are dreary and encapsulate pointed social commentary. It's serious music, but bassist and lead singer Dave LaRosa said the band tries to take the edge off.

“There is actually kind of a conceptual theme to [Partially Devoured], in that … we actually have some sound effects of chomping and eating and a burp at the end, which we kind of did for comic effect,” LaRosa said. “Some of the songs deal with — not necessarily cannibalism — but darker themes.”

Partially Devoured, a title partially inspired by zombie mutilation and guitarist Doug Leed's “Walking Dead” obsession, is Sonic Roach's fifth full-length in a 15-year-plus career. Like on its four preceding albums, the trio, which is rounded out on drums by Dave's brother, Jim LaRosa, doesn't hide its influences. The band owes a clear debt to Dayton lo-fi champs Guided By Voices, along with classic Ohio punk groups, like Brainiac or Human Switchboard.

But unlike previous records, Sonic Roach recorded Partially Devoured as they “would play it live,” Leed said. The band did away with studio wizardry and multi-tracking, playing songs instead as a singular unit, only recording vocals individually.

Whether that fresh approach brings about another placement like “Car Talk” obviously remains to be seen, but for now, Sonic Roach is content with pushing the pedal to the floor and gunning it.

“We find sometimes when you record each instrument separately, it actually loses its punch. We wanted to reproduce … our live show, and not lose that [punch] in production,” Dave LaRosa said. “We try to please ourselves, and then we hope by pleasing ourselves we can produce something that other people enjoy.”

Photo by Meghan Ralston