Bullpup Brings Evil Clown Cabaret to Indie Rock
Bullpup, the indie rock band that's been making waves in the local music scene, has been gaining fans with their unique sound and wildly energetic performances. At the front of the band is singer Trevor Sullivan, whose powerful vocals and energetic stage presence have been winning over audiences for the past six years. Alongside pianist and singer, Jon Garniss, Trevor's guitar playing and singing switch from emo balladry to chaotic, head exploding screaming in seconds.
In an exclusive interview with Trevor, we had the opportunity to delve into the band's creative process, their journey as musicians, and the inspiration behind the bands name. From their early beginnings as a group of friends jamming together to their recent success, we'll hear about their songwriting, production process, their most memorable performance, and Trevor's take on what makes a good music scene.
We'll also explore the distinctive sound of Bullpup, with its fusion of emo and cabaret influences. From the driving rhythms to the raw emotion in Trevor's lyrics, we'll uncover the vision and artistry behind the band's music.
So whether you're a die-hard fan of Bullpup's music or simply curious about the newest trends in the indie rock scene, join us as we step into the world of Trevor Sullivan and discover the magic behind the band's unique sound.
Can you tell us about the origin story of your band? How did you all meet and decide to start making music together? Also what is the origin story of the name? Bullpup started after I had become fed up with the culture surrounding musical theater and the DIY scene at large. Both were and extremely negative and competitive space in a way that didn’t breed community but instead a greedy dog eat dog fight ring. Most of us grew up together (Tim, myself, and Gav) but over time pursuing the project and meeting like minded and talented individuals (Jon and Robby) we grew to the current group we are today. The goal was to create music that encourages people to come together as well as attempt to rehabilitate, educate, or in some cases combat archaic ideals that we simply don’t accept or agree with. As for the name, Bullpup serves a few purposes. I remember driving home from the jazz rock band I was in around 2017 miserable and telling Tim who was in that band with me as well: “I think I want to call the new project Bullpup. They’re compact and aggressive just like us… and I can’t think of anything more terrifying that shouldn’t exist than a machine gun” Here’s the part where I tell all the gun weirdos that I am aware and don’t care that there’s other types of bullpups blah blah blah bite me.
What is the creative process like when you're writing new songs? Do you all collaborate equally, or does one member typically take the lead? Our writing process has evolved dramatically over the lifespan of the band and has decidedly improved as a result. Originally Me or Jon would write essentially the full arrangement for the songs but now the process is A LOT more collaborative and goes through a draft process that invites more revision and criticism before it hits recording. In a step by step breakdown or “Talking shop” as my dear friends from The Boston Art Podcast on Spotify dot com Brian Huntress And Theo Earthwurms say: I never sit down to write a song, ever. A large majority of the times song starts by me doing long drives and getting into that wandering space in the mind where you kinda forget you’re alive or are a sentient being. In these moments occasionally I will get a single line or quip and it’s to some melody for some reason. I use that initial blurb as a thesis essentially to expand on and try to hash out other lines that are additive or argumentative to the first line that comes to mind. Often they become character pieces to personify ideas or dialogues to show different sides of a position and why one side sucks. Once I at least have a verse and a chorus of some sort I find a quiet place to pull over and loosely sing the idea into my phone and write down the idea. I then will not touch it for a week or so. If I think about it again during that time I’ll know it’s worth fleshing out into a song. If it isn’t catchy enough for me to think about it again I leave it to die as a writing exercise in the moment and never see it again. After that I’ll sit with a guitar figure out what chord changes the melody is shaped around. Once I feel happy enough with that as a skeleton I take it to Robby and we Put that skeleton in Ableton. Often we will nuke the original guitar completely and split it across the keys, bass, and lead guitar to make it all mix better and more interesting to listen to. One by one we have each member write to whatever the last members have put on recording, doing it individually rather than everyone trying to jam it out at once makes sure none of the instrumentation is cannibalizing the others. Once everyone records we comb through it as a group to make improvements on all the parts as a whole to make it the best it can be. This will essentially be the live version you hear at our shows more often than not. If everyone’s happy and thinks that’s water tight, we add ideas for any doubles or textural layering or extra instruments we think will be additive to the recorded version of the song. When we think we have a good mix of all that we’d shoot it to Mike Abiuso at Behind The Curtains Media in Brooklyn to get some feedback. Shortly after that we head down to Brooklyn to get final Studio quality recordings of all the parts we spent so long drafting and have Mike mix and master them to be released to the public! That’s the whole thing pretty much. Sprinkled within that is Jon writing a good chunk of the songs as well and me crying and screaming because I go through the self doubt and frustrations anyone does in the creative process but that’s show biz or whatever cool people say.
How has your music evolved over the years? What has changed about the band's appearance and sound since your first release as compared to now? This question could probably be answered by just saying “Robby” but to be more in depth with it I think we have reached a more actualized version of the band than in its conception. It truly feels like we are at a point where we have the ability and resources as we’ve grown to make what this band was supposed to be at its inception real. We honed in on what the aesthetic and sound should be and the quality of both has drastically improved as well. The sound in particular has become more complex and defined so the ideas we have are being expressed more clearly. We also started doing the music videos with Dan Bazarian which dramatically helped in solidifying what the “look” is.
What's the most memorable performance you've had as a band? What made it so special? April 1st 2023. Yeah it JUST happened but we were fortunate enough to open for Sarah and the Safe Word. We can’t say enough about how much we respect and look up to them. When we started 6 years ago, our end goal was to get to play with Sarah and the Safe Word. They were so kind and gracious to us it was like a dream. It helps that the room was packed and we were well received too.
What are your thoughts on the local indie music scene? Do you feel like there's a supportive community for independent artists in your area? It’s a tricky thing. I think we are in a really strange growth period right now where we went from being the band that everyone kind of overlooked and ignored, to pulling some insane shows and getting really big opportunities. It often feels like our community exists more a world away online and that the one we have at home didn’t particularly get us or want us around that much. Compound that with right now and shows are just not the same as the we’re before Covid. It is decidedly improving every time we get out there but there’s just a strange energy at the beginning of all of them. As for the community supporting indie artists as a whole I think that the cliques are not AS prevalent as there were prior to Covid but I can also start to see them forming again. I think it is very important that if you yourself as an artist are wondering why no one is coming to your shows or engaging with your art, you make sure you cash the check with your ass and go to other peoples shows and engage with their art. It’s not about paying dues, it's about being a part of what you want built. You can’t just talk about it, you have to be about it.
If you could collaborate with any musician or band living or dead, who would it be and why? Can I cheat? No? Too bad I’m cheating. My first pick is Samia. I do not think there is a musician alive who even comes close to the quality that she is putting out over and over and over again. If I could get her to sing on a track with us I’d be fulfilled for life. I don’t care what else happens, that's fulfillment. My second pick is Eric Nally from Foxy Shazam. If you know anything about either of our bands you know that the pure chaos that would ensue from getting us in a room together would be legendary.
Do you have any pre-show rituals or superstitions that you always follow? I write things on my left forearm before we go on stage. I’m not really sure why. It’s just always been a thing for me. Sometimes it says “send help” or “bite down” or “pity” stuff like that. Probably just manic fits but it’s just something I’ve always down and will probably do as long as this thing keeps going. My after show ritual is usually hurling my guts because I overheat from moving so much on stage.
What advice would you give to aspiring indie musicians who are just starting out? Really really assess why you want to do music. You can get so many different things out of playing shows and releasing music but understand that depending on what you want out of it will dictate how hard it will be. Anyone can make it but the trials and tribulations are grueling and the process is long, you have to work everyday. If you’re doing it just for emotional fulfillment that’s great! Just make sure your relationship with your art is healthy and you aren’t staking your self worth on what you create. Your music can be an extension of you that doesn’t mean it is you or indicative of what you deserve.
If you could describe your band's music in three words, what would they be? Evil Clown Cabaret
What are your plans for the future of the band? Are you working on any new projects or planning any upcoming shows or tours? We are headlining Lowell Town and City Fest April 29th 2023 and after that playing support for Dead On A Sunday on their Boston tour date on May 20th 2023. As for our own tour, we have something potentially massive coming up late this year/early next year that I can’t entirely talk about yet but it will be a big jump for us as a band of it pulls through. I’d also just like to add here thank you Brian and Theo, your podcast WHICH BOTH OF YOU OWN :-) has been so generous with having me and Jon on since the start and you have been incredible friends and supports to myself and the band as an entity. Thanks for doing this interview for us!