Meet The Sukis, a Hertfordshire-based band that consists of Joe, Jem, Leo and Tige. We caught up with the artists for a chat about their music career, their creative process, what’s next for the band and much more.
Iuliana: First off, tell me about yourselves. Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together?
Leo: Salutations. My name is Leo, and I happen to be an 18 year old man. Music is central to my life. Listening to music, writing music and poetry, producing music and playing with The Sukis are what give my life direction and joy.
Me and Tige spoke about being in a band in our very early teens but it wasn’t until a couple of years later that it became a reality. We both saw our friendship as an escape from school and other people we didn’t understand. We spent every day with each other and our family’s started to suspect we were in a gay relationship, so naturally we had to form a band. Joe was my best mate in school and on a whim I told him he should join the band if he wants, and that was it really. Jem came later as they’ll explain.
Jem: Jem here, I’m the oldest suki and I think the rest of the lads look to me as a parent figure. I grew up around music, mainly from my dad who grew up in the 60’s and got me into The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. When I was about 4 years old I remember sitting on my kitchen counter on a biscuit tin and hitting pots and jem jars pretending to be Ringo Starr. I didn’t properly start playing the drums until I was 12 years old and I fell in love with the instrument, especially after playing guitar didn’t really work out for me. I joined the group quite late and kind of forced my way in just because I knew Tige. It took a little while for me to settle in but after I did they couldn’t get rid of me.
Joe: Hello! My name is Joseph Sage and I’m an 18yr old male, born and raised on planet earth. I also don’t see Jem as a parent figure.
I can vividly remember where the band started, it was about 5 years ago and Leo and I were in the music department of our school, which was where we’d hang out during lunch because we could use the pianos in the practice rooms. Leo turned to me this day and just told me that we should start a band because his friend Tige, who i didn’t know at the time, could play guitar and I could play the piano, however at this point Leo couldn’t play an instrument so the idea lay dormant for a while, but he was determined to become a bassist. Leo then went and learnt to play the bass tremendously quickly, in only about 6 months he was golden! Leo and I played together for the first time infront of our music class and the song was Two Door Cinema Club’s ‘What You Know’. Meanwhile Tige and Leo had been busking in Hitchin Town Centre most weekends. After I’d met Tige the idea of the band had been revived! Tige, Leo and myself had started a three piece. After our first gig a friend of Tige’s who we all now know and love as Jeremiah was welcomed into the band with open arms as we desperately needed a drummer, and we were so lucky to have found such a talented one. As the final piece of the puzzle was now in place we were headed down the road to becoming the sukis.
Tige: Hello, I’m Tige: the frontman of the band! I do most of the song writing, singing and guitar. When I was about 12, I watched an Arctic Monkeys’ gig online and saw how amazing they all were and since that moment I’ve wanted to be in a band. To be honest there has never really been a moment where there was a definite turning point… I guess I just believed in us! We were all good friends when starting the band so it’s amazing to go through the journey all together and get through all the hardships. I think the biggest turning point though was when I wrote my first couple of songs (absolutely awful) with Leo in 2017; it just made me realise how this thing could be an actual possibility and a way to release my creative outlet… I think that may have been the moment.
Iuliana: Was it hard to think of a name that you could all agree on?
Joe: It took a lot of brainstorming and most names didn’t even get passed our lips but it took little to no time for us all to nod in agreement with “The Sukis”.
Tige: The Sukis as a name took a very, very long time to come up with but it directly links to my childhood. My sister (who actually came up with the name) used to tell me imaginary stories of a person called ‘Suki’ when I was younger so there has always been this emotional attachment to that word. One day, after our multiple terrible band name ideas, she just said: “Hey! What about “The Sukis”? They used to be your imaginary best friend so it could be a cool story to tell behind it.” And ever since then it’s just stuck. I love the name though, “The Sukis” has such a universal feeling to it, no specific gender or nationality, an inclusive word. And it’s so fun to say!
Iuliana: Where do you think you are all the happiest – in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
Leo: For me it’s the songwriting that’s the most thrilling; whether I’m sat on the phone or in a room with Tige passing licks and lyrics around, or taking it to the rest of the guys and fleshing it out together. The process of writing it is the best thing about the band for me.
Jem: Just playing together in any context is great for us, but I don’t think we can beat the feeling of when we get a song right for the first time when we’re practicing. We all get really gassed to play it live and show it to everyone.
Joe: I actually had a similar question said to me as a psychology assignment recently so this’ll be easy to answer! It’s not always about the music for me. I just enjoy spending as much time with people as I can (especially the other boys of the band and my girlfriend), so I’d have to say that I’m typically happiest when I’m spending time with them. Whether it be in the studio, Jem’s garage, in the caravan in my garden or at a party.
Tige: For me, I find happiness in all the different parts of the band and each type of happiness comes in different forms. I love playing live as it makes me feel immensely proud, I love recording in a studio as it’s finally creating the thing, we’ve all imagined for so long. But I think my favourite feeling is writing a song which I am so happy with, with Leo. It’s just the best feeling in the world. A real sense of creative euphoria which is hard to replicate in any other part of my life. Other than that… probably the Wetherspoons beer garden!
Iuliana: How do you think that social media impacted this band?
Joe: Social media has been one of the main causes of this overwhelming and sudden increase in audience size, we owe most of it, if not all, to Tiges TikTok that managed to gain over 1 million views and more than half a million likes.
Tige: As everyone knows, Covid sort of messed up the music industry to a whole new level so the only way to attract new people is through social media. We recently took to apps such as TikTok to boost our content and we have never been so popular! I think for bands nowadays, it’s so important to adapt to your surroundings and the trends of the time. Every musician wishes to just release music and to blow up overnight like so many of their favourite artists had… but that isn’t the way it works now. I read an article that said becoming a popular musician is 20% talent and then 80% dedication and hard-work. I think social media and promotion is so important and has been the sole reason we have gained all this new support!
Iuliana: What musicians have really been inspiring you all since you first started making music? Who would you love to work with?
Leo: Our musical heroes are The Beatles, Arctic Monkeys, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Radiohead, and Blur. Basically the legendary British rock outfits… plus The Strokes, but with most songs we’ve got, we can point to exactly which band or song we were obsessed with at the time. Personally it’s a dream of mine to work with a producer like Rick Rubin. I love his production portfolio and his approach to experimentation in the studio.
Jem: I mean the Arctic Monkeys is an obvious one, especially in our earlier days, but I think we all take influence from as much music as we can. As a drummer I’m really influenced by classic rock, funk and jazz. I do some DJing and make old school hip hop beats as well, so I try to take some elements of drum and bass and hip hop too. I mainly look up to Mitch Mitchell’s work with Jimi Hendrix for drumming inspiration, he was such a talented musician and no other drummer sounds like him. He has an ability to work in these really fast, intricate fills while still playing perfectly to the song and I try to do the same in my own drumming as well.
Joe: I had classical piano training since the age of 10 so it’d be a lie if I told you that the likes of Beethoven and Bach dont influence my musical decisions, I try my hardest to warp early 70s rock ideas from legends such as Jon Lord and classical geniuses like Mozart, but this tends to just result in a bad headache. My favourite band currently is Radiohead. The choice of chords, harmony and emotion behind the playing push my desire to push my own ideas in that direction also.
To one day collaborate with Damon Albarn would be a dream come true.
Tige: I’ve always been inspired by the great British bands who’ve left their legacy behind. Whether this is ‘The Beatles’ or ‘The Libertines’ or ‘The Stone Roses’, I just get inspired by their music but also the stories behind the band… I find that ridiculously inspiring. I think ‘Arctic Monkeys’ have always been a staple in our music though and it’s our most common comparison to our music. I don’t really know who I’d love to work with but I find genre blending amazing and I don’t think anyone has done it more successfully or commercially than Damon Albarn. That’d be amazing. Oh and Thom Yorke would be absolutely amazing too.
Iuliana: What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
Leo: I hope people can take away the same excitement and love for music that we all have. We take so much care with every aspect of the band, so I’d hope our viewers share that passion.
Jem: I just want people to have a good time and hear some good sounds. As long as we can make a living from music and people like the sounds, I’m happy.
Iuliana: How would you describe your music? Do you think your hometown has influenced the sound?
Leo: Carefully constructed, intricate and beautiful music, over a garage rock backdrop.
Our hometown is a massive source of inspiration for us; whether it’s people we know appearing in our lyrics, or the other Hitchin bands posing as friendly rivals, it has shaped us as people as and as a band.
Tige: Jem said it best in an interview a while ago: “Four sweaty guys in a room.” That pretty much sums up our music. We take a lot of care when constructing a song though, adding in things we are actually proud of. Each member has a problem of wanting to be the centre of attention so we end up individually doing cool stuff and when we reel it all in together, we end up coming up with things each member is very proud of! I think our hometown has influenced in some ways, mainly just lyrical themes though. However, there are many amazing bands from Hitchin but we’re all doing our thing.
Iuliana: Do you guys have a bit of a formula process? How does the band dynamic work as far as the creative process?
Leo: The songs normally come about with a few chords or lyrics from Tige, then he’ll bring them to me and we end up with a complete song structure after a session or two. Then we take it to Joe and Jem and we jam it out together and talk about how to improve it, until we think it’s finished.
Jem: It’s usually Tige starts a song and then works on it with Leo, and they bring it to me and Joe and we do what we do best with it. But it’s also very open, like any of us can bring an idea to the table and we’ll see if we can get something out of it.
Joe: Here’s a simple guide: Tige and Leo will write half a song, Tige will call me 6 months later to force it down my throat, I will then jam it either with Tige or when we’re all together and Jem will hit things until we’re happy.
Tige: Every song is different at this point but the way it normally works is like this. A Suki will come up with an idea, this could anyone but normally it’s Leo or I. Then either Leo and I sit down and try to write it into a full song or I go off to my own devices and develop it. If it’s any good, I’ll show it to the other members and then if they like it, we start developing it into a full song in a practice room. But every song is different at this point. Our song ‘Becca’, I wrote 8 months prior to the recording, but it was the first time we played it in a whole band setting; it was very investing as we were finally doing what we had planned for so long.
Iuliana: When you aren’t working on music, what do you do in your free time?
Jem: As well as DJing and making beats on my own I’ve been exploring my other love of film. Watching as many films as I can and trying to expand my tastes to inform my own ideas and screenwriting that I’ve been messing with. But mainly I explode on a part time basis.
Leo: I don’t have a life outside of music. As I said it’s central to my life, it’s found its way into every corner of my mind and my day. However as of this latest lockdown there’s been nothing to do outside of the band. But when it’s not music, it’s designing posters or keeping our socials updated, emailing people who are interested in us or watching Jem periodically explode.
Joe: I’ve been playing a lot of chess recently and the others are getting quite sick of my constant challenges. In summer we all started learning to skate and that was a great way for us to all escape for some hours at a time without having to drag our instruments everywhere we went.
Tige: In my spare time I’m a model for an amazing agency in London! I only recently got into it and landed an amazing job which I am legally not allowed to say what it is, unfortunately! However, when it comes out, I’m sure I’ll show off about it on ‘The Sukis’ socials but it’s a whole new world which is so intriguing to me and I’ve already made music connections!
Iuliana: What’s next for The Sukis? Any exciting new projects coming up?
Joe: As is often heard in these interviews; I can’t too much away. However we plan to re-record one of our demos, once we can get back into the studio. We also have a future project in the works continuing on from our “Skinhead” and “Hometown” EPs. Stay tuned for updates as we have lots of undisclosable ideas in store for our listeners!
Follow The Sukis on Instagram here.