LOCAL ACT ‌ With a Bang 

Handgun Sonata reveal a fiery new collection

click to enlarge This week, local punk/metal/rock act Handgun Sonata release a debut album
  • This week, local punk/metal/rock act Handgun Sonata release a debut album

Handgun Sonata
w/ Indeed, Near Fatal Fall, Moonless Moth, Tha' DJ Effect
Fri. Dec. 1
8 p.m.
$5
Oasis Bar & Grill
788 Folly Rd.
225-2522
www.myspace.com/handgunsonata

"It took a while, but finally — this is our debut full-length disc," says guitarist Bryan "The Hammer" Harris, of diligent local rock band Handgun Sonata. "We have thus far survived in demos. It was our calling to put a proper album together. It was about time."

The five-piece — affectionately referred to in the scene as simply "Handgun" — celebrate the release of an independently produced and manufactured studio album this weekend at the punk/alternative-friendly Oasis on Folly Road. The nine-song collection, titled The Music, The Madness, The Murder, is a flurry of metallic, fast-paced, highly-intense rock riffs and tunes.

The band took their time recording the tracks, a few hours at a time, during numerous sessions at The Shed Studios in north Mt. Pleasant — a lo-budget facility — sometimes referred to as Climate Controlled Studios. The place has also been used by The Defilers, Hot Charlie, and L. Brown Odyssey with engineer Chris Chamberlain at the mixing board. Handgun's new one the best-sounding stuff out of the studio to date.

Operating just under the radar of the mainstream, Handgun thrash and bash with a wild punk sound and prog-metal precision. Since forming in late 2002 in Summerville, the Handgun lineup has featured Harris, Josh "Mathis" Matthews on drums and vocals, Josh "The Ish" Isherwood on guitar and vocals, Jodi Dobbs on bass, and Charlie Smith on lead vocals. Depending on who you ask, Handgun Sonata is either a punk band, a metal band, an emo band, or a hardcore band. Or all of the above.

"If you tied that all in, it would describe what we try to do," says Harris. "It's really difficult to be original. We just take all the styles we listened to growing up and incorporate them into one. The drummer and I used to listen to a whole lot of heavy metal. Our other guitar player listened to a lot of emo. Our singer listened to a lot of punk. I guess the best way to describe it all is with our band's name. 'Sonata' represents a classical music piece, 'handgun' represents an aggressive weapon. You put that together and it's an aggressive music piece."

The Music, The Madness, The Murder might surprise some local fans with its slightly polished sound. Smith's wild stage antics and impressive vocal range definitely stand out as highlights on the album, as does the precision of the busy rhythm section — most punks can't pull such technical proficiency.

"There are the musicians and the non-musicians," says Harris. "When you see us live, we usually play our songs a little bit faster, heavier, and more raw. But when we record our songs, we like to look at that as an opportunity to consider the musician's perspective. 'Will they like it, too?' And also, will non-musicians be impressed as well? We want to catch everyone's ear. That's what we wanted to do with this album. We wanted a diverse range of sound. There are so many bands who sound exactly the same throughout their entire set — especially hardcore bands. We don't want to be that. That's why we have three different backup singers doing different things. We try to create a diversity and an original sound."

Handgun have a couple of production people helping, but they're not affiliated with a record label or distributor. As it's been from the beginning, things are D.I.Y. with all the cards on the table. Their live performances have become somewhat legendary. Their work ethic and unrestricted approach to playing gigs around the Charleston area — from the tiniest pizza parlors or practice spaces to the local stage at the Vans Warped Tour — almost ran them ragged recently.

"We felt like we almost got to the point where we had fluttered ourselves out, so we stopped playing out for two-and-a-half months straight," says Harris. "We were doing really, really well. It wasn't about us booking shows; it was a lot of other people asking us to play on a bill or a benefit event. We always want to be the kind of band who says, 'yeah, it's about playing, it's about music, and it's about having fun,' and we don't want to come across as that band who are too good to play certain gigs. But we had to slow down. With this disc coming out, we decided to take this break and get ready for the Oasis show."

Music starts at 8 p.m. with Handgun set to perform around 11 p.m.


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