Before Liam O’Neill was creating rhythms with an analog drum synthesizer and acoustic kit, he was hitting board game lids and overturned pots with two sticks his father, a carpenter, had made for him.
O’Neill is the drummer in Suuns, a Canadian minimalist rock band that released its third LP, “Hold/Still,” April 15 via Bloomington’s Secretly Canadian record label. The band performed Sunday at the Bishop.
In its beginning, the band played smaller shows in Montreal for fun and had more of a “balls-to-the-wall punk” sound, O’Neill said.
“The electronic, more minimalist element sort of crept in in the first record, and now that’s become more or less our main thing,” he said.
Suuns has a darker aesthetic appeal in its use of ambitious tones. O’Neill said the band arrived at this sound because it worked best for the group as a whole.
“If we were really good at, like, singing and playing acoustic guitars, we’d do that, but we’re not,” he said. “We suck at it.”
Even so, O’Neill said the records serve more as field documents of Suuns. The live shows are a true representation with their heavy improvisation.
“That’s where we’re the best,” he said.
At Sunday’s show, Suuns was joined by its producer. But he wasn’t behind the scenes — he was performing his own music. John Congleton produced “Hold/Still” and just released his debut solo album April 1.
O’Neill said recording with Congleton in his Dallas studio had a large effect on “Hold/Still.”
“The important thing to him was to keep moving forward and to not get stuck on an idea,” he said
Observing Congleton’s effect was fascinating, and the whole band enjoyed the end result, he said.
“We ended up recording a shit-ton of material — a lot of stuff that didn’t work and a lot of stuff that did in a kind of more interesting way,” he said.
Though the band has a few shows lined up in the United States, its primary audience is across the pond, O’Neill said.
“Actually, Canada and the United States is a little bit of an anomaly for us,” he said.
For whatever reason, the band’s electro-minimalist style has really taken hold in Europe — especially France.
O’Neill said when Suuns first went to Europe, band members expected to play small venues and cafes. Then their first gig in Paris was a sold-out 300-person show.
“We thought there was, like, some magazine launch,” he said. “I was like, ‘Why are all these people here?”
He said the audience went wild and knew every song, and the following European shows were the same way.
Suuns has now been around for almost a decade and has managed to defy genre classification. O’Neill said he enjoys being able to take their music in any direction.
“Basically, the future is our next idea that is at all viable to execute, you know,” he said. “We’ll just do whatever we want.”
The band has also benefited from having a fan base that’s just as flexible as the music, he said.
“I think we’re really lucky to have pretty open-minded fans,” he said. “They all seem to like what we do no matter how fucking weird it is.”