In Brief: These three new songs hint at an exciting “next level” for a side project of former Eisley and MuteMath members Stacy DuPree-King and Darren King that is now apparently the main musical gig for each. I’m really hoping this exciting little morsel is just an appetizer for a full album to come, because I’d hate to think they left their other respective bands only to put out stuff like this on rare occasions.
Sucré is one of those “bands” that always struck me as being eternally destined to fly under the radar, due to how the individual members’ main projects were so much more well-known. While they’ve been married to each other for quite some time now, Stacy DuPree-King was best known as a member of Eisley up until her departure at some point after 2013’s excellent Currents was recorded, and Darren King had made a huge name for himself as an absolute animal of drummer for MuteMath, right up until he abruptly left the band last summer as they prepared to go on tour for their album Play Dead. By all accounts, Stacy’s departure from Eisley seemed amicable – it was a band mostly comprised of siblings, and each of the individual sisters in the family were now living in separate cities, trying to juggle their musical pursuits with family responsibilities. Darren’s split from MuteMath still gets under the skin of a lot of fans, myself included, due to how little has been explained about it. Interviews with the remaining members of the band have given the impression that Darren’s reasons for leaving them in the lurch were a private matter, something that only he could explain if and when he felt ready. So I assumed at the time that it must have been some sort of a family emergency or other personal issue unrelated to his musical pursuits. But then Sucré, which had been inactive since 2014’s Loner EP, suddenly began showing signs of activity again with the single “Inside” released in early 2018, a string of live shows being announced in which they served as the supporting act for Darren’s solo show in which he was billed as “DK the Drummer”, and finally a new 3-song EP called In Pieces appeared in June, which confusingly did not contain the aforementioned single. It seems weird to me for Darren to snub a band in which he was arguably the most well-loved member, only to devote himself to a much lesser-known side project and a solo gig that, thus far at least, has not led to any studio output (which I suppose makes sense, what with Darren being a notable co-writer on much of MuteMath’s material, but not a vocalist). I’ve tried to resist the urge to speculate on the reasons behind this arrangement, but it’s kind of hard not to at this point. Perhaps there were simply creative differences between Darren and the rest of the band that couldn’t be resolved, and he decided his wife was just plain easier to work with professionally? Perhaps the two of them were spending too much time apart, and needed to rectify that problem quickly for the sake of keeping their marriage healthy? Those are the least controversial explanations I can dream up for the sudden change of priorities on Darren’s part. But whatever the reasons were, it’s MuteMath’s loss and Sucré’s gain, because the 4 songs they’ve put out thus far this year are all enticing enough to make me hope that elusive second LP to follow-up 2012’s A Minor Bird is finally in the works.
All of the potential drama with their former bands aside, I’ve really been enjoying In Pieces. I’ll admit that I audibly swore after finding out that all of the build-up on social media leading to its release only resulted in a scant 10 minutes of new music. Loner had 5 songs, and even that release felt short at 15 minutes, but I was happy just to get confirmation that they were still active and pursuing new facets of their sound, which I can also say is the case here. In such a brief span of time, Sucré reminds us of all the things they do best – dramatic, sweeping, string-bolstered arrangements supporting melancholy indie pop songs, colliding with dizzying percussive breakdowns that yank an otherwise quaint “baroque pop” sort of sound kicking and screaming onto the dance floor. After the percussion had taken more of a backseat on A Minor Bird, it was a real surprise to hear the programming and frenetic drums let loose on a few tracks on Loner, and I’d say it’s even more of a surprise to hear how Sucré pushes that aspect of their sound into the red on the latter two tracks out of three from this EP, though it doesn’t hit the listener as fast and hard as it did on Loner. “Inside”, the stand-alone single that maddeningly wasn’t tossed in as a bonus track on this EP (I mean, it’s not clear that it’ll ever make it onto an album, so why the hell not at this point?), was a much more in-your-face electronic song than anything heard here, but these songs’ll sneak up on you in a very different way from that track’s more immediate approach.
As for whether third member Jeremy Larson, who handled the string arrangements and the general sense of yummy classical goodness heard on Sucré’s past releases, is still officially a part of the band… well, your guess is good as mine. The arrangements certainly sound like his style, but I don’t believe he tours with the band, and only Darren and Stacy’s faces (usually just Stacy’s) are featured in promotional material, further muddying the waters as to whether Sucré is being marketed as a solo effort on her part or as a legit band. Regardless of who’s actively contributing to their sound nowadays, it’s still pretty clearly a synthesis of the sensibilities of all three musicians – part twee pop, part lush orchestration, part shake your damn booty. I’d actually make the case that the title track – which confusingly causes iTunes to label this release as a single rather than an EP – is really just a prelude, due to how much more fascinating the other two tracks are. But we’ll get into that as I go through the tracks in depth.
1. In Pieces
The title track feels a bit like a cousin to “Hiding Out”, the lush opener from A Minor Bird, in terms of how it’s a rather short song that still features a nice “string swell” leading to an emotional climax. Here we find Stacy admitting that she’s in pieces over someone that she’s met, who she can’t quite promise she’ll be with forever due to not knowing what the future holds, and can’t seem to make up her mind about in terms of whether she’s fully head-over-heels for the guy or he’s just a distraction. A lot of Sucré’s songs seem to explore the ins and outs of troubled relationships, and I don’t necessarily take them to be biographical accounts of her and Darren’s marriage or anything, but it’s clear that one or both of them must have been through some sort of a whirlwind romance at some point in their lives in order to have written this (as well as several of their earlier songs). Structure-wise, this track feels simultaneously slow in its pacing and rushed due to how it skips a second verse in favor of a drum-heavy bridge in which she pleads “What do you want from me?” over and over again. It’s an enticing intro track, though as a single unto itself, I don’t think it would feel a bit incomplete without the songs that follow it to give it greater context. I could definitely see this working as the opener on a (forgive my repetitive wishful thinking here) full-length album.
2. Move with the Tide
The glitchy intro to this track had me convinced at first that Spotify was having trouble buffering, or else my computer was running low on RAM or something, due to how abruptly the sampled strings stop and then start again. It’s a disorienting but cool effect that gives the song a herky-jerky sort of motion at the beginning, as if to deliberately subvert the “lushness” of the typical Sucré arrangement. This fits the lyrics, which find Stacy willfully fighting against a relationship that seems to be her destiny – she’s admitting to having actively pushed someone away, only to later realize she deeply regrets it and finds herself haunted by the ghost of that person’s influence on her life. When the actual drums kick in and the rhythm of the song seems to smooth out a bit, she finds herself more in sync with the natural flow of things, reciting to herself a sort of mantra: “I know that it’s alright, We just have to move with the tide, move with the tide/And I’ll never forget how it felt just to hold you/I know we were just strangers kissing in the dead of night.” Both her contribution on vocals and Darren’s on drums here give the song a very majestic feel, but the song hasn’t shown all of its cards yet. The bridge and outro find electronic elements slowly creeping in, with the drum pads stuttering and echoing, and some bits of vocal samples beautifully bouncing off of the shiny, reflective surfaces around them. This one’ll take a few listens to fully grasp, but if I had to put my money on an actual “single” to be released from this EP (while admitting that I don’t even fully know what that means in an age of terrestrial radio being completely lame and streaming media allowing people to pretty much tailor their own musical diets), I’d definitely pick this one over the title track.
3. More Than You Bargained For
As impressive as that outro from the previous track was, this is the track that I think truly takes Sucré’s sound to the next level. It doesn’t sound too different from their usual at first, with Stacy singing over plucked strings, and a bit of crackling drum programming coming in at the chorus – once again, it’s a great synthesis of the melancholy, relationship-oriented stuff she tends to write about with (presumably) Jeremy’s unique arrangement skills and Darren’s wickedly catchy ear for a good beat. But what starts as a bit of a sultry come on, basically saying a guy will get more than he bargains for if they let the flirting and innuendo between them go to far, turns quite sinister in the second verse: “If you’re careless with me, I swear/There’ll be hell to pay/If you say you love me in passing/I’ll destroy your name.” Damn, Stacy. That’s downright chilling. But also possibly warranted, if she’s writing about the kind of guy who uses genuine romance and commitment as a carrot to dangle in front of a woman when he really just wants to get into her pants. Either way, it’s one hell of a dramatic turn for the song to take, and the music soon follows suit, with some deep and truly unsettling electronic sounds that come bleeding in during the bridge, like the whir of an angry machine hell-bent on destroying humanity. From there, the song sounds like it’s getting sucked into an inescapable vortex of sound. An insane breakdown of manic strings and hyperactive breakbeats takes over for the last minute or so, leaving me absolutely floored right up until the abrupt ending. Such a tease, guys! I’m eager to hear so much more from Sucré in the (hopefully very near) future, even if it means these songs all end up on a full-length album and I have to review them redundantly. I don’t mind. They all deserve the greater exposure that a full-length project will likely give them, because I feel like only truly die-hard fans pay attention to EPs and stand-alone single releases when this stuff doesn’t actually make its way to more mainstream outlets.
WHAT’S IT WORTH TO ME?
In Pieces $1
Move with the Tide $1.75
More Than You Bargained For $2
Stacy DuPree-King: Lead vocals, piano, guitar
Darren King: Drums, programming
Jeremy Larson (maybe?): Strings, arrangements
LISTEN FOR YOURSELF: