Interview: Sundrifter Drummer Patrick Queenan Is Beaming

It never gets old, even for relative newcomers Sundrifter. Some three decades ago, some fans of fuzzy, bass-heavy rock and roll saw some mangy bands. They told some people that their shared sound deserved a name of its own. That’s not to be confused with other metal subgenres that were sprouting like weeds at the time.

As the sound spread from novelty into normalcy at so-called “generator” parties in the desert areas near Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. Those events attracted to the siren call of stoner rock decided to class it up with the sanitized rebrand “desert rock.” 

Even after hometown heroes Queens of the Stone Age relocated to Los Angeles and slowly grew their fanbase year after year, they tried to shake the term, but to no avail.

Despite leaving the desert for the big city, the shorthand term “desert rock” continued to shadow and pester Josh Homme and his ragamuffin bandmates, who surely became empathic toward Io, the princess in Greek mythology who spent much of her life cursed by a gadfly that refused to buzz off.


Sundrift Dip Their Toes Into a New Endeavor

The humorous (and harmless) subgenre name achieved a new level of silliness when, years after QOTSA had fully come into their own, the term “desert rock” began to be applied to like-sounding bands across the world. Musicians welcomed the label—after all, what aspiring rock band wouldn’t want to following in QOTSA’s footsteps—but by cropping up in areas that had proximity to the desert, what became a goofy handle reached new heights of ridiculous.

One of the best cases in point is heavy rock band Sundrifter, a trio based in one of the U.S. cities that is the furthest away from the desert: Boston. Whether the “desert rock” term was wisely or inappropriately attached to the band—which is to say, whether the marketing tool had actually worked—became increasingly apparent after Sundrifter self-released their first two albums: Not Coming Back in January 2016 and Visitations in February 2018.

Around the time that discerning fans of heavier music agreed that Sundrifter’s sophomore release was even better than their first one, the group posted a charming call-out on their website. The description of the band, written by a rock critic, hoped to draw eyeballs by referring to Sundrifter as kindred spirits of Fu Manchu, Kyuss and Truckfighters—all bands that fit cozily under the same umbrella.

All Sundrift Need Now Is a New Place to Live

The article also noted that Sundrifter hadn’t yet landed a deal with a record label—but surely would on the strength of their third album, the February 2024 release An Earlier Time.

That prophecy came true, with the fuzz-rock connoisseurs at Small Stone Records scooping up Sundrifter—rounded out by Vocalist/guitarist Craig Peura and bassist Paul Gaughran—before An Earlier Time even dropped.

Sundrifter, now a dozen years strong, are still a Massachusetts band (based the small city of Malden, a half-hour walk to the beach, to be precise). It hasn’t been too lonely for the sunshine-craving trio, as the Commonwealth is also home to other like-minded bands such as Elder, KIND and King Buffalo.


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