Moving from behind the drum set to the front of the stage, Justin Sullivan finds a home on Mare Records for his debut record, In The Break, a new introduction of the veteran performer.
In The Break is your debut full length as a songwriter though you've been performing and recording with artists and bands for many years now. How is it different having your own project than as being a supportive member of someone else's vision?
It’s just a very pleasurable freedom. I love helping a writer shape their songs and I always felt like my role was to offer any edits when needed and overall to be a cheerleader for the good idea. But when you are at the center of the idea, it’s just a new level of expression. You can indulge in a strange idea or feeling and it’s been surprising how much I enjoy it.
The record is coming out on the newly created Woodsist imprint Mare Records. What drew you to the label and what makes it a good fit for Night Shop's first LP?
Well, very simple and organic reasons. Kevin is one of my best friends and Jeremy is another dear friend who I’ve worked with for many years. Working with your friends to make things has basically been my approach to music since I was a teenager and I like that life continues to reveal that this is, for me, the best way to do things.
You've toured with a handful of DIY punk bands and in 2009 joined The Babies with Kevin Morby and Cassie Ramone based in NYC. After the band went on hiatus, you and Morby moved to Los Angeles. What prompted the change of coast and how did the move lay the groundwork for where you currently are on the cusp of Night Shop's first record?
It was just a time of endings in New York. The Babies were winding down, a relationship I was in was ending and the changes to the city were making it very hard for people to stay inspired and make art. People were getting burned out. And I couldn’t blame them. But whenever I would visit LA for music, people would be talking about the art they were making. It was really just a clear disconnect. I’m currently crossing my fingers that it doesn’t happen here all over again.
Your primary duty for the past twenty years has been being a touring drummer. Have you been writing songs the entire time you've been in other groups? What made 2018 the time to step out from behind the set and release your own material?
Never directly. When I was younger, I did write lyrics and sing in some bands. So singing and writing lyrics is not new. And I always felt super concerned about song structure as a drummer. I’m not a “top notch pro player” so I always felt like enhancing the song was my role. So that doesn’t feel totally new either. But I never sat down and worked on a song on guitar until 2015.