SISU: Sandra Vu, Comfy as a Frontwoman

I first met Sandra Vu a little more than a year ago. She was currently learning how to transition from drummer to frontwoman in SISU and she admits it...

I first met Sandra Vu a little more than a year ago. She was currently learning how to transition from drummer to frontwoman in SISU and she admits it was a bit scary. SISU’s debut LP, Blood Tears, has been out for almost a year now and has garnered comparisons to nearly every single one of history’s greatest post-punk and shoegaze acts. The album does, indeed ring of the earliest years of Lollapalooza, when the likes of Siouxsie Sioux and Lush blasted through mutual speakers, alongside shockingly, somehow popular transgressors like Jane’s Addiction and Ministry. It’s also strangely reminiscent of when newly matured punks decide to turn to electronics, finally unafraid to do something slightly pretty. It’s morose, but quite fun and accessible, yet exceptionally well-versed in music history’s most profound. It’s also certainly as good, if not better, than anything she’s put out in any other project (She’s most famous for drumming in Dum Dum girls, but has also played in The Raveonettes, Boredoms, and Dirty Beaches.) In the time since the album’s release (and actually before) last September, Sandra has done a substantial amount of touring, and, in our most recent chat, she reveals to me that she is beginning to feel more cozy in the role of frontwoman. SISU has been on the road for the majority of the summer and Sandra is about to wrap that up, and her second-to-last show has her supporting Crocodiles at Boot & Saddle on August 30th.

Izzy Cihak: The last time we chatted your debut LP, Blood Tears, was just about to drop. So I’m curious, what have been your favorite aspects of promoting it throughout the past year?
Sandra Vu: The best part of promoting it is just playing it to new people, always! That’s always scary but that’s also what makes it exciting.

Izzy: Do you currently have a favorite track from the album, nearly a year after its release? I really, really love “Return the Favor.” It just seems like the absolute perfect combination of ‘90s alt. rock and post-punk, like if Garbage were a Joy Division tribute band (Hopefully that’s not insulting.)
Sandra: That’s not at all insulting! That one is probably still my favorite to play live because everyone let’s a bit loose.

Izzy: In addition to your music, I’m a big fan of your visuals and your personal fashion sense. What is it that most influences those things? For that matter, do you have any particularly significant non-musical influences in general?
Sandra: I think the most consistent idea behind our visuals and aesthetic is that it is not pristine, but it’s imperfect, a little dirty and rough. I like modern shapes, lines and airiness but with grit, texture, and randomness. I’m loath to name something in particular, it’s just a feeling. Some people want to look high-end and museum-like, we take that a couple of photocopy generations later.
Izzy: The last time we spoke you mentioned the transition to frontwoman as being something that was relatively difficult. Has it gotten any easier, since then? Have you gotten more comfortable in the role?
Sandra: I’ve found it encompasses more than being in the front on stage, but also includes leadership, making many decisions and keeping everyone happy. I’ve definitely learned a lot and still the challenge is a welcome one. Onstage, I think about it a lot less which, I consider progress.

Izzy: You also told me that your hopes for the immediate future were to have a real vacation. Any luck with that? If so, where did you go?
Sandra: Still no! I had a night in Ojai Rancho Inn sometime this year, but that was far too short to be called a vacation. It was drivable and yet remote enough to feel far away. It was nice but we could have stayed a few more days at least. Sometimes I’ll stay a couple days longer in cities where I’m playing, but that doesn’t feel detached enough from work.

Izzy: In addition, you mentioned that you were hoping to work on a second LP. How is that coming?
Sandra: We were working on an EP but we may fold that into a full-length earlier next year!

Izzy: And finally, you’re going to be playing here next week. What can be expected of the live experience, this time around? Your last performance at Johnny Brenda’s was one of the most inspiring shows I saw last year.
Sandra: That is so great to hear, thank you! If I remember correctly from the first time, the line up and drum kit will be a bit different, more minimal, so it should sound more focused but with a few new noises.


Band InterviewsLive EventsMusic

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.