How sweet the sound

David Harper

When you think of the big-name bands of the past, there is often something unquantifiable in their name that helps them become instantly memorable. Would The Beatles have been as popular if they were The Beetles? Would Pearl Jam be as well-loved 20 years later if the band was still called Mookie Blaylock?

It's a question Carlyle Watt likely can't answer for you. As the lead singer of Anchorage's The Super Saturated Sugar Strings, though, he can speak volumes about unique band names and how they come about.

One night at Tap Root, the band -- then known as The Skillet Lickers -- was about to perform when the manager of the restaurant received a call from someone claiming they would sue if the band goes on because another group in California had already trademarked the name.

After some furious brainstorming, the band went on stage with the current name, assured by everyone's favorite search engine that they were safe from litigation.

"We did a quick Google search of 'super saturated sugar strings,' and the only thing that came up was the recipe for rock candy," Watt said.

With a name like that, it'd be easy to be remembered for the moniker instead of the music, but The Super Saturated Sugar Strings are a solid band about to drop a memorable first album, "Harmonic Toast."

The band will play a couple CD release shows, with the second being a special performance at the UAA Recital Hall. The show will open with "Harmonic Toast" producer and local music lynchpin Evan Phillips, while the Sugar Strings' set will feature a bevy of guest musicians, a backup choir and even an organized dance routine.

"Our music inspires some interpretive dance from time to time, so the UAA Flight Crew was a fantastic idea!" Watt said. "They are going to choreograph some routines to some of the songs."

Even with the entire spectacle associated with the show, the real reason to attend is to catch the sounds from "Toast."

The album layers piano, cello, fiddle, guitar and a wide array of percussion instruments into a marriage of the Gothic Americana sound of frequent Anchorage visitor Murder by Death, the Balkan punk of Gogol Bordello and even hints of Ennio Morricone's Spaghetti Western soundtracks on standout track "Romaypohe."

But when asked about their influences, Watt noted that the band didn't start listening to Murder by Death until the Sugar Strings cellist Theresa Taylor saw them at Tap Root this past summer. "I'm sure the next album will probably be influenced by them a little more as a whole," said Watt.

This summer, the band aims to take its show on the road with a string of dates in Washington, Idaho, Colorado and beyond, hopefully funded by a successful online Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $7,000 by May 20.

As a relatively new band based in Alaska, Watt said that the crowd-sourcing is needed to make the trip happen.

"This tour is going to be a real do-it-yourselfer. We are booking all of the shows on our own," Watt said. "This being our first time on the road, we have no reputation in the cities we are traveling to."

Kickstarter is an all or nothing fundraising site, so the contributions have to reach the $7,000 goal for the band to receive any of that money, and the group offers some creative and hilarious rewards as incentive (including the band recording an original song based on a concept you create or leaving a custom answering machine recording for you).

And if the band meets that mark, it'll lean on the interactive shows that have garnered a local following to do the same on the road.

"We really love playing live more than anything," Watt said, before adding, "I guess people in the audience feed off of that energy, because the emotion they are displaying is the same that we are putting out."


By David Harper
Daily News correspondent