Despite its sunny weather and large population of outdoor enthusiasts, Denver has long harbored a talented, diverse and generally gloomy heavy-metal community. From nationally known powerhouses like Cephalic Carnage, Speed Wolf and Primitive Man, to up-and-coming work horses like Of Feather and Bone, Khemmis and Abrams, Denver is teeming with bands from all shades of the metal spectrum.
Boasting a diverse musical background and pedigree, Danny and Andrew Aranow, brothers and relative newbies to Denver, have decided to dive horns first into the local metal pool with their latest project, Sugar Skulls & Marigolds. Although the band comprises just two people, the Aranows hope to prove that their decibel level is on par with that of their peers.
We caught up with the Aranow brothers and asked them about keeping pace as a two-piece group, their latest release, and their recent partnership with Sailor Records.
Westword: Traditionally, you have played Americana/rootsy music. Why the switch to the heavy stuff?
Danny Aranow: I’ve been a huge metalhead since the fifth grade; it’s in my blood. I got away from it for quite a few years and experimented with all different genres. We both played in the rock band Monroe Monroe for a few years, as well as the Americana band Saturn Cowboys. When Monroe Monroe called it quits, I spent a good three to four months in my basement writing sludgy, heavy riffs. I experimented with different tunings and combining different amps and pedals and started writing songs. Drew and I started jamming, and it came together rather quickly. We kept Saturn Cowboys going for a while, but once Sugar Skulls started taking off, we decided to just focus on that.
For a two-piece band, your sound is huge. How do you pull that off?
Danny: I use two guitar amps and a bass amp. Each amp has its own dedicated pedals for clarity. When the two guitar amps are swirling around with effects, the bass amp keeps a clear rhythm guitar/bass line going to make it sound like there is more than one instrument playing. That, along with Drew hitting his drums like a banshee, makes the sound pretty huge!
How did you partner up with Sailor Records?
Danny: We met Oscar Ross at Sailor though our buds in Muscle Beach, who introduced us to him. We recorded Blood Moon on our own in December and sent him a copy. He was stoked about it and wanted to put it out under Sailor Records, which was the best thing that has happened to our band. It’s a huge honor to be asked to be a part of this family of bands and to work with Oscar.
Has starting this band introduced you to the Denver metal scene, or had you always followed it?
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Danny: Starting this band has definitely introduced us to the Denver metal scene. We grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and moved out here seven years ago. We played in different scenes within Denver, but once Sugar Skulls started playing live, we noticed right away that the metal scene was very special. The fans are die-hards, and the bands are so supportive of each other and show a level of camaraderie that I’ve never seen before. The talent of the bands in the scene is ridiculous. I’m not exactly sure how it ranks compared to other cities. All I know is we have it really good here!
Have you guy always played in bands together?
Andrew Aranow: We've been playing music together since we were kids. Some of my earliest memories are sitting in Danny's bedroom playing Nirvana and Alice in Chains songs with him on acoustic guitar and me using his bed as a bass drum and a paperback book as a snare. We told each other from that point on that we'd always play music together in some form. The first official band we joined together, the Microdots, was what brought us out to Colorado. We formed in Florida and, after a couple of years of failing attempts to have an indie-band succeed in salsa nightclubs, all migrated out here for a better life and music scene. After gaining a ton of live-music experience in various bands, Danny and I decided we wanted to form our own band that would come full circle, back to the early days when the music just poured out of us naturally and reflected how much we love creating it together. Ergo, Sugar Skulls & Marigolds was born, and it has been the most successful and thrilling musical endeavor we've ever done together.
Sugar Skulls & Marigolds Blood Moon EP release show, with Native Daughters, Ghosts of Glaciers and Altas, Friday, August 19, at the hi-dive.