The Thunderkatz are a group of musicians that fall into the category of “best band you haven’t heard yet.” Yes, they have a MySpace page but they also have industry cred: The Thunderkatz won BMI’s best unsigned band contest last year, judged by celebrities like Lil’ John and Ludacris. Their brand of music is influenced by everything from hip-hop to jazz to hardcore rock to- well- anything that can make a groove.
One of the driving forces behind the Thunderkatz is their drummer, Juno Sanders. June is no stranger to the music scene. He started out in local bands around the Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina areas as the beat-maker for Herbus, a rock-alternative band, and Crush7, a girl-driven power rock group. June later joined up with The Astrojet, a band led by Jody Porter (guitarist for Fountains Of Wayne). After a stint with them in New York, Juno (also known as June or Junebug) joined up with 080 and the rest of the Thunderkatz. They’ve since then relocated to Atlanta and released an EP titled “New Age Hip Hop Rockolistics” under the Wall Street Records label.
What prompted you to join the Thunderkatz?
The Astrojet had stopped playing music. We hadn’t officially broken up, but we just stopped playing and no one said anything. I was involved with a lot of other side projects.
I met them through Josh, a manager with Gibson guitars. Gibson was on top of the Hit Factory and guys from the Thunderkatz were assistants. Since the Hit Factory was closing, they decided to form their own band instead of take a job offer from them in Miami. They were recording early Thunderkatz tracks. They really wanted to have a rock feel to it with the hip hop. We exchanged numbers and asked me to play on some tracks. Still to this day they haven’t officially asked me to join the band (laughs). I recorded one track after another. Eventually I was asked to do a photo shoot.
How have you grown as a musician as one of the Thunderkatz?
I’m more disciplined now …then I was in previous bands. With hip hop music, especially with the drums, you have to play more of a pocket beat. A lot of people think that I’ve de-evolved as a drummer, but I think I’ve evolved. I’ve overplayed in bands before. In hip hop it’s a lot harder to be more disciplined than it is to just go off and play, play whatever you want. Less is more sometimes.
You’ve mostly been associated with straight rock bands in your career- how is it different being a drummer for a mostly hip-hop organization?
I just go in and play. The fans are a lot different. There’s definitely a lot more girl fans. I’m not putting down the rock community…I’m a rocker and I love rock music, but since I’ve been doing hip hop, it’s like are more family-oriented and super nice and more sincere. I’ve been in the rock circles and, I don’t want to put it down, but it seems like people are not really being honest with you. The fans in hip hop are more honest with you. They’ll straight up tell you “it wasn’t good” or “it was good”.
Do you stay in touch with your former band mates?
I sure do. Chad from the Astrojet (rhythm guitar player and keyboard player) just moved back to Charleston so we keep in touch.
Where can we see the Thunderkatz going in the next few months?
We’re trying to move on to a major label. We’re very close to that. We’re concentrating on making a really good first album for a major release. We’re concentrating on recording. I don’t know if we’re going to be playing a whole lot of live shows in the next couple of months. Right now we’re really, really concentrating on making a good album.
I remember you talking before about being better musicians.
Definitely. I mean, I’ll never reach my goal of being where I want to be which is kinda good because it pushes you to keep on trying harder.
What were some of the more interesting side bands and studio sessions that you participated in?
One in particular was the Lonesome Prairie Dogs. I would classify them as old school country or maybe rockabilly. We played a lot of Hank Williams, Jr., Johnny Cash. I’ve never done music like that.
It must have been an interesting look on stage.
It was an interesting look on stage. The lead singer/guitar player was a bureau chief at AP. The stand up bassist was his wife and she taught English to foreign businessmen. Our electric guitarist was a pretty high-powered lawyer. They were passionate musicians because they were financially set. They had more passion than a lot of bands that I’ve been in because they’re not really trying to “make it”.
What was the fan base for that?
Awesome. We played in New York City quite a bit. You’d be surprised at the young people (in attendance). You’d be surprised at all the punk rockers. They were into that Rockabilly.
The songs on your E.P. and the more current tracks that are unpublished or on your websites have a significantly different groove to them- what direction is the band going in?
The band is going in the direction that…I think we want to have mass appeal. All of our songs are not going to be that way. The songs are going to be on the radio. The songs are going to be on ring tones. (Songs that) the public can get into. A lot of the stuff we did earlier on was more hard. We had a lot of punk stuff, real hardcore-sounding rock. Which I love, but the general public wants to here more pop stuff. I love pop and we all love pop. There’s definitely going to be more of a mixture there, but the stuff we’re writing now is definitely going to be more pop.
Look out for the Juno and the rest of the Thunderkatz on www.myspace.com/thunderkatz.