If you, for some reason, have spent any time snooping around the Montreal music scene, you've likely encountered the jagged garage stylings of Mark Sultan. A jangly crooner with a taste for the craggy intersection of punk energy and blues caterwauling, Sultan has been jamming around the Great White North and beyond for an impressive tally of years.
Sultan's recorded output as BBQ — the moniker he goes by when performing as a one-man band — captures the frenetic energy of early garage without a backing band. He plays all the instruments himself and tracks vocals steeped in sneering punk histrionics overtop. "I've never played those songs on tour with a full band," he says. "Between my difficult personality and the fact that my draw isn't huge, I'd have a difficult time paying a band. It would just never work." Nor does it have to; Sultan has distilled the essence of these songs into solo gems, light on spectacle but heavy on attitude.
Asked about his view of the changing music industry, Sultan becomes introspective. "I've been playing music since the early '90s, I guess? Even had some crazy pubescent bands in the '80s." He says he hasn't noticed any change in the amount of modest income a fringe musician can expect. "I think it's more about how the music is consumed so carelessly, without much thought or care about where it comes from. There is such a glut of unnecessary music — I guess you could argue mine to be the same," he says humbly. "I think the 'underground' mentality is gone. The one difficult thing is getting vinyl pressed now that it's hip again. That sucks. I'm sure the delays are killing bands, maybe some who would have been important."
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One of Sultan's more recent projects has been collaborating with another Montreal native, Khan, of King Khan and the Shrines. The two released an LP as the King Khan & BBQ Show in 2015, but Sultan says they've been working together since 2003. "It's not his project, nor is it mine," he explains. "We've toured the world and put out numerous LPs and 45s. We even have a collaborative band with the Black Lips called the Almighty Defenders."
But Sultan will fly to Miami alone, ready to play a set as BBQ this Friday at Gramps alongside locals Buffy and Sandratz. Miami has, so far, been good to Sultan. "I didn't have many expectations at first — nice buildings, good Cuban and Haitian food," he says. "Folks are really nice." No doubt an intimate set at the Wynwood mainstay will reinforce his sunny impression.