Interview with Chris Wiser of the Sugar Free Allstars

The dynamic Hammond B-3 and Drum duo, Sugar Free Allstars are known for high-energy grooves, funky attitude and humorously witty lyrics. The music is a unique blend of New Orleans funk to Memphis soul, drenched by Hammond B-3 gospel and mixed with straight up rock and roll!!
By Kacy Stabler

HGMN: How long have you and Rob been playing together as a band?

Wiser: We started out as a 3 piece with a guitar player in 2000 with a different drummer. Rob, or Dr. Rock as we shall henceforth refer to him, joined in about 2002. The guitar player quit in 2004, so we've been kicking it as a duo for about 3 years.

HGMN: You've been in multiple bands with a variety of styles before settling with Sugar Free Allstars. Briefly describe that journey and how you feel about SFA compared to the rest.

Wiser: It's funny, each group I've been in got smaller and funkier. I think SFA is the best of the bunch because it definitely has a "thing" that separates it from the rest. There aren't very many organ/drum duos that sound like a full band and write catchy, quirky tunes and try to put on a high energy, entertaining show. We say that we're a product of corporate downsizing.

Your music has been described as funky, groovy, and very lively. How would you best describe your music?

Wiser: G. Love and Special Sauce meets Booker T. and the M.G.s mixed with the quirkiness of Cake. Then you bump the energy level up a notch or two and you have the Sugar Free Allstars

We all know there is a struggle that musicians face when trying to get their talent out there for people to hear. What was it like for you and the band?

Wiser: It's easy and hard at the same time. Hard because of the awful state the music industry is in as far as how corporate it's become thus making it difficult for music with any merit to get through, but as a reaction it seems like many college and community radio stations and websites and organizations such as Home Grown Music Network have taken more to the quality acts that the industry seems to be ignoring, which in some ways makes it easier.

HGMN: Who was your inspiration when growing up? Who are your favorite artists/bands?

Wiser: My extended family is very musical and they would always sing and play at family reunions (still do). Also my Jr. High band director was an inspiration as well. Favorite artists/bands include Ben Folds, Dr. John, The Meters, Billy Preston (RIP), the Blues Brothers. Mainly older funky stuff.

HGMN: So what is it that you have playing in your cd player right now?

Wiser: We actually listen to more vinyl than CDs. I just found a Dr. John album called One Night Late on Karate Records that I never knew about, it's really good. Also just today I found George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh for cheap, I'm actually listening to that right now.

HGMN: Tell me what it's like for you to travel, tour, be part of something that you have probably always dreamed of?

Well it's definitely cool to be doing something you love for your job, but just like with any job it can get old. There's a lot of things involved in making music a business that are never a part of the dream. As you get older the traveling can definitely wear on you more than when you're a young man. Having said that it is awesome to be able to say that you're at least partially supporting yourself with something you've created. That's definitely a cool feeling.

HGMN: Dogstock Music festival is an excellent way for people to join together for a great cause while enjoying their favorite music. Did this have an effect on why you chose to perform there?

Wiser: The cause is very cool as well as the camaraderie. Just about every band that we're friends with from different parts of the country will be there. It will be great to hang out and jam with all our buddies.

HGMN: So I have to ask, do you have any dogs? If so, will they be joining you for the trip?

Wiser: No dogs, we're cat guys. Easier pets to have when you have to be gone for several days at a time.

What is your tour schedule like these days?

Wiser: We're getting all the way up to North Dakota, down to Texas, out to Memphis and over to Colorado. Thinking about working on a tour to either of the coasts when gas prices come back down.

HGMN: Any big summer plans in mind?

Wiser: We're doing a couple of library tours as part of a kid's summer program. We've got a children's album coming out and these shows will be to help support that CD. We're excited, as this will be something completely new for us.

HGMN: Chris thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions for music goers to learn a little bit about what Sugar Free Allstars is all about. From someone who had not heard a lot of your music before, I love your style and will be sure to spread the word around. Have a great summer!