According to Sound Tribe Sector 9 guitarist Hunter Brown, “The guiding light in everything we do is, ‘What’s that gonna feel like when we play live?’”
Photo by Taylor Wallace

The rhythm guitarist and bassist discuss mating electronica with rock, and how to make soulful music with machines—without becoming ruled by them.

If there’s virtuosity in sound design and groove, then Sound Tribe Sector 9 surely ranks among the masters. Thanks to two decades at the forefront of electronic rock, the group stands out for its ability to push technology to the limit without losing its musical soul. The band’s bilingual musical fluency is on full display on their latest album, The Universe Inside.

Cofounder Hunter Brown’s guitar work slips from booty-shaking funk to ethereal textures that sometimes blur into synth territory—to the point where you’re not sure if you’re hearing him or keyboardist David Phipps. Meanwhile, the rhythm section—Jeffree Lerner (percussion),Zach Velmer (drums), and the band’s newest member, Alana Rocklin (bass)—provide the pulse with a deft, and often light, touch.

“That feel is what STS9 created,” says Rocklin, a versatile veteran of the Chicago music scene and longtime friend of the band who replaced original bassist David Murphy in 2014. “No one was really doing that before them.”

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