‘Boom’ goes The Sonics. Again.

‘Boom’ goes The Sonics. Again.

A Northwest rock music legend is relived with theatrical release of film

They pounded their way out of Tacoma and to the top of Northwest rock bands in the 1960s with a music style that eventually earned them legendary status as pioneers of the much-later punk rock movement. 

They were The Sonics, named for the booming noise of jets out of then-McChord Air Force Base and known for a hard-edged sound that gained fans nationally (despite never having a number 1 hit song in the U.S.) and worldwide.

Unlike other garage-bands of their era, the group avoided fading into total obscurity. Helping preserve their legacy, and possibly growing it, is the theatrical release this year of a film that chronicles the band’s rise and tells some of its untold story.

“Boom,” by Whidbey Island filmmaker Jordan Albertsen, is scheduled for a limited release in theaters across North America in 20 market areas in the first quarter of 2024, following gala premieres in Seattle and Los Angeles. The latter will be accompanied by tribute performances of The Sonics’ music, promoters said.

The distribution is being managed by The Forge, an agency headed by Mark Sayre, a producer and director of the annual Vashon Island Film Festival.

Sayre said Albertsen “put painstaking effort” into making the 78-minute film “an engaged, participatory audience experience” that includes interviews with the members of famed Northwest rock bands Pearl Jam, Heart, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney, and has been featured in film festivals from Tacoma to Bremen, Norway, and Greece.

The Sonics’ saga is one of a raw band that went from playing modest gigs at roller rinks and teenage dances at places like Curtis High School in University Place, to headlining major Seattle-area venues such as the Spanish Castle Ballroom and opening for major touring acts at the Seattle Coliseum.

The Sonics’ original songs included “The Witch,” the lynchpin in winning a record-label contract for the band, and “Have Love Will Travel,” which Land Rover licensed in 2004 for a car commercial on television.

British author Vernon Joynson once wrote that The Sonics “exuded a surly demeanor and created one of the rawest, toughest garage sounds.” He also noted the Kinks and the Sex Pistols “have acknowledged The Sonics’ influence on their own music.”

With a caustic sound that limited radio airplay of its songs, The Sonics nevertheless experienced on-and-off longevity after forming in 1960. They released their debut album in 1965 and broke up in the late ‘60s, only to reunite briefly in 1972 and then again in 2007-08, this time longer-term for performances and recording that led to an international concert tour in England Spain, Norway and Belgium, as well as New York and Seattle.

The band’s breakups were fueled by life turns for the members—Larry Parya, Andy Parypa, Rob Lind, Bobby Bennett, and Jerry Roslie. There were returns to college in an effort to avoid the Vietnam War draft, non-music jobs such as commercial pilot, insurance sales, school teacher, and asphalt paving, time spent playing with other bands, and health issues.

Albertsen said he hopes his film’s circuit this year will generate new notoriety for the band, making making “2024 the year of The Sonics.”