Interview: Sunset Sons

As Sunset Sons relax in a Premiere Inn before their gig at London’s Dingwalls the other week, we chat to drummer Jed on the blower. The sunny East London hotel is somewhat sarcastically referred to as “rock and roll”. We’re interrupted by fire alarms (which we concluded was just a test because “that’s what you do on at 12pm on a Wednesday”) but we get going in the end.

Sunset Sons have recently released their new EP, ‘The Fall Line’, and have just done a stint of UK shows after coming home from Nashville where they recorded their debut album. Lots of musical and festival high points coming up on Sunset Sons’ horizon.

So you guys actually met in France, didn’t you? Then toured there doing covers.

I met Rory first, I was travelling teaching surfing and bumming around to be honest, and a friend of mine had opened a bar in this little place called Hossegor. I basically went to see my friend and the night I went Rory was playing a few tunes on the piano and doing a gig for beer. We just got chatting afterwards, I didn’t really have much on so we decided we’re going to make a band.

Seems like a good decision, you’re all from kind of everywhere aren’t you?

Yeah, I’m from Newcastle, Rory’s from the Stonehenge area. To be honest, I’ve known Rory for about five years and he’s never said he’s from the same place twice. I think he’s from somewhere called Alderholt. I think. He always just tells people Stonehenge because he assumes no one knows where Alderholt is. Pete is our token Australian, he’s from Sydney and Rob’s from Epsom so he’s a proper Londoner.

Pete was on holiday because his cousin owned the same bar where I met Rory and Rob was headhunted in because we needed a guitarist. He was actually in England. We just called him and said, “do you want come and be in our band?” and he said, “Yeah, I’ve got a shit job”.

Best decision he’s ever made. 

Exactly. We lied to him, we told him loads of lies.

What did you tell him?

We were doing the little circuits, and we said, “If you come out we’ll give you a grand a week”. It was nothing like that; he was lucky to get a plane ticket.

What was your go to song to cover?

‘Wolf Like Me’ by TV On The Radio was always my favourite. We played all sorts of stuff, all the bands were doing the same thing, and they all sound like wedding bands. We made our success, if you like, on drumming enthusiasm more than musical ability and I think that is quite good [laughs].

Making up for it with enthusiasm.

That was our selling point.

Do you take any inspirations from that time when you’re writing your music now? 

Not really. To be honest, the best part about doing that time was that we got be really good mates, we got to learn how to play together really well and we got to learn about how to do gigs, like how to do a proper set list, how to make the room buzz, all that sort of stuff. But when we’re writing songs, if anything I guess we know what the elements of a good rock and roll song is because we’ve played a lot of them. But when we’re actually writing, it’s not like we go “oh let’s do that or let’s do this”. When we’re writing it just comes out.

You’ve had loads of support from BBC and Radio1 recently, big things happening. That must’ve been amazing to get your new music off the ground. 

It’s noticeable at the minute when we’re doing the shows, all the gigs have been fantastic, they’ve all been sold out and they’ve all been rowdy and stuff. But it just goes up a level with the songs that have been on the radio because people have associated with them because they’ve heard them all the time. It’s been a massive help.

Is it when they’re singing it back to you.

The songs that have been on the radio are the songs they know all the words too. In fairness, some of the ones off the old EP… It goes like the songs on the radio followed very quickly by the ones that have been on the EPs and then the rest everyone is just interested because they’re new songs.

‘The Fall Line’ is your third EP, how come it wasn’t an album at this stage?

Well we’ve just finished recording our album in Nashville, we spent seven weeks there altogether. The reason this one’s not an album yet is because the album wasn’t ready when we did this, we recorded this EP in November I guess. We just wanted to keep putting music out, we had loads of songs but it felt like the right time to put another EP out and just keep getting music out there.

Then we’ve just basically been and done the album, which is going to come out at the end of September. We want to keep playing to people before the record comes out.

Tell me a bit more about the EP and new single ‘Medicine’, it was released like the day before the EP?

You know what happened, it wasn’t going to be but then loads of people were trying to get it when it was on the radio and so we thought let’s just put it out anyway so people can have it. It seemed stupid that all over social media people were complaining that they couldn’t get the songs so we just released it. People that had already pre-ordered the EP, when the EP went live they automatically got the track.

Give the people what they want.

Exactly, it doesn’t hurt does it?

We basically wrote that at the end of last summer. When we were recording it and listening to it back in the studio we thought, “that’s pretty banging, we should probably get that out as quick as we can”. It’s just a good rock and roll song.

You’ve just started a tour the other week, it seems so packed! 

It is. We basically started last Friday in Manchester and we’d been off the plane about three days. Where we’d been making the record in Nashville it had been crazy ice storms and we’ve been totally locked in the studio, just us, the producer. There’s been seven of us together for like a month. We basically had one rehearsal and then showed up in Manchester to 400/500 people going crazy. It was a bit mental. You don’t know what to expect. After two songs it was comfortable. Then the rest of the gigs from there I feel like they’ve just got better and better and better.

Has it been a good reaction to the new EP?

We’ve just been playing a few songs off it, we’ve been playing ‘Blondie’ the second track, which is really rocking. At the minute, we play for about an hour and the other two tunes are like they’re real good to listen to and they will work live eventually but at the minute we just play the rocking ones and just have fun. And the other two you can listen to when you get home.

Have you got a place that you’re most looking forward to for the rest of the tour?

Tonight in London. I was really excited for King Tut’s because of all the history behind that and I was really excited for Newcastle because that’s my hometown.

Home territory. 

Tonight we’re playing Dingwalls, which is like crazy famous and you have to do it on your way up. We sold it out ages ago so that’s exciting. I’ve been into music for a long time, at the minute we’re just ticking all the little boxes of things I’ve always wanted to do. Tomorrow we’re going to St Ives in Cornwall. So I might even squeeze a surf in.

There’s quite a lot of surf/ski talk about you guys…

I’m not sure about the skiing thing.

Is it just because you toured The Alps?

All that happened with the skiing thing, and this is the honest truth, the band, we are surfers and the reason we met is because we lived by the beach and we were in a place where we wanted to be and that’s about it. The skiing thing is, we found out you could go up to The Alps and make money and none of us had any. So we basically went up The Alps to try and save some money gigging so when we came home we could have some time off and go in the water. When we were up in The Alps we just learnt to snowboard and went snowboarding. I wouldn’t say we were snowboarders. Surfing yes, snowboarding we just did it because we were there. Because there was nothing else to do.

You’re back at The Great Escape Festival this year, what do you like most during festival season? Last year you played some amazing festivals, Reading and Leeds, almost Boardmasters…

Almost Boardmasters [laughs]. The Boardmasters thing was fun because even though it got blown away by a tornedo we managed to put on our own little gig that night which was so much fun. The whole town was in disarray, there were just people walking about real bummed out because the festival had been cancelled. We rang round a few different venues and said, “Look we’ll play for free if you just let us have somewhere to play”. So, we found this little place, a café next to the hotel and pulled all the chairs out and put something on Twitter and you couldn’t move. I was surprised more bands didn’t do that. We were so gutted, we were so excited about playing and then it didn’t happen.

More bands should’ve done that! It sounds amazing. 

They should’ve! A lot of the other ones just left. But that’s the way it is.

This festival season there’s so much to look forward to. I’m really excited about Glastonbury. We’re going to do Boardmasters again, which will feel like a bit of a homecoming on the main stage so that will be really good. We’re doing T In The Park, hopefully doing Reading and Leeds again.

Some big’uns.

Some big’uns [laughs] and there will be lots of cider and it’ll be good. I feel like I think we’ve got some good tunes for festivals.

We agree, some of your songs are pretty much made for festivals.

We didn’t do it on purpose, but when I think about it it’s like, “yeah that’ll be good”.

Some tracks just work to a bigger crowd like that, especially if there’s sunshine and cider.

We’re hoping for both of those things.

Where would we most likely find you if you were a customer at a festival? What would you be doing?

It depends, because I’ve only ever been to Glastonbury once and I was about 18. It was weird, I went to see the bands but I drank too much wine and the most fun I had was in the tent that had been turned into a roller rink where you could have fancy dress. So basically roller-skating around dressed as a teddy bear. It was weird. I don’t think you’d find me there all the time. I wasn’t dressed as a teddy bear, I think I might have had a dress on. But that was a lot of fun.

But not something that happens at every festival.

Probably not [laughs].

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Would you rather festival season or touring?

Festival season.

Would you rather have toes for fingers or fingers for toes?

Hold on, I’m having a little look. [Long pause] fingers for toes.

Because you can hide them.

Because you can hide them. Also it might make me be able to fun faster. That’s a plus.

Would you rather never be able to use the Internet again or never be able to watch TV again?

TV definitely. If I can watch movies on my computer then TV can get fucked [laughs].