‘We’re living the dream on the road…so no complaints!’: An interview with Sunset Sons (14/03/2015)

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I was scheduled to interview Sunset Sons right before they came on to play their show at the Old Fire Station in Bournemouth on 13th April – but due to overrunning they ran out of time for the day. Instead I caught up with frontman Rory Williams on the phone the next day as they drive to Birmingham for their last show of their March UK tour.

Rory: Did you come to the gig last night?

Yeah! It was amazing! It was really good!

Rory: We had a good night! It was a really good night! I don’t know but it may have been the best night on tour. A lot of friends and families were in the crowd, it was nice to see a lot of familiar faces and for them to enjoy it.

That was the second last show of the tour…

Rory: Yeah! We are off to Birmingham now and it’s really good to tour cities, just to enjoy new cities and stuff, bigger venues, it’s quite exciting! Especially when we first came to Bournemouth, we played a sort of 200 capacity venue, it was amazing, completely packed, but to play the Fire Station last night to 550 people or something – it’s crazy!

So how has the journey been from being The Cheerleaders in French Alps resorts to being Sunset Sons, writing and touring?

Rory: It doesn’t seem that different ‘cause the fact that it’s still us four spending a lot of time together but the shows are getting bigger and better. It’s now more kind of a job, sort of before and after gigs to go out to the crowd and do interviews and loads of sessions. When it comes to shows, the shows are a lot more energy and we never get bored singing our songs, it’s the best part of tour! It’s going well! It is amazing!

I think some way to explain it is it’s kind of hard because it all happened so fast. Like last night, I remember certain songs and the start, but it all happened so quick and you come off and you’re like – it’s intense enjoyment.

Did you name your first EP Le Surfing after the bar where you all sort of first met and started?

Rory: Yeah we did, yeah! We think it’s the story as it’s told. You get a lot of bands maybe met at school, maybe friends for years, we mutually met at this bar or we met through a mutual friend. When we were sort of heading up the mountains to try to start a band, I’ve done a lot of gigs and [at]my first ever gig I met Jed and Jed sort of had a couple beers with me and said “Let’s do a band!”  and I’m like “Yeah good idea!”

Pete’s [the band’s bassist] cousin actually owns the bar Le Surfing and Pete was stationed there for sort of a holiday and we’ve sort of been building a new home there ever since. We got a lot of love at the bar, it’s like our home from home. All of our friends we know now – we met them there and it’s the beginning of Sunset Sons really.

From what I gathered, you recorded your No Bad Days EP in Wales and your upcoming debut album – due out in September – in Nashville?

Rory: You’ve done your research! I like you! When did we do No Bad Days then… that was last year, we went to Wales for like a week, and we did a bit of pre-production, to sort of get the tunes out when we want to record them. We stayed with the producer and we spent a whole week there. It’s a bit like a farm, there’s like orange farms around the bit. I think it has been four days before we even left the driveway. We took all the parts we had so we concentrated on it. It was good. It was intense but you get in the studio and we recorded a few tunes for the radio and it was amazing.

Have you listened to the new EP?

Yeah! It just came out last Sunday didn’t it?

Rory: It went to the charts as well! The first EP kind of got us noticed, got us into the musical world. We went up to number six in the rock charts, you might already know the story, but each time we had an EP it got better, with No Bad Days we were at number three and then we managed to go to number one on Sunday with the new EP.

Does recording in Wales differ from recording in Nashville?

Rory: It is different. The guy James Lewis we did No Bad Days with, he did the first EP with us, and we managed to persuade him [to]get him on board. Because we are a band that hasn’t done anything and we were doing all these things but no one knew about us. And he was doing stuff with Rudimental and we got him on board and he is amazing! Four of the songs we worked with him on got on the radio. He’s international, he worked with a band called To Kill a King, and he’s quite the legend in the music world. The EP kind of got sent some demos to see if he wanna work with [us], normally you have to push it to big producers and say these guys are gonna do really well and he heard a couple tunes and he worked with loads of bands. We were excited. He’s done works with Kings of Leon, Of Monsters and Men, all like platinum selling records. So when you found out it’s who you’ve got to work with, it’s very exciting. When we met him, it took about 24 hours to get into character, and we were all really good mates. The engineer we are working with, he’s worked on some Jack White records and we are in good hands!

How about the crowds you played to? Is there any differences between those in the Alps and those you played to on tours?

Rory: They are, massively. For example, when we first started we played a lot of other people’s songs as a cover band, you can get reactions ‘cause you play a song that people like and know about, where now the fact we play our tunes, like we played ‘Medicine’ last night, you saw the gig, you know! We played ‘Remember’, they just go crazy for the sing-along with 500 other people and having a good time. It’s still quite a lot to take in, it all happened so fast. This time last year we were still writing the album, we obviously didn’t have any money, I think the EP had just been released. We were in a summer house but being there in the winter is pretty bleak. There are gaps in the window so when it was raining indoors, me and Pete were kind of mopping up all the water inside.

Where are you based now then? Are you still living in the place in Hossegor?

Rory: I haven’t been back for three months! Do you know what I’d say, we live on the road but there’s TV and bed in the southwest of France. We haven’t been back for three months, it’s crazy. We’ll be back next week. I’m paying rent over there so I should really spend a couple nights in my bed! [laughs]But we’re living the dream on the road; going from country to country, town to town, city to city so no complaints! Touring has been great!

So do you still get time to surf or snowboard in between shows and driving?

Rory: We used to more last year because the tour was more spaced out and now obviously we got a lot more cities, we got people like yourself that want interviews, so we are really busy but we get a little time off next week. Hopefully we can get into the water. But we want to be busy, you start to get more free time and you spend a lot of time in the water and mountain and you will be like, we are not working enough, and now it’s go go go, it’s like a pat on the back.

What are the things you do between driving to cities and gigs? Do you get time to explore when you go to a place?

Rory: Before we went to Nashville, the weather was a bit crappy, but we went out and got a few pictures in the tourist area, whether it’s museums –  or we normally try to go and find a nice bar and have some nice beer so we found a couple of bars. It depends. Yesterday we were really late, obviously I know the place really well but it was nice to have a little venture around and see the old place I used to hang out. But we got in late, we had to do the sound check and go do the VANS in-store session so it all depends. If we have the time, we definitely venture out, do a bit of touring, and get out to the town. Hopefully it’ll get easier and we’ll have more time outside the van then in it.

About the VANS in-store session, that’s the second one you did yesterday? Did you do one over the last summer?

Rory: We did The Winchester last November.

In the VANS store, you played acoustically – is it different from playing with all your instruments?

Rory: It is. It is different because we had played acoustically and we do enjoy it because it has a stripped down feel. But we hadn’t done in a while so it was a bit you know sort of ‘give it a shot’. I’m so used to playing [the]piano so it’s weird not to be playing it but we are pretty diverse, we can do that as well. It’s all good. We like playing loud though! I really did enjoy the in-store [session]yesterday, we didn’t expect many people turn up but we had a full shop!

Actually, I first came across you from hearing ‘Remember’ being an ad before a YouTube video and you have also been featured on VEVO’s DSCVR, so has the online exposure brought in a lot of new audiences for you?

Rory: With online messages asking would it be on iTunes yet from Spain, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, America, it’s all down to the fact that YouTube sort of made music available to everyone. I think it’s really important the way YouTube gets advertised now is through social media. We are doing TV but YouTube is a massive part of it, it’s how I found a lot of bands I love nowadays.

So is there anyone in particular you are listening to at the moment or any recommendations?

Rory: Yeah! Definitely! I don’t think this is a new band ‘cause they are new in sort of in last year, but I’ve been listening to loads of Catfish and the Bottlemen. Great band, I haven’t seen them live yet but just on YouTube, they’re great. There’s a new guy, he did the BBC Introducing Stage in Leeds [Festival] and me and Jed saw him last year, a guy called Jack Garratt. He’s amazing! He puts a lot of musicians to shame, he does the drums, the keys, the guitar. We saw him in Brighton at The Great Escape and Jed was like, we have to come see this guy, and I was blown away, one of the best vocals I’ve ever heard. He got a bit of – I think – Sam Smith element, but his music is sort of more electro and I just can’t stop listening to his EP. But live is where you should go to check him out. Can I think of anyone else? War on Drugs – we listened to them a lot… I can’t even remember! There are loads of other people but sorry my mind’s blank!

What’s next on the agenda – apart from your May UK tour – and hopefully no hurricanes this time at the Boardmasters?

Rory: Hurricane Bertha, she came in and she took our gig away from us! We’ve got a Europe tour and America tour before the May UK tour in April. And then the festivals start, which we’ve got Glastonbury, Isle of Wight. We’ve been told Reading and Leeds are confirmed but we’re just waiting for a slot, I really hope we do that, that was really special last year. What else have we got? We’ve got T in the Park, there’s also some not as well-known festivals, there’s one we never heard of called Kendal Calling but I think Snoop Dogg will be there which should be great and there are some other great bands, I used to listen to Embrace back in the days and they are playing. My mind has gone a bit blank but there are some other festivals coming up as well. Definitely our year of festivals. We got quite a lot on the bill. We’re doing one in Germany as well, a lot of bands on there that I’m a big fan of. And the album gets released in September which you already know so we have to do another interview nearer the time when that comes out or you can give us a review of the album! That’ll be cool! See what my home crowd think of this new album!

Looking into the future, what is your expected curve of progression?

Rory: We get asked that a lot every time we come back to our shitty little town or at a festival. If we slowly climb out of the bills and the venues get bigger, the crowds are getting bigger then I think that’s the aim, if we’re doing this few years down the line. At the moment, obviously there’s a lot of interest going around we are all aware that one minute you could be hot, if you will, and then the next you’re old news. So I think we still want to be relevant and just have the appeal [of]what we seemed to gather at the moment. If you still want an interview in three years’ time then I think we’re doing well.

After all the questions, Williams wished me a good weekend and apologised for the timed out yesterday. He was really friendly and I had a good time speaking with him despite the call getting cut off a few times. Catch them live at one their tour dates or festival slots throughout summer and most definitely keep an eye out for their upcoming debut album!

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tea & coffee fueled lifetime music fanatic and avid gig lover

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