“Delivering an eclectic musical concoction, Sunset Place twist influences from a wide range of artists such as Hiatus Kaiyote, Erykah Badu, Jeff Buckley, and Joni Mitchell. With soulful harmonies and groovy rhythms which contrast their brooding, powerful lyrics, Sunset Place brew a unique sound that continues to captivate audiences.”
Listening to Neo-soul newcomers Sunset Place is like having warm sunshine beaming down on your face. Already having performed around Sydney and gaining a following it is now time for the rest of us to sit back and have the glorious sounds of this band wash over us.
Jess, Ethan, Ben and Cat sat down with me to introduce us to their unique sound.
Cat: I joined over a year ago just before lockdown and Ben joined in October. Ethan and Jess have been working on this project for about three years. I just went in to play with them to see if our vibes fit and they said they would love to have me but due to covid we couldn’t see each other or rehearse.
Jess: Ethan and I started this project around the start of 2018. We met in another pop band, I was playing bass and Ethan was playing lead guitar. We both went to see a Hiatus Kaiyote gig in Parramatta, we were so amazed that we wanted to start our own band. One that wasn’t pop but a bit more experimenting in music harmony and rhythm. Would you agree Ethan that’s how it sort of started?
Ethan: I don’t really remember!
Jess: We both decided to start studying sound production at TAFE. We studied together for two years and during that time we were writing songs and recording demos. Over Covid we found Cat and Ben and that’s how we became a four piece.
Is it just you and Ethan doing the writing still or is it more collaborative now?
Jess: A bit more collaborative now. I think we spent a lot of the first half of this year just working on recording. We have been writing though, we have one new song that is finished that was collaborative. Cat wrote the lyrics and we all came up with parts.
Cat: We were just jamming and came up with the chorus. We just built around those two chords, every time we rehearsed we would add a bit more until it became an actual song. It was a really cool process, I actually enjoyed it. It was a bit different to how the other songs were written.
Ben: I think we are going to do songs like that for a bit aren’t we. It’s a good way to write songs.
Phone in the middle of the room to record!
Jess: Pretty much. In saying that if any of you guys want to write a hit song I won’t say no!
Have you been able to play together since restrictions are easing?
Cat: We have had quite a few support slots and then we also had our single launch last week. We have a few more support slots lined up and then another headliner show.
Jess: We have been pretty busy despite Covid.
Sounds like you have been really busy. I know some bands are still trying to find places to have show’s due to the backlog of postponed gigs.
Cat: One of the perks is that local bands are getting more space because we don’t have international bands coming in. I think that might be what is also helping us.
Ben: I feel that is a major thing actually. A lot more people are going to see local bands now just because they can’t go to see the international acts. I’m noticing a lot more people at local shows.
Jess: Also because in clubs and stuff there hasn’t been dancing due to restrictions. I feel that watching a band seated is still a lot more fun than going to a club seated.
‘Still Mourning’ is you debut single; it must be great to finally have it out.
Jess: This is one of the songs that I wrote while I was studying at TAFE with Ethan. When I wrote it I was going through a rough time but I had someone close to me that was going through a rough time quite publicly. I was trying to write a song describing my experiences hoping that it could help them in a way. Trying to have a conversation with them while talking about themes that are quite universal. Like people always being there to be supportive and help you out when you are struggling. For me personally I wanted to record this song as our first single because I think going through Covid, the universal meaning of the song was quite relevant. Even more so maybe because of everything that has happened to everyone through the pandemic.
What sort of musical background do you all come from?
Ben: I grew up listening to a lot of punk and metal. A lot of 80’s punk like Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains and stuff like that. I was also really into Hip Hop so I listened to a lot of 2Pac when I was a kid and Biggie Smalls. I wasn’t really into Hiatus Kaiyote and the bands that these guys listen to before I joined, I have just recently started discovering that stuff. Which is really cool for me. I was kind of into it because I feel like Hip Hop and Soul are kind of related.
Cat: I grew up with 70’s rock, from my dad especially, he is British 70’s rock. That is always going to be close to my heart. I am all over the place, I have loved everything from the 60’s onwards. I get really into musical theatre. Funk and disco has been a huge influence for me, that is always a constant,. That’s what I love about the genre we do, I only really started listening to neo-soul when I joined as well so I am similar to Ben. I love soul, but I didn’t listen to much contemporary music, I listened to classic soul and funk. It was a nice discovery.
Ethan: I grew up listening to a lot of R’n’B from the 90’s and 00’s, like Neo and Usher. I then go into a lot of pop punk- Paramore, Fall Out Boy through my emo faze. Then I tried to get into metal, I got really obsessed with one particular band and that somehow got me into neo-soul.
Ben: Which band?
Ethan: I would say when I was getting into metal, Bullet For My Valentine.
Ben: I was really into them too.
Ethan: And Avenged Sevenfold. Then I got more into the classic metal like Metallica and Megadeth and then somehow I ended up getting into neo-soul through Hiatus Kaiyote and Erykah Badu. That’s around when I met Jess and I introduced her to that sort of stuff. She showed me Jeff Buckley and that sort of genre. Shortly after we started the band and that’s how we got our sound.
Ben: It’s really cool. I feel like all those genres are connected in some way. I remember going from genre to genre as a kid and it was super interesting to me how all these different music scenes connect to each other. They all take influence from each other.
A lot of the metal bands are really pushing boundaries with adding other genre influences.
Ethan: Yeah I have noticed there is a lot of EDM influence coming through in the metal now.
Jess: I have been singing since I was seven and I learnt the acoustic guitar to avoid having to dance on stage because that is what my singing teacher expected me to do. I really got into doing solo folk music, my parents introduced me to Joni Mitchell, Tracey Chapman, Joan Armatrading and Jeff Buckley. I got into female front women like Grace Slick, Stevie Nicks, Chrissy Amphlett and Sara McLeod. I spent a lot of time, maybe until the end of my music degree, just focusing on learning alternate guitar tuning and doing solo stuff. Just really enjoying music that was focused on lyrics, the voice and one other instrument. I was always very passionate about harmonies and modal music but there wasn’t a lot of that in the folk music that I was listening too. I think when I was introduced to Hiatus Kaiyote it was like a bridge to the lyric writing and the folk that I enjoyed and the passion that comes from the folk music, to being able to experiment with different types of harmonies and rhythms. For me, a lot of the songs that I am writing, it’s fun to be able to write the music that I was always interested in folk wise but also experiment with the harmonies. I just get super interested in the whole theory side of things. So yeah that’s me.
Is there more new music coming soon from you guys?
Ethan: Yes there is, we have quite a few. I am studying audio engineering at the moment and throughout my time there pretty much every major project in regard to studio work I have gotten us in. So there are a few things there. I don’t want to say to much because things always change. It took us so long just to release this one song, its probably two or three years old. We are aiming for one more release, either a single or EP, this year. It’s all stuff that we play live so people have definitely heard them in one form or another. We will see how things go but it would be great to release some more stuff.
How has Still Mourning been received?
Cat: We have had heaps of positive feedback from people. It’s been really nice actually.
Jess: My mum really likes it. It’s been better that what I thought our first release would go to be honest. Especially when we are not that well built on social media. It seems to be reaching people that I wouldn’t expect and we have already been played on the radio twice. One of the people that played it on the radio did so because they walked past us busking on the street.
Wow that’s so good.
Jess: The random opportunities that we have been given have been really nice and really encouraging. Even all the extra gigs we have been offered since the single release has also been quite encouraging as well. How are you guys finding the single release so far?
Ben: It’s been good. I was going to say I feel like we have a lot of friends between us all who have been super supportive of our work. I feel like that has been a major component in the success of the single so far. We are trying to step up our game on social media and learning all the ins and outs of promoting yourself. It’s been a big learning curve as well. I think a lot of bands don’t realise how much work it is. Cat’s been doing a lot of stuff for the single release.
Cat: It’s a lot of work. We are very mindful of taking care of each other too and our own mental health so we are trying to really work as a team. We all have our own strengths and I think we do a really good job of dispersing the work load. I just wanted to add that we are really proud of our single and we are excited for all the stuff that is coming up.
Ethan: We would love people to listen to our single and support not only us but all local musicians and venues. Help out the little guys because it has been such a tough year for everyone.
Ben: Definitely please come to local shows, please buy band merch, please buy anything that bands release. Try and support local bands any way you can. Let’s see if we can get this scene up and going again.
Jess: And also support women in music.
A big yes to that Jess.
Jess: One thing our band will be mindful about is the amount of women that walk onto the stage of a gig that we have control of. When we had our single mixed we kept in mind that we wanted Antonia Gauci to mix it because we wanted to support more women sound engineers. Women are just as talented as men and it shouldn’t be normalised to have a gig where all the crew and supports are men, or the bands are all men. Honestly its not a talent thing its an experience thing. I personally think that the reason why there are more men that get further is just because they have been given more opportunities. That is where you gain your experience, so the more opportunities we can provide for females the more chance they have to get further.