The Rescue Rooms archives: 2016


  • Sunday 23rd October 2016
  • Supported by: TBC

Sunset Sons Header

Genre: Rock

About: Sunset Sons started out as surfers who loved making music. Two hectic years of writing, recording and near non-stop touring - including supposring Imagine Dragons on 36 recent arena dates - have turned them into seasoned musicians who have to squeeze surfing in on the side.

Still, you won't hear the quartet complaining. Swapping waves for stages and beaches for fields (they played 22 festivals last summer) has tuned Sunset Sons into one of Britain's most exciting live bands. Their addictive debut album, Very Rarely Say Die, captures both the raucous spirit of those live shows and the carefree attitude that made the four friends in the first place.

"A lot of our songs are about escapism," says drummer Jed, who began playing in bands in his native Newcastle in his early teens. "Not escapism as in running away so much as seeking new experiences. Which I guess is what we've always done. It's about living life as one long adventure."

Very Rarely Say Die was recorded partly at Nashville's legendary Blackbird Studios with multiple Grammy Award winning producer Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Kings Of Leon, James Bay) and partly with producer James Lewis at a small studio near the quartet's adopted home of Hossegor in South-West France, one of the world's top surfing towns. The contrast is apt. Since announcing their arrival in 2013 with self-released debut Le Surfing, Sunset Sons have mixed radio-friendly melodic pop with rough-around-the-edges, funk-fuelled rock.

"We want our records to reflect the grungey feel of our live shows," says Bournemouth-born singer Rory, who started writing songs aged 14 and whose glorious, gritty vocals are now Sunset Sons' calling card. "We're not a polished, perfect band. That's not our vibe at all."

Surrey-raised Rob provides the sleazy, surf guitars. Party starter Pete, who grew up South of Sydney and once worked as an electrician in desert mines, is responsible for the funky basslines. The four met in 2012, at a Hossegor bar called Le Surfing, owned by Pete's cousin. An impromptu karaoke perfomance by Rory, who had never sung in public before, caught Jed's attention and after too many beers, they resolved to form a band, roping in Rob and Pete by the end of the week.

None intended for music to become a career. Then cheekily called The Cheerleaders, they were a boisterous covers band who spent two winter seasons scraping a living playing pubs and clubs in the Alps while waiting for summer to return. When they started slipping their own songs into their sets however, the reaction from their fast-swelling fan base was instant.

"Having played nine two-hour shows a week in the Alps, we became incredible tight," says Rob, "and, as it turned out, unwittingly taught ourselves how to write songs."

For fun, as Sunset Sons, they released Le Surfing, a four-track EP written in a disused industrial kitchen in Hossegor and produced by their friend James Lewis. When it made the iTunes Top 10 in the UK, where they'd yet to play a gig, labels came calling. A series of EPs throughout 2014 and a sell-out headline tour saw them on the BBC's Sound Of poll last year.

Twice, between tours, they decamped to Nashville to record new songs, among them the album's explosive opener Know My Name and joyous new single Somewhere Maybe, which builds into a frantic finale that sums up the raw energy of their live shows. Back in Hossegor, they recorded the adrenaline-driven Tick Tock, bluesy, widescreen beauty Bring The Bright Lights and the shimmering Gold, driven by one of Rory's insistent piano riffs. One late night in London, they wrote and recorded Lost Company, their most personal song to date.

"Lost Company is about my Dad, who passed away a few years ago in bad circumstances," Says Rory, "It was Rob's idea I write about him. We had this tune with a simple piano riff that we all knew was special, but needed some lyrics.

"It's probably the song we're most proud of. It's emotional, but it doesn't hide what happened. People really connect with it live, although sometimes I find it hard to sing. We performed it at a gig the day after the Paris shootings and I just welled up. Fans tell us it reminds them of friends and family they've lost."

Four of Very Rarely Say Die's twelve tracks - among them Radio 1 playlisted singles She Wants and Remember - fans will recognise from previous EPs. Closing track I Can't Wait, from the band's live set, appears as a piano ballad which is how they first wrote it.

Early comparisons to Kings Of Leon and the Chili Peppers have long since been shrugged off. Sunset Sons' mix of swagger and sensitivity, of crispness and chaos, of funk and soul meets pop and rock is all their own. Two of their songs, Remember and former single Medicine, appeared last year on Guitar Hero Live, but even the band couldn't keep up with the game.

"We tried to play it when we came off stage at Reading last year," laughs Pete, "we'd just had an entire tent singing along to those songs. On Guitar Hero, we were so bad the game booed us. We decided to stick to playing live."

Aside from Reading and Leeds, last year's festival highlights included being applauded by a side-of-stage Michael Eavis during their packed Glastonbury set, being promoted to near top of the bill at Boardmasters, encountering giraffes at the Netherlands' Best Kept Secret and boosting their German fan based at Southside and Hurricane. This summer's schedule, which follows a UK and Europe headline tour, is destined to be even busier. Not to mention bigger.

"Our live show has definitely stepped up a gear since playing arenas with Imagine Dragons," says Rory, "You have to fill these huge rooms with atmosphere and energy every night. It's a totally different type of performance to playing in clubs. Fortunately, we have a set full of big songs made to be sung back." Sunset Sons now also have the debut album they've dreamed of since swapping surfing for stages. Not that surfing is entirely off the agenda.

"We still surf whenever we can," says Jed, "Like last year in Malibu, when we were over there recording. The problem was the water was fucking freezing. We couldn't wait to get back in the studio."

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