BBG Presents: Sunset Sons

16 October 2015

Photographer Nicola Collins
Interview and words India Opie Meres

You know when you’re young, and you lie in bed at night and imagine how your life will turn out? Are you going to get a job and be boring, working 9-5 with very little sleep and move around with a stiff back and be tired all the time? The same routine every day. Or are you going to be different and do what you really want to do? Everyone thinks they’re going to be different when they’re young. It’s a shame not many of us follow it through.

If you were to ask a 10 year old boy, right now, what they wanted their life to be when they’re older, they’d probably describe Sunset Sons' existence. These boys have got it made, living in the south of France, surfing and making music - flying out to play Reading and Leeds Festival and things like that, when they’re called upon. Carefree and at one with nature, that’s how it should be.

Boys by Girls meet Sunset Sons in a small coffee shop in Hackney, where the sound of the milk steamer is inappropriately loud and makes us laugh at irregular intervals. Photographer Nicola Collins captures the boys as we wander through the streets of London afterwards, talking about what it’s like to make music with your best friends, and how starting off as a ski resort band worked in their favour.

How did it all begin for Sunset Sons?
Rory: I was in South West France. I basically got a lift over there from a couple of mates who were doing a little bit of a tour. They dropped me off there and I went to this bar, and due to me hanging around there a little bit, I ended up getting my first little gig. I didn't really have many friends and I was always hanging out there. I did my first acoustic gig in there, if you want to call it a gig. That is where I met Jed.
Rob: It wasn't really a gig haha.
Jed: I do a lot of travelling around teaching surfing and I met this guy called Woody, who owns the bar. I was just passing through, and I went to the bar one night to see Woody, and that was the night Rory was playing. I had been in bands before and I’d really wanted to be in one again for a while. We got chatting afterwards and then we formed a band.
Jed: That kind of classic conversation where you’re like, 'what are you doing here? Wanna do some work together? Yeah sweet'.

So you're doing alright for your first band?
Rory: I always thought I was in a little band on my own, but that was just me in my house going mad.

Do you think that how you started when you did ski seasons influenced how you work as a band?
Rory: Definitely, because we didn't have very much time to get ready and we had to learn songs fast and you obviously want to be playing to the best of your ability.
Jed: It helped us get really tight. We were playing like ten shows a week so it was a lot.
Rory: We did our time haha.

Did you start to write whilst you were doing those ski seasons?
Jed: We started in the summer really.
Pete: But, we didn't formulate full songs until the following summer.
Rob: Back a couple of months we rented like a dance studio that was all painted pink and had mirrors on the wall. We rented it every Friday afternoon regardless of what we had happening in our lives. We would go in there for like four or five hours every Friday, and we would finish a song, then start a song and then do another etc.

That is very dedicated.
Jed: By the end of the summer we had a good handful of decent tunes. Then we would demo them and that is where we made the first EP from.
Rory: And then shit got cray, once people started talking about the EP, which confused us, because we had never played a show in England, never mind in London. Our manager started getting phone calls. It was when we did our first couple of shows where people came to see us, we had a few people come to France.
Pete: It was one of the ones that made it to iTunes. Number 6 in the iTunes rock charts.

What kind of stuff do you write about and what inspires you to write?
Rory: I think keeping it personal to us. We write about stuff we have all experienced and stuff that I have personally experienced. We’re not going to be singing songs about money of whatever, we write about real stuff like relationships and family.
Jed: We’ve got quite a few tunes about escapism and various other stuff. We chose to live where we live and do what we do, so that’s what we write about. It’s not in a gloating way, it’s just because it is something we know about. We chose to go and live and hang out in a little beach town in the South of France, because that’s where we can make music, go surfing and hang with our friends. We’re not going to write about drinking in Hackney boozers, because that’s not what we do.
Rory: That is the next album, haha.

What is the worst bit of being in a band?
Rory: We spend a lot of time together.
Rob: There isn't a time when we are not in close proximity, but that isn't a bad thing.
Rory: Sometimes it is a bad thing.
Jed: We have quite a lot of early mornings.
Pete: I would say early mornings are the hardest part, but it’s hard, not bad. It is all good.
Jed: We get to borrow money off each other all the time, because we are always together. There is always a floating 20 quid, haha.
Rob: It’s a web of lies, deceit and fivers.

The EP cover for ‘She Wants’ with the shark, I really like it and wondered how you came up with that?
Rory: A friend of ours came up with it. He basically brought the idea forward to Jed.
Jed: He basically sent me a message saying, 'what do you think of this and do you think the lads would like it'. So that was it. We then had to get the ok from National Geographic for the shark, because that is where the picture of the shark came from.
Rory: It definitely stands out, doesn't it?
Jed: It would make a good T-Shirt.
Rory: Do you want a T-shirt?

Yes, please send me a T-shirt when you’ve made it.
Pete: We could just go and get one printed now.

It would be very expensive.
Rory: We could just get 3.

Or four, and then you could wear them on stage.
Rory: Matching outfits!

Have you ever been tempted to wear matching outfits on stage?
Rory: We have a picture from when we went out one night actually. We all came out of our rooms and were all in denim. Denim jackets and jeans. We were all like, 'well, I’m not changing', so we all just went out in the same.
Jed: It was ridiculous.
Rory: I love it. I always try and dress the same and hope that me and Robbie are going to rock up and look exactly the same.
Rob: He tries his best.

Are you all very close?
Rory: Being in a band is something that will either make you or break you. It is cool though, I really enjoy it. I wouldn't want to do this on my own. You feel like you have your boys with you wherever you go.
Pete: It must be quite lonely doing it by yourself.
Rory: Yeah I’ve always thought that. Obviously if it goes well, you have a big team around you, but yeah.
Pete: Between the four of us there is always someone who wants to go for a surf in the morning, or grab some food when we have some downtime or go for beers or something. It is just a good balance.

I can imagine that it’s quite useful to have four of you so you keep grounded?
Jed: It is really important that there are four of us, so that we can all pull the other one out of their own arse.
Rory: Our tour manager is pretty good, he also keeps us very grounded. We watch at festivals other tour managers pampering their bands or whatever, and then you see us and I won't tell you what he calls us, but it is abuse, haha.
Pete: He calls us the dummies. He’s like 'dummies assemble, lets go'.

When you are performing what do you like the audience to get out of it?
Jed: All the best artists and shows that I have been to there is not a divide between the audience and the band. It feels like a celebration at a party. You don't need to be jumping up and down, but everyone should feel involved throughout the whole thing.
Pete: The people playing it should be as into it as the crowed. That is how I have always seen it. Sometimes a band go up on stage and it is obviously people just watching a band play solo and then you go and see other people, like we saw Jack White in Nashville, and all of the band were having as much fun, if not more fun than the crowd.

He is incredible. I had tickets to the last ever White Stripes tour, and then he cancelled last minute and it literally broke my heart. Then they never did another tour, I was so upset.
Rory: He played a few White Stripes tunes, it was special. It is all about making the crowed feel involved.
Pete: Having people sing along to your songs is always great.
Jed: We played a show in Spain at 2am, and we’d never played so late or in Spain before. But things start really late there, like bands start to come on at 8pm and finish at five in the morning. We were thinking “will there be anyone there at 2am”, but there were loads of people. It was mental.
Rory: On our last tour, we got to the end of it, and we had been touring for a while. Getting time off was minimal. I remember for the last few shows I was knackered, but the crowd completely bring you around. Then you think this is the best job ever. It definitely got my spirits up, and they were two of the best shows I’ve ever played. You go from being a bit tired to having a little beer, and then the crowd rev you up.
Pete: The one at Bournemouth was the best.

How do you deal with coming off stage when you have had that massive high?
Rory: Massive bottle of wine.
Pete: You normally have to change your T-Shirt.
Rory: You need 5 minutes to cool down, it is a weird sensation, isn't it.
Rob: Sometimes I like to sit down and just go, 'well that was fucking passive wasn’t it'.
Jed: We supported a band in France once, and we played a massive venue with seven or eight thousand people. It was the first time we had really done a big show. The dressing room we had was bigger than most of the gigs we used to do. Before we went on we weren’t really nervous, it was all so surreal and then you play, and you go off and it hits you.
Rory: We played Koko last Halloween and when we came off we had invited a load of our friends to come back stage, so it was nice to just enjoy that. It is nice when you have your mates backstage to just hang out with and have some beers with.
Jed: It makes it a lot more fun and a lot more normal.
Rory: It takes about 5 minutes before we all start taking the piss out of each other again.
Jed: “What were you doing on that song?”
Pete: “Who came in on the wrong key?”

Do you do that, dissect it?
Rory: Yeah, you can’t help it.
Rob: We’re quite self critical, you have to be.
Rory: Keeps you grounded.

You guys played Reading Festival, have you ever been there as a camper?
Jed: I went to Leeds when I was around 16 or 17.
Rory: My second ever festival I played. I went to my first ever festival with these two, and then I was like, 'Jed, I like this, we should do these'. So I’ve never really done the camping thing.

You’re all from different parts of the world. Do you think that has influenced your music?
Pete: To some extent yeah. I mean, we all have the same general base of bands that we admire, like the Beatles or Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, that kind of stuff. We all have our own specific niesche tastes.
Rory: Yeah, I suppose when Pete grew up he was listening to a lot of punk and heavy metal, which I wasn’t listening to growing up, because of where I came from. It’s a nice mix, I think we all have so many different tastes, but agree on so many different things as well.
Pete: It’s nice, because if we’re writing a song and it passes all of our tastes, that’s a good sign. We reference a lot of Blue when Rob’s writing guitar parts for instance.
Rob: I’ve been listening to a lot of Oasis at the moment.
Jed: We’ve got a few common things that we like, and then a lot of it is quite old school.
Rory: There’s quite a few new bands I’ve been listening to at the moment, I suppose, because I’ve been going to so many festivals, so I’ve been listening to some great London based bands. I’m a big Catfish fan, Circa Waves, and there’s a band called Findlay, who are great. We saw them at Isle of Wight and they’re really cool.

What’s the best festival you’ve played?
Everyone: Glastonbury.
Rob: Isle of Wight. No, Glasto.
Jed: After the second song I was like, wow this is cool. I spent The Who gig trying to tell Rory that someone was there, and he just kept shouting what at me. I had a little walk around the tent before we played and it wasn’t that busy. It was still early, and the tractor was putting bails of hay in, because it was so wet. Then we came back and it was rammed and no one could get it. It was amazing. The guy on the sound desk said he couldn’t remember it being that busy at that time of day ever.
Rob: I can’t really remember it, I felt so ill and thought I was going to fall over. I went on feeling sick and I came off feeling worse.
Pete: We went on quite early, so we had a few beers quite early on, which was a bit surreal when you’re having a bacon and egg roll and then a beer.
Rory: That was the biggest for sure. I remember Jed saying, 'wow it’s really quiet for the gig before'. I went on and just said 'Don’t look up', and I didn’t look up for most of the last song, and then I looked up and there was a sea of people. That was a moment.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Jed: Spuds.
Rory: A few Spinal Tap quotes and a bit of abuse, ‘Don’t fuck up’.
Jed: Because we’ve played so many times together and done so many gigs, it’s just quite normal. You just get on and do it.
Rory: Do you know what I like about it right, when we were doing this Zenith thing and there was a few thousand people. You do it when there are like 50 people in the room and shout spuds and have a pat on the bum or whatever, but then we do it in-front of 6,500 people and you do the same little ritual, but the crowd is getting bigger. I know that’s the aim, but it’s still us four.

If you guys had a book out, what would you call it?
Rory: That’s a good question.
Jed: All I can think of is Spinal Tap quotes.

Back to book names.
Jed: And Why Not.

That’s a good name. What’s the most disgusting habit each of you has on tour?
Rory: You really want to ask that? I don’t know, we’re all pretty clean aren’t we?
Jed: We always stay with the same people in hotel rooms, split up two and two, so we don’t really have to deal with that. Those two wake up really early and I don’t. Pete never wears any underwear.
Pete: Rory has to take his trousers off as soon as we get into the hotel. He spends a lot of time in his pants.

Are they Y fronts?
Rory: No, they’re not y fronts, haha. I wear just tight ball hugging pants. I actually got given some y fronts from a girl last year and I was like 'I’m never going to wear these'. This one (Rob) has no bad habbits, best roomie ever.
Rob: I pick my nose.
Pete: You know when you’re tired and you go “ooooo” and make weird noises? He (Jed) always does that a lot. He does that all day. You did it three times when were parking the car.
Jed: I did the last shift and it was heavy.
Rory: Sharing a room with him is absolutely fine, but if he is hungry or tired you’ll know about it. What are your bad habbits?

I don’t have any!
Rory: Oh come on!

I’m very messy.
Pete: That doesn’t fly in this household.
Jed: A tidy hotel room is a happy hotel room.

When I’m at my parents house I’m always so messy, but I’m not when I’m on my own. And my mum always go “oh it’s because you don’t respect my house!”.
Rory: That happens with my mum! When I go home she says 'Do you want a sandwich or do you want a cup of tea?' and I say, yeah I’ll have a sandwich and a cup of tea, and then 45 minutes later she says 'Do you want another sandwich?' and I’m thinking, this is getting pretty good. Then the plates start to pile up and about five days in she goes 'you don’t clean up your shit! but I’m like 'Mum, you keep making me sandwiches!

Is there anything else you want to talk about?
Rory: Ummm, Christmas is coming round pretty fast isn’t it?

It's just October!
Pete: It’s fast for us, because we tour so much. We’re playing some arenas supporting Imagine Dragons this year all around the UK.

Where are you playing in the UK?
Rory: The 02! You coming with?

I’ll come if you invite me!
Rory: Great, that’s £45. Haha, no I’m joking.
Pete: That’s with your discount.
Rory: On the last night you’re meant to prank the band your on tour with, so we thought we’d kick it off by doing something on the first night to bond that friendship.
Pete: We’ve been asking people what they think we should do. Do you have any ideas for a good band on band prank?

I think you want to play the long game.
Rob: That’s what I think.

Keep doing little things, to make them think they’re going crazy.
Pete: Maybe some negative reinforcement training like when you spray a dog in the face.
Rory: Maybe while they’re on stage we should put something in someone’s bag, maybe like a kiwi.
Jed: Mackrel.
Rory: Not mackerel, like fruit.

Their new single On The Road is out now. Watch the brilliant video here.

More Sunset Sons goodness on their website.

Interview and words: India Opie Meres

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