Sunset Sons are an up-and-coming, British-Australian four-piece band who formed in 2013. Nominated for the Best Live Act at the 2016 AIM Awards, their feel-good indie rock music has been rapidly gaining momentum as they promote their debut album Very Rarely Say Die on tour. I was lucky enough to catch up with their bass player, Pete Harper, just as they were preparing for a show in Shepherd’s Bush in London.
So you guys are on tour, right?
Yeah, we’re playing in Shepherd’s Bush in London tonight.
That’s exciting, are you all prepared?
Yeah, yeah, we’ve just had a burrito, some (toasted) starters and a nice beer, just as prepared as we can be.
Best way to prepare, lots of food.
(laughs) Well, eat, eat and sleep when you can.
So, you guys are a branded as a British-Australian quartet. What does that mean, are you all half-half?
I’m the only token Australian in the band, the rest of the guys are English, so yeah, it’s just me, they call us that for only that purpose.
So you’re the one who makes the band sound a lot more diverse and exciting, that’s cool. So how did you guys all meet, it was in France right? How did it lead to forming a band?
Well, it’s a bit of a weird story. We were all surfers, and where we live in Hossegor – just north of Biarritz on the south-west coast of France – it’s kind of like a mini Mecca for European surfers, and all the brands have surf headquarters there. My cousin opened a restaurant there, and I hadn’t seen him in years but because I was travelling, I was like, “fuck it, I’ll just go over and see Willy.” Rory [Williams, lead vocals, keys] was also there travelling with some mates and he got a job there washing dishes. Jed [Laidlaw, drums] was there as well, because he knew my cousin from the Canary Islands and he was checking out the restaurant as well. Rob [Windram, guitar] has been mates with the head chef of the restaurant since he was a kid. So it was all pretty random; short story is that we met in a pub three and a half years ago; long story is that we were all in France for different reasons. Then we just started playing music together after we saw Rory play his little Casio keyboard, So, yeah, then we just started a band, started playing around a bit, and now we’re here.
I recently saw you at Boardmasters, that was really good. You were on the Main Stage, which we weren’t expecting from the line-up at the time, but it was a pleasant surprise.
Oh cool, yeah that was a good one! We were playing Main Stage first-on, because someone pulled out, and they asked if anyone wanted to do it, and we just said fuck it, we’re here, we’ve got all our stuff, so why not?
That’s mental, how did you guys find that last-minute change then? I mean, playing the Main Stage at a festival like that must be exciting.
Well yeah, it was cool because last year we’d played Main Stage second from the end. We thought, what would someone like Prince or Bruce Springsteen do, if someone had asked them if they wanted to come down and play first because someone had pulled out? And they’d definitely say yes, so we just thought, fuck it, let’s just get on and do it, why shouldn’t we?
That’s very true. What would you say your favourite live performance has been so far?
I think some of the best ones were probably last year when we were on tour with Imagine Dragons; playing two nights in a row at the O2 in London, that was pretty epic. Playing to around 32,000 people in two nights was pretty hectic. Or then there was one in Lyon in France, where everyone just went absolutely mental, that was really good, and the one where Rory got dressed up as a cheerleader.
Interesting, any particular reason for that?
Yeah, that was in Amsterdam. It’s a custom to prank the other band on the last day of tour. They’d pranked us, but we hadn’t done anything. That was the first time we were on a big tour with a big act like Imagine Dragons, so we thought we probably shouldn’t do anything, because they’re like, pretty big level dudes. And they pranked us, so we were like ‘fuck’s sakes.’ They swapped my Bourbon and Coke out on stage for one that had tabasco sauce in it, and they put talcum powder all over Jed’s drums. So that day in Amsterdam, we changed all the signs around on the dressing rooms so they were just walking around in circles, like “what the fuck is going on?” We’d changed their dressing room to this tiny little cupboard with like, two apples and three bottles of water on the table, and they were so mad. In response they threw toilet paper on the stage during our set, and the bass player and drummer came on in their underpants with masks on, so we decided we had to do something else too. We’d already ordered this skimpy cheerleader outfit without Rory knowing. When he put it on, he was like “Oh my fucking god, am I actually going on stage like this?” And he went on with pom-poms, and danced during their set, and it was awesome.
So aside from crazy pranks, supporting Imagine Dragons on tour must have been fun; who would be your ideal supporting act?
We’ve got a really awesome connection from the start of the year when we toured with Louis Berry, this kid from Liverpool. He’s got some cool songs, he’s just a pretty wicked dude and his whole crew are legends, so I’d probably say him again just because he’s so cool to be around.
You’re promoting your album, Very Rarely Say Die, which came out this April. Are there any tracks on there that are more personal, or were more fun to record – any favourites?
My favourite track on there at the moment is Gold, just because it’s been so fun to play live. It’s a funny story actually because the one that ended up on the album is the first demo we ever did of the song. We did it, and everyone was like “fuck, that’s pretty good.” We tried to record it again, and we just couldn’t get the same thing so we just decided to use the demo for real. There’s just always been something about it, it’s got that magical element that you can’t really recreate. Either that or Lost Company is one that we’re all very proud of, just because of the message behind it, and the whole song in general and its production is amazing, so if it had to be any I’d choose those two.
I hear you guys are also big on surfing and snowboarding. Do you still have time to do that in between everything else – I’m guessing not whilst on tour?
Not whilst on tour, no, but we used to actually – our first UK tour was in all the surf towns around England and Scotland, we’d just decided to do a tour in the places we knew mates and where people surf, so we’d just do that. It’s a bit different now though, we can’t really travel with surf boards and on days off we have interviews and stuff, so we don’t have as much down-time as we used to in between shows. When we’re not doing this, though, we go straight back to France and just get back in the water.
Would you guys consider yourselves adrenaline-junkies then? Have there ever been any crazy incidents?
Nah, not really, it’s just something I’ve always done. I don’t even remember learning to surf. It’s never really been an adrenaline thing for me, probably the opposite. It’s when I feel calmest, like the one thing I can do – I know it sounds all hippie-ish or whatever – but it’s the one thing I can do where I don’t think about anything but that. Our lives are going pretty back-and-forth travelling, but when I surf it’s kind of like everything goes quiet and you don’t think about anything. And that’s why we like to do it; when you go surfing for a couple of days you get rid of all the stress that’s been building up over the tour, because it’s pretty intense having ten grown men including the crew all just constantly around each other 24/7, for six weeks at a time. It’s a good way of shaking all the cobwebs off before getting back out there.
That does sound like a good way to relax. Unfortunately we’ve come to the end of our interview, but I can’t wait for your gig at the Lemon Grove on Halloween.
Can I ask a favour? Rory’s pretty scared of clowns, you should ask everyone to dress up as one for the gig. If you can get involved, he’d be scared silly. Thanks!
[Luckily this interview was published after the gig so no terrifying clown craze can be said to have started as a result of this]
Check out Sunset Sons’ new official music video to their single VROL.