Despite being just outside of downtown, there is a calmness in the neighborhood that is only interrupted by the occasional train passing by in the distance. Coupled with near-perfect weather, the peacefulness entices various residents of the street onto their porches at this late afternoon hour.
Sharing a container of French fries, the members of Sunmarine sit looking out at the quiet street and talking about their two-year-old band. While the setting itself goes a long way towards erasing any thoughts that the foursome may be fueled by rock star bravado, it’s the members’ noticeably timid responses that reveal they’re more comfortable with instruments in their hands than discussing their efforts.
Free of the self-serving soliloquies that the group’s peers employ when discussing their own music, the four casually chat about their upcoming self-titled debut EP and the varied influences that are represented in the recording.
”We all listen to different styles of music and that really adds into our style,” bassist Chris Laswell said. “It really comes out in what we play and how we play.”
From the Stevie Ray Vaughan-flavored guitar work on “Menopause” to Liam Neighbors’ vocals on “Beauty Pageant,” which are reminiscent of the more accessible Mike Patton (“Faith No More,” “Mr. Bungle”), the group can be seen going in different directions with no true allegiance to any particular path. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that each of them come into the project with varied musical interests. But there’s also a case to be made that the band is still looking to find its voice.
“I don’t think we’ve really pinned down one sound,” explains drummer Alex Fitch. “I think we’re still trying to find our genre or something in each song that people can find.”
Originating two years ago, when guitarist Matt Williams and Laswell united with the intention of forming a band, Sunmarine came into being when the duo added Fitch to the line-up. Initially, Williams and Laswell provided the vocals but after a year working as a trio, vocalist Liam Neighbors was added to round out the group.
Having played numerous shows in the area and established its name, the four-piece decided it was time to commit some music to CD. Starting with a list of 15 songs, of which the band admits only 10 or 11 were worthy of consideration, the members whittled down the list to five tracks and headed into the studio. Over the course of 11 hours, split up over two days, the group completed the recording process and went about the task of mixing and mastering the disc.
Ask any of the members and you’ll get a slightly different rundown of which songs should have been included in the set but, as with most other areas of the band, the track listing was shaped by compromise and concessions. The result is an eclectic mix in which several different voices are on display.
”If you listen to the recording,” Williams says, “you can pretty much tell who wrote the song.”
It would be easy for a band’s divided allegiances to hamper it but, in the case of Sunmarine, it only hints at the promise the group shows. As the foursome moves forward and finds a way to marry its myriad influences into a cohesive sound, there’s possibility of finding a nuanced and layered sound that will take the act even further than the impressive results it’s achieved in its debut effort.
Of course their group has plenty of time to explore because the dirty little secret of the band is that they’re still just teenagers in high school and three-fourths of the act are 15. Fitch is the senior member of the group and he’s only 16.
Age, however, is not a factor Sunmarine likes to play up. While it’s hard not to notice the youth of the four members, they have a fear of being marginalized due to their youth or being seen as a group that’s “good for their age.” For that reason, the band has been very conscious about downplaying that element of its story.
”I don’t like being associated with that,” Neighbors said. “I don’t want that to be our claim to fame.”