If you haven’t already heard of up and coming band Southern Sunrise, then you probably will very soon. With a distinctive folk sound, reminiscent of Laura Marling and The Civil Wars, and a devoted fan base, the Brighton pairing are a set to be an absolute hit.
Arjan Peters and Shonagh Macleod met coincidentally, a set up through mutual friends of mutual friends at a Halloween party that has resulted in a long lasting friendship. Arjan, originally from Holland, arrived in Brighton three years ago, to study songwriting at the Institute of Modern Music. “I had enjoyed making music since the age of about nine”, says Arjan. “When I was fourteen, I started to learn the guitar and piano, and since then I have not stopped playing and writing music”. Originally from York, Shonagh’s background is not in music: “I think it is fair to say I do not come from, how do you call it, a musical ‘pedigree’? My parents coincidentally tried to get my sister and myself to play every musical instrument under the sun! She always seemed to be the musical one”. It wasn’t long before the band was essentially formed, although it did take some “gentle bullying” from Arjan to get Shonagh into writing the first song.
“This band has been experimental from the start, we never had a clear direction, never knew where we were heading or what we were doing exactly. We just started playing around with a few ideas really, and I think that defines us in a way, as we are not confined to one genre”. When I asked why the name ‘Southern Sunrise’ a similar vague response is given: “We just liked the concept! On some level it is a metaphor for something new (rising), and obviously being from Brighton (in the South)…” Vague, maybe, but wonderfully so, in an unassuming and humble way. And it is great to hear their passion and excitement for the future, something that clearly influences their attitude to music.
The sound of Southern Sunrise is a folk/pop hybrid. When asked to describe their sound, Shonagh summarises as “relaxed, mellow and pretty”. In terms of musical influences however, there does not seem to be an individual artist that sways the band, as Shonagh puts it, “we simply love good music! Personally, I love everything from Mumford and Sons, to… oh, what’s that song that’s in the chart at the moment? Ah this is going to bug me! Something really new… I’ll think of it in a second… The song ‘Forget’!” Acknowledging a mainstream, top ten single says something clearly refreshing about these guys, that they are not musical snobs.
2013 is set to be an exciting and jam packed year for the band, as they will release their EP Brighton (listen to song ‘Brighton’ below) at the beginning of June. “We already have three out of five songs recorded,” says Arjan, “undoubtedly the best part of this adventure so far has been putting our music out there and seeing the response. Already we have over one thousand plays on SoundCloud, mainly from our family and friends, but still!” When asked whether this excitement is ever mixed with anticipation or nerves, Sonagh is quick to say how scared she truly is. “Arjan has been in a band forever, so this feeling is not new to him. However, this is a completely alien, terrifying process for me! You spend so much time writing these songs, trying to be as honest and open as possible, just for your work to be scrutinised and picked apart by people you have never met before. And criticism is still a horrible thing for me, I haven’t yet picked up the skill of taking it on the chin… because I love and care about our songs so much, when someone says something bad about them, it kind of feels like my baby is getting stabbed. In a much less literal sense, of course”.
However, if future impressions are at all similar to the reactions of their first single, Sonagh has nothing to worry about. “The response so far has been brilliant. Our aim is to hopefully create a bit more of a buzz, put more music out there and continue building our fan base”. When asked how they think technology and social media has affected their start as a band in this music industry, Arjan replies “Spotify has changed a lot about this industry. Streaming in general has become a huge part of sharing and experiencing music over the past five, ten years. Personally, I think this a great thing; it has allowed people to hear stuff they would never really have heard before. It has meant a radical change in the way we listen to music, but has allowed so much. I think our job and aim as a band is just to ride the wave a bit… all you can really do in this industry is go with it, and try and retain your integrity or soul as a band when things around you keep changing”.
Indisputably, social media has hugely influenced Southern Sunrise, namely their fan base, which already reaches far and wide across the globe. “Using the track feature on SoundCloud is amazing, as you can see who is listening from where. It is crazy cool to see fans popping up from South America, Eastern Europe… We specifically have a good following in Montreal and New York. It is a actually quite amazing to see how this all works, the music industry, seeing how fast you adapt to that business mindset which you need for networking, for making sure people who wouldn’t normally have the chance to hear your music, do”.
With Arjan in his final year at university, touring and hardcore marketing will have to take a back seat for a little bit. However, writing and gigging remains a top priority for the both of them, and they aim by the end of the year to finally find a label, and maybe produce their first music video. “I am excited to start working on new material,” says Sonagh.
“The thing about our music, and I think this is thing that sets us apart from other up and coming bands, is that no two of our songs are the same. Each song, each lyric, is a product of a certain moment, mood, feeling at a particular time”. “Also, it seems that today duos are a dying breed” adds Arjan, “and so I think we definitely add something new to the table. The one biggest hole an artist can sink into is trying to stick to one particular genre, sticking to the sound of one other artist or band in order to reach out to a particular audience. As long as we are together and making music, we will never take the safe option. Life’s too short”. It certainly is. But I have a feeling these guys will be around for a long time.