(EDITOR’S NOTE— The band Sunburn was named after a Nirvana lyric and the trio has taken up residence in the Buffalo scene. While just out of high school and working jobs to survive, the band is planning to soon put out an EP and is gearing up for the studio. 1120 Press spoke to the group comprised of frontman and guitar player Steve Kaminski; bassist Jasper Green; and drummer Camden Over. In a chat at a picnic table in East Aurora, the three musicians, all between 19 and 20 years old, demonstrated an authentic friendliness, as well as a common language of popular alternative music throughout the decades. Though the pre-winter chilliness made the conversation quick, we still covered a lot of ground. More information on the band and video can be found through their link tree here. — Photos by Benjamin Joe.)
1120 PRESS: Thanks very much for speaking with us. How did you guys form and what was it like growing up in East Aurora?
STEVE: I kind of started it. I’ve had a couple of ‘half-bands’ where it’d be me and one of my buddies where we’d just jam out. All we did was covers for hours, and rinse and repeat. Then I was finally like, ‘I need to get an actual band going,’ because I finally found the Buffalo scene through a friend in college. I pretty much scheduled a show without having a band, which was my first one. So, I made a flyer, Camden answered it, and he was like, “I can be your drummer,” and he brought in Jasper and that’s how it’s been going since.
1120: And you all grew up in East Aurora? What was it like growing up in a town like this?
STEVE: It’s very quiet. It’s a lot of bougie people, so you have to dress to impress.
1120: You guys sound a little post-grunge, but a little upbeat. We’re wondering what your influences are.
STEVE: I’m definitely ‘90s influenced. I’m a very big Nirvana fan. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, all of them. Recently I’ve been getting into shoegaze and mid-West emo. I’m self-taught with guitar, so I don’t really understand a lot of stuff, so I try to imitate a lot it. But I would definitely say a lot of ‘90s and the early 2000s’ nu-metal.
JASPER: I have a lot of mid-80s influence. Like the Smiths and REM and some of ‘90s like Radiohead, but I’ve been influenced by (Steve) a lot in how I write and how I play.
CAMDEN: I grew up mostly with a jazz and rap kind of background, so a lot of this is new to me. But I’d say probably Nirvana and Pearl Jam, as well, have been some of the biggest bands I pull from as I’m working with them.
1120: You’re going to be going into the studio for the first time. What do you expect it’ll be like and is there any kind of production you want to put into your first EP?
STEVE: My thought with this EP is that it’s a co-worker of mine’s home studio. We want to get some music out by the end of the year, and we know the album won’t be finished until the end of January. I reached out to him just so we can understand the workflow of a studio, because I have no idea what to expect. Like, at all. I don’t know what’s recorded first. I don’t know what order, what comes after what. So, we’re using him as kind of our guinea pig so we’re not bugging the professional guy.
1120: Is there a particular sound you want, like vocals sounding a certain way? We’ve been listening to some of your live shows and the drum and bass tracks, and guitar tracks, really stand out, but the vocals are a little softer. Is there a reason for that?
STEVE: I really like Steve Albini’s work with the Pixies, just a live-in-the-room sound. I never really liked the polished, 23 guitars, because we’re a three piece and there’s no way we can get that big sound live. So, I really like what he did with the Pixies and In Utero. I loved that album. Scentless Apprentice. There’s also this Brooklyn band called ‘Free Casino’ that I’m really inspired by. Just how those vocals mix in with the guitars.
JASPER: I’m excited for it. It will be fun… Just fiddling around with stuff, recording stuff, and seeing what works. Because that’s gone to be what we’re going to do for the album, and this is like a starter course.
CAMDEN: I’m equally as excited. Never been in a studio, so I’m just looking forward to it.
1120: Getting back to your live stuff, how does it all come together when you’re on stage?
STEVE: I know me, personally, I’m always watching the crowd: what they’re bopping their heads to and what they’re not. Because we don’t have anything out, officially, so we’re always fiddling and tweaking what we do have and it’s kind of fun because I never remember the lyrics I write, or at least I forget some of them. So, I just see if they notice that I’m just bullshitting everything. But it’s usually pretty fun just seeing them vibe out to stuff we’ve created. It’s a really surreal thing.
JASPER: I do different bass lines each time because I just do what I feel. I’ve started to get a set, base time for each song as I’m getting more comfortable as we play, but I do notice that I try to liven it up a little bit. I try to play around on stage. I try to play to impress, kind of, because it’s a show and I do try to watch the crowd, like (Steve), but not as much because I’m mostly looking at my fingers.
CAMDEN: I don’t really watch the crowd, to be honest. I do a lot of mental preparation before. Once I’m on the stage I’m locked in like a foundational piece in the back. I follow their lead most of the time and that usually works.
1120: What about songwriting? Is there a process you use to get the sound you have?
JASPER: A lot of the time, or at least since we started writing songs together, some of it comes together with (Steve) introducing some riff or chord pattern and then other times it comes from me putting a bass line down and him putting something on top. I don’t know. It’s a pretty even split, right?
STEVE: Yeah, and I know the stuff that I bring that I’m working on at home, it’s usually like I’ll just sit there for hours and just say, “Wow, that sounds sick!” and I send it to Jasper and if Jasper hates it, I know Camden’s not going to like it, so we don’t touch it. But I know with my lyrics; I have a notebook that I just write in whatever I’m doing every day and what I’m feeling. So, we get the melody going and then we just kind of mumble along, and then I go home, and I try to piece out a theme to the song and I put myself in a headspace where I try to write in a specific mood or feeling that I’m having at that moment.
JASPER: And this was a recent thing, but, like, last week when we were writing something, I put forth some ideas for the melody which I hadn’t done before. I mostly left it up to him. I want to help out more with that. It sounds fun.
STEVE: Yeah, it was really cool. Kind of like how we work together on songs now. Instead of all of us just bringing in one strict idea we want them to follow, it’s like all of us doing a little bit of something.
CAMDEN: They do all the hard work and I just come in and add noise.
1120: What are your plans after the EP? Is it back to the drawing board, or will you play out the songs?
STEVE: After that, we’re going to see what the response is from the EP, because it’s just going to be three or four songs, and just see how the public views it and we have a set list already for the album. It’s just what’s working and what’s not, because we have a bunch of songs written that we can replace and everything.
JASPER: We keep picking songs out and putting new songs in and trying to decide which ones fit, and then we’ll decide the order.
STEVE: I have a vision, but then we all know when we play live, I come with six setlists for one gig and I just pick one two minutes before the show and then we run with that. It’ll probably be a last-minute decision like everything else.
1120: Will you be releasing physical copies?
STEVE: I’m hoping that we can. I definitely want to do CDs and cassettes. I love cassettes. I got this big boombox and with every local band, if they have cassettes, I’m always trying to buy them, because I just love them. They’re so niche and it’s so cool.
1120: Thank you for speaking with us. Before we end, what’s the basic message you want to give to your fans?
STEVE: Just go with your gut. If I had told myself last year that I’d be playing in an actual band, playing live, I’d tell myself to go fuck myself because it’s so cool, and it was literally that I was just sitting there and said, “I want to do this, I’ve wanted to do this for years, what’s stopping me?” So just go with your gut. Do what your intuition says. It’s everything.
JASPER: I guess, piggybacking on what he said, last year I didn’t think I’d be in a set group at all. And I’m glad I am because this is something I’ve wanted to do for years, since I was a kid. This is just good. I like it a lot.
CAMDEN: Sunburn has given me a way to experience music in a way that I’m not used to. Usually it’s very professional, through school and stuff, so joining this project and just letting it grow naturally and seeing the response we’re getting — it’s a really welcoming experience. And I think we’re all satisfied with the direction it’s heading.