Q&A With Goodnight Sunrise

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If you were to describe Goodnight Sunrise is a word, in all likelihood that word would be “fun.”

While the pop punk genre as a whole is clearly not as strong as it was in it’s early 2000s heyday, this four-piece from Helena, Montana are doing their darnedest to make everyone who sees them forget that. Unlike so many of their current crop of peers, which mostly range from the downright dreadful to the fairly bland, Goodnight Sunrise understand hook and melody while avoiding being image driven and stupidly juvenile (which really only Blink-182 ever mastered). The band also puts on a wonderfully energetic live show that is worth checking out.

Goodnight Sunrise recently self-released a new EP entitled Stop, Drop, & Roll which is available iTunes or at the band’s official online store. I was able to get a hold of the guys and threw a few questions their way.

While there are lots of bands that have tough times really getting to a point where they’re not just a local band, not very many are from a place like Helena, Montana. What were some of the struggles you guys had that you think were unique to such a remote locale (like maybe people in Wyoming would have the same problem, but people in Chicago would not)?

Dan (Lead singer/guitarist): Coming from Montana is definitely a set-back. Montana is probably the last place you want to start a national touring band from, but it’s worked out for us. I remember booking our first tour and playing out of state for the first time. It took 3 months of sending messages, and the tour was horrible. We went to California for the first time with another band in our high-school who we were friends with. The first few tours we did were pretty terrible, but it really does get better with every tour. We’ve made it a point to stay out of state as much as possible over the past 2 years. We’ve played about 300 shows since June 2007, and it’s been awesome to watch our fan base grow on the West Coast. We definitely know what it’s like to be a “local band” and play shows to empty rooms. I believe we’ve paid our dues over the years.

What were the “breaks” that allowed you to branch out beyond local band status?

Sam (Bassist): After playing in-state shows wherever we could get them booked nearly every weekend while we were in high school, we decided that the next step would be to start booking our own tours. We were chosen to play the Ernie Ball Stage at Warped Tour in Boise, and I think that was sort of a boost towards continuing to tour. We honestly didn’t score any really remarkable breaks; we just kept on booking and playing shows wherever and as often as possible because we loved to play.

Dan: I don’t know if we ever got a big break. We’ve always booked our own tours and have done everything on our own. I guess playing with bands like Anberlin, MAE, and Plain White T’s is kinda a “break,” but we’re still an opening act. It just takes a lot of patience and hard work to start developing a fan base from touring.

What are your influences as a band?

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For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver

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Some things are just inexplicable. Why did Harper Lee and J. D. Salinger only write one novel a piece? Why are people furious about baseball players using steroids, but ignore when the best defensive player in the NFL (Shawne Merriman) juices? Why people were so upset about their library records possibly being looked at under The Patriot Act (what are you hiding bookworms of America)? But those discussions are for another time. Today’s venture into the inexplicable deals with the following: Why do indie folk and critics adore Bon Iver (and more specifically 2007’s LP For Emma, Forever Ago) to no end?

It can’t be the vocals. Singer/guitarist Justin Vernon has an overwhelmingly unspectacular whispery voice. Even when he’s trying to put heavy emotion into a tune, he never even approaches to being a captivating troubadour. The echoing qualities of Bon Iver’s sung words is a case unnatural overproduction that starkly contrast the simplicity of the instrumental sounds. At times on For Emma, Forever Ago, the lyrics are not even discernible do to the suffocating reverb. Even the Gregorian choir-like sound that begins “Lump Sum” is off; feeling more melodramatic than artistic or stirring.

It’s not because the music is exciting. In fact, it is quite the opposite, Bon Iver is music that puts you to sleep. This is not to be confused with an album that’s good to fall asleep to. For Emma, Forever Ago can put a listener to sleep when they’re not tired and are actively trying to listen. Nothing here is breaking any new ground or approaching anything in a way that is not cookie-cutter folk. At no point does it actively engage the listener. It’s dreadfully dull.
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How To Attend A Concert

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*The following is was my English 101 final from a few years back which was an expository how-to essay, which took about 45 minutes to write up. It should also be noted that one of the comments my professor wrote on the paper was “ROFL,” which is painful modern irony at it’s finest.*

The lights go out. The crowd roars with tense anticipation. The first chord is struck. It rings clear at a dangerously high decibel level.

A good rock concert is a thing of beauty, but through my travels to shows, from Seattle to Chicago and almost everywhere in between, I’ve noticed a growing problem. People do not know how to “properly” attend a rock concert. It is an incredibly depressing revelation.

But fear not (!), for I am fully prepared to lay down guidelines that will allow you and your fellow concert goers to make the most of every concert you attend.

The first thing that comes to many minds when they think of a rock concert is the mosh pit. Many critics claim that it is violent and unnecessary, but in reality, when done right, it is no more dangerous than its forefather – pogoing. (For the unfamiliar, pogoing was basically just jumping done be fans at early punk shows. It eventually progressed into jumping into each other and then became moshing.) The first rule of the mosh pit is that it isn’t a fight. If one is looking for a place to beat people up, go elsewhere. The mosh pit is intended to be more like human bumper cars. People release energy by bounding off one another. If someone falls down, the pit stops until the person is on their feet again. No one wants to get hurt. It’s a concert for goodness sake – it’s about fun.
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The Stage Names – Okkervil River

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The literary cliche in literary circles of “writing the next great American novel” is just that; cliche. So why not think out of the box? Maybe the next great American novel is an album.

The Stage Names is an agglomeration of sung short stories dealing with the disaster of actors. Okkervil River frontman Will Scheff approaches lyricism with a poet’s touch for detail and a screenwriter’s grandiose flair. The results at times are awe inspiring. With vivid imagery and one hell of a band in support, it’s hard to not get swept away by The Stage Names.

Clunky muted guitar first greets the listener on “Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe.” When the beat arrives it builds until a cataclysmic explosion of sound. Each line is so precise and full of life. It’s a wide-eyed engagement that’s almost crazed; as if Scheff would grab a stranger on the street and sing this to them. It’s got that sense of vitality. To follow it up, “A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene” is probably hits most closely to The Stage Names‘s general theme, as it addresses an actor’s insecurity. With a touch of bravado and some party tambourine, Scheff crams in the lyrics. His delivery has a distinct flow, not unlike great hip-hop MCs.
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The Con – Tegan and Sara

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Production is one of those things that is best when it’s not noticed. Becoming aware of how an album is produced soils the listening experience because it is a realization that what you’re hearing is a manipulated version of reality. This is also why it’s always better for music to have a lo-fi sound than an overproduced one. At least with lo-fi their is a feeling (even if it’s only an illusion) of being a direct and unaltered reality.

The problem with overproduction becomes more magnified the more genuine the starting sound is. In other words, it’s really not a problem if a techno group tweak the hell out of their sound in the studio but it is an issue for a singer-songwriter. And this is where Tegan and Sara’s The Con comes in.

The album could have been great, but do to some questionable production decisions by the man at the helm (Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla), it is merely good.
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Mama, I’m Swollen – Cursive

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“I’m at my best when I’m at my worst. I’m at my worst when it’s not rehearsed…”

Cursive has reached a point where every kink in the band’s sound has been fine tuned. The group members know exactly what they are doing. They are mature and aged like a fine wine. So it’s apt that Mama, I’m Swollen deals with how we all get drunk off ourselves. Tim Kasher and company touch on all the varying way that inward desires can drive a man down a path of self-destruction to a soundtrack that forces forward each mental state.

The first flaw exposed is denial. Amongst the dissonant butting guitar swells, “In The Now” bursts forth with musical fluidity and edge. The screamed refrain, “Don’t want to live in the now, don’t want to know what I know!” directly evokes the refusal for a person to accept the truth. “From the Hips” deals with hedonism. The lyrics describe wanting nothing more than lustful fulfillment. The sparse music along with the hushed vocals make the man in question seem like a caged beast who has been tamed but is waiting to break out and go wild; so when Kasher sings that “we were better off as animals,” it all makes sense. The furious wall of sound that ensues (complete with brass) is the man’s primal shriek of perceived freedom.
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Read This

John from Portugal. The Man wrote a fantastic blog on the case for paying for your music

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