North Texas Daily

Denton-based band set for future success

Denton-based band set for future success

Denton-based band set for future success
September 25
00:08 2014

Matt Wood / Senior Staff Writer

Hunched around a table at Riprocks, members of The (Sunsets) hotly debate heavy topics such as Miley Cyrus and their proclivity for Britney Spears covers.

In all their banter, the Denton band, comprised entirely of UNT students, is just now recovering from a three-show marathon over the weekend, replete with after parties followed by post-festival weariness.

The band’s appearance at Oaktopia last weekend was the first of several upcoming leaps in success as the band now looks ahead to record its first EP on Oct. 11 and potentially tour in France. Lead singer and guitarist Alex Rogers said he’s been stunned by the support the band has gotten from friends and the Denton music community.

Back inside the bar, Rogers greets the bartender with a familiar handshake — the band plays here often and it’s been long-time friends with Riprocks owner Blake Jutton.

“They were all regulars long before they played here,” Jutton said. “They always pull a great crowd. They love to play and interact with the audience.”

Rogers orders what he calls a “coke and rum, hold the rum,” which is understandable. The senior biology and chemistry major has to get back to his neurology lab in an hour or two.

“Although, if my professor smelled alcohol on me, he probably wouldn’t even care,” Rogers said with a laugh.

While the band is on a rapid rise, each member also has a plan laid out for their degree. Several of them even mentioned that they consider the degrees the back-up plan. Guitarist Keith Haynes is an organic chemistry graduate student pursuing his Ph.D., and was even Rogers’ teaching assistant back before the band started up.

Bassist Steven Hay is in the international studies program, focusing on security, but he has his own business he’s started as well, working to provide recycling programs to Denton apartments that don’t offer them. Drummer Jordan Laughlin is pursuing investigative journalism as his career, specifically looking to report internationally on Argentina.

Banding Together

Before any of this started, Rogers actually attended Berkley, then toured professionally as a musician, going to Europe and making enough money so he could eventually go back to school. His professional experience burned out his view of music, though, and even led to him pulling away from music altogether.

“I didn’t even listen to music for two years after all that,” he said. “And then I started talking to these guys, and that made me want to play again.”

Now, he said, working with friends and people he likes makes playing music all the better, and he credits the other band members for being the only reason he managed to get back into playing.

Hay’s first impression when he met the band stood out pretty clearly. When he initially came to start practicing with the band, they told him they were setting up to play “Hit Me Baby, One More Time,” by Britney Spears.

“I asked them if they were serious, and they just told me to play in the key of B,” he said. “Then they just started shredding solos and I was like, ‘Alright, I guess this is the best Britney Spears song anyone’s ever heard.’”

At live shows, the band usually tries to throw in an off-kilter cover song to bring in the audience, since it acknowledges that hearing a band you don’t know doesn’t always immediately draw you in. The band members said what can usually grab an audience’s attention, though, is their a cover of “Turn Down for What.”

“If they’re not listening to us attentively at first, the covers usually do the trick,” Haynes said.

After just one year together, the band has an album’s worth of songs ready to be produced and prospective tours on the horizon.

With their regular shows in Denton, the band members have recognized the following they have, and are hugely grateful for it. They’ve had fans come see them play three times in one day at different places, and even had people sing along with their songs.

“We’ve had people come to every single one of our shows,” Laughlin said. “That’s crazy to think about.”

Oaktopia and Beyond

Rogers said the Oaktopia show was a blast, and that it was the perfect example of what Denton is capable of: blending music and art while bringing people together.

“It was like 35 Denton and Jazz Fest kind of mixed together,” Laughlin said. “There was art, culture, and just good music, straight up.”

During the band’s set, they had both a glassblower and a painter create art during the songs. After working together, glassblower Matt Marchand is making a glass microphone stand for Rogers.

The (Sunsets) even rubbed elbows with the national acts at the festival, playing in between sets for Aesop Rock and XXYYXX last Saturday.

“Everyone who was watching them just flooded over to us,” Laughlin said. “It was great.”

For the band’s upcoming four-song EP, it is working with producer Matt Aslanian, who said he has produced for artists such as Miley Cyrus and Shakira. In fact, Rogers had a personal run-in with Cyrus when he was going to record in Dallas.

“We went to go in there, and Miley Cyrus stole our session time,” Rogers said. “Ever since then, I’ve just hated her. It’s personal now.”

Aslanian and Rogers had worked together previously for years, and when Rogers brought in some of the band’s recordings to see if they were substantial, Aslanian offered the band a chance to record with him.

“They have cool songs. They’re great musicians and good guys,” Aslanian said. “I’m excited to be working with them.”

Building off the band’s Denton following, Aslanian said the EP should give The (Sunsets) the opportunity to reach out to a wider audience and beyond the city.

In addition to the live show cover antics, the other staple of performances is mascot “Sunny,” a giant teddy bear wearing the band’s T-shirt. The band members argue Sunny is probably more popular than they are.

“I’m pretty sure he gets more attention from females than any of us do,” Laughin said, laughing with the others. “He’s the real reason people stay at shows.”

Just as they’re wrapping up, Rogers takes a pull from his coke (sans Jack Daniels) and recalls all the people who’ve helped them along the way.

At every show, he brings a piece of paper with a list of all the people who have supported the band, including producers, videographers and bar managers.

“When the show is over, I read off the list and thank everyone,” Rogers said. “Without them, none of this could have ever happened.”

Featured Image: The (Sunsets) play a show at Oaktopia last weekend. Photo courtesy of Pat Leal

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