Sun City on a Roller Coaster Ride
September/06/2012 05:43 AM
(Photo L to R: Daniel Mackey and Tobias John)
Sun City on a Roller Coaster Ride
Interview by Nicole Hanratty
September 2, 2012
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(vox, electronic percussion, synths/samplers, guitars, production)
(lead vox, percussion, synths, guitars, production)
If you haven’t heard the electronic 80s inspired Sun City sound yet, grab a headset and have a listen.
Sun City is an electronic duo comprised of Tobias John and Daniel Mackey from Perth, Australia that is playing music festivals and shows one after another growing ever more popular with every appearance. And with songs like “City Lights” their futures look bright.
Watch the Sun City “City Lights” (Official) video:
The two talented and very cute guys behind the Australian indie pop songs caught my ear when it came time to compile the Life of a Rock Star™ Back To School playlist. “Set Alight” (on the Sun City EP also titled “Set Alight” ) is the perfect blend of upbeat and forward motion dance music balanced with lyrics that are thought provoking and relatable. The song was an automatic add to the playlist and the EP has become a favorite.
This week I got the chance to interview Daniel and Tobias (Dan and Tobes). What unfolded made me smile and I think will make you smile too! These two guys have it all together. With their talent and great personalities they are headed towards enormous success.
Nicole: What was your earliest exposure to music? Which genres did you listen to growing up?
We've both always been into music from when we were young. We both grew up in families where music and musical ability was important. Going back to the earliest of early days, we both listened to a lot of rock / punk rock music growing up. Bands like Blink 182 were part of our staple diet.
Nicole: I read that you are both classically trained. On which instruments?
Yeah, we both had classical music scholarships to our high school. Dan was a percussionist and Tobes played Trombone initially (haha!), then later guitar.
Nicole: What brought the two of you together? i.e. common interests
Well we were friends from the start of high school; we used to catch the bus together. It was definitely music that was our common interest. We ended up playing in a punk/rock band in high school for a few years!
Nicole: Can you give an inside glimpse into your production studio and tell us what your collaboration process is like? I see that Dan takes the vocal lead, but in terms of production and writing (both music and lyrics), does one of you take the lead or is there an equal contribution?
Yeah, we have a little studio where we do most of our writing - In terms of contribution we both bring equal amounts to the table. Each of us has our strong points, particularly with different instrument groups. Lyrically we both work together to construct a narrative that we're comfortable with and both relate to.
Nicole: To what extent do your life experiences play out in your music?
Well we started Sun City at the beginning of last year (2011) we were both 22 at the time… Although it wasn't long ago, an awful lot has happened since, both inside and outside the confines of the band. Our music, in particular the latest EP “Set Alight,” has definitely been an outlet for us to share some of our experiences and stories.
Nicole: It was sad to read about the loss of your friend, Sam Trowbridge who died at such a young age and I really enjoyed the short You Tube video clip he created of the two of you, "Sun City - Cement 2011." In the clip, we see you two loading and unloading the white mini-van. You guys make the mini van look rock star cool. And one of you was reading in the video during the drive. Inquiring minds want to know what is on your bookshelves?
We are absolutely blessed that we got to spend the time with Sam at the Cement Festival in April last year, it was one of our first live shows and it was a whole bunch of fun. The three of us were given a mini van and took a road trip out into the dessert to play at an all ages music festival. Definitely one of the best experiences we've had as a band and as mates. I can't remember now what the book was - as for what we read now...haha...well we don't get much time to read. It would be nice if we did though...
Nicole: Can you talk a little bit about the story behind the lyrics in the "Escape" song? "I'll keep these thoughts of you in a space I call my own. I won't forget the day, when brave was not enough." They evoke such a powerful imagery.
The track "The Escape" as pictured in the promo video actually had a name change to "The Brave" prior to the release of our first EP in September last year. It's kind of a 'coming of age' story I guess. It explores the idea of being forced to grow up and face the real world (so to speak), certainly a task that seems daunting at first. Probably something that we--and a lot of the people around us--have had to go through in the past 18 months.
Nicole: Don’t get me started on how much I love the lyrics in "Set Alight," they speak to a different level of understanding. "Are you really doing this again? Picking up the pieces that you lost? …I fall in love with you a million times, I won't let go of you in this lifetime." Is there a story behind "Set Alight" you can share?
Well I think the lyrics in Set Alight definitely speak for themself. Everybody's got someone they don't want to let go of, even if they don't know it yet.
Nicole: Do you ever find it challenging to balance a message in a song with bringing the sound you're aiming for?
Yeah, definitely. No matter how we look at it, we're still writing electronic dance music. We both put as much effort into the instrumental side of things as we do constructing a lyrical narrative. It's definitely a balancing act though!
Nicole: Your song "Zoetrope" is a great reflection of your reported love of 80s influenced electronica and was recently featured in the MasterChef Australia ad campaign. How did that come about? Did you write the song for the show?
Not at all. Zoetrope was a song we wrote shortly after Sam passed away in mid 2011 - with him being a super talented videographer / filmmaker, we wrote the song as a celebration of his amazing life. It was our way of remembering and thanking him. The fact that it got picked up and published to a major network television campaign is a bonus. We're stoked that we've been able to share the celebration with so many people around the world. Couldn't have asked for anything more.
Nicole: 2011 and so far 2012 have been off the hook busy for Sun City, and it doesn't seem like you are slowing down anytime soon. What can we look forward to from the electro duo in the next 12 months?
It has been a roller coaster that's for sure. Well now that we've released "Set Alight," we're following it up with a whole bunch of live performances that will take up most of our summer (mainly festivals and few great supports). From October we're booked out till the end of the year, which should include a short national tour of Australia. After that? ...Who knows. If the momentum keeps up, we'll be on track to releasing a debut album next year.
Nicole: Okay...will you humor your fans a few fun questions?
Nicole: Can each of you tell me one thing you can't live without?
Dan: My drum kit
Tobes: My acoustic guitar
Nicole: Name your favorite:
1) Brand of shoes
Tobes: Anything ASOS
2) Cocktail / Beverage
Dan: A cheeky, cold beer
Tobes: See above!
3) Song right now (other than one of your own!)
We're loving The Aston Shuffles latest single "Can't Stop Now"
Nicole: Lastly, because I always ask...do either or both of you have a charity that you support and or to which you donate time?
Yep, we both support the Movember Foundation (Prostate Cancer)...last year we sported some unsightly moustache's in the name of raising a few bucks for charity, this year won't be any different!
Want to see more Sun City? Check out “The Follower” video:
For more information on Sun City:
Follow @listentosuncity on Twitter
Sun City “Set Alight” EP
Genres: Electronic, Music, Pop
Released: Jul 26, 2012
℗ 2012 Sun City
Songs: Set Alight, Horizons, The Follower, High, High (Shazam Remix)
Sun City “Sun City” EP
Genres: Pop, Music, Electronic
Released: Sep 20, 2011
℗ 2011 Sun City
Songs: Zoetrope, Standing Tall, City Lights, The Brave, Here’s to Us, Meet the Escapist