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Unlucky Sonny for The Meadow

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interviewer: Sara Sharif (@sarangelic)

interviewee: Unlucky Sonny (@unluckysonny)

"Making music is our absolute favorite thing to do together. Unlucky Sonny is unanimously loved by motorheads, geeks, wastoids, and dweebies - they all adore us. They think we’re righteous dudes.
We make what we like to call “dusty” indie-rock music. Our sound is inspired by artists like Dr. Dog, Wilco, Sam Evian, and Delta Spirit. When you listen to us, we want you to feel as though you’ve stumbled upon an old, but familiar book in your attic that you would dust off and read to your kids. With songs that center on nostalgia, set to the backdrop of modern indie-rock instrumentation, Unlucky Sonny is both new and old at the same time."

t h e   i n t e r v i e w

Brayden Wiggins.jpg
Brayden Wiggins
Benjamin Burr.jpg
Benjamin Burr
Sophie Gonzalez.jpg
Sophie Gonzalez
David Heyman.jpg
David Heyman

1. Please start with a little introduction about yourselves and what each member contributes!
Sophie: Hi I’m Sophie (she/her) and I play rhythm guitar and bring snacks to rehearsals. I’m 28, born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley, my favorite color is yellow, I enjoy cooking, and I’m obsessed with my pets.

Brayden: I’m Brayden! (he/him) I am the bassist and lead singer/songwriter for Unlucky Sonny. I grew up in Temecula, but moved out to LA County for school and have been working and living there ever since. I am a multi-instrumentalist who loves Star Wars, true crime podcasts, and dub reggae.

David: I’m David (he/him) and I play drums for Unlucky Sonny! I’m originally from Claremont but now I live in Pasadena. I like video games, cooking, and spending time with my friends and family. I don’t contribute a whole lot to the band and I’m still waiting for them to realize that and replace me.

Ben: Hey I’m Ben (he/him) and I play lead guitar and sing backup vocals for Unlucky Sonny. I LOVE Super Smash Brothers, cinnamon rolls, and playing music with my friends!

2. We’d love to know the story behind your musical journey. How did y’all come together?
Sophie: I think I’m sort of the glue that brought us all together. Brayden wanted a drummer so I referred Dave cause I knew he would get along with Brayden and Ben. I met Brayden and Ben at Cal Poly Pomona University in the music department. Dave and I met at citrus college in the music department and we played a LOT of wedding gigs together in our early and mid-twenties...probably at VERY least 150 gigs together.

Brayden: Yes, Sophie’s statement is accurate. Dave was the only one who didn’t go to school at Cal Poly, so I’m stoked that Sophie had that connection and is such a great judge of character. We have all gotten really close thanks to the band, so much so that Dave, Ben, and I, have since started a smash burger pop-up together! hahahahahaha 

As for my musical journey, I kind of always knew that music was going to be a big part of my life. I started as a drummer and went on to learn other instruments as time went by. When it came time to go to college, I decided to give myself the chance to pursue what I really loved rather than settle for something a bit safer. If it weren’t for that decision, I wouldn’t have ever met the band and there would be no Unlucky Sonny.

David: Yeah, Sophie introduced me to the guys and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I was a little disillusioned with the music scene I had been brought up in until I moved to LA and met Brayden and Ben. All 3 of the other members kind of breathed life back into me musically. I’ve known Sophie for a long time and she’s an AMAZING singer and musician and I’m still blown away that she likes playing music with me. The guys are so creative; I love their sound and Brayden’s songwriting and lyrics really connect with me on a deep level. I feel like I’m playing in a band that I would listen to which makes me very happy.

Ben: Brayden was my boss when I was in college. I walked into the interview and was like, “Oh shoot, I’ve seen that guy in class!” It was a bit odd at first, but we became friends instantly. Sophie and I met through one of our classes in college where we had the assignment of doing a few recording projects. Sophie and I were on a team and we did a really dope cover of “Green and Gold” by Lianne La Havas. Super fun times! David and I actually met at an Unlucky Sonny gig where I mistook him for being a really bad sound guy. I decided to clean up his really bad cable runs, only to find out that he wasn’t responsible for it at all! Everyone in the group is super lovable, super creative, and just an overall good hang. I love creating with these guys!

3. And how has your journey been so far?
Sophie: I started off playing keys in this band and just recently made the switch to guitar. I’m primarily a vocalist in MOST of the gigs I do… and I have been wanting to make the switch to the rhythm section for a loonnnnngggggg time. When you’re a girl, it’s 10x harder to do a lot of things. Guitar is one of those things. It’s a pretty male-dominated instrument, and I’m so glad that the guys just let me do my thing. Brayden, Ben, and Dave are super cool dudes who just encourage me and talk to me like an EQUAL -- EVEN THOUGH I’m still a little baby on my guitar journey. Super grateful for that. I really love my bandmates so much!

Brayden: It’s been interesting, but still super fun. Unlucky Sonny in its current form has only been around about a year. Before that, I was just writing songs and experimenting with production at home. We played our debut with the current lineup in February 2020 at the Hi-Hat, which was right before live music was shut down. It was a killer show with a great lineup and we were so looking forward to keeping up that momentum, but what can ya do? Thankfully, we were able to focus and record our single “Home” which dropped on March 5th of this year. It was the first time we put care and intention into a release and that whole experience has been super informative and rewarding.

David: Our journey has been a little rocky mainly due to the pandemic (like Brayden said). I was really excited to play with this group and I felt pretty bummed out when everything shut down and we were unable to play together. It felt like we had just gotten the band off the ground and it just crashed and burned. Luckily, we kept working/recording and were able to make some music together even during the pandemic (remotely of course). Now we all have our vaccine (Moderna Gang) and we had our first in-person rehearsal last week which was awesome and very exciting.

Ben: It's been really fun! And actually been a very quick turnaround compared to some of the bands that I’ve been in. I think that just shows the level of professionalism, talent, and drive that we all carry. Before I knew it, we were already playing at one of my favorite venues. It was totally a dream come true, and doing that with original music just made it that much more enjoyable. Brayden and I began meeting once a week during quarantine and were essentially writing partners for about 5-6 months. It was nice to really dive into each other’s creative mind and learn a bit. Some of those nights turned into meetings more centered around talking about our day, but I feel it drew us closer. Experiencing the friendship dynamic between Sophie and David has also been super fun! Everyone is so inclusive and I wouldn’t be surprised if our hangs turned into creative sessions and vice versa.

4. I am crazy for your vibe and absolutely loved your latest, “Home”! Tell us more about your theme and how you’d describe your genre.
Brayden: We are an indie rock band, and even though that’s already a sub-genre, these days it can feel somewhat amorphous. To narrow things down a bit, I’ve been using “Dusty Indie Rock” as an additional descriptor. The hope is that our sound and themes feel familiar and new at the same time, like an old keepsake you’ve had for years and years that you might share with your kids one day. We are always looking to incorporate elements of folk and americana into our songs, and place them side-by-side with modern indie-rock production elements.

5. What inspired you to create “Home” and what did you want to portray through it?
Brayden: The song is about home as a concept. For some people home is a physical space, and for others it’s more of a feeling, or a combination of the two. For me, establishing my own sense of home has been part of growing up, which hasn’t exactly been the easiest thing to do. It’s scary, but most things worth doing are scary on some level.

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Sophie Gonzalez.jpeg
Ben Burr.jpeg

6. What is each one’s creative process?
Sophie: I’m my most creative self when I go see a live show. During this pandemic I’ve been in SUCH A DRY SPELL because of no live music, so to make up for that I’ve been watching old concerts on YouTube, primarily Ella Fitzgerald cause pre-pandemo I sang a lot of jazz. Listening to new music/nostalgic music helps my creative process too. I’ve been really into Fountains of Wayne lately.

David: I honestly don’t know what my creative process is. I know I have to feel completely comfortable with the people I’m playing with to tap into anything totally genuine. For me, there’s a lot of vulnerability in playing music with people (especially creating music) and making space for that is important for me.

Brayden: I feel like I’m most inspired when I’ve had some time to myself, and have the opportunity to think through my take on different aspects of life. Usually I’ll come up with a melody or a chord progression, at which point I’ll pull from the list of themes I’ve explored and decide which is the most lyrically compatible with the music. Sometimes I have a really strong idea about how the song should be performed/produced, and other times I have no idea. One thing I love about this band is that I trust each of the members as a collaborator; they often bring their own unique perspective to the songs by contributing ideas with each of their respective instruments.

Ben: I like to create in moments. Usually I’ll all of a sudden hear the ENTIRETY of a section in a song. It will just slap me in the face and I don’t have a choice to not write it out. Like I know exactly what every instrument should be playing/doing for a chorus. Once I build a general idea for all those layers, then I backtrack and try to see how each other section of the song can form around that. I basically write my favorite part of the song first all at once- and then fill in all the other parts later! Lyrics are usually the last thing.

7. Who is your musical inspiration?
Sophie: My three all time favorites: Mike Viola, Sheryl Crow and Paul McCartney. I think Sheryl is the greatest vocalist of all time - I saw her play the Troubadour in 2017 -- best show of my life. Also if I ever got the chance to work with Mike Viola I might just fall over and die of happiness. I’ve listened to all his albums at the VERY LEAST 100 times. Soundtrack of my Summer makes me cry every time I sing it/listen to it.

David: Bands/artists I like are Tool, Death Cab, Modest Mouse, White Denim, Fleet Foxes, The Dear Hunter, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, The 1975, The Mars Volta, and Steely Dan to name a few. 


Brayden: I can’t stop listening to Dr. Dog! I find that I keep coming back to them after exploring whatever rabbit hole I am going down in a given week or month. I also feel like they embody a lot of that dusty rock/americana that I referred to earlier. I grew up listening to bands like Good Charlotte, Yellowcard, The Police, Led Zeppelin, Switchfoot, The Strokes, The Hives, Sublime, The Beatles, among many others. When I got to college, I started listening to more modern and indie rock like Said The Whale, Young the Giant, Delta Spirit, and the Shins. At the same time, I started getting into jazz, soul, and reggae. Nowadays, I’m super into Soccer Mommy, Jay Som, Sam Evian, Whitney, Jonathan Richman, Natalie Prass, Wilco, and the list goes on. I also love to revisit old phases I went through -- it can be such a nostalgia trip.

Ben: I have deep roots in The Strokes, Kanye West, and one particular Jens Lekman album. Lately I’ve been thinking more about lyrics and themes as opposed to instrumentation. I’ll point towards Pinegrove and even some Christian music every once in a while for creative writing. I’ve been taking more of a reflective internal approach towards writing and creating. Part of the paths of life, just show up in what we create.

8. Any musical tips from your experience for our musicians and bands out here?
Sophie: Story time: first started singing jazz when I was 19, and I had NO IDEA how to follow along with the band by looking at the chord chart cause I didn’t know how to play any instrument at that point in my life. My professor made me go to his office hour and he explained it to me. When I finally got it, I said, “Wow I feel like a dumbass.” I remember he shook his head at me and said, “The more you know, the less you know,” and that ALWAYS STUCK WITH ME. Don’t have an ego, and remember - we’ve ALL got more to learn.

David: I dunno if I have musical tips but I’d say just in general to remember that you’re playing music, not doing anything incredibly important like brain surgery or something. It’s not that big of a deal. Relax. Musicians having an ego is so completely baffling to me because musicians really aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. Also I think just being open to any and all experiences and musical opportunities is a good rule, especially if it pushes you out of your comfort zone. Growth starts where your comfort zone ends.

Brayden: I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, if anything to reinforce it in my own mind: be genuine. I think music is written better, played better, and received better when it comes from a genuine and honest place. There are times in my musical journey where I was trying too hard to be something I thought I should be, rather than the writer/musician I truly was. I’m not perfect, but I feel this band has gotten me as close as I’ve ever been to writing and performing as my true self...and it feels awesome.

Ben: Dude, have fun, be yourself, and don’t be afraid of new ideas. Find people you trust, and learn to share with them. Growing and nurturing these relationships can lead to so much creative freedom and inspiration.

9. So, what should we expect next, in the near future?
Sophie: More new music!!!!!!!! I really want to write a song for Brayden to sing. I’m obsessed with his voice so much. Hoping we can do some gigs this summer if it’s safe.

David: New music and gigs!!!

Brayden: As the other members said, our goal is to be regularly putting out music for people to enjoy. It goes without saying that the pandemic made things a little tricky, but we’re looking forward to dropping new songs over the course of this year and following them up with live shows hopefully in the very near future.

Ben: BOI, NEW MUSIC. Shows and hopefully some other video content as well. We’re a bunch of funny people so I think some interesting stuff should be coming out pretty soon. 

10. How do we gain access to your music?
Brayden: We are on all of the streamy services! We don’t yet sell any physical copies of our music, but the minute we do an album or EP we will probably look into selling CDs for the truly dedicated fans to consume. If you follow us on Instagram as well, you’ll become privy to all of our shenanigans (usually Sophie’s shenanigans).

Sophie: Spotify, Bandcamp, Apple Music, etc.

11. Any message for Pastel Serenity’s creative community?
Brayden: Thank you so much to Pastel Serenity for taking the time to conduct this interview, as well as to the reader for checking it out! We seriously can’t wait to run into y’all at some shows. In the meantime, hang in there.

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