Words: Miljan Milekić
For a while now, I’ve been a fan of the Italian punk rock band Sunset Radio, and especially their last year’s EP ‘Seasons.’ Their energy, huge melodies, and positive vibes simply hit all the right boxes for me. So, when the chance came in to check in with the guys and have them for an interview, it was more than welcome. Today, the band is releasing their new single – a massive cover of The Weeknd‘s smashing hit ‘Blinding Lights,’ and I got the chance to have guitarists Theo and Ricky share the story of it, and much more.
Hey guys! So how are you? How are you dealing with these crazy times?
Theo: It’s a strange period in Italy right now, like in the whole world, so we are slowly turtling, but it’s OK. We haven’t played a show in a year, even more, so it’s difficult, but we are waiting.
You guys are in Ravenna, right? What’s the situation there?
Theo: Next week we’re moving to the orange… We have colors – now we are in a red zone, and next week we will be in the orange. But we are going into the summer, and I hope we can play some shows and things will open up a little.
Ricky: We are so worried about it. It’s very strange and confusing.
So, tell me more about ‘Blinding Lights.’ Why did you choose that song and how did it come together?
Theo: ‘Blinding Lights,’ I think is the biggest song in the last five years. I think in the ward. It won a lot of Grammys, it’s huge on YouTube, Spotify, and other streaming platforms. But the music, the songs bring us to the eighties. And I love it, I love that sound. It’s like ‘Maniac,’ the soundtrack from ‘Flashdance.’ So we decided to do it.
Ricky: We also wanted to do something different from our type of music. We play punk rock, and this a classic pop song. The drums are flat from the beginning to the end. So, we tried to change it up a little, and we worked with Nicola Peruch. He is from our city, and he plays piano with some of the most important artists in Italy, like Cesare Cremonini and Zucchero. And I think that in these songs, the main things are vocals, of course, and keyboards. So, we wanted to connect with him and create something different from what we play normally.
This is not actually your first cover, you covered pop songs before. And I love the way you like to mix it up a little and do something new and fun.
Ricky: Yeah, we did ‘Bad Day.’ [by Daniel Powter]
Theo: I think the same thing. If you try to do a cover, and we could take ‘Blinding Lights,’ and make it a pop punk song, but a lot of bands do that already do that. So we tried to take some parts of the production, like synths or the keyboards, and do it a bit differently than the other bands.
Ricky: Also, right now, we have nothing to do. We are all closed in our homes. We are trying to write our third album, but it’s not so easy. So we decided to take a break from the writing process and to try to record a cover. To do something different, just for fun.
How hard was it to develop such a project during the pandemic and lockdowns?
Ricky: Well, we recorded it at home, in Theo‘s studio, which is also our practice room, and we sent the material to our friend Fabrizio Panebarco, who’s a lead singer of Melody Fall.
Theo: I think that right now, in 2021, it’s easier to record and produce music at home. The last Architects album, it’s mixed at home on the headphones. And it sounds incredible. So, we are not in the ’80s or 90s, it’s easier. And I am a sound engineer and I try to understand what the band wants and the people want, so, the quality is there.
Ricky: And the video, it’s quite simple. Of course, all of us did the Covid-19 test, and we have a friend, Christopher, who is the owner of a famous, historic, venue here in Ravenna called Bronson. He gave us the opportunity to record a video there. It was filmed by a friend of ours whose name is Lorenzo, and we did everything, in just one day – in four or five hours. It was quite fast.
The follow-up to the ‘Seasons’ EP. And you already mentioned that you’re working on your third album. So what can we expect from it? More of the same, or you’re doing something different this time?
Theo: I think it will be different. We have a punk rock album, we have a pop punk album, this will be our third, so we want to do something different. Some songs are slower, we have synths, strange times. I don’t know if, at the end of this process, it will end up as a good road for us, but we are trying, we are trying. We play what we want to play. We have nothing to lose, we don’t have a contract or anything. We want to have fun and play together. That’s our band, that’s Sunset Radio. Fun and passion.
‘Seasons’ was one of my favorite releases last year. Even ‘Spritz & Polaroid,’ and I don’t speak Italian. It recalls the 2000s pop punk sound I grew up on. What were your main influences, and is it a conscious decision to continue that sound, or did it just came naturally to you?
Theo: For me, it’s natural. I love NOFX, No Use For A Name, Lagwagon. These are my bands. But ‘Seasons,’ those five songs, I think they are so different between them. I think ‘Spritz & Polaroid’ is like the early 2000s style, and we wanted this sound because we are a punk rock and pop punk band. But also…
Ricky: We didn’t plan the sound of the EP. We just sat down in our training room and played, played, played… And at the end of the process, we had five, six songs we decided to record. And in my opinion, they are different from one other. ‘Silence,’ for example, is a bit strange. It’s not a punk rock song, it’s not a pop punk song, but we like it. ‘Spritz & Polaroid,’ is totally different. It reminds me of the early 2000s, like Blink-182 or Sum 41.
Theo: In ‘Seasons,’ there is a lot of emotion. It was an emotional period, with a lot of things to talk about. And I’m a bit afraid about that because, the new album… Not that we don’t have anything to talk about, but you know, you stay at home, you don’t go outside and interact with other people. We meet each other in the practice room during the week, no other people, only us, and practice for a few hours. We don’t go out, we don’t go to the pub. You don’t go on tour. And tours are important. So, you put your hand on the guitar and you try to play something, but it’s hard. It’s very, very hard. And it’s like that in the rest of the world for bands. I know that in Spain, they recently did a concert, they are trying it in the United States right now, but in Italy – NO! (laughs) NO CONCERTS! It’s like the Black Death. (laughs) THE CONCERT! THE BAND! (makes a cross with his hands) So, it’s hard.
Ricky: First of all, songs come out from your emotion, and then you can carry them down them on the guitar, or bass, vocals, piano, wherever you want. And if you don’t feel, of course, I speak for myself, if I don’t feel this emotion, I can’t write down anything. So in a situation like this, for me, it’s really hard to write something. But we’re trying.
So, on our website, we write a lot about punk rock, pop punk, and music, but also about extreme sports like BMX and skateboarding. Because in our opinion, they kinda go together. So, are you involved in the skateboarding scene at this point? I know you also had a collaboration with DC Shoes.
Theo: I don’t think that anyone from Sunset Radio skate.
Ricky: I used to skate.
Theo: Oh, yeah?! You?
Ricky: Yeah, but I wasn’t good. (laughs) It was like ten years ago. But that’s a good collaboration. We’re working together for five years, and they are really nice people.
And do you think that connection with skateboarding brands and the skate community can help a band in some ways, and did you have any such experience?
Theo: I think it’s possible to do it, but outside Italy. Like, there is a band from France called Forus. They have their music on many skateboarding videos. You know Forus?
Yeah, I saw them a couple of years ago at Punk Rock Holiday in Slovenia.
Theo: Oh! The band from our hometown also played there – Action Man. The best Italian band. So fast – they sound better live than on the record! Amazing band!
I think I’ve heard the name, but I don’t really know them. I’ll check them out. But I do like the Italian scene, and I saw quite a few bands in the last few years, like Slander, Lineout, Anti You…
Theo: Lineout! Andrea Codini. Slander is dead right now, but Samall, their singer does a huge hardcore festival in Venice. It’s called Venice Hardcore. They had some huge bands in recent years.
Ricky: They started really small – for like 100, 200 people, and now they are considered one of the biggest underground events in Italy.
Theo: For the last three years, we also have the Bay Fest in Igea Marina, one of my colleagues does the sound there. So we played there too, it’s a huge festival. Let’s hope it’s back soon!