By Jess Goulart
Image courtesy of Suburban Living.
Listen to Philadelphia-based Suburban Living’s 2012 EP, Cooper’s Dream, and you’ll start swaying to ethereal riffs long before you realize you’re mouthing lyrics of confusion and longing (try “I Don’t Fit In” for a taste).
That’s artist Wesley Bunch’s specialty brand of dream pop: irresistible in composition, bleeding raw in sentiment. The fact that he wrote the record when he was “jobless and out of college periodically” translates to an easily relatable realism. The humble honesty in Bunch’s demeanor will echo even louder through his next release, a self-titled full length out on PaperCup Music this January.
The first single “New Strings” was just released, and BTR caught up with Bunch to chat about what to expect from the rest of the record, his experience at this year’s CMJ, and how Twin Peaks wasn’t actually that big of an influence for him.
Tell me about your background as a musician and the project Suburban Living?
I was born and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I grew up there playing guitar and just decided I wanted to write my own music, so I began writing songs in my bedroom and playing a few songs as a solo folk sort of thing throughout high school. After high school I joined a band that did a little bit of touring and realized I didn’t want to be in that band anymore [laughs]. So, I went back to basics and began writing music in my bedroom again, under the name Suburban Living, in 2012. I put some songs on the internet and got a positive response, and was like, well, I guess I can keep doing this. And I kept writing songs, got some energy, got a 7” and began touring with some friends around Virginia Beach, and then wound up doing CMJ and SXSW and, like, playing in Japan and… it’s been pretty cool.
You played this most recent CMJ right?
Yeah, we did the CMJ sprint. We just did one show for our label PaperCup Music out of Brooklyn.
CMJ is nuts, definitely. What’s the “sprint?”
It’s insane and New York is super spread out so getting to all the shows can be really a headache. It’s cool this year because we had a showcase on Friday and then got booked at a festival in Virginia the next day, so I was like I’m just gonna do one show because I live so close. You see these bands come from like Australia to play five shows in three days, but for me I decided to just play one [the sprint], not the marathon.
Wesley Bunch, aka Suburban Living. Photo courtesy of Suburban Living.
So you have a new record in the works?
Yeah, we have a new record coming out in January on PaperCup. We just put a new single out a few weeks ago.
Does it have a name yet?
Yeah it’s gonna be self-titled, eight tracks, I recorded it this year all throughout and it’s gonna be coming out on vinyl–which will be really cool. It’ll be really nice to finally hold my record, so I’m really excited about that.
Official Cooper’s Dream EP cover art.
With Cooper’s Dream EP you talked a little bit in interviews and on your Bandcamp about how Twin Peaks was an influence. What would you name as some of your biggest influences on the upcoming album?
Umm, man… it’s funny about the Twin Peaks thing on Cooper’s Dream because a lot of people use Twin Peaks now as an inspiration–but I even made a mention on the Bandcamp page that it wasn’t a direct influence, I just happened to be watching the show when I made the record and I feel like anything that’s in your surroundings and anything you’re doing while you’re writing music is gonna directly influence it. Whether it be media or culture, anything you’re observing. So on the new record I felt like that was kind of this place of discontent and trying to figure out what I was gonna do with my year. A lot of the big inspiration came from a personal crossroads. It’s definitely a darker record and has a lot of darker undertones, not as bright and pop-y as Always Eyes or Cooper’s Dream. I was listening to a lot of really early Cure stuff, back when they were like a three piece band in the ‘70s, and getting really into that kind of ‘70s, like, post punk-ish kind of sound, like Wire, and really cool bands that never really took off. I think that had a really big influence on the record.
Is the single that you just released, “New Strings”, a pretty good indication of the rest of the album?
Actually, no! The new single is probably the brightest and poppy-est on the record. I choose that as the first single because it was the most reminiscent of the old sound, but I think we’re gonna drop a new one in a couple weeks and it’s gonna be really different. And I’m excited about that because I feel like when you’re writing a full length you’re at a time in your musical career where you’re thinking ‘I can do whatever I want with my first full-length.’ And that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t wanna write cookie cutter bright dreamy pop stuff anymore, I wanted it to have a little more substance and lyrical meaning. It’s a little bit more true. That’s what I like about it so much.
What’s your writing process like for finding that truth?
Usually I’ll just start off with a riff or drum beat and then the mood of the song kind of affects the lyrical content. So if I find myself writing something that’s a little bit melodically darker it’ll lyrically be a little more darker, but if it’s bright and poppy it might be about unicorns and candy!
Are there any particularly emotional spots on this new album we should be on the lookout for?
The last track of the record is a song called “Different Coast” and I fell like it is very apparent that it’s about being at a crossroads or feeling disconnected with where you live or maybe the people around you. If I had to pick a most vulnerable song on the record, it would be that one.
Who recorded and produced the new record?
I did the record down in Chesapeake, VA, at a studio that I worked at with a guy named Mark Padgett, who’s in a band called Mae. He is really the only person down there who really gets the sound that I’m going for and I just really love working with that guy. He engineered it and mixed it together and then I did probably 95 percent of the producing. He would throw in his two cents every now and again and that’s what I like about Mark, he knows to say ‘hey maybe we can try this or that,’ but doesn’t totally step into a producer’s shoes. Which is cool, ‘cause I’m kind of a control freak when it comes to how I like to record and produce my music.
What are you most looking forward to fans hearing on this album?
I’m excited for fans to hear how different it is. It has a lot of the same vibes, it’s definitely Suburban Living, but it’s in a different direction. And I hope that people can see that and hear it and enjoy it. I’m just excited for it to be finally out there for people to listen to.