Music holds a special place in people’s hearts. Consider the personal connection you have to your favourite band, or think about the moment you heard a song that would change your life. A mighty force, music can also always make you feel as if everything is OK.
It’s this power that Adelaide melodic pop-rock quintet the Sundance Kids capture so perfectly. With their artillery of assured anthems perfectly weighted by amiable frontman Ash Gale’s honest words, combined with their natural ability to strike a chord with audiences, it didn’t taken long for the band – formerly an acoustic trio, with Gale, Jason Shepherd and Luke Zecchin – to be thrust into the spotlight.
“There was a lot of energy and rocking out on acoustic guitars, but we could really connect with the crowd and make it intimate. That’s how it all started,” Gale says. “Everyone seemed to really gravitate towards it.”
The Sundance Kids also won over two other musicians, former Thinktank bassist Jeremy Wright and Edison Music drummer Suresh Meyer. Recruited to flesh out the Sundance Kids’ sound in the studio for the 2007 EP Including The Atmosphere, the pair gelled so well with the trio they signed on to join the band full-time.
“The first time I saw these guys live, the songs really stuck out to me,” Wright recalls. “They were really good sing-along songs, and the two acoustic guitars sounded really beautiful. Then Luke was using cool acoustic effects to give extra texture, and it was totally different to anything else that was going on. It was something that was easy to connect with, strong songs and a bit different.”
The result is a formidable five-piece set to reach even greater heights with their debut album due for release in Mid 2009.
Recorded over three months at Broadcast Studio and Third Avenue studios in Adelaide, the Sundance Kids’ debut is an assured and focused set from a group who clearly share the kind of dynamic great rock bands are made of. Intricate guitar tones, fantastic pop hooks, piano flourishes, inventive rhythms and soaring atmospherics lay the foundation for Gale to build on.
Possessing a voice that’s as powerful and expressive as it is delicate and resonating, Gale steps out as a new leading frontman on the scene. Incredibly, it’s his first time in front of the mic, having been behind the drum kit before the Sundance Kids.
“I’ve always wanted to sing but I’d never felt confident enough,” Gale concedes. “But it really just happened and I became the singer. I had to grow with that and gain in confidence a lot.”
While the accomplished songwriting and emotional weight steals the show, the beautiful space and textures on the album deserve as much praise. The quintet found the perfect foil in Thinktank frontman and sought-after producer Darren Thompson, whose love of the band’s music mixed with his own vast experience to lovingly and professionally develop an outstanding set. It was then masterfully mixed in LA with Brian Paturalksi, the man behind releases from OutKast, Aerosmith, Silverchair, Sarah Blasko and more. Just as impressive, the band funded the entire project themselves before the major labels came knocking on their door. Then, in November last year, they inked a worldwide deal with Warner Music.
“We had a vision of eventually signing to a label to do an album, but over time that evolved to us deciding to do it ourselves, recording the album ourselves rather than waiting for a label to sign us to be able to record it,” says Meyer. “We really believed in what we were doing, and I guess to go as hard as what we did with it and do it ourselves, we needed to really believe in it.”
It takes a confident band to undertake such a project, yet it takes a talented one to carry it through so well. With likable youthful exuberance tempered with sound musical experience courtesy of seasoned players Meyer and Wright, the Sundance Kids have harnessed something very special. And it can be heard directly in frontman Gale, whose personable, effective lyrics and voice are a real revelation.
“When I wrote the songs, I was thinking how I’d love to write a song that puts you in a good mood, is uplifting, is positive without being too cheesy,” he remembers. “I started to think, ‘OK, let’s write some really emotional, vulnerable lyrics.’ It really liberates you.”
And it’s this refreshing honesty and sense of joy the band embrace that resonate long after the song is over. Music is a beautiful and powerful thing, and this is one band embracing its full force.
“When you’re on stage and you’re playing a song that’s making people go, ‘Yeah!’ – we get a lot out of seeing a positive reaction from the crowd, like they’re reflecting on the words and it’s making them feel good,” says bassist Jeremy Wright. “Before I joined the band, there was a song called ‘The Tide’ that got me through a hard time. Writing those songs and performing those songs, so other people can have those experiences and they can carry them through, is great.”