Sunhaze (photo: Robert Alleyne)
Danae and Priscilla feed off one another’s energy. Danae is the lead singer, and Priscilla the keyboard/synth player of the five-piece band Sunhaze, purveyors of indie-pop surf-R&B. Their music is a mixture of styles and different influences. It’s a jigsaw created from music each member likes to make, forming a picture you can’t quite describe but feel increasingly drawn to.
We settle down to talk to about their music, and I ask about the year that was. Danae enthusiastically replies that it was “busy and exciting!” Priscilla takes a more muted tone and settles on the year being a “full experience.” The ‘busy and exciting’ part of the last year was releasing their debut LP, Wishful Thinking. The band recorded the album at San Francisco’s historic Different Fur Studios with the help of Sean Paulson. Danae remembers the time fondly: “Recording at this awesome place, with awesome people who are just as passionate about noise that we are. It was sick!” As a band, Sunhaze wanted to invest the time and money needed to make the album the best it could be.
This culminated in 10-hour sessions, spanning 10 days on consecutive weekends. It was a grueling recording timetable to fit in alongside full-time work schedules.
The first single they released from the album, Always You, is a prime example of the clashing of styles and sounds that run through Sunhaze’s music. Outwardly, it has a West-Coast indie style to it, with heavy undertones of R&B and vocal pop. Playfully melodic guitars swirl around while Danae’s vocals rest in between other instruments to soothe everything going on around it. This mixture of sounds is what drew me to the band initially (and led that particular song to be one of my top 10 most streamed tracks of 2016).
When I ask how the release went, there is a small pause to reflect before Priscilla responds, “a little bit underwhelming…It was busy and challenging, a lot of good experiences, but also with that comes some bad experiences.” This was their first time dealing with PR and the expected push from a firm, after investing personal savings, which Danae confesses was not easy as a local band, and did not materialize as they thought it might have.
The band also disagreed with their PR agency over videos at various points in the year. They were advised to shelve the “Always You” video for being too ‘cute.’ The second video they shot, for single “Buddy,” hit a long line of barriers as writers got backed up over Halloween, Thanksgiving and then the holidays. “The video itself is a lot darker,” shares Danae. “It’s very Halloween… it would have been perfect in October!” she emphatically chuckles (since our interview both videos have been released— Buddy”, “Always You”).
As we discuss the challenges of the album release, I never sense any anger or disappointment. It seems like the fleeting moment of fragility when you know you’ve done a great job, but you can’t quite find the missing piece to make everything sync together.
All the highs, lows, trials, and exaltations of the last 12 months appear to have made both Danae and Priscilla more confident, more determined, and they do not seem to have lost any of the love or passion for the music they’ve had since they first started making it together. They are already thinking of how to build from the record they released in the fall: “It would be nice to grow into a thing where it is more than just love and heartbreak, and just life at this point now,” shares Priscilla.
Life has a way of dictating new challenges, and Danae is using these events as a cathartic inspiration. “So much has happened to me in the past year; friend passing away, Trump getting elected,” says Danae, “I have found myself writing more deeply about other things.”