INTERVIEW: Sons of the East on showmanship and their 100,000 YouTube hits

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Sydney indie-folk band Sons of the East immediately radiate song-writing talent and a taste for the outdoors.  With a self titled EP bumping in high on the iTunes alternative chart, and a video that’s cracked over 110,000 YouTube hits, this is one band you should keep your eyes on.  I chatted with banjo player Daniel Wallage whose easy-going manner and down to earth attitude makes it easy to see why audiences are getting drawn in.

Despite the recent run of successes, Daniel quickly affirms that he and his band mates are no different from anyone else their age.  “We all surf a lot,” he laughs, “We’re always hanging out and enjoy just cruising.”  He laughs when prompted about the origin’s of Jack’s nick-name.  “He keeps telling people that his name is Jack ‘Danger’ Rollins.  We like to say that’s a self given nick-name.  I think he liked the ring of it,” suggests Daniel, “he’s actually not a dangerous person.”

All three members of the band also study media focused courses at local unis.  “Jack and myself both go Macquarie and Nic [Johnston]is at University of Technology, Sydney.  We’re all finishing within the next year.”  Naturally, when not song-writing or performing, the boys like to have a jam.

Their student status may be why you haven’t heard of the fun loving three piece yet, although Daniel is quick to point out that uni isn’t holding them back.  “We’re just slowly easing into it.  Hopefully in the next three to four months, we’ll be down in Melbourne, and we’ll be getting around the coast of New South Wales,” he says casually.  “Especially now that we’ve released an EP and got a couple of videos out.”

Sons of the East released the stunning ‘Hold On”, which has amazingly racked up well over 100,000 views on YouTube.  The video follows a young boy as he leaves home, but in such as positive way that you can’t help but be happy for him.  “We really wanted something natural, that had a lot of organic colours, and that whole outback vibe.” Despite the literal translation of the song’s meaning, Nick hopes that the video will tell something different to each person. “It’s open to the viewer’s interpretation you know, it’s not a set in stone meaning.”

Nick is humbly surprised by the video’s success. “We were just stoked, because we are only just easing our way into the scene, having not done many shows around the place.”  He finds it hard though to put his finger on what makes the video an internet success. “I think, one thing is that YouTube is a global thing, so maybe we are getting a lot more people from overseas looking at our music,” Nick ventures. “It’s really cool that people in other countries appreciate and enjoy our music.”  The hits indicate that America and Europe are the biggest draw for the group. “We get messages from people in Germany and Brazil,” he reveals, “A lot come from America.  That would be the dream, to play there one day.”

Sons of the East also worked with talented writer and director Samuel Leighton-Dore to capture the band’s desired aesthetic.  “Our manager had worked with Sam, and he said ‘I’ve got this guy who’d love to work with you.’ And out lead singer Jack was like: ‘Alright, I already know him.’ So it just came together really well.” The video was so much fun to make that the band hopes to work with Samuel and his crew again in future.  “They are just a really good bunch of people to work with, and the quality of the videos they produce is just awesome.”

Photo by Nick Chadwick

Photo by Nick Chadwick

‘Hold On’ is not the bands only video to feature natural picturesque surroundings.  ‘Come Away’ is partially set in the Blue Mountains, a place that’s familiar to the trio.  “The scenery looks absolutely amazing, we shot early in the morning when you get absolutely beautiful lighting.”  The visuals bring a sense of freedom the viewer, which compliments the upbeat driven feel of these songs – largely due to Daniel’s instrument.  “I just love to play the banjo, it’s a very interesting instrument to play.” The song eases you in with temperate vocals before that banjo smashes in and demands that you move your body. “That’s our plan, to start slow and finish fast.”

According to the band’s Facebook page, each show aims to have the audience singing in the first song and dancing in the second. “We’ve tried to incorporate that so hopefully the venues are happy to have us. Because they know we’re not just going to sit there and play depressing songs the whole time.”  Their energetic style may be what has led to the constant comparison with Mumford and Sons, as well as the subconscious reference whenever you read their name. Daniel laughs when asked about it: “There are some similarities, obviously we are not going to deny it.  I think it’s because of my bloody instrument,” he ruefully admits.

But he doesn’t believe that there’s any problems with diversity within the folk genre. “I think that it’s all fairly represented.  The folk that comes out of England can be very different to the stuff that comes out of the U.S.”  All that Sons of the East are concerned with right now is pushing their own sound out into the world.  “We’ve had some really great shows in Sydney recently, so we’d like to get that happening everywhere else,” he explains. “Just get more people listening, coming to gigs and just enjoying it. That would be the dream, just to get more people interested in the music.”

A big thank you to Daniel Wallage for the wonderful chat.  It will surely not be long before Sons of the East play in Queensland too; keep up to date with them on their Facebook and Twitter.

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