Behind the Music: Interview with The Sunset Beach Hut

‘From bedroom demos and influencers to headlining fantasy gigs, we get to know everything. Well, almost…’

Describe your music style in no more than 5 words. Matty & Luke: Funky Indie-Pop Party.

Who is in The Sunset Beach Hut and where are you from? Drummer Matty George and  Guitarist Ben Thomas are both from Shrewsbury, Vocalist Aphra Smith‘s from Chester, but currently at University in Coventry and our newest member, Bassist Luke McCrohon is from Birmingham.

Why the name ‘The Sunset Beach Hut’? Matty: We took influence from a mixture of books and films. Ben and I searched through my bookshelf to see if we could find anything that caught our eye. We were looking for something that fitted the indie summer party type vibe we were going for and ended up with – after a lot of time and discussion – The Sunset Beach Hut. For a while after did think about changing it but decided to keep it at the last minute. We’re really glad we did as the name has grown on us and we’ve grown with it.

What does each member bring to the tracks? Matty: We all listen to a variety of music. Some are similar but at the same time there are lots of differences. It’s always interesting to see what comes out as you can go into a track with one idea in mind – from the part that you are contributing – and then, by the time other people have had their say and input the track, it sounds completely different.

With so many different styles, it can sometimes be tricky to not over complicate or make everyone completely happy. This said, we will work on a track until it’s at the place that we are all happy with it and everyone has had an input.

Aphra: Before we had Luke, Matty and Ben wrote the music, Matty brought funky bass lines and rhythm and Ben added the guitar hooks. When I get the tracks, I write the lyrics, add the vocals and generally move things around so that they fit together nicely around what I’ve written. I’m interested to see how Luke adds to our tracks with his own unique styles and influences.

‘Being a very introverted person, performing allows me to express a side that I don’t always allow to shine through.’ (Aphra)

Who influences your music? Matty: The artists that influence me the most are Bad Sounds, The Japanese House and Alt J. I adore their music, and they all influence my writing as well as my playing style. I also have a playlist on the band Spotify with some of my most recent find. These three artist’s however have been some of those who have had a huge influence on me and the band since the beginning.

Aphra: I have quite a wide range of influences. Before I started joining bands I used to play a lot of folk and singer-song writer stuff solo growing up. I think that folk melodies will always influence me in a way. I just love artists like Laura Marling, Villagers and Suzanne Vega. I can’t deny the pop-punk/pop-rock influences though as these were artists I grew up listening to. The bands that heavily influence what I write on the tracks now however include The 1975, COIN and Fickle Friends.

Ben: Bombay Bicycle club and Hippocampus are a big influence for me when coming up with guitar riffs. They both use a lot of prominent, fast paced riffs and it’s something that I always enjoy incorporating into our music.

Photo Credit: Jonny Nolan

Where is your go-to place for writing new music? Matty: We all just cram into my bedroom!  All of our equipment set up in there, so we go there to write and record a lot of tracks and demos. It’s been this way since the beginning due to me having the room and equipment to set it all up. It is also the place where Comfort and The Tide were recorded and produced so hearing the reviews and compliments just felt amazing. 

I read recently that you used to be a duo, why did this change? Matty: The band was always set to have more members than just two of us (me and Ben). We did one gig as a duo and that was only because our ex-singer dropped out of the gig with just days to go! We didn’t want to disappoint the promoter or those who tickets so just did it. I had to sing and play drums standing up! It was an odd experience, but we thoroughly enjoyed it.

The aim though was never to be a duo, we always wanted to find a singer as neither me nor Ben exactly have the vocal skills to be a frontman. To put it plainly, we can’t sing so when we finally got Aphra on board (after her turning us down originally due to college commitments) the line-up was complete for the time being. I can’t imagine doing this band without her out the front.

Recently though got our 4th member: bassist Luke! We felt the time was right to finally take the bass out of the backing track and have it played for real live. We had our first gig with him on last Saturday – headlining at O2 Academy 3 B’ham. The response was amazing, and we are so happy to be finally growing as a band. 

‘If a band doesn’t have a good social media presence, it could significantly reduce their fan base.’ (Matty)

All your tracks seem to be hook driven, was this something you took from being a duo originally? Matty: The aim was always to create catchy summer tunes and you can’t have a catchy song without a nice juicy hook! Normally the hook comes naturally, and we barely have to think about it. It appears and suddenly we have a little riff we just can’t get out of our heads. This is when we just know we are onto a winner as normally the rest just falls into place alongside it.

Photo Credit: Jonny Nolan

You mentioned earlier that you record in your bedroom, talk us through what one of your sessions would look like. Matty: Recording sessions are normally great fun as it is just 3 (or now 4) friends in a room with the challenge of creating a track. We will normally start with the bass and drums and get them linking together well. These are my favourite parts to record as if you get them perfectly together, the heart of the track is in place. We always enjoy going into the though studio as it is great to see a song come together after months of preparation. We go in with the demos [created in my bedroom] and how we feel they will come out but they always surpass our expectations.

So do you prefer being in the studio or performing live? Matty: I love both for different reasons. The studio is where I feel comfortable as I love working on tracks and getting to make them sound the best we can. This is sometimes my favourite part of putting the song together. 

Playing live is also a magical experience though as the feeling you get from a crowd when they are enjoying your set is something that can never be replicated! We played an acoustic version of ‘Comfort’ at the gig last weekend and it was crazy to fully hear the crowd sing along. I don’t think playing live will ever fail to put a smile on my face as we love everyone who has ever spent their time (and money) coming see us.

Aphra: I think performing will always be my favourite. That’s what we set out to do when we started the band and that’s what I really enjoy. It’s a different form of expressionism to writing music and being a very introverted person, it allows me to express a side of myself that I don’t always allow to shine through.

Luke: Performing live is my favourite. There’s nothing better than playing the songs you created to an audience that are having a great time and love your music.

What releases/gigs do you have coming up in 2019? Matty: We have a fun little headline gig lined up at the Sunflower Lounge in B’ham (23rd Feb) but that’s all we can say right now. We should have some other awesome gigs ready to announce soon so you will just have to keep an eye out for them!

As for releases, that’s once again kept under lock and key…. We should have another track coming out reasonably soon which, if you’ve seen us live, you may recognise. Keep your eyes peeled on our socials and you’ll find out soon enough!

‘It’s so much more enjoyable hearing an artist live than just through headphones.’ (Ben)

How important is it to have a strong social media presence? Matty: In today’s world, social media is really important because of how much goes on on there. The world always likes to be as up to date as it can be and don’t think bands nowadays could make it without a the coverage. It is key to communicate with fans and to also get the word out about your music. Everyone expects everyone else to have social media accounts. If a band doesn’t, it could significantly reduce their fan base as people wouldn’t be able to keep up with your tour dates and what you have going on in ‘your world’.

Luke: It’s important to keep them up to date or you could potentially drop off the map. It’s also a great way of letting fans know about upcoming shows/tours and showing your personalities as well as your songs

Aphra: We are present on all social media, if you search “The Sunset Beach Hut” you will find us. We’re not always great at keeping them up to date, but that’s our new years resolution!

Why and when did you all first become involved in music? Matty: I started during my early teens in pop punk bands. I learnt guitar parts of bands like Blink 182, Green Day and Sum 41 and eventually branched out to other instruments including bass, drums, ukulele and banjo along the way! I always wanted to learn more.

Me, Ben and Aphra all met through a pop punk band that we were all in. Ben and I continued doing music after it broke up and started to get into and play more indie-pop style music. Because we had worked together before and were still close friends, we brought Aphra into the band, thus forming the ‘original’ trio.

Aphra: I started singing and joining choirs when I was about 7 which is around the same time that I first started playing guitar. I then joined a young people’s music group when I was about 13 which is when I first started to perform and collaborate with other people. It’s always been a huge part of my life.

Ben: When I was 10, there was a kid in my primary school who wanted to play guitar. I wanted to as well, so I did! I never stopped playing it. All of my family are very musical, and I grew up around music so it naturally followed on. I also found that I enjoyed writing my own music over playing covers, so started writing riffs and sometimes songs.

Luke: I first became involved in music when I listened to Green Day for the first time. Then I picked up a guitar and loved it ever since.

‘Believe in yourself, your songs and your playing ability.’ (Luke)

What is the purpose of music? Aphra: I think music will always be something that’s hugely cathartic, whether you play or just listen. You will always find something out there that fits your mood. It brings people together and makes people feel like maybe they aren’t as alone as they feel.

Luke: The purpose of music to me is when a group of people come together to create something amazing that others will listen and relate to.

Who was the first musician/band you saw live? Matty: The first band I saw was 30 Seconds to Mars, supported by You Me at 6. I was a huge fan of YM@6 and my mate was a huge fan of 30STM so we went to the Genting Arena in B’ham together. It was an incredible experience! YM@6 blew me away and I went to see them three more times soon after. However, it was 30STM that really inspired me when it came to stage presence. I hadn’t been to a gig before – let alone something the size of the Genting Arena – so seeing Jared Leto take control of the stage and the audience was incredible for me.

Aphra: The first band I saw live was Villagers at Reading Festival 2013. I still love them to this day and can definitely recommend ‘Awayland.’ It’s a really great album. The first gig that I went to though was Paramore at Manchester Arena when I was 15 and I’ve been in love with live music ever since.

Ben: The first bands I saw live were All Time Low and You Me at Six on their joint headline tour. I remember everything being really loud, but I loved loud music. It really made me want to play live and see more of it. It is so much more enjoyable hearing an artist live than just listening to them through headphones.

Luke: The first band I ever saw live was Bon Jovi (with my parents).

What would be the 3 pieces of advice you would give to others trying to make it in the music industry? Luke: 1. You must have a genuine passion for music because you will go through hard times and might end up hating it. 2. Believe in yourself, your songs and your playing ability. 3. Never, give, up.

And finally……You are told you can do a gig anywhere in the universe and can have anyone (past or present) in your audience. Where are you? Who’s watching?

Matty: For me, Genting Arena would be amazing. It’s not only where I saw my first concert, but it is also where I have seen so many incredible acts including The 1975, The Japanese House, Gorillaz and Blink 182! It would be such an amazing experience seeing the crowd and arena from the stage rather than looking at the stage from the stands.

As for who would be there… Honestly, my family. I would want them to be there for possibly the greatest day of my life.  Other than that, the band’s I’m influenced by. If I found out they had listened to one of our tracks and enjoyed it I would be over the moon, so coming to see us perform live would just be madness!

Aphra: I would love to play at some of the festivals I’ve grown up attending. Reading and Leeds is huge for me because it’s the first place I experienced live music. In the audience I would want my friends, family and everyone that’s supported us along the way. Oh and maybe Bowie or Freddie Mercury because that would just be cool.

Ben: Well… still The Sunflower Lounge at the moment. I love that venue and can’t imagine not playing it. Even if we go on to play bigger stages, I would still always love to come back to Sunny for a more intimate setting. The atmosphere is always incredible.

Luke: Having Prince in the crowd watching us would be the coolest thing ever.

Thanks ‘The Sunset Beach Hut’ for chatting with Listen to Discover.

Follow The Sunset Beach Hut on: Twitter and Facebook
Listen to The Sunset Beach Hut on: Spotify
Find out more about The Sunset Beach Hut at: Track Review: The Sunset Beach Hut: Bury

The Sunset Beach Hut are part of Listen to Discover’s #FridayFindsFeaturedArtist series which you can keep up to date with on Twitter and Facebook.

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