From recently selling out the Bluebird Theater in Denver to stunning listeners with their incredible EP called “Anytime” on Adapted Records, the three-piece electronic band Sunsquabi is primed for a breakout year.
One of Colorado's most promising native acts, we learned that there is a ton of great things around the corner as well and we're not surprised. We sat down with Kevin Donohue, who is responsible for songwriting, keys, and guitar in the band. He jams with Chris Anderson on drums and Andrew Clymer on synth and bass. Kevin and Andrew knew each other growing up in Boulder, eventually backing up Bizzy Bone from Bone Thugs N Harmony in his hip hop group. They met Chris on a bus to a Bassnectar to show and started working together in 2011. They call their style “hydro funk.”
“We call it Hydro because of the fluidity of the writing process and the unstoppable force that water represents,” Kevin explains.
And fluidity is apparent in their sounds. Their music has groovy waves that brings plenty of soul and jazz together.
“I think it's important as an artist that also uses Ableton live to perform as well as other instruments, to always remember to find your own way and represent your own sound,” Kevin explained. “The beauty in live electronic music is the freedom. Everybody has their own way or interpretation of the best way to do it, but it's really about what feels best for your sound and allows you to express yourself to the fullest. We are really focusing on creating a unique experience by honing in on each others strengths live and keeping it Squab.”
What can Squab do for you? A new album is on the way this fall via the new GRiZ imprint All Good Records. They're playing a show on September 4th at Red Rocks with GRiZ, The Floozies, Jmac and Muzzy Bearr as well.
“We are constantly collaborating with anyone and everyone we can,” Kevin said. “To name a few friends we've been working with lately, Late night Radio, Manic Focus, GriZ, Unlimited Gravity + Project Aspect. Our roots are based in hop hop and we frequently have live MC'S thrown into the mix, and this week I'm recording an R&B vocalist for the upcoming album.
We have been collaborating in the studio a lot with Grant (GRiZ) lately. This past weekend at the Bluebird in Denver was just one of those ones that worked out well for both of us and we could showcase some of the new music we've been working on. Playing with Griz in a live setting is the best! It's a really good fit in the trio sound to add horns of any kind, so it always gels well. And his stage presence is amazing, we definitely feed off of each other and it gets pretty wild.”
Along with Pretty Lights and Big Gigantic, GRiZ is one of Colorado's examples that funk is the new king in town. GRiZ believes in an improvisation style that resonates with Kevin. The entire band thrives on this live movement. Kevin says his favorite band at the moment is “Umphrey McGee,” known for a “progressive improvisation” style that defined some of the most iconic classic jam bands.
“Most of the time, I (Kevin) will start by producing and arranging the framework of a track. Sometimes it comes from recording our rehearsals and improvisations, sometimes it comes out of nowhere. This is where the melodic structure, electronic drums, Synth parts, keyboards and sometimes rhythm guitar will be born. The next step is rehearsing the heart of the track together and playing it out live. This part allows us to experiment and throw around ideas about how to make the final arrangement, and any other additions/subtractions as well as creating the bass line and live drums. Andrew and I will go back at that point and finalize the tracking and the mix, and then record Chris on the live drums for the final process – sample replacing and adding into what Chris plays with the original electronic drum sounds used in the first step.”
Their production on the “Anytime” EP was a special mix of influences from across the world.
“Well the process I just described was really honed on the Anytime EP. “Bubs” and “Mob Boss” were definitely inspired by the UK and Australian style glitch hop feel. We wanted to experiment with creating that sound but doing it our own way as a 3 piece band. “Anytime” is a very Stevie Wonder inspired track with lots of organs and clavinet. I am actually a huge fan of Adapted Records and all of the artists that they work with long before we started working with them. To be contacted by them and be able to release our music with someone on the other side of the world was a truly incredible feeling.”
Photo Credit: Ross Durbin/ Onthis Photography