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At The Sun brighten rock

London five-piece, who also hold down ‘boring day jobs’, talk about their debut album, mingling with fans and Camden Rocks

04 April, 2019 — By Róisín Gadelrab

At The Sun will play The Black Heart in Camden Town on April 12

A PE teacher, a former hedge fund manager, two IT geeks and a window fitter walk into a bar.

That’s not the start of a joke – just what will happen when At The Sun, one of the most friendly, up-and-coming rock bands on the circuit, mark the release of debut, blues-infused rock album, Leave Before The Light, at The Black Heart on April 12.

The London five-piece, who also return to Camden Rocks Festival (June 1-2), have only been together since 2016, and spent their formative years rehearsing in Kentish Town’s K Town Studios.

Rhythm guitarist Kieron Heavens, who writes most of the songs, and bass player Alex Matthews met first, then drummer Craig Steen joined, followed by frontman Harry Dale and lead guitarist Chet Jogia.

“Most of us have boring day jobs we do to fund this, which is the reality of music these days,” says Craig.

“People don’t pay £14 or £15 for a CD anymore, they get it free on YouTube or Spotify. The era of Duran Duran and what have you are gone.

“Alex is a PE teacher, Chet is the former City slicker – he used to be a hedge fund manager. I’m an IT technical architect, a kind of weird nerdy thing by day, and then I get to hit drums at night which is a lot more rock and roll.

“Kieron is also an IT project manager, which again sounds nerdy by day but really helps having someone who’s a good driving force. He’s very good at marshalling us all together because trying to get five guys to travel in the same direction and get to the same place at the same time is quite a feat.

“He’s very good at organising and planning, he’s the engine room of the band, no question.

“Harry builds and fits windows. It’s a real mix of people, a mix in life, you can hear that, there’s a mix of music types.”

This eclectic background fed into the band’s sound.

“There’s lots of riffs and grooves, they’re all positive energy, it’s not like dark minor chords and shoegazing. A lot of our songs are about coming out the other side of adversity and struggle, and a lot of people can relate to that,” says Craig.

“In general our music has a positive side to it, it’s about struggling against that and still coming out on top.

“Chet has a completely different style, not like a power-metal guitarist, he has a bluesy, souly kind of way to playing guitar, uses fewer notes, and better spaces and his solos are very melodic, they’re not like super-speed solos, it’s not like a sport for him, he truly does feel music, you really hear that.

“Harry has a soulful voice, he’s not got a gruff heavy voice, really melodic and good range, so he can carry the soaring vocals and choruses we have because he’s got the power.

“We like the melting pot rather than being another boiler plate, heavy rock band. The fusion we’ve got is kind of what’s working for us.”

Craig says they have developed a mutual respect for fellow bands on the circuit.

“You’d think it would be full of rivalry and people jostling for the same position, but we’ve played around London and further afield. Quite a few bands we’ve bumped into, we find you kind of build this camaraderie about them. It teaches you to be a good team player, so when you’re on tour and you see the headline band loading in and you’re going to be using their kit, the nice thing to do is help them. You could sit at the bar and be useless or you can help them. They’re going to be letting you use their stuff, so everyone gets along better if you help with the loading and share your pizza – those are the two things I’ve learned.

“If you’re genuinely nice guys and you help people out, then people will help you out, the same through all life, not just when in a band.”

Playing the Devonshire Arms at last year’s Camden Rocks festival has left them wanting more.

“It was a great experience,” says Craig.

“It was about 1,000 degrees centigrade, we were melting, in a tiny venue where a lot of the heavier bands were playing. The guys before us had a huge moshpit. The people were great, even the security guards were great, really friendly.

“I love Camden Rocks because it’s all about the music. People are there to listen to some good music. It’s good to have new music out there and to see it has so much support, because no one that was playing that day is ever going to hear their music on Radio 1 the way thing are at the moment. It’s not radio-friendly music.

“Rock music doesn’t make its way into the mainstream like that, so to see that it’s so alive and there’s such a big support for it, with such a big following, is great.”

He added: “It’s such a shame because when you go back a few years to the glory days of the ’90s and early 2000s, when Nirvana, etc were around, you’d hear them on the radio sometimes. Nowadays if you’re lucky you might get Lower Than Atlantis or someone like that on Radio 1 – that’s about as heavy as you will get. The other stuff just doesn’t really get a mention anymore, so it’s good to see that it’s still alive and kicking and has a huge following.”

The band have built up a dedicated fanbase, which might be something to do with the fact that they have an extremely open approach to post-gig drinks with fans.

“We value our fans, relationships and friendships,” says Craig.

“The music we make, as much as we like it, doesn’t really mean anything unless the people we play it to really feel and enjoy it.

“We have a lot of great fans, a dedicated fan page that’s administrated by our fans, they manage it and post to it. They’re like friends to us. Some of them have been on the journey from day one.

“We love to catch up with people and talk afterwards, we’re not there to do it in a bubble and sit in a green room on our own, we want to meet the people we’re playing for.

“If people like what they’ve heard or don’t like it, we want to hear, we want to learn from that. A lot of the pleasure is catching up with the people afterwards and having a beer with them. It’s one of the best bits of playing.”

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