Images and Video by Jan-Willem Dikkers
“We used to be called ‘Jeff,’ which was a little jokey.
Both of our sisters liked the name 'Sun June' so we felt sister-approved.”
— Stephen Salisbury
Sun June is an indie-pop band based in Austin, Texas, comprising Laura Colwell, Stephen Salisbury, Michael Bain and Sarah Schultz. The group released their debut album Years (2018) through Keeled Scales, and have since gained attention from influential music blogs NPR Music and Consequence of Sound.
After meeting through mutual friends in Austin, Texas, the five members of Sun June began recording their first album—and won a label deal in the process. After hearing the band’s music wafting into his apartment from the recording studio below, the co-founder of Austin label Keeled Scales signed the band. They chat with us about home renovations, self-expression and being spontaneous in the studio.
Where are you from?
Michael Bain: San Antonio.
Justin Harris: North Carolina.
Stephen Salisbury: Torrance, California.
Laura Colwell: New York.
Sarah Schultz: Chicagoland.
LC: But we’re all from —
LC and SS: Austin, Texas!
When did you start making music?
LC: Probably all at different stages in life, but as a band we’ve been playing for two and a half years.
MB: I’ve been playing in bands since about eighth grade.
JH: About the same for me.
Formed in 1983, NOFX is a punk rock band from Los Angeles. Despite never signing to a major label, the group has released fourteen studio albums and sixteen EPs. They rose to prominence with their fifth album Punk in Drublic (1995), and released their latest studio album Ribbed – Live in a Dive in 2018.
Who did you listen to growing up?
JH: All kinds of stuff. A lot of classic rock and hip hop. All the stuff you are into when you’re in middle school, I guess. Nirvana?
MB: A lot of classic rock. I had a cousin who turned me onto a lot of great bands like Animal Collective.
SS: I’m from Southern California so I listened to a lot of NOFX, unfortunately. And Wilco.
LC: I listened to a lot of girl groups and boy groups. Lauryn Hill. I loved The Fugees. And Alicia Keys, Songs in A Minor. It was beautiful.
SS: I listened to a lot of oldies. So many oldies. Some of the guys here think that the Beach Boys are overrated. I listened to a lot of ska in high school.
LC: Reggae for me too.
“I don’t think there was ever a decision made to keep doing this. We’ve just been doing it and it’s been fun. We’re just riding the wave.”
— Laura Colwell
How did you get started?
LC: Stephen and I met each other working together, and another friend we worked with introduced us to Michael, who is on guitar. Stephen already knew Justin because he played in other bands with him. In that same friend group, Sarah popped up because she had started dating someone we know. So we all got together.
When do you feel you got your first break?
SS: Right now. [laughing]
LC: I hope we haven’t got there yet.
SS: I think our first big break was just getting somebody to book our first show.
LC: Second big break would just be getting someone else to put out our music, if that’s okay to say? I think that’s a good thing.
How did you decide that this is what you are going to do?
LC: I don’t think there was ever a decision made. We’ve just been doing it. It’s been fun. We’re just riding the wave. Do you have a better answer?
SS: No, no. That sounds good. I mean, I don’t know if we’ve decided to do it rather than just kept doing it.
JH: Yeah, we haven’t decided to not do it.
SS: We have not decided to not do it. Other people have tried to decide for us to not do it, but we’ve said no.
What’s the story behind the name Sun June?
SS: Laura and I were combining a lot of sounds we liked. We wanted something that sounded like it could be a name. We used to be called “Jeff,” which was a little jokey. Both of our sisters liked Sun June so we felt sister-approved. So we went with it.
“As far as drumming with this band, it’s definitely more about the subtleties and all of the nuance.”
— Sarah Schultz
Tell me a bit about your debut LP Years that just came out?
LC: We recorded it last year. We tracked everything together as a group and it formed. A lot of it was similar to how we played it live, but slightly different because it’s in a studio. The collection of songs, they’re from a bigger pool that we whittled down. No rhyme or reason to it. I mean, there’s a rhyme.
SS: We picked songs that fit together.
LC: Yeah, it just felt right.
SS: We recorded everything live to tape, which was cool. So, live vocals and live music and then we went back and did overdubs as necessary.
MB: One of the most fun parts for me was coming up with guitar parts at the last second. Like, for “Young,” I came up with the guitar part two days before we finished tracking that.
LC: And it stuck. So there’s been some spontaneous in-studio making.
SS: We got to work with a guy named Evan Kaspar at a local studio, which we liked a lot.
What life events have impacted you and your music the most?
LC: That’s a heavy question. Everything?
SS: I guess probably breakups and losses of any kind.
LC: Definitely, but also happiness too. Just everything. It’s hard to sum up life.
What are some things that are important to you that you like to address through your music?
SS: As far as drumming with this band, it’s definitely more about the subtleties and all of the nuance. There’s nothing super heavy-hitting. I try to be way more dynamic because it’s more emotional. I try to hit those peaks and valleys.
LC: Yeah, that’s a nice way to put it. I don’t know if there’s anything particular ever addressed other than —
SS: Other than our self expression.
What are your interests outside of music?
LC: Being outside.
Alex Dupree is a musician and writer based in Los Angeles. He recorded his first record in 2005 with The Trapdoor Band and is currently a part of country duo Dawn & Dupree. Dupree released a full-length solo album in 2017 titled You Winsome, You Lonesome.
Natalie Prass is a songwriter and musician from Richmond, Virginia. She released her self-titled debut album in 2015, which Pitchfork named a Best New Album. She released her second album The Future and the Past in 2018.
Big Thief is an indie-rock band based in Brooklyn, New York, comprising Adrianne Lenker (vocals, guitar), Buck Meek (guitar), Max Oleartchik (bass) and James Krivchenia (drums). Lenker released two EPs with Meek in 2014 before releasing two albums as Big Thief: Masterpiece (2016) and Capacity (2017).
SS: Being outside. Austin. Tacos.
SS: Laura and I both work in film, so film.
MB: My brother and I do home renovations. It’s not really a hobby, though.
SS: It’s what you address through your music, right? It’s what you channel.
LC: Justin likes computers.
JH: Yeah. And I’ve been into learning languages lately. That’s my interest.
What’s your favorite book, film and music right now?
MB: I’m reading a collection of short stories by Chekhov.
SS: My favorite books right now are this trilogy by Rachel Cusk. The third one’s just about to come out. My favorite record is Alex Dupree’s You Win Some, You Lonesome.
LC: I’ll take that, too. I started working on a film so I stopped reading this month. I was reading short stories.
SS: For music, Natalie Prass’ new album was so good.
MB: Big Thief’s Capacity was great. I’m listening to that on repeat.