Apr 07, 2021
By Mark Moody
Photography by Santiago Dietche
There are a million and one band formation stories, but it’s safe to say that none started quite like that of Austin’s self-labeled “regret pop” band Sun June. The band’s co-founder, lead singer, and songwriter, Laura Colwell, recently shared about the seeds that sprouted into the group’s current five-person lineup. Colwell and the band’s other primary songwriter and lyricist, Stephen Salisbury, met while working on the production of Terrence Malick’s 2017 film, Song to Song. “Stephen was an editor and I was a production assistant,” Colwell explains. “Ryan Gosling was in the movie and was bringing his guitar around when they were editing some songs. So Stephen and I usually worked late and started writing joke songs using the guitar,” “and thought ‘Let’s just keep doing this, it’s fun.’” For example, a spoof of the Pixies song “Where Is My Mind?” became “Where Is My Life?”
The group’s other members—Michael Bain, (lead guitar), Sarah Schultz (drums), and Justin Harris (bass)—coalesced around the core of Colwell and Salisbury. 2018 brought the group’s Keeled Scales debut, Years, and this February the group put out the more mature and confident sounding, Somewhere, released jointly on Keeled Scales and Run For Cover. Both labels are associated with Secretly Distribution. “It’s all in the family and it’s all groovy, baby,” Colwell jokes.
Though the group trades on the “regret pop” tagline, Colwell explains that her and Salisbury’s songwriting has turned to their own current relationship as romantic partners and their future. “You can’t really regret the present or the future,” she says. “We are trying to live more in the moment. I deal with grief and Stephen deals with sobriety. And then there’s our relationship in the middle of that.”
One of Somewhere’s central songs, “Karen O,” seems to deal in the past of a night spent wandering around New York City. Catching a Karen O live set, ambling across the Brooklyn Bridge to the city, missing phone calls from a parent, and climbing the stairs to an ex-lover’s apartment are palpable in their detail. Aside from admitting that Cat Power’s “Manhattan” was a blueprint for the album, Colwell says the remainder of “Karen O” is purely fictional. “I’m sorry. It’s a dream,” she admits. “The song is about heartache and having a hard time letting go. And I’ve done that in New York, but we never saw Karen O. A friend of mine has and heard the song and said, ‘Were we at the same show?’”
The album’s opener, “Bad With Time,” also has cinematic images, borrowing Neil Young’s line from “Unknown Legend” about a woman set free on her Harley Davidson out on the desert highway. Colwell admits that her and Salisbury’s time spent in film has impacted their writing. “I was realizing the other day that all of our songs are a little montage-y,” she says. The way they put the listener into the set of the song makes this particularly evident.
As with all bands these days, the pandemic has put a damper on plans to tour in support of the album, and the pragmatist of the group (Salisbury) enrolled in college to pursue a microbiology degree. If they are able to tour, they have back-up plans for Salisbury’s role, but their key focus remains on making more music. “We can’t wait to tour on this record and can’t wait to make something new and something even a little more different,” Colwell closes.