"We're Sun.Set.Ships and we play electro indie progressive folk.” Ryan introduces the band as we find a quiet spot at Vantastival after their killer set. “I play the laptop and drum machines. We play loops in the background and other sounds. A lot of people say there's an ‘80s sound to it.”
It’s an unusual mix of heartfelt, traditional folk songwriting and modern electronica. “I am surprised there's not more people doing similar things and there aren't more people doing it, mixing the live band and the drum machines. We're delighted that we seem to be on to something that is a bit different”, he adds. Conor (keys and vocals) chips in, “We seem to appeal to a lot of age groups. A lot of older people love our stuff but there's a lot of young people too. It encompasses a wide spectrum.” Guitarist and vocalist Ciaran reckons, “There is that bit of pop to it so everyone can enjoy it”.
The Monaghan band have just played on the Firestone stage and they’ve had an amazing reception with people dancing like crazy. Conor is impressed, “It’s our first time here as a three piece, we (indicates Ciaran) were originally Sun.Set.Ships and we played before. Ryan was meant to play with us but he'd only joined three weeks before. We underestimated how long it was going to take to programs all them drums and stuff on the computer. We used to play off a synth.”
Back when they were a duo, they played chilled acoustic music but what started out like Bon Iver or James Vincent McMorrow became more electronic. Ryan was producing dance music at the time. “It was going that way” says Conor, “It used to be shakers. Then we needed to get a proper beat going. Then the synths came in. Then Ryan came along and he was producing drums much better than our ready-made loops. It was repetitive stuff. Now we have the freedom to do pretty much whatever we want.”
“One of our friends’ dads said to us that we're not a band because we don’t have a drummer, “You’re just DJs with instruments”. It's a lot of work programming drums. It would be much easier for us to have a drummer. We leave it ‘til last. We do everything else and then look at the drums. Sometimes you change the hi-hat a tiny bit and we get really excited. It sounds class. And no one will notice. You make these tiny tweaks that you think are unreal but people are just listening to the songs.”
The songwriting is where the magic happens, according to Ryan, “The songs took so long to write and make. They took on a different look. They didn’t sound like anybody else. But they all sound like us. If anyone brings a song to the table you never know how it’s going to work out. If Ciaran brings a guitar line and we add bass, synths, and drums, you don’t know where it will go, but it seems to work.”
They finished the set with a version of Caribou’s ‘Can’t Do Without You’ that brought the house down. “It's a big festival tune from about two years ago. It's not quite old enough yet to be a classic but we still love it, and we haven't played it for that long.” They’ve been recording in the studio, with that cover amongst the tunes. “We don’t know if it will be an EP or if we'll make it into an album”, says Ciaran, “We all have full time jobs so we only get to meet on Saturday. Something always comes up on Saturday. Like today, we're playing Vantastival so that's the day gone, from a writing perspective.”
The challenge of balancing their musical ambitions with regular paying work is tricky. “We've lots of singles ready. There's one that will be out soon. We might do a few singles. We did the EP and we want to keep it moving”, says Ryan. Conor shares the sentiment, “It took us nearly a year to do a six song EP. We kept adding things and getting delayed. We want to bang out a couple of songs quickly, get a bit of interest. Maybe put up the cover of ‘Can't Do Without You’. We have it recorded already, so maybe bang it up and keep a bit of momentum going. We've been quiet of late.”
Nonetheless they are looking for more festival slots. Conor confirms, “We're playing Arcadian Fields in Bellurgan, the old Vantastival spot. We played there last year”. Ryan isn’t settling for that alone, “We're still hoping to get into Electric Picnic too. We played last year and there's just so many stages, surely we'll get in somehow. We might just turn up anyway with our gear”.