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Suburbamore goes 1-on-1 with Unheard Gems | Interview

Suburbamore is a nine-person band/collective from Los Gatos, California. Last year, they made an album in 24 hours and performed it immediately after, calling the event – and then their group –– “Suburbamore.” They released their debut album, Whatever Works, last month, and it’s an amazing range of rap, jazz, and lots of other genres that make this group’s sound so unique.


Unheard Gems: Welcome, Suburbamore, to Unheard Gems. We are so excited to have the opportunity to talk with you. How are you doing today? Also, could you introduce yourselves?

Soren: I’m doing quite well. We spent a lot of time working on this song I’ve been trying to get off the ground for a while, so that was fun. We also did some digging outside trying to try and find a septic tank, which was fun. We did some like chain gang chants and such… it was fun. A little manual labor is satisfying. My name’s Soren; Soren Wilde. I sort of go to Los Gatos High School, but really I am enrolled in the middle college program at West Valley, which means essentially that I get to sort of take high school classes and college classes in tandem at West Valley, which is pretty neat. I’m liking it so far. Yeah, I play guitar...That’s who I am.

Trevor: My name is Trevor. Also known as Ugene Stacks. I’m a producer, and a vocalist.

Alice: A damn good one.

Trevor: That’s my shit. And I mix a little.

Alice: I’m Alice, and I’m doing well today. My stage name is Just Alice…like “Just, Alice,” but like it hasn’t really gotten off the ground yet because I haven’t done anything singularly yet. I sing, I keyboard, I kinda produce, I kinda mix. I kinda try to get people to do things with me sometimes, and it actually ends up working out pretty well...That’s who I am. I’m in college for non-musical things but…eh.

Jack: Hello. My name is Jack Murnin, also known as Lovely Donald [everybody laughs, because he established that name earlier that day]. My day’s been pretty good, yeah pretty decently productive, you know we’re trying to finalize our album tracklist tomorrow. It’s a big step, because y’know we went from a lot of songs and we’re narrowing them down. So yeah it’s a bit stressful trying to…trying to cut them down because you know how much potential every individual song has, but you have to make sacrifices for the greater good. It’s also stressful because you know there’s so much you could do to songs, and we only have a certain amount of hours in a day, especially when we’re not sleeping that well, so we have less hours in a day. But, what I do in the band…I do produce some stuff, I sing, rap occasionally, yeah, y’know, film stuff, camera stuff. It’s a good time. This is a really talented group of people, and I only have the greatest of hopes and aspirations and expectations for this group of people.

Johnny: First, I’m doing very well. Who am I? That’s a great question, not really sure I can answer that. Well, a lot of people call me Johnny Jazz – the name is pretty self explanatory: Most people call me Johnny, I’m a very big fan of jazz. I play the saxophone, multiple saxophones, and uh, sometimes two at a time. Is there anything else I need to add to that statement?

Alice: What about you Noah? Who are you and how are you doing today?

Noah: I’m doing good, I’m Noah...I do the tech stuff.

Jack: Noah knows everything.

Noah: Oh… yeah, I got into plumbing up here on the Greagle trip. We bought a lot of pipes. All the pipes broke when we were up here, so yeah, we replaced some stuff. Jack and I were crawling under the house.

Jack: You were crawling under the house, I wasn’t there.

Noah: You put the sewage pipe back on, so that’s something. We’re all plumbers now. [The sewage pipe]’s name is Robert - the pipe is Rob. But yeah, that’s – what else should I add, that’s about it.

Alice: David, who are you and how are you doing? It’s the first question of the interview.

David: I’m a guitarist and I played in jazz band with Soren, Johnny, and Lucas, who isn’t here right now, in high school, which right now I’m going to be a senior. We’ve been friends since preschool. I write solos for some songs...I guess some of the song are written under with chords that I come up with, but that’s basically it.

Unheard Gems: How did you know you wanted to get into music or, more specifically, Suburbamore?

Trevor: When did it start though?

Jack: It was literally a year ago today. It started with...we’ve always done stuff together, but when we really started was when I thought of the 24 hour – I thought of the 24 hour album idea a while ago. I was actually looking at my texts and I found a text from November 2018, I think I texted like, you [pointing at Soren] and a couple other people saying like “We should make an album in twenty four hours.” Because it was like “Woah, kinda crazy,” but Trevor and I were talking about doing that. It was actually a year ago today, was the first day of the album. And that was like, the making of the album, doing the concert, the doc, that was like our first rendezvous as a group of people together; finding our chemistry, and now we’re living together (for two weeks) in the mountains.

Soren: Yeah, it’s interesting because like, we all knew each other as friends, and that was an attempt at like, sort of, making music together really quickly. Right because we were all enthusiastic about everyone else’s musical abilities, and we wanted to see what we could all produce together. But with this project, this was the actually the first time we sat down and spent a lot of time working on music together. It was quite rushed – we made, like, nine songs in a day or something. Yeah in this instance, I like to watch peoples’ sounds blend and peoples’ different musical styles contrast – I mean compliment each other. Like, we have Johnny, who’s super into jazz, and then we have Mitch who’s like an experimental hip hop guy, and then Alice likes some classical music, and she does all these crazy harmonies. And I’m really liking watching this, this whole collaborative music thing really take shape with this new album.

Johnny: I have a kinda cool story of how I got into music. My mom writes like little Christmas letters, they’re fairly long, to all the families we know, and she found one from when I was like three. Apparently, we went to see a jazz band, like a community jazz band, and there’s a saxophone (there are saxophones in jazz bands). Apparently, I was infatuated by it, and I just went up there and like [mimes touching the saxophone] “saxophone… saxophone.” And so, apparently, I’ve always had an infatuation for the saxophone, so when the time came, I was like “I gotta play it,” I gotta play it, and so...

Alice: And now he plays it very very well.

Johnny: Our seeds [as Surburbamore] would be Grand Tragedy [which was a trio consisting of Trevor, Trevor’s brother, Mitch, and their friend Dylan], the Orange Ties [a group of them had a jazz band in high school], and Pine Street [a collective made up of Trevor, Mitch, and Dylan].

Soren: The way that Johnny got into it and the way I got into it is Johnny and I have a jazz combo group...We got Lucas [another member of Suburbamore] in on it and then Ian.

Johnny: So we went out busking frequently and we kinda formed as a group just us playing like jazz standards and funk stuff.

Soren: And we got some paid gigs! So we did make some money. So what happened was I was doing guitar stuff for Trevor then you [Johnny] did a little saxophone stuff for Trevor. The first thing that happened was Validation [Grand Tragedy’s album] was out and it was going to be performed at Station Ends, but they needed live instrumentation and they said, “What if we have the Orange Ties do it?” so the Orange Ties and Grand Tragedy duo became Grand Epiphany. We had that concert, that was fun.

Johnny: That’s basically the origin story. I still don’t know how you [Alice] came in?

Alice: I was in music production, so not only was I hanging out with Mitch and his friends like literally all the time by the end of senior year, but Trevor, Mitch, and I were in music production class together. We’d been doing stuff on and off together for the whole year because we liked each other’s sounds. What ended up happening was Trevor and I were working together on our final project, which was a song that ended up turning into an EP. Listening to it’s really cute. “Cute” is a word I will use to describe it, but Trevor was like, “Hey! Me and Jack and the rest of the Grand Tragedy kids and the rest of the jazz kids are gonna be making an album in 24 hours. We need another you wanna come join us?” And I was like, “I would love nothing more!” So I went home and I told my mom and she was like, “Oh cool. It’s not gonna happen” and then the plan started existing and we were starting to think about the venue, which was Jack’s house, and we got all this stage shit because Jack was friends with Noah who works there. I don’t know, everything just perfectly meshed together to the point where we did this whacky little performance.

Trevor: And that’s also where we found the name. Because we were like, “Guys! We need a name for the concert.” Right, isn't that where the name came from?

Noah: Yeah, I think Jack wanted to call it Suburbia and you [Trevor] said, “No, Suburbamore.”

Unheard Gems: Do your friendships with each other affect the music at all?

Alice: I would say certainly, right?

Soren: I’m really good friends with all the people here, so I think they’re not afraid to tell me, “Oh yeah, I don’t like that thing, just cut it out.” I think certainly in that regard the fact that we’re all so close to each other, we’re less timid about constructive criticism, I would say.

Johnny: For me, it’s funny because, out of all of y’all, I think like...I’m friends with all of you, but out of everyone here I’m really good friends with Trevor and David and Soren, but Mitch and Alice, no offense, but I haven’t known you both for a very long time, but then again, you guys are the people I’m recording for my tracks. Both of you are on both of my tracks I’m working on right now. So that’s interesting for me just because the two people I know the least – like I still know you pretty well – but that’s just been an interesting revelation to me. My really cool, chill jazz, vibey song [Leaf] and then Mitch just put a verse over it [all of the band members briefly mimic Mitch’s verse] and I don’t know how it did, but it worked.

Mitch: It’s just really hard to get to a point with someone when you’re so comfortable with them when you can really explore things creatively, you know what I’m saying? I couldn’t get it all out with just anybody.

Alice: It’s hard because when you’re writing especially – words-wise – it’s hard to write about things that are real if you’re surrounded by strangers and when I say real, I literally just mean about your own life. Maybe I’m just really bad at being vulnerable, but I’m comfortable sharing my life with y’all because you’re a part of it now, sucks to suck. [All of them start laughing]. One thing I will say about the friendships we have affecting our music is that we end up having so much fun together sometimes that it’s hard to get things done.

Soren: I feel like if I knew less of you guys, there’d be this pressure to produce and I’d just constantly be tested. Because the first three days of this thing, I really didn’t do anything and I would not have done that if I was under any sort of pressure at all.

Unheard Gems: Do you think there’s an awareness of musical strengths and weaknesses that allows for great collaboration?

They all agree, talking over each other.

Soren: When someone starts a song and then they’re like, “This person is good at this thing that I want in my song, I have a vision for my song, I think this person would be good at this thing that I’m envisioning, so then I’m going to recruit that person.”

Jack: Also, we’re all really aware of what we want to work on to become better. You can never be perfect at music because with any art form there is no goal, you can always be better. Even the greats especially are always striving to be better, that’s what makes them so good, so it’s like when you’re making a song, you’re always thinking about what you would do, what you want to do better, delivery-wise as a vocalist or even just instrumentally. When I’m recording with David, Soren, and Johnny – the three heavy instrumentalists who are here – they’ll be picky about if anything’s off and that’s good because it makes us have a high standard and it makes everyone constantly aware of where they want to be as musicians and artists.

Unheard Gems: With your two most recent singles (at the time) – “Butterflies” and “Pollen Drone” – there’s a somewhat similar vein of sound. Does theme or aesthetic influence your creative process at all?

Soren: There’s a thematic connection between “Butterflies” and “Pollen Drone”...well no. “Butterflies” symbolizes the feeling of butterflies in your stomach and it’s more of a love song and “Pollen Drone” is literally about bugs. I think the most profound throughline in both of those songs that make them thematically and sonically similar is Trevor.

Mitch: Here’s the thing: we’re just kinda making songs. Our image is somewhat there, but this is a space to experiment, not copy the sound of “Butterflies.”

Unheard Gems: You all are essentially doing this on your own (the music, events, PR, etc.) – how has that process been?

Noah: It’s been very fun. It’s definitely a continuous learning experience because we’re all involved in our own promotion like it’s not like, “Oh, we’re just going to hire a marketing company,” so everything is all in house, which is really cool. Events...well we really just had one and that was pre-Surburbamore. We were going to have another event this summer, but...But I do think with that event occurring to the extent that it did and the reception it received really solidified, like, “Oh, this is real! We’re not faking it...We’re doing it. We’re making art and we’re putting it out into the world, which is really cool.”

Jack: And it only goes up from here. We’re only learning more when it comes to marketing and design and everything. Everything we do is amazing because it’s not like we’re having some external company do it for us and that’s the best they’re gonna do. Every day we’re getting better at what we do, which means who knows our limit as a group.

Alice: Also, I think it might help that we have someone who’s really good at video editing and...we’ve got a lot of generally creative people here.

Unheard Gems: Do you think that this lack of outside involvement allows you more creative freedom and how does that affect how you make music?

Soren: I’ve heard stories of management teams restricting creative decisions for monetary profit and I think that would definitely occur in this group if we were part of some label or whatever. Experimental rap and jazz – this shit won’t work, right? – but it’s the kind of thing that we like to do, so I’m glad we don’t have any restraint.

Alice: This is a space for experimentation; it’s not a space for creating something that a consumer will buy. It’s just because we’re having fun and wanna share what we’re doing with the world.

Unheard Gems: You have a documentary – Suburbamore (which I’ll link at the end of this interview) – which is an uncommon piece of content for musicians. How do you view the documentary as a way of telling your story?

Trevor: It’s a wonderfully, professionally done look and it’s super encouraging that we had Jack and Noah here because they’re experienced in the ways of film. That was the first thing we ever dropped as a group and the professional quality that it has is super rad because it shows that that’s possible. Like the whole “we don’t need a label thing” is true because we drop shit that has a huge quality to it and we’re still trying to find our way there with mixing and stuff.

Jack: I think the most unique parts of the group is that there’s nine of us, and most people, when you think of a band, you don’t think of nine people. It is a lot, but we all do so much. We’re all overlapping when it comes to behind the scenes and in front. This is the band, this is the PR team, this is everything. I think that’s pretty cool, this is us.

Unheard Gems: We always like to know who our Unheard Gems artists are listening to, if you could recommend to us another artist you think deserves more recognition in the music industry who would you recommend?

Alice: I think we can all say Evan Sanchez. He’s wicked good.

Trevor: Evan Sanchez, dope man. He dropped a project called Primer, which y’all should go check out. Very cool industrial, experimental stuff, but there’s some good pop flavor in there, which is really nice. Lots of beautiful moments in that project.

Soren: Hekima!

Alice: Hekima is this kid, I think he’s only on Soundcloud. He currently dropped this project called Sanctuary and it was so good! It was so well done and he turned fifteen very recently. He’s totally on the way up and he’s got a professional type of flow.

Jack: Another artist I’ve been listening to, he goes by redveil. He just turned sixteen and, when I listened to him, I thought it was...he sounded like a little bit of Earl and little bit of Mike.

Alice: My sister’s roommate at college, her name is Cate Tomlinson, and she came out with this newer single [Let You In] and it’s totally different. It’s got this newer kinda groove to it that you don’t hear quite as often in pop songs and I love it how. Stream Cate Tomlinson! She’s good!

Unheard Gems: Lastly, for all of our readers, where can they find you and your music, and is there anything else you want to leave us with that we didn’t talk about in our questions?

Jack: Every streaming platform – Youtube, Instagram, etc. – it’s Suburbamore and expect an album really soon. We’ve been working really hard and we’re excited to finally put something out into the world that’s our first real, big project.


Interview by Tatum Jenkins

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