Authenticity feels like a toss up when it comes to rock music. The first time this question ever came up was finding out that Gene Simmons from KISS didn’t actually want to ‘rock and roll all night and party every day’ and it made me wonder about my favourite artists… am I being bamboozled by their party-all-the-time energy?
I sat down with Vanessa and David of Goodnight Sunrise, one gray Sunday afternoon…and let me tell you - they are as real as it gets. I was stoked they sat down with me so we could have a chat on all things Goodnight Sunrise.
I asked, of course, for them to introduce themselves, you know, things like age, where you grew up, etc. Vanessa looks at me sternly and says, “We will not be giving you our ages. We’re age-fluid. 26, 32, 75…” A grin appears on both of their faces, “Oh my god… imagine I’m starting that trend right now,” Vanessa says, “I’m age-fluid.” David laughs, “We’re also location fluid.”
Collective Arts, Alyssa: Where did you grow up?
Vanessa: We’re both from Toronto. But, David was from Thornhill if you need specifics.
David: Yeah, suburbia.
A: How did Goodnight Sunrise come together?
V: One day, over a decade ago, I was… drunk… and I walked up to this band at this show and I said “You guys suck, you’d be way better with a female singer.”
Author's Note: To say I’m obsessed by this… is an understatement.
Continued - V: [I] had never been in a band and had no idea why I did that, but I’ve always wanted to be a rockstar. I basically bullied my way into this band [The Big Deal], where I met David. We formed this creative relationship where we would go sit at the Tim Hortons and write lyrics. Remember when there was that Coldstone Creamery in the Timmies?
D: Coldstone! Yeah! That was the start of not only that creative relationship but of our band. That’s how Goodnight Sunrise was formed… around ice cream.
A: I think there’s such a cohesiveness and authenticity to Goodnight Sunrise. There’s also a bit of nostalgia in there, which I really love. Besides your “trauma-bonding”, how did you find that sound? Was there a lot of exploration before you landed on something?
V: That’s so funny, because before we came onto this call I was literally screaming at the top of my lungs “NOSTALGIA!” Because we were listening to Dear Rouge’s album, which is AMAZING, and has such a nostalgic feel! And we were just talking about that because on our new album there are quite a few songs that do have a nostalgic root. I think we really found our sound not because we’re in a different direction than where we were when we started but we circled back and took everything that we learned over the past 10 years and came back to the fact that we started a rock band.
There is a simple resolve in both of their approaches to their band and sound and it’s exactly that: “We’re a rock band.” The reason their sound is so authentic is because they curated it to include their own personal history and their sonic influences to be exactly who they are. It almost feels rare and special to talk to people who just love what they do.
A: New music… what’s the inspo for it?
V: Hmmmm… Well it’s so funny because with these songs… I know bands collect songs over a few years and we’ve done it too… But for this album, except One Pill which was our first release of this year, we wrote all the songs in two weeks.
Vanessa and David described these songs as a time capsule of what was happening to them during that time. Immediate things became inspiration and life manifested itself in their writing.
V: A lot of these songs are come-up songs. They’re pep talks to ourselves.
D: Yeah, initially a lot of them were about the struggles of an indie band in the music industry. Which is relatable regardless of the level you’re at. It can be a challenging industry to navigate and stay motivated in.
They took that inspiration and broadened it into a larger scale understanding of what it feels like to be gatekept and held back from reaching your full potential. It’s beyond just the music industry, it’s a call to anyone who has struggled to find their place.
D: It’s beyond any industry.
V: Yeah, it has to do with race and gender… and sexuality. It has to do with all of those things.
D: Yeah, and social media pressures to be a certain way or to be seen as successful - you have to take a specific kind of picture and get a certain amount of likes… But, we are hopeful and optimistic people, as well, so…
V: Yeah, “Won’t Be Long” is that.
We spoke about inspiration next. Vanessa pulled a lot of inspiration from Laura Jane Grace’s autobiography, and David echoed those sentiments.
D: When we write songs like that, it’s a nice way to spin negative or sad emotions into something constructive so we can feel better about them.
V: Sometimes I find myself humming something, and then I say the word Belong. I think, “That's an interesting concept,” and then I’ll just go off of that. What about you? You’re more like a sit down and write a whole song kind of person.
D: It depends. Sometimes I’ll have a line come to me, and then I’ll just try to come up with a few… then I try to come up with a structure. But other times, I can’t get past the first line and so I send it to you or save it in my Notes app. That’s actually what happened with “Belong.”
Their new songs coming out are a collaborative effort, both David and Vanessa have fused their talents to create something both of them have had an active hand in.
Though the pandemic didn’t cancel any of Goodnight Sunrise’s shows, they didn’t live through the last two years without a rollercoaster of emotions. They used their time in lockdown to be productive and look forward to recording in the studio, so that when they could, they’d be able to record and lay down some tracks.
D: We just tried to make the most of it. And try to be productive, be better on our instruments, take Skype vocal lessons to get better, so that when we could re-emerge and feel like a real-life band again, we could come back even better. But, of course there’s a lot of lows.
V: Not being able to play was the biggest low. That’s where we get all of our energy. The only validation you get now as an artist is social media… so we are definitely so excited for our show at the El Mocambo.
A: What are other ways you stayed creative over long lockdown periods? Do you practice creativity beyond just your music?
V: I learned tarot over the pandemic and am in an Astrology course right now. I definitely got very into alternative spirituality. Thinking of creative ways to manifest and feel faith and hope and feel tethered when the world is so uncertain. I don’t necessarily think it’s a science by any means!
D: We’ve been working so hard trying to write and record and book shows. So, when I find my mind is overloaded with logistics and scheduling I find it hard to be creative! But, in the past, after a long day of working I’d sit down and play guitar and not for anything but relaxing!
A: Speaking of getting creative for work, is there a specific band or band’s work ethic that you respect or admire?
V: We identify with that early 80’s work ethic where people drive 10 hours to bring their songs to a radio station for them not to play it and then the radio station is like, “You know what kid? We’re gonna give you a shot!”
D: In the early years, I feel like bands that we looked up to were like… July Talk and Hollerado, basically. Anything that they did was so brilliant. They influenced our live shows, and influenced our song writing and so much about how we operate a band.
On April 12th, I headed to the legendary venue, the El Mocambo in Toronto, boasting a stairway full of the incredible acts who have taken the stage previously and a rich history of rock and roll. I waited for Vanessa and David to take the stage. Starting the set in the audience, and making her way up to the stage, Vanessa screamed into the audience, “WE ARE SO FUCKING NERVOUS!” after the first song.
They aren’t wrong - they are a rock band, it’s pretty simple. The way they control a crowd, with Vanessa pointing at audience members who return her glee and David taking a few guitar solos on the corner of the stage… it’s 80’s glam rock but in 2022 - it’s magic. When you go to a Goodnight Sunrise show, you expect to be entertained. Finishing their set with their song, “Yours To Make” and calling on the audience to scream along (which they joyfully did), they closed out the show with an air of confidence, perseverance and love. A message to the audience - “Thank you for being here, we love you so much, it’s a privilege to make this art for you” and then they bounced off-stage.
When an artist feels as happy as you are to be there, that energy is palpable. Vanessa and David’s joy filled El Mocambo that night, you could cut that feeling with a knife. What makes their joy so specific - it’s real. It’s, dare I say… authentic.
And when it comes to rock music, authenticity reigns.
Looking to listen to Goodnight Sunrise? Listen to their new song ‘Belong’ here.
Author: Alyssa LeClair
Photos: Morgan Harris