Without a major label debut, a single at radio or even a music video released yet, the hype over Adelaide-based pop group At Sunset is nothing short of mind-blowing. Just hours before I visited brothers Harrison and Andrew Kantarias and Jae Curtis at their recording studio, they were flanked by fans in Rundle Mall asking for photos and autographs. Not to mention my Twitter mentions blew up like I’d never seen, the minute I tweeted that I was with the boys. Sure, I’d interviewed and met a lot of big wheels, but this was something else.
“The fans and the craziness took a bit getting used to,” says Harrison.
“It really hit us when we started filming our music video. We were still playing sport, seeing a lot of our friends, doing relatively normal things until then.”
Harrison’s younger brother Andrew jokingly interjects “It was raining so much that day. My hair got wet, I nearly cried!”
The attention is flattering no doubt, right down to the dedicated fans (one even flew all the way from New Zealand to try her luck at meeting the boys), but At Sunset insist they’re still regular Adelaide boys.
Normal? Sure. Down to earth? Definitely. They may have hundreds of thousands of views on their YouTube covers, a wildly loyal fanbase (dubbing themselves ‘Sunsetters') and a residency as the Hot 30 YouTube house band, but the boys are as level headed as they come, right down to the name – At Sunset.
“We wanted something that doesn’t just reflect our music, but us as people too. We’re down to earth guys, we try to put others first. When you think of a sunset, you automatically get an Australian vibe out of it,” says Harrison.
“Basically – young dudes, hanging at a beach, doing anything for each other, jamming around. And then the other side of it, which is girls in bikinis,” he laughs.
But Andrew is quick to assure me the boys mean business and music comes first (“Our manager will say to us, ‘Come to the studio at 11’ but we’ll be there at 8 and start writing music from the get go”). Deferring from university and giving sport and leisure commitments the flick, you’ll find At Sunset hard at work in the studio most days.
And unlike other young pop groups, the boys write their own songs, play their own instruments and have a keen ear for a radio-friendly hook. I was able to hear an unfinished version of lead single ‘This Is Who I Am’; ironically, it was the first time the At Sunset boys and their manager also heard the rough mix. In a nutshell – pop perfection. Think a ‘Starships’ meets ‘Raise Your Glass’ by way of One Direction summer anthem, with big drums and an ever bigger power-pop chorus.
“We all write music,” says Harrison. “We really want to capture a market and write songs that people can relate to. It doesn’t always need to be ‘soppy’, but it can be something that someone wants to hear in a song. I might write a song, and it can be a matter of me phoning up Jae and saying ‘Dude, shut up. Listen to this’. Sometimes he’ll say ‘Nope, that’s crap’ or ‘What on earth are you singing about?’ [laughs] or ‘Go for gold, keep writing’”.
Jae adds “Harrison comes up with ideas. I’ll come in with the guitar and add layers, and we all talk about lyrics and decide if something is or isn’t working.”
“Because Harrison and I are brothers, it’s a lot easier,” says Andrew. “It’s a team effort. We write all our own lyrics, so that’s something we can boast about!”
“The progression that our music goes through, from the time we write it to the time it gets produced, so many things change,” says Jae. He then tells me the version of ‘This Is Who I Am’ I heard was 3 months in the making. Good things come to those who wait, right?
With a single ready for release months prior, the At Sunset boys put their work on hold, honing their skills, writing new music and perfecting their pop hooks. Stepping back seems to have paid off. Their level-headedness, maturity and sheer love of music is proof enough they’re in it for the long haul. Watch this space, Australia. And One Direction.
Above: Gianni from Glam Adelaide with the At Sunset guys