8 Things You Should Know About Sunlust
Dave Grohl once sang that he had another confession to make. Toronto-based rock band Sunlust have a few of their own with their debut album, Geek Confessions.
The trio of Stephanie Woulfe (guitar and vocals), Daniel Wiktor (drums), and Stefano Signorile (bass) formed Sunlust in 2018, and released Geek Confessions earlier this year. The album is a sonic mixture of Veruca Salt, and Hole, with some Nirvana thrown in for good measure. It’s loud, in your face, and exactly what a rock album should be.
I caught up with Stephanie and Stefano to find out more about the band, their music, and their influences.
Here are eight things you should know about Sunlust.
They were a live band first
Sunlust spent their first year and a half as a band performing on as many stages as possible.
According to Stephanie, from the summer of 2018 to the fall of 2019 the band was “just playing shows, and learning my songs, and getting acquainted with each other as a band.”
They were also getting acquainted with the indie music scene in Toronto, which she says has been a great experience. “All the venues, honestly, are pretty friendly here.”
She adds that established local bands have been friendly, and helpful, as well. “We would play one show at one venue, and a band we played with that night might say, ‘We’re playing at this (other) venue in a few weeks, do you want to play that show?’”
Because of this, before the pandemic hit, Sunlust were playing multiple shows per month. “The ball would just keep rolling.”
Their live shows played a role in the creation of their album
If you’re a kick ass live band, you tend to get noticed, and Sunlust were noticed during their first full show, which took place at a venue named The Piston. The sound guy at The Piston that night was a man named Lorne Hounsell, and he really liked what he heard.
Stephanie remembers, “He and Dan started chatting, and it just ended up coming to light that he has professional experience doing engineering, and he liked our stuff, so he offered to record us.”
Hounsell wound up doing the engineering, and the mixing for the first five tracks of Geek Confessions, and The Piston let the band record the drums for those tracks at the venue.
The band formed through Canada’s version of Craigslist
All three members of Sunlust are from different parts of Ontario. Stefano originally hails from Vaughan, Dan is from Mississauga, and Stephanie is from the smallest town of all three, a little spot named Comber, which has a population of just over 400.
Stephanie moved to Toronto for school, and it was during class one day that she started scrolling through Kijiji, which is Canada’s version of Craigslist, looking for some like-minded musicians.
“I was browsing ads for people looking for bandmates, and I saw Dan’s ad. All the influences he listed really synched up with my influences, and I also appreciated the energy of his ad, because I find sometimes with ads looking for musicians, and bandmates, it’s either, ‘I just want to get stoned in the garage and jam all night,’ or it’s like, ‘I want to go on tour right now!’ I find both of those ends of the spectrum not necessarily what I’m looking for. Dan’s was just right where I was at that time, it was like, ‘I want to jam. I want to play original songs. I want to play some shows around the city.’ It was laid back, but still what I was looking for.”
She answered Dan’s ad, Dan was friends with Stefano, and just like that a band was born. Well … after one not so small change.
Stefano switched instruments to be in the band
The bassist for Sunlust wasn’t always a bassist. In fact, Stefano was initially a guitar player.
“I actually picked up bass just for this band,” he says.
“Dan sent me Steph’s demos, and I liked them so much I went out and bought a Fender Precision bass, and an amp, because I wanted to play bass in the band.”
While most of his musical inspirations have been classic rock, Stefano’s uncle sparked his interest in the bass with an R&B album. “My uncle gave me a copy of Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions,” Stefano remembers, “He put on that record that night, and then we just went down this rabbit hole where he was showing me all these good bass players. From that night on I just became really interested in bass. This was not long before I bought a bass to join Sunlust.”
Geek Confessions is legitimately confessional
Stephanie says that when it comes to the content of Geek Confessions, “I think lyrically everything’s kind of a confession. For me anyway.”
She adds that the album title came from how she felt during the songwriting process. “It just felt like my own little nerdy confessions that I was making as I wrote these songs in my room … It’s less of a literal title, and more my own tongue in cheek idea of how I write songs, and what the songwriting means to me.”
The pandemic turned what was going to be an EP into an LP
Sunlust started the recording process for what they planned on being a five song EP in December of 2019. Then a global pandemic happened.
When COVID brought pretty much everything in the world to a screeching halt, Stephanie says the band started to brainstorm. “We’re realizing OK, we can’t play a release show for this anymore, we have all this time, and we have more songs that we’ve kind of like perfected over the last year and a half of playing together … let’s just record those, and then we have an album. So Geek Confessions formed over having that extra time, and it made sense to me, too, because those songs were all kind of written in the same time, so I liked the idea, just conceptually, of having all those songs on one album.”
Nirvana is a big influence for Stephanie, but they were an acquired taste
While listeners will hear a Nirvana influence in the music of Sunlust, Stephanie, who has a poster of Kurt Cobain on her wall, admits that the first time she heard the band she wasn’t a fan.
Her dad had purchased Nirvana’s greatest hits CD, and she says, “I remember him playing it, and thinking aw, this is terrible,” adding that being just 10, or 11 years old at the time, “I didn’t get it at all.”
Stephanie’s father continued to play the album, and the music began to grow on her. Then someone she was close with in grade school started to get into Nirvana, which inspired a deeper dive into the band’s music.
“I started going down a YouTube hole of Nirvana songs. I started getting into the weirder stuff, and really enjoying it. That just exploded into this whole obsession with that era of music. I guess I just connected with the passion of that genre, and I just connected with the fact that it was such good songwriting. Strong, solid, songwriting, but it also was so energetic, and so noisy, it was just exciting. It was so exciting to me to listen to that music, and to crank it in the kitchen, or in the car, and blow people away with this loud, aggressive music. It super resonated with me.”
The band decided to get personal with fans during the pandemic
While many bands attempted to have live-streamed shows during the pandemic, Sunlust went another route, choosing instead to use the time away from the stage to let fans get to know them better.
“Before, most of our social media, and any kind of interaction online, was kind of just like, ‘Hey, we’re playing this show.’ ‘Hey, here are photos from this show,’” Stephanie explains, “but with COVID, obviously that wasn’t happening anymore, so we really had to brainstorm for content.”
The band came up with ideas for two different series of videos. “One was called At Home and Acoustic, which started out being our songs on acoustic … Then it kind of morphed into just doing covers, because I started playing covers for fun, and posting those. We also did this thing called Top of the Heap, which for each episode we would choose a different theme for records we’ve been listening to. I think the first one was Top 5 Influential. We did the Top 5 Last Spins. It would be the three of us, in separate videos, talking about those records, which was really cool because it let us branch out a bit, instead of just talking about our music, and our shows, we started talking about the music that we love. To be honest, I could talk about the bands that I love all day long, so that was a cool avenue to explore.”