By Kathryn G. Menu
When the rock band Suddyn moved to Los Angeles in January they played the Cat Club in Hollywood to just a handful of fans. Four months later, the band sold out L.A.’s famed Viper Room and booked its first major festival, which, ironically, will bring the trio back home to the East End this August to perform alongside a throng of acclaimed artists at the MTK: Music to Know Festival at the East Hampton Airport.
Montauk natives and brothers, Alan and Jarrett Steil, along with the Irish born drummer Brendan Connolly, can sense that years of hard work appear to be paying off as their band’s momentum continues to build. They remain humble yet driven, seeing this as the moment to continue to build their fan base, play music they love and live a dream all three have had since they were children.
“It does feel like something is happening, but when you are in the middle of it, it is hard to really see it,” said Jarrett, who plays guitar and bass in the band, sitting at a picnic table in the back of his parent’s business, the Montauk Bake Shoppe on Monday. “I don’t want to look too far ahead. I want us to be organized and focus on the now. Honestly, I never thought there would be a music festival like this in East Hampton.”
“It is kind of strange, actually,” said Alan, the band’s lead singer and keyboard player, of beginning to find success in the United States through a move to Los Angeles, although the band’s first major festival will be just miles from where he grew up jamming with his little brother at their Montauk home. “My hope is between now and then we can continue to build up our profile. I think this is our time and we need to run with that.”
“We need to attack it,” Connolly added.
This moment is many years in the making.
Suddyn began in Montauk with the Steil brothers, who grew up playing music together, drawing upon influences like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Queen and The Beatles. Moving to Ireland in 2004, the band recorded “Drowning Souls,” a top-10 hit single for two weeks on the charts in Ireland.
Shortly after the release of “Drowning Souls,” Connolly came along and rounded out the band, which released two more top-30 singles, and garnered the favor of radio stations and fans.
Connolly, who hails from Tipperary, started banging on drums at his grandmother’s house at the age of six. Growing up surrounded by a culture of musicians and singer-songwriters, Connolly was a member of some 20 bands before finding a home with Suddyn, when he was hired in 2005 after answering the band’s “want ad” in Hot Press, a bi-monthly music and politics magazine based in Dublin.
Between 2005 and 2009, Suddyn toured across Ireland and released its first EP, “Dark Lights,” which included the single “Gravity,” another hit in Ireland for the band.
Band manager Linda O’Connor – the invisible fourth member of Suddyn – was able to negotiate the right for the band to be the first to film a music video – for “Gravity” – inside the famed Guinness Storehouse’s Gravity Bar.
Shortly after, in 2009, band members felt it was time to spread their wings, and came home to Montauk to try and cultivate the same success they found in Ireland back home in the United States.
And it didn’t take long for the group to make inroads.
After a successful performance at Montauk’s Surf Lodge, the band was connected with Grammy Award-winning producer David Kahne, who has produced albums for Paul McCartney and The Strokes. Kahne brought the group to the celebrated Avatar Studios on the west side of Manhattan to record their second EP, “Before the City.”
Connolly said “Before the City,” which originally included three songs – “Brighter Star,” “In Flagrante Delicto,” and “Nothing Last Forever,” represented a new direction for the band, evolving from a mid-tempo sound to one that embraced “driving bass parts with a bit of dirt and grit to them.”
Last weekend, the band returned to New York to add a new song to the EP, “Naked Prophecy,” with a faster tempo that both Jarrett and Connolly are visibly excited to unveil, and which was also recorded with Kahne at Avatar Studios.
“We played like 30 shows since the song has been out there and people have started to latch onto it,” said Jarrett.
The shows he referred to were all been played in California, save one performance at the Independent Music Awards in Las Vegas in mid-May. Los Angeles, and in particular Hollywood, became the band’s new home in January when after more than a year living in Montauk, the group decided that moving west was their best shot at finding not only success, but also a musical community to become a part of.
“Alan will play the piano all day if he can,” said O’Connor. “And it is the same with Jarrett and Brendan. This is their life.”
O’Connor said moving the band to Los Angeles has allowed them to reach a broader audience with a plethora of clubs, colleges and other venues, the group often traveling outside the City of Angels to build on its fan base in smaller communities, anxious for quality live music.
“We really needed to get away, and it was a good move,” said Alan. “Our music wasn’t going to fit into the Brooklyn music scene.”
He added that Los Angeles is “the entertainment capital of the world,” and that as the music industry has shifted from one of record labels to one ruled by individuals with talent and solid marketing skills, getting airplay on the right television show or commercial can be all a band needs to break into the business in a big way, not having to compromise their sound in the process.
Collaborating with other artists, which is another goal for the band, is something they also look forward to, and an ambition that may be furthered through their involvement in the MTK: Music to Know Festival, which will feature renowned artists like Bright Eyes, Vampire Weekend, Fitz and the Tantrums and Cold War Kids.
“We are hoping it can open some doors,” said Alan.
However, fitting into a mold is not what Suddyn strives to do musically.
“I think the most successful bands in the world create their own sound,” said Connolly. “You are going to have your influences growing up, but we have our own sound.”
“You have to try and look at every gig and concert the same way,” he added. “For me, unlike Alan and Jarrett, the festival is not like coming home, although I do see this place as a second home. It’s just another gig, but it will be great to be coming back here to play it.”