WAKE THE SUN plays loud rock! Let me repeat that in caps for emphasis: WAKE THE SUN plays LOUD ROCK! It’s a point worth underscoring because at a time when certain mainstream critics and grumpy pundits would have us believe that pop, country, R&B and other easily digestible genres are all that matters, rock music—the real blues-based, soulful, LOUD thing, not some watered-down-for-the-faint-hearted, edgeless, emo substitute—is not only alive but thriving. WAKE THE SUN is living proof of that.
They’re a link in a chain, these four guys who hail from Long Island, but they’re also a pointer to the future. Listen to them slash and burn, watch them tear up the stage, feel their passion, and they’re invariably going to remind you of so many other great heavy rock bands that have come and gone over the past half-century. But there’s also something vibrant, vital and—this is important—young about WAKE THE SUN. All four of them are in their early twenties, so they weren’t around when giants like Zeppelin, Hendrix and Sabbath walked the Earth. Hell, they weren’t even born yet when Metallica and Pearl Jam started out! They may rattle off influences ranging from Howlin’ Wolf to the Stones to Foo Fighters to Kings of Leon, Gary Clark Jr. and the Black Keys, but their music is no retread of anyone else’s: it is, simply, WAKE THE SUN music.
And WAKE THE SUN comes to the scene with their own outlook, their own goals and, most importantly, a sound and approach they’re constantly inventing as they go along. They’re currently in the recording studio, and a national tour is in the works for February and March. For now, you can download a free track, “Wicked Souls,” from their Facebook page (facebook.com/wakethesun) and the band’s Soundcloud page (soundcloud.com/wake-the-sun), and a lyric video is available for the tune at YouTube (youtube.com/watch?v=-r4FTCqmEm4). They’ve already begun to create a mega-buzz nationally and were recently a mainstage artist playing for industry insiders at the fourth annual Sunset Sessions Rock in Carlsbad, California.
So who are these guys, anyway?
WAKE THE SUN are Dillon Mealey (lead vocals, primary songwriter), Jeff Alvarado (bass, background vocals, collaborative writer), John Creighton (keyboards) and Jon Brick (drums). All except John were together in an earlier band but that wasn’t happening so, in early 2014, they shed a couple of members, retooled, refined and were reborn as WTS.
For all of them, playing music—this kind of music—has been a lifelong dream. Dillon, originally from upstate New York, grew up on classic blues and rock, tried piano before picking up the guitar and played in several bands before, he says, “I couldn’t keep faking it anymore and ‘real’ genuine music started to flow out of my writing process.” He and his college buddy Jeff, who hails from Huntington, Long Island, were pondering their future when, watching YouTube one night, they “saw this young kid playing drum covers of some of our favorite bands.” That was Jon, from West Babylon, L.I. They invited him to jam and, says Jeff, “He was slamming on the drums and brought a lot of attitude. He brought the music to life. Everything else was history.” The core of WAKE THE SUN was born. From the start, they knew they had something different.
“We are just a bunch of guys who get up on stage and write good music,” is how Jon puts it. “Many bands look very made-up or very ‘industry-like’ today and a lot of music seems very ‘produced.’ We are just very old school with our music and our band approach to things.”
Just a few months after forming as a trio, this past June, John Creighton, a New Jersey resident, was added on keys. It became immediately apparent that they were all on the same page. “This is genuine, honest music coming from a genuine, hard-working band,” says John. “It’s not tailored toward anyone, or meant to sound a certain way; it’s just what comes out of the band.”
Adds Jeff, “Our approach to writing the music we write comes very naturally—straight from the soul. In pervious projects I’ve found myself writing to satisfy a specific demographic but with this band I’m simply expressing my experiences, pain, love, hate, whatever is the driving force behind the song. I don’t remember one practice where at the end I didn’t have goose bumps or chills.”
“We have a no-bullshit approach to the music,” says Dillon. “When you see us play live there’s a lot of emotion and soul laid out on the stage. Our live performance has extreme highs and extreme lows, and I think people really connect and vibe off of the ‘realness’ of our show. I’m never trying to ‘get the crowd into the music.’ We don’t have pyrotechnics, and we don’t have heavy, electronic beats behind anything. There’s an organic feel in our music that a lot of bands miss these days, and I can see the reactions on people’s faces when we play.”
Although WAKE THE SUN are undeniably pure rock, that doesn’t mean there are no nuances or subtleties within the music. The more one experiences WAKE THE SUN, the more the complexities come to the fore. “We have a lot of delicate material,” says Dillon, who is responsible for the bulk of the music and lyrics. “Our sound is American rock and roll, with blues influence and soul throughout. It’s raw, heartfelt music that has meaning. Some people have told me it sounds like there’s a bit of Southern rock in our sound too. It’s similar to the sound of the late ’60s and early ’70s, when much more music was real and had meaning in the content.”
Adds Jeff, “Every song is written differently. There is no set formula as to how we write. Sometimes it starts with a melody, sometime a guitar riff or a lyric. I like to write my parts around the lyrics and drum parts. It just keeps thing grooving and it romanticizes the relationship between lyric and melody. What makes me want to play music together with this group of guys,” he continues, “is the magic that happens when a new song develops—that electric, tingling feeling that happens after we get through a new song and you know in the back of your mind how that will translate live.”
Although WTS hasn’t yet released any official recordings, they’ve spent a good deal of time in the studio, cutting tracks in Brooklyn and Manhattan with engineer and producer Jon Graber—originals like “Masquerade,” “False Prophets,” “When It Comes to Getting Down” and “No More Love,” as well as the aforementioned “Wicked Souls.” The tracks offer a taste of the power and excitement of a WTS gig. Says Jeff, “Our recordings reflect what we sound like live. I consider us a touring band that records.”
When they do take off on their first major tour, folks everywhere will quickly understand why WAKE THE SUN has been packing rooms in their home base of Long Island. “It’s been a hard road so far,” says Dillon, “but I really look forward to what the future has in store for us. I really want people to hear this music and feel the way I feel when I play and sing it. I think we could touch a lot of people’s lives.”
- Jeff Tamarkin