Charleston, South Carolina is highly known for holding some of America’s greatest history and houses some of the best culinary creatives. But what many people seem to miss out on is the underground art sector hidden between the cobblestones. And what better place to scout out some talent than College of Charleston. I ran into the guys of SondorBlue and immediately fell in love with their soft yet raw original acoustics and vocals. Out of the masses of cover bands, these boys can hold their own with originality.
How did this get started?
A: It really all started probably about 4 or 5 years ago. We were in high school and I had met Connor. We had known each other from baseball growing up. One day we were playing basketball, actually, and my sister poked Connor in the eye and he started crying.
C: Mid-layout. I went up and she just jabbed me right in the tear duct. I started crying the first time I ever met Andrew, the first five or ten minutes.
A: And then he asked if we played music and then we met up and recorded our first song; which we still play today called “Walking Home”. And then one thing led to another. There’s this other guy in our band named Nick and we had a trio thing going on and then all of sudden John saw us playing at Coligny in Hilton Head. John was like “yo I got sound equipment!”
C: He said we sounded great and he wanted to be apart of it. And now Nick is in France studying abroad which is why he is not apart of it right now.
Ok so you [Connor] got jabbed in the eye and then you guys started playing music.
A: That’s pretty much it. Got jabbed in the eye and became facebook friends. We connected later through music.
C:The first time we hung out, we wrote “Walking Home” in a day and recorded it. In one day. So it was this really cool experience that we plummeted into and went with it.
J: It’s one of my favorite songs that we still play today.
A: So everyone who thinks that you have to write a great song in a month or something, it can happen in a day.
Did you guys know what kind of style that you wanted?
C: It was basically a guitar and two voices. We thought of a theme and what we wanted to say.
J: Essentially we listen to the same stuff.
What kind of similar stuff?
C: That’s a great question. I know that a big influence for me is Coldplay, John Mayer, and Jason Mraz.
A: If I could add onto that…all of those are spot on. In addition I would say, me personally, Stevie Wonder is a huge influence on me. I really love U2, Michael Jackson, and a lot of soul music.
J: I definitely agree with all of that so far. A bonus for me is Ed Sheeran. Religiously in my life for a year or two
I always had the worse time pronouncing his last name.
A: John’s last name is really close to that: Sheehan. Same thing but with an ‘H’.
C: Also John didn’t perform music until about 3 years ago.
J: Well I played the violin growing up but I wasn’t a musician.
I asked my mom for a violin, growing up, and she bought me a piano.
A: I know it has strings in the back but it’s not the same (laughter).
J: The violin is a commitment. It’s at least a year or more before you can bare it.
I can [hear] the Coldplay and U2 influences.
C: A lot of people, that hear us, reference us to Coldplay. It’s pretty cool.
A: Who doesn’t love Coldplay?!
Actually, when I worked at Monster Music, the assistant manager then said that Coldplay was for old people. SORRY DANI!
A: People who write off Coldplay for kids or older people are like…..yeah.
(Laughter breaks out)
Nah she's super cool though. Initially where do your lyrics come from?
C: Personal experience
A: To me, I feel like all you are doing to a song is recreating a moment. Getting it down to its most pure form of that moment. The most raw form so everyone, no matter if they have gone through that experience or not, can relate to that moment.
C: We try to be as real and as passionate as possible.
That’s a great answer. So you guys are students and also performing places, getting a taste of what it is like to be traveling musicians. What do you see as far as setbacks that are still around that could change?
J: Like what’s stopping us from the next level?
No. In aspects of say “oh I wish there was a better way to tour” or “a better way to do this”. I meet a lot of musicians who have to do the same routine repetitively because that's the only way out.
C: Well on the other side of that, with something that is kind of good about the system right now is that with all the technology you have the option, for example, to pay Facebook $20 and get your music video promoted on say 10,000 pages.
J: Instagram is doing that now too. I’ve stumbled across quite a few bands just scrolling. I don’t follow them but it has sponsored next to it.
It is only $20?
C: Yeah, relatively inexpensive.
A: You can find a campaign and set your demographics. It’s great for independent artists like us because you don’t have to go through a third party. Like advertising yourself, ya know? You don’t have to pay for someone working for a record company to do that. You can do that yourself. The cool thing about technology is that you can self promote yourself, if done effectively.
The D.I.Y. Method.
C: Yeah all the things on Pintrest.
So you have a band Pintrest?
A: no, (laughs), we have a band Vine though.
C: Which is another blessing about technology.
A: I knew someone pretty famous on Vine, I guess I wouldn’t say famous. But Internet famous is like what now? He had like 200,000 followers and I texted him and asked if he would re-vine us. So we did a Vine and he re-vined us. But it wasn’t the initial Vine. We had one that had a significant amount of views or loops, what they say on Vine. That definitely sprinkled us a little bit, within the realm of the Internet.
You guys have that great advantage of the Internet now. Use it.
C: Everyone has the opportunity.
A: And it’s all right here (shows cell phone).
Do you guys want to stay in Charleston or do you want to take off? What is the goal? I know it is a bit of a broad question.
C: It is a broad question.
A: But it’s a realistic one.
C: Basically the band, right now, seems to be as long as Charleston can be productive and offer us the great things that it is right now, we would love to stay here. We are from the Hilton Head/Bluffton area, which is about two hours away. It’s really nice being close to home and having things to draw from for inspiration. But basically if those resources seem to run out and we feel like we are being pushed from the maximum we would possibly move somewhere else.
J: We are open to traveling.
C: We like San Diego. We all just saw it for the first time this summer.
To perform or go on vacation?
C: Andrew was out in L.A. doing some music this summer. John and I went out there to record for almost about 2 weeks. We got to see California for the first time and truly experience it. We were lucky that we got to go down to San Diego.
J: It was awesome!
A lot prettier though right?
J: Almost too pretty.
C: Although Charleston is the epitome of southern beauty.
A: California can be daunting in the sense that it doesn’t have any green vegetation.
What’s the next step for SondorBlue?
J: The next step is to get the EP, we’ve been talking about for some time, out and on its feet and to all of our fans, friends, and family ASAP. We want it out before this summer. Obviously we won't be in school wo we will be able to perform full throttle. Right now we are just trying to work around school as much as possible.
A: We will release a single relatively close to the release of the EP. And maybe accompanied by a music video.
Are you working with a production company or just yourselves?
A: Self produced with the help of some friends. There’s this really great guy named Christian Stienmetz who attends Clemson and works for the radio station up there. He is really great about tracking drums. As far as drummers go, Drew Lewis is a phenomenal drummer. He’s located in Charlotte right now but we want to track him down. Shhhh!
C: He’s a great guy and would make a great addition to SondorBlue as the last piece.
Where did you guys get the name?
A: It’s a dictionary of obscure sorrows. It’s a YouTube account. One day John and I were flipping through YouTube and we came across the word Sondor. I think John found it and sent it to Conner and me.
J: We love how it sounded authentically and just rolls off the tongue. Beyond that we wanted to find something that was really unique. During the course of finding an original band name, every time we type in something really cool it’s already a company in South America or all these other things. One thing led to another and SondorBlue poped out one day and that’s unique and not taken. We love how it sounds.
C: It’s totally exclusive. If you look it up it’s only us.
A: And in case you’re wondering, Sondor means everyone has a story. Like I said earlier about songwriting, life really is just a string of experiences. It’s like a movie, moving frame by frame, second by second. So Sondor really just resonated with us.
That’s a beautiful name for music.
C: Thanks so much. Can I have one of your shells?
Please eat as much as you want.
C: I wanted to say that in front of the microphone.
(Everyone digs into curry mac and cheese).
It’s really difficult to find an original name that isn’t taken.
J: It’s a process.
A: It’s gotta be short and catchy, it’s gotta be and that. But yeah we are really happy with how it turned out.
C: And it’s cool that, John and I were just talking about this the other day. The more shows we do the more confidence and more of an identity SondorBlue is.
Absolutely. So with the Coldplay influence, are you guys going to do a retake on one of their songs?
C: Maybe if we could just open up for them at a concert.
A: Well said!
C: And then we will do whatever they ask.
J: What do you want Chris Martin?
Have you heard the new album? I have yet to hear it.
A: I thought as a whole it was pretty solid but I like their older albums better. But it was good and I liked it. There were certain songs that stuck out to me.
J: 7th album now?
It seems like a 12 because they produce so much. Individually what does music mean to you?
C: Music to me is just the purest form of expression. It’s just a thing that I go to get out everything that I need to get out. I’m not a writer or an artist in the form of visuals. Some people turn to math or studies but I turn to music.
A: Music to me is…music is life.
That’s everyone’s answer.
A: I know but music is, going back to something I’ve said twice, going back to finding a moment where I didn’t quite understand at that moment. Then taking it and then feeling it again, putting it into words, and to a sound that you’ve created. You take a guitar YOU create that sound. You take your vocal chords and create that sound. It’s pure creativity. Going back to what Connor said, ‘purest form of expression’. To me that’s what music is.
J: It’s pretty scary that we kind of agree on all those things. I’ll try to go off that by saying music gives me a place where I can say things that I don’t know how to say in words or how to express them. When we write a song together, it pinpoints a time, not only in a story where Andrew is talking about. A song means something to someone. You can play
it three years ago and it can bring you a place where you aren’t now but you were. It can bring you back to a place immediately that’s pretty powerful. It’s always good to be writing songs.
I know that’s one of the hardest questions. I’ve asked some pretty well-knonw artists too and they just like “wow…let me think about that” They do studies all the time with Alzheimer’s and that’s the only way your brain can function 100%. It’s insanely cool.
C: It is cool.
J: Yeah I’ve heard stories about Alzheimer’s and the husband doesn’t remember anything. They put on Sinatra and he’ll remember something from his 20th anniversary. That’s amazing and just out of nowhere. There’s nothing else that can do that. It gives me chills just thinking about it.
A: It’s pure nostalgic.
C: I think that it is safe to say that without music we would all be bonkers.
J: Quote that: “You would all be bonkers” – Conner Hollifield
C: Without music, we would all be less sensitive to the things around us. Or without art in general.
A: When we’re all writing, all of us know intuitively that ‘oh that’s not good’. And if you trace it back it’s probably because one of us thinks that it isn’t vulnerable or honest enough.
C: It’s filler then.
When I was growing up I would get $20 a week and spend it on one CD. And I would get so disappointed because half the albums would be fillers.
A: Connor was saying something about that. How can you actually craft 18 songs?
Unless you’ve been working on it for like a few years.
A: That’s what I’m saying.
C: Unless the songs are like 45 seconds long.
J: We were looking at Coldplay’s albums and they are around 10-11 songs: in every two to three years.
And Adele’s album is beautifully written as well.
A: I just got it on vinyl and it’s awesome. My girlfriend got it for me and it’s beautiful.
Well my cat hates it.
C: wow ha. But no, Adele is awesome. She seems like she’s fearless.
She has to be. First they knocked her down for her image. But it’s not about that. And it’s great to see her stand out from all these fake people.
A: Yeah. She’s a very powerful singer and lyricist. It’s a pretty lethal combo.
What’s it like to play in a college setting compared to an actual venue?
A: I don’t think that there is an actual difference. Honestly. Maybe the commentary is a little less censored than say a dinner crowd at a restaurant. Do you guys feel a difference?
C: I think ultimately you just want people to be listening. You want to be able to preference what a song is about so that they people listening can connect to you. And we’ve been blessed enough to have a lot of experiences like that. We’ve had far more experiences like that compared to say someone not listening. But we’ve definitely had have those experiences too. Especially when we do dinner crowds because the purpose of the music is not to be heard, it’s more of a background.
So you’ve had more dinner experiences than actual venues?
C: Well we’ve played at two big venues in Hilton Head, both outdoors. One’s at Harbour Town and it fits about three to four hundred people. It’s a peninsula. And we’ve also played at Coligny where is more of a beachfront stage. We’ve also loved playing house shows here. We are playing at Kudo I think in February for possibly the Brew Fest. It’s still in the works.
A: One of our goals is to open for someone at the Music Farm. To play a show on that stage and feel that.
J: People go there to see music and they are engaged.
C: They are there only for a concert.
Any additions before we wrap it up?
All: ROCK N ROLL!
A: Thanks for having us. We’ve never had an interview before and we were really excited to do it. The EP is coming before the sun hits 90.