One day, two little known individuals named Dane Orr and Anna Wise decided to make music just to see what would happen. As students at the lauded Berklee College of Music, aspiring musicians are a dime a dozen, but the synergy that the duo known as Sonnymoon possesses and projects through their eclectic mix of indie, pop, R&B and electronic is exceptional. The Bostonians debut album Golden Age has received critical praise while their unique covers of songs from Beyonce and Drake has introduced them to the masses. Now signed to Plug Reasearch – home of artists including Bilal, Quadron, Exile and Shafiq Husayn – Sonnymoon prepares the release of their upcoming self-titled album and speaks with Life + Times about their musical background, being unique and collaborating with Kendrick Lamar.
Life+Times: Can each of you give some background on your journey to form Sonnymoon. Perhaps your musical influences and upbringings?
Dane: I was brought up in a diverse, loving community. The love, support and open attitude is really what led me to Sonnymoon. My parents didn’t think twice when I told them I was gonna be putting the horn down for a while after 13 years. This love is really what we try to channel in our music. We’re not going for perfection, we’re going for human experience, and hopefully eventually spiritual experience, but nothing is perfect all the time, right?
Anna: In college I sang with an incredible group of singers in an “elite” vocal jazz program that ended up scarring almost every single one of us. We were pushed so hard, and our teachers picked favorites, it was such an unhealthy “academic” environment. I was kicked out of that program half way through my 3rd semester, which was actually good because it started me on an invaluable journey of musical and personal discovery. I stopped giving even a tiny shit about what anybody thought of my voice and the “singer” image. I was completely freed. I arrived at Berklee soon after that and met Dane, and yeah….history!
L+T: Being at Berklee College Of Music, you are surrounded by many aspiring musicians that are truly talented. What drew the two of you together to begin working on music?
Dane: We knew that this is what we are supposed to do. It was immediately obvious that we brought out the best of each other. Part of that is how different from each other we actually are.
L+T:The Sonnymoon sound is rather unique and experimental as it draws from a multitude of influences, was there a lot of experimentation that went into finding a sound or did everything just click from the beginning?
Anna: Everything clicked from the beginning. We do whatever we want, the process changes for every song. We love to experiment.
Dane: That’s the fun part of it. I like to think that no matter how many influences you have if you do something from the heart it will be unique. Art should be a mirror image of yourself, not of your influences.
L+T: Golden Age released back in 2009 and spread virally without a major cosign. Can you talk about the creation of that album and if you anticipated it to bring in so many hip-hop fans?
Dane: I’m always skeptical of expectation. Golden Age was the most natural and pure thing we’ll ever do. Nobody knew who we were except our roommates. We just made songs and wanted to have something to show our friends. The hip-hop thing still baffles me. I love hip-hop, so I say thank you to all the heads out there that continue to rep us in that way.
L+T: How much did going to Berklee help shape your sound?
Anna: I would not make a direct correlation between our sound and Berklee College of Music. The people I met and the friends I made shaped me more than any class.
Dane: Man, that shit helped me so much. I went in as a sax player and studied jazz composition for a year until I realized what kind of career path I was travelling down. The switch to Electronic Production and Design still seems so spur of the moment, but it’s the best scholastic decision I made while I was there. Jazz is spirit. EPD is computers. You can teach computers but you can’t teach spirit.
L+T: Obviously, covering Drake’s “HoustonAtlantaVegas” has been your calling card and kicked the door off the hinges for you guys. What went into recreating that song and why did you choose Drake?
Anna: The Drake cover, like everything else we have done together, came naturally. There was no “this will be really good for us” conversation. After a show in Boston we went back to our apartment. At that point we were singing the Drake song a lot and I liked where it fit in my voice. That night Dane said “Anna guess what song this is?” and started playing the chords and riffing on the bass line and I turned it into a mash of “Take Off Your Cool” and “Houstatlantavegas.” Dane then took the initiative to make the track.
L+T: You guys have done several covers of popular artists. What is the goal when reconstructing these songs?
Dane: We just like to put stuff through our filter. Mess it all up and see what we get. Honor the song versus copy the song.
L+T: You have done some touring lately, what’s the live experience like?
Anna: I feel each musical artist sends out a signal in all their songs. Some people catch on to this signal and feel the need to connect further with the artist by attending a live show, and the show can solidify or break the bond. Before and after we play, we make it a point to stick around for the other acts, and I go straight for the audience, I want to be a part of that. If someone is inspired by the live presentation and feels compelled to speak to me, I want to be around to hear it. That’s what fuels me: people and their stories, and the different kinds of emotions that bubble up to the surface when their stories collide with our music.
L+T: Has there been any artists that have surprised you when you found out they were fans of the music?
Anna: Kendrick Lamar. He hit us up out of the blue to work on his new album. We were surprised, excited and honored, then once we met him and worked with him we realized it made perfect sense.
L+T: What’s going on with your Plug Research debut album?
Dane: We have finished the record, simply titled Sonnymoon, scheduled for late May release. We’ll be releasing goodies here and there before the actual album comes out. There are no “collaborations” or “features.”