An Interview With The Multi-Genre Artist and Producer, SUNSET NEON!
Posted On 30 Nov 2017
Born out of the screen glow flicker of late night VHS tapes and 80’s radness, Sunset Neon is the new project from multi-genre artist/producer Bret Autrey that combines glitchy Nu Disco, chill lo-fi nostalgia, catchy pop melodies, midnight power anthems and the atmosphere of hazy neon-lit dreamscapes.
“Sunset Neon came about because even though I would tease bits of 80s action as Blue Stahli with songs like “Never Dance Again”, “Metrocenter 84”, the actual track “Sunset Neon”, and my recent remix of Scandroid’s “Shout”, I always had to make things fit a bit more with Blue Stahli as a whole, and that restricted some of the areas I’d want to explore within the realm of “everything 80s”. Klayton from Celldweller/Scandroid/Circle of Dust suggested I create a new project to just go completely nuts and revel in the 80s fluorescence I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve dreamed about doing a project like this since I first started making music, so I’m freakishly excited to create some weirdo VHS music for nostalgia-tinged drives or the result of watching too many flicks like ‘Terrorvision’ and ‘Vamp’ over and over.” – Sunset Neon
Sunset Neon will be releasing his album, “Starlight”, tomorrow and will be available for purchase here- https://sunsetneon.bandcamp.com/album/starlight
Connect With Sunset Neon Here:
Learn more about Sunset Neon in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it?
And thank you for yours! Right this moment, it’s well past midnight and the only music is the hum of a laptop cooling tray fan and the sounds of cars clumsily trying to drag race each other on the street just next to me.
What’s a song you are loving these days? What music instantly lifts you out of a bad mood?
“Insight” by Depeche Mode has been a major comfort song lately and I’d say it’s damn near impossible to be in a bad mood while “Gadget Funk” by The Herbaliser is playing.
Did you approach the start of this year any differently then you did last year?
Honestly, things have been such a whirlwind lately, I’m having trouble even parsing out exactly what I was doing, and in what city. There’s been a LOT of music in the works, so there’s been a ton of late night studio time and ignoring the outside world for a bit.
What have been some of the highlights for you this year?
Definitely finishing up the debut album of my new project, Sunset Neon, and just being surprised by the twists and turns it took in exploring different genres that are all composites of hazy 80s memories and nu disco action. Getting the demos together (and now prepped) for my main musical outlet, Blue Stahli.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Was there ever a time where you thought about doing something completely different?
I did always want to do music full time, but never really knew how to make that happen. When I was a kid, my mom rescued an old beat-up piano that was about to get sent from a community center to the dump, so messing with that in the house, I worked out little melodies and later got into music programming via trackers in DOS and being into the whole demo-scene stuff.
What do you think it finally was that pushed you to this career?
No matter what day job I had, I was always doing music and finding ways to do production for everything from burlesque shows to drag queen fronted punk bands. Eventually I got a gig as a studio assistant for Celldweller and was going to be doing typical audio assistant stuff. In order to get acclimated with Pro Tools (which he was using at the time), he had me write a song in that DAW to get more comfortable in it. Based on the song I put together, he said “You’re more valuable to this label as an artist than being an editor”, and I got signed right there.
I always like to know how a particular city has influenced an artist. How do you think your hometown has affected the kind of music that you make today?
As soon as I had a car, I spent a lot of time driving around listening to music, and even had specific areas I’d go to for certain genres and albums. So the areas and architecture of some choice spots in my home state are intrinsically tied in with meaningful songs. Sometimes I wind up writing music to fit the memory of those atmospheres. Like, “This is definitely a song I would have on a mixtape of tracks for this particular drive”.
Why did you decide to not go by your own name? Does it create separation for you? How did you come up with the project name, Sunset Neon?
While the Blue Stahli material IS multi-genre, and I’ve made plenty of upbeat songs that are geared more toward film and tv in the “Antisleep” series of albums, the main output of Blue Stahli is darker and leans more on the electronic rock side of things. There were songs like “Never Dance Again” that I wrote as a Blue Stahli track (since that was my only outlet) and then didn’t have a place for it on any album, so it just kind of floated away as a forgotten single. With Sunset Neon, I now have a place to do multi-genre stuff that all has the vibe of coming from a beauty VHS tape.
Let’s talk about your forthcoming debut album called “Starlight” that you will be releasing in December. What does it feel like to finally be putting it out into the world? Did anything surprise you about the whole process? Were there any unexpected challenges? How long did it take to put it all together?
It’s amazing to have this thing finished and I can’t wait for people to hear it in full! As much as I had certain ideas for how things would sound, it really did take on a life of its own and turned itself more toward the nu disco and indie electronic end of things for a quite a lot of it. It was fun as hell to just let that happen and go where the songs wanted. It all came together relatively quickly in about 5 months and was created while going back and forth between Los Angeles and Detroit.
Can you tell our readers about the creation of a few of the songs on the album? What was the overall inspiration for this material?
For tracks like “Opening Title Sequence”, elements of “You Are The Sun”, “Starlight”, “Metrocenter 84”, and “After Hours”, I wanted them to sound like you were listening to these tracks for the 150th time on a cassette or in the soundtrack to a an old VHS movie that you love. There’s wear and tear, and most all of the tracks on the album glitch out in funky, rhythmic ways. Really, this entire record is inspired by multiple bits of nostalgia crashing into each other.
How is your track, “Tonight” a VHS and 80’s inspired future funk experience exactly?
While “Tonight” is certainly VHS inspired, but the future funk elements are reserved more for tracks like “Strut” and “Lazer Pink”. Tonight is meant to be every cheesy training montage smashed into one.
What has it been like transitioning from the rock to the electronic world? Was it a conscious effort on your part? How different is your process with Sunset Neon as opposed to Blue Stahli?
I’ve always done a mix of rock and electronic as Blue Stahli, and definitely a fair share of fully electronic tracks for that project. With Sunset Neon, it’s more of a conscious effort to bring all the French house stuff and hazy lo-fi pop all under one project name, instead of the wildly flailing genre-hopping of Blue Stahli. Also, in vocal albums, Blue Stahli skews very dark, while Sunset Neon is definitely more of the “music for summer” angle.
Now that the summer is about over, what was something fun you did? Did you get a chance to play out live much?
I haven’t taken either project live yet, as I’ve just been writing a ton of music for both! Though I did tour around as the second member of the two-man Celldweller live show in 2010 and 2011. The greatest thing I did this summer was spend a remote weekend away with friends while shacked up in a converted cabin made to look like various sets from Twin Peaks…that was heaven.
How do you think being a musician gives you all the most joy in life today?
I’m very fortunate in that music is what I do for a living. It’s a lot of work, but I adore the fact that my actual job is to create this action. What truly gives me joy from it though, is seeing people connect with it. When people let me know that certain songs were meaningful to them, got them through a hard time, or just helped them take on the day a little bit better, it’s exactly why I do what I do.
Do you believe that the music being created right now will be greatly influenced by the intensely politically charged times we live in right now? How has it affected you as a musician in general?
A lot of music will for sure. And if it isn’t dealing with direct political dealings, then certainly the ripple effects of those events that wind up affecting people in multitudes of different ways will inform different perspectives in lyrics and even approaches to production itself. I’m just glad that we all have art as a window into people’s perspectives, even if their perspective is creating a cathartic escape.
What artists have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
That runs all over from Skinny Puppy to Billie Holiday and everything in between. The dream would have been to do something with David Bowie.
What advice would you give to a young person who is considering becoming a musician one day?
Absolutely pursue it. There are SO many resources for learning how to do this stuff on your own that weren’t available when I started out and stumbled my way into it all through trial and error. With YouTube and other learning resources, you can even find genre-specific advice for what you’re interested in. With that though, I’m glad that I fumbled around with listening to stuff I liked in headphones, then trying to deconstruct it and go through many terrible ideas in order to find the few that sucked less. But the avenues for getting your music out in the world are immense and freakishly user-friendly. You can be in your bedroom, with no label, and build your own fan-base purely off of your unique vision. Just start.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
I just hope people connect with these songs and it either becomes meaningful for them, just something fun to jam on the way to work, or something cathartic to get them through. The only message is “Enjoy. You matter, and this is for you”.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
Just enjoy the hell out of this action, and thanks for taking the time to check it out!