SONDER (from l-r): Reece Mason (drums), Andrew Monckton (guitar), Luke Watson (bass), Kraig Fallows (vocals/guitar)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
From Staffordshire, Sonder are a four-piece who burst onto the scene last year with their debut EP, ‘Papered Cracks’, which showcased an engrossing mix of early grunge and modern alternative rock.
Since that came out, the band have earned a reputation for playing highly-energised live sets, which has resulted in them supporting the likes of Fangclub and Fizzy Blood, and headlining the 02 Academy in Birmingham.
Having recently unveiled a new single, ‘A Wicked Place’, a frank lyrical reflection of frontman Kraig Fallows’s battle with mental health, and taken from the quartet’s upcoming second EP, Kraig spoke to me about its recording process, what can be expected from the release, and much more.
How did the band form?
Sonder formed in late 2016 after the demise of various projects that we had been working on. Having had a chance meet-up on a night out, after a while of being out of bands, me, Andrew & Reece decided to start writing music together.
After a few months, Reece bumped into Luke, and asked him to join us. He did, and we’ve been writing music ever since.
How did the name Sonder come about?
Sonder comes from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, which is something I was reading one evening. It is the realisation that each passer-by is leading a life as complex and vivid as your own. It had a real nicer poetic vibe to it, so I suggested it to the lads, and we all agreed on it.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
When I’m writing the music from the band, I try and write from a personal place, as I feel this allows you to be honest with whoever is listening to the music.
If I wrote about being a hugely successful “rock star“, then I wouldn’t be being honest to myself or anyone else, so I very much write about whatever is on my mind, whether that be my feelings about what is going on in the world around me, or within my life on a much deeper level.
Recently, the band brought out a new single, entitled ‘A Wicked Place’. How has the reaction been to that so far?
The reaction so far has been amazing. The consensus is that it’s the best song that we’ve released. We’ve had people talking to us about how they connect with the lyrics of the song too, which for me means more than anything else. The fact it’s also our favourite song to play live only adds to it!
And the track deals lyrically with anxiety and depression. Having battled with mental health yourself, Kraig, what are your opinions on the frequent open discussion of the subject at the moment?
It’s a very long and overdue discussion. Mental health is something that for too long has been shunned to one side as not being a “real illness“, or someone just being “a bit sad“, and it’s absolutely wrong!
I wrote this track when I was in a truly dark place. I wasn’t just sat in a corner crying to myself out of self-pity, which a lot of people still think is the cliché for depression. I was struggling to function on a day-to-day basis.
It was hard to get out of bed, or make myself a meal, let alone go to work and interact with people in the wider world. I simply didn’t want to do anything.
For a very long time, it’s something that I’ve hidden away from, especially as there’s still a stigma around men and mental health, in that we’re not allowed to have issues like this, for fear of being seen as not being “manly“, whatever that means, so, one day, I sat down and just wrote about it, and it was the most therapeutic experience I’ve had in years.
Hopefully, with everyone starting to become more open about mental health issues, and people slowly getting a greater understanding of the depths that these issues go to, then society can finally start treating it with the respect that it deserves, and if anyone ever tells you to “man up“, tell them to fuck off!
‘A Wicked Place’ was taken from the band’s second EP, coming out in January. How has the recording process been for that?
We wanted to try out something slightly different with our second EP, and this was to record four songs, but at two different studios at two different times, so that we can capture a different type of energy on the two sets of tracks.
We recorded two songs (including lead single ‘Karma…’) with Dan Willett at Univibe Studios in Birmingham (where we recorded our debut E.P ‘Papered Cracks’), and then, a few months later, recorded two songs with Sam Bloor at Lower Lane Studios in Stoke-on-Trent (where we recorded ‘ A Wicked Place’).
It was nice to have this split, as the tracks all sound fundamentally like Sonder songs, but there’s a different vibe on the tracks, and that really comes across on the EP when you listen to it in full.
And I’ve noticed that the upcoming release doesn’t have a title yet. Is that deliberate, or is it that you simply can’t come up with one?
It’s self-titled. Usually, I will pick a title from a line or lyric within one of the tracks, but with this EP, being as it showcases all the different sides of the band, we figured the best thing to do was to keep it self-titled.
Also, what can be expected of the EP?
The new EP showcases everything that Sonder is about. Massive sounding guitars, catchy choruses, pop hooks, and grungy noise!
You’ve supported the likes of Fangclub, Fizzy Blood, and most recently, Pagan. How were they as experiences?
Playing with bands of such high quality has had the most profound effect on us as a band, as it lets you see where you are in comparison, and how much more you need to push yourself in order to get to that level.
Every single gig, no matter how big or small, is a learning experience, but when you’re playing with bands that spend their lives touring and playing shows, you see just how much you need to work to be on their level.
It’s also great to be able to sit and chat with these bands, as they’re doing right now what we really want to be doing ourselves
The band also headlined the 02 Academy in Birmingham earlier this year. How is it, overall, performing live?
Our headline show came almost a year after our first ever show, so it was great to be able to round off 12 months of shows and graft with a headline show. We even played a Feeder cover (we don’t do covers at all, but made an exception for this one show!) which is on our YouTube page.
Gigging and playing live is what it’s all about. We love being in the studio or being in our rehearsal space writing new music, but the real test of a band is when you’re out there playing your songs to the public, because they’ll be the ones who’ll tell you whether you’ve got a good song or not.
Playing live is where we feel we’re at our best, and we love nothing more than putting on a show every single time we play!
You play often in Birmingham. Do you think the city has been overlooked in recent years, in general, in comparison to similar-sized cities such as Manchester?
There are some great bands in the Birmingham/Midlands music scene right now! Bands like God Damn, Youth Man, and Table Scraps, to name just a few, are helping to put the Birmingham scene back on the map, and hopefully, bands like ourselves can continue to try and show people that, as a city, Birmingham shouldn’t be overlooked.
All that’s needed is for more smaller touring bands to take a chance on the city, and to book the shows, because when Birmingham crowds turn up (as they did for our shows with Fizzy Blood and Fangclub), then it can really go off!
I think great scenes are born out of groups of bands getting noticed at the same time (which is what is happening in places like Brighton and Bristol, for example), and that, hopefully, when people see that there are great bands coming out of Birmingham, then it will find its way back on to the regularly toured map.
EP aside, what are the band’s initial plans for 2019?
More shows, more new music! We’re hoping to go out on tour in April/May sort of time, and will just continue to keep playing shows as much as possible. We’d also LOVE to play at 2000 Trees! That’s a band bucket list wish right there!
And finally, what is your long-term aim?
We just want to keep on writing and enjoying the music that we make, and hope that people continue to enjoy it as much as we do.
‘A WICKED PLACE’, THE LATEST SINGLE FROM SONDER, IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND THE BAND’S SELF-TITLED EP WILL BE RELEASED IN JANUARY.
FURTHER INFO ON THAT, AND SONDER, CAN BE FOUND HERE.