Submitted to PA Music Scene.com
According to colonial lore, townspeople used to say that if the sun was setting in the north, something grim was imminent.
Of course, a simple understanding of astronomy makes it clear that the sun can only set in the west, and Warren North knows this. But the singer/songwriter liked the tale so much – told to him by an English teacher in middle school – that it stuck with him, until he eventually adopted it as the moniker for his own music project in 2006.
For a while, the name indeed proved to be something of a bad omen for North: frequent lineup changes and broken commitments seemed to repeatedly stall the singer from getting his band off the ground, and a doomed long distance relationship was falling apart in front of his eyes.
But North began to pick up the pieces around him. It might have taken longer than he originally hoped, but after three years of trial and error, he’s finally found his band. With a stable of dedicated musicians at his side and an arsenal of undeniable songs under his belt, SunSets North’s outlook is anything but grim.
In 2010, North and the rest of his band from Allentown, Pa. – guitarist Shane Riling, bassist Derrick Stair and drummer Pete Quinter – are gunning for the top. A new album and a rapid dose of touring should certainly help, but North says the band’s chemistry with each other is its biggest asset.
“I knew with these guys right away that this is it,” North says. “We’re all committed to the band, and a lot of times that’s hard to find with musicians. But each of us plays an equal part in the band, which is really important.”
Things may be rosy now, but North had to fight a lot of battles to get to this point. He always knew he wanted to be a singer of a rock band, but even at an early age, North faced adversity.
“When I was a kid, my parents would kind of laugh at me, saying, ‘you wanna be a singer, huh?’ Nobody really took it seriously, but I knew in my heart that I really wanted to do it,” North says.
So North set out to prove his first critics wrong, by joining the choir in school and several years later, picking up the guitar and beginning to write his own songs. He would write emotionally-driven acoustic laments in his bedroom, culling material from the travails of his own life.
As soon as the songs came to shape, he began performing them in bars and clubs in the Lehigh Valley. Word soon spread about North’s music, until he received the honor of being named performer of the month at the Old Brewery Tavern in Bethlehem in late 2006. The distinction only confirmed what North thought all along: If he wrote the songs, there would be an audience to hear them.
It was around this time that North recorded his first album, “Return to Sender,” with producer Rob Freeman (Hidden in Plain View, Hit the Lights) in early 2007. The album – geared around the dissolution of a relationship – prompted North and his hastily-assembled band to play some of the area’s biggest shows at the time, including the Mayfair and Riverfusion festivals. Right around the album’s release, the band even appeared on the cover of rock magazine Pulse Weekly, prepping SunSets North for local – and perhaps national – stardom.
It would have to wait, though. The band’s lineup fell apart throughout the next year, with members going back to school and getting jobs. Meanwhile, all North could do was write. Write about the girl from “Return to Sender;” write about the musicians around him that were dropping like flies; write about life. Once again, each hardship became fodder for North’s next album, “Forever’s End,” which he recorded in a friend’s basement and self-released in 2008.
But a funny thing hit the singer next, an unfamiliar feeling: stability. As he was finally finding happiness in his own love life, North was also finding his musical missing links in Riling, Stair and Quinter. The four have gelled together in such a short amount of time that it seems like they’ve been playing together for a decade. Riling’s classic rock-influenced shredding, Stair’s steady grooves and Quinter’s blistering beats all complement North’s passionate voice and driving guitar.
With their chops already honed by playing together live, it’s time for the guys to lay down a third album with producer Ian Bennett (ex Zoloft and the Rock and Roll Destroyers, We are Castles), which North describes as “bigger in every way.”
“With three other people and their input, there’s a lot more ideas. The record’s gonna be a lot more heavier at parts, a lot more melodic in some parts, even softer in some parts as well. Essentially, we’re trying to cover the spectrum of our own sound. The third record will make us and sculpt us as a band. You’ll know that it’s us,” North says.
As for the new album’s material, North is trying a different approach to songwriting. “Right now, I’m completely content with my life,” he says. “So most of the songs are written from other people’s perspectives rather than from my own point of view.”
Regardless of where the inspiration comes from, the four band members believe in this music. So it’s appropriate when North says that the band’s ultimate goal is to make a believer out of every single person who listens.
“We’re trying to make you react the same way from our music as we do,” he says. “We want to pump those feelings into you.” Judging by SunSets North’s newfound dedication and an unmistakable sound, it won’t be hard to do that.
So of course we come to that impossible name again. It’s obvious that the sun won’t ever set in the north. But for a band with this kind of potential and the drive to keep running, the sun doesn’t look like it’s setting for a long time.