By David Seaman | Echo
When you think of great bands, you think of chemistry. The symbiotic relationship between John Lennon, Paul McCartney and the rest of the Beatles was a crucial factor in their success. The Rolling Stones kept up their mix of personalities (and other substances) in order to keep playing for 50-plus years. Even solo acts like Elton John call upon friends like Billy Joel from time to time to help concoct their records and concerts.
Sitting down with Sun & Heir, Taylor's new hit band, you feel that chemistry bubble. These guys get each other, and they love making music together. It's intentional community at its finest.
The band is composed of five members: seniors Jack Rose on guitar, keys and synthesizers, Will Tice on bass (taking over for sophomore Grason Poling) and Taylor Hughes, the newest member of the band, who provides vocals, keyboard and some bass; juniors Ryan Lanier and Ryan Ericson on vocals and guitar complete the set.
The group formed in October 2014, its name based on the idea of being "heirs of Christ," according to Lanier. After a series of concerts around campus and at the Abbey Coffee Co. in Marion, Ind., Sun & Heir released their first EP "Keeping Us Up" on Feb. 28, following a successful Kickstarter campaign in which they raised nearly $5,000.
Their unique mix of acoustic alternative rock, flecked with bits of electronica and country, has made them popular outside of the Taylor community. Three of their singles will be featured in a documentary airing on national Danish television sometime this spring, and their song "Weekend" was used in the Team World Vision video "Maureen's Story." Noisetrade and music website Brite Revolution have also showcased their music.
Then House of Blues came calling.
"A friend of a friend contacted me, and he gave me the name of a promoter," Lanier said in an interview, surrounded by his fellow band members. "This was January. I emailed to see if I could play in a show for the friend of the friend. He emailed me back and said we could play."
The band explained that the connection allowed them to get the high-profile gig at the Chicago branch of the famed music hall. Sun & Heir will be playing with Nathan Weber, another up-and-coming musician.
"It's all about contacting the right people," Rose said.
House of Blues also presents a new opportunity for the band. "We're at the end of the lineup," Lanier said. "People are opening for us! I'd be an idiot to say no."
The House of Blues performance is Sunday at 4:30 p.m. But that's not the only performance they have this weekend. The band will also open for Gungor tomorrow as part of the Wired Youth Conference at Taylor.
"It was nerve-wracking," Hughes said of the band opening for the acclaimed Christian group. "We were like, 'We need to get it down and kick into high gear.' We are practicing every day for two hours; we want to be the best we can be."
As with House of Blues, Lanier used previous connections to get in contact with Gungor. "I knew someone who knew the old drummer (now part of The Brilliance), so we also helped get them," Lanier explained. "For me, Michael Gungor is someone I've followed on guitar for years. It's kind of surreal."
The band has not met with Gungor yet but are excited to work with them. "We're kind of hoping (Michael) asks us to do something on stage with him," Ericson said.
Other band members are hoping to trade some jams. "Like a six-hour guitar session," Lanier chimed in.
While all members agree House of Blues and opening for Gungor are their biggest events so far, they still have other shows in the future. "I don't know how we could get another show like this," Rose said. "We're playing the Upland Unity Festival on May 2, and looking to do something down by the lake at the very end of the year."
Sun & Heir also recently recorded a music video with senior film production student Alex Cook for their song "Capetown." The video is scheduled to premier in a few weeks. Filmed on the impressive RED Epic Dragon cameras, used for movies such as the upcoming "Avengers: Age of Ultron," the video is sure to look fantastic.
"We might look too good!" Rose said.
Besides the shows and music videos, Sun & Heir is looking forward to making music connections and selling their merchandise. Junior Christian Brown designed their first shirt, and today the band will reveal a brand-new shirt designed by senior Lynne Sowders, who also created the "Keeping Us Up" cover.
Sun & Heir hopes to make many connections from either Gungor or House of Blues. "Our primary fan base is at Taylor," Rose said. "People who like Gungor or House of Blues have never seen us before, so this week is pretty crucial to get our name out and to do it well."
The group plans to contact indie musician and Taylor alum Andrew Belle for an alumni connection. Whether the connections lead to bigger gigs or not, their upbeat attitudes and brotherly community are sure to help them in the future. After Gungor and House of Blues, Sun & Heir is looking mighty sunny.