INTERVIEW: A chat with Harrison Kantarias from At Sunset

Monday, March 14, 2016

I'm calling it early(ish):  At Sunset will be a household name by the end of this year, especially if you live within earshot of any teenage girl (or 28 year old woman) who now has a 1D sized void to fill.  The band consists of brothers Harrison and Andrew Kantarias along with Australian Idol alumnus Tom Jay Williams whom all hail from Adelaide.  They have just released their new single Kiss Me and are touring this single around Oz.  That’s right chaperone Dads – you thought you were in the clear when 1D announced their hiatus but this band are the new big thing and they’re bringing their show to a city near you! 

Harrison was a champ and told us about being mentored by Ed Sheeran, being spear-tackled by their fans (Sunsetters) and we also found out that they look for the same quality in girls as One Direction ;)

Here’s how it went down (not unlike the sun – like at sunset.  At Sunset.  Um. Yeah. Sorry, please keep reading):

Kate: Hi, it’s Kate here from Wickedd Childd.

Harrison: Hey Kate, my name’s Harrison. 

Hey how are you?

Good, good thanks Kate.  How are you?

Not too bad thanks.  Firstly I’d like to congratulate you on your new single Kiss Me. I can see this one getting high rotation on Nova and being massive for you guys.

Yeah, yeah, thank you, yeah!  It’s awesome I can’t believe the response it’s had and all of the streams on Spotify and stuff like that.  It’s nuts!  So thanks, yeah!

Speaking of Nova, you took out their 'Nova's Fresh Discovery' competition about a year ago and got to be mentored by Ed Sheeran.  How was that for you?

Yeah, it was nuts.  When we entered the comp we couldn’t even think about winning it and, you know, the prize to be mentored by Ed – like he’s an absolute lord.  Not just at music but as a person as well.  He is the definition of just humble and genuine and he literally cared.  Like it actually seemed like he cared.  He listened to us play and then from there gave us advice on what our next step should be.  He gave us an example, like what he did was, he looked up to James Blunt in the music industry so he got James Blunt’s schedule and then doubled it and that’s how he got to where he is now.  So like we’re going to look up to Ed, we need to get his schedule and then double that which is like four times James Blunt’s schedule!
Oh shit, that’s like diabolical, scheming, genius shit right there!

It is! It is!  So then like, whoever then doubles ours is going to be eight times James Blunt.  It’s just going to be ridiculous!

Oh shit, I can’t wait for that!  As a band, what's your song writing process? Like with Kiss Me, did you bring ideas to each other or write separately or have jam sessions?

Well to be honest; with Kiss Me we didn’t even go in there to write.  We’ve got a thing that we do called ‘Ballad Tuesdays’.  For some weird reason every Tuesday we write ballads, like it’s just a weird thing.  So now we kind of do that on a Tuesday and yeah it was a bit more of an experimental session and we had our session drummer with us.  So we’re all just jamming and then all of a sudden we were coming up with like some cool lines, cool vibes and things like that and then yeah it kind of just pieced together ‘cause like we were in E major so it’s really nice to move up and down the guitar neck and we were just hanging out and it was within like fifteen minutes (that) we came up with Kiss Me and it was towards the end of the proposed session.  Then we kind of just extended it and we wrote Kiss Me and it was kind of like – Tom took on part of the lyrics and then I was like, “Cool, I’ll go and finish off like the melody of the track and go finalise the lyrics for this part”, and we all kind of like broke up, did our little parts and then came together.  It was like the Kiss Me lines with ‘Sandy and Danny’ that we all just started jumping up and down going, “Yes! This is so good!” (Laughs).

Can you tell us how far off you are from giving us an album?

Oh man! Story of the year!  Um, what’s crazy is, because we write all our music, we’ve got tracks upon tracks upon tracks and our biggest thing has always been, “When’s the right time to release it?” and “Have we actually got the right sound yet’?” and I think now it’s actually safe to say between Every Little Thing and Kiss Me we’ve really sculptured our sound and when you come see us live and things like that, you see the more rock-y, more punky side to it.  So I think we’ve got the perfect spectrum to the album now that I think it definitely has to be this year because if we don’t do it this year, we’re going to have, like, a hundred songs up our sleeve and it’s going to be an even harder decision to release something.  

Do you play or demo some of those unreleased or unfinished tracks at your live shows?

Yeah we do actually!  It’s like our way of testing the water, with like, not just what our fans want but also like (asking ourselves), “What’s everyone loving at the moment?”, and things like that.  We end the set with a track that just reminds me and Andrew of what we used to listen to when we were younger, like the whole Blink 182Good Charlotte and Simple Plan.  So for us it kind of really reminds us of that.  The track that we open with, we only wrote probably eight weeks ago, so at the start of the year really, and it just sat in the set perfectly and we were like, “This has to be our song, this needs to be played on tour!”, um, and we love it ‘cause whenever we play something fresh it’s always something new for us but yeah it’s really cool and we definitely play unreleased and, you know, all those types of tracks on tour, definitely.  

Oh cool, I was actually going to say that I've seen some interviews the band has done and you guys are really quite funny and seem to riff naturally off each other.  Can we expect some quality banter at your shows, kind of like Blink 182 or are you guys solely focused on the music?

 (Laughs) Nah, nah, there’s definitely banter like, although at this part we are trying to do this and we’ll make sure that we get ‘this message’ across and things like that but then Andrew just goes (off) on the craziest tangents.  Sometimes Andrew’s giving like conspiracy theories of like what he thinks is going on at the moment and everyone’s just like, dying with laughter.  You can’t control Andrew, like that guy’s brain – Andrew’s like a super-genius as well.  Not a lot of people know that Andrew’s incredibly intelligent so we’ll start arguing, like mucking around, but he just has an answer for everything.  So there’s always banter – there’s always that.  It’s a mixture of professionalism and just us, because that’s the last thing that we want to lose, you know, the bigger that we get because hopefully people know and like the music but they like us as people as well and that’s one thing that we always want to stay the same.  Do what we do that makes us, us on stage; so yeah I don’t think that’s going anywhere in the near future.

For sure, but maybe keep Andrew away from your Twitter account, because you don’t want him to be the next Kanye!

Oh could you imagine?!  The sort of stuff that Andrew could be tweeting oh my god!  Nah sometimes his tweets are actually pretty funny.  He was proud of mine the other day.  I did a bit of a wifi pun, just like having a go at my router and things like that.  I think everyone got around that pretty well actually.  Jump on my Twitter, you’ll see it.  Everyone was like, “Oh, you’re actually funny Harrison” and I was like, “Oh, yeah it’s not just Andrew guys! Relax!”

 (Laughs) Like, “Thanks guys!”

Yeah, exactly!
I’ve read that you guys played a lot of pub gigs in the beginning.  How important was this process for developing your sound? (Mike Baird, listen up):

I think big time because when you play pub gigs, it’s a completely different audience to the audience that we kind of target so it kind of helped us because a lot of these guys that play at pubs are serious musos that are just phenomenal guitarists (and) have got such a good ear for sound but it also put us in the deep end.  I felt like sometimes pub gigs are so uncontrolled that anything could happen and it kind of helps you know – like we played a show where my guitar wouldn’t even turn on.  On sound check it turned on and then we got on stage and nothing.  So it was like, whatever, I’ll rock no guitar for the first couple of tracks until we sort it out.  It’s kind of like the unexpected things that could happen which is what the pub show is all about and yeah I think that’s what it is and it helps you keep an audience entertained.  Because it’s really hard to make people listen and watch you when they’re having a drink and something to eat and things like that but if you can captivate them while they’re doing that then you must be doing something right.  Yeah so I think it’s definitely important and it’s always great to do and we still love it.  We played an open mic night the other day.  We literally just walked into a bar and had something to eat, had something to drink and yeah all of sudden it was open mic night and we were like, “Do you want to just get up there and jam?”  So we did and it was just awesome.

Oh that’s cool, taking it back to the beginning?

HK: Yeah, that’s what it’s about!

You recently toured the Philippines and they were absolutely losing their shit over you boys.  You had tight security and everything, was that hectic?

It was friggen nuts!  Like we couldn’t expect anything like that!  I’ll tell you something that not a lot of people know – I actually forgot my passport so I got there like a day later than the boys.


Um yeah (laughs), and I had no idea what we were in for.  I got off the plane and you know the air hostesses were asking for photos and security/immigration were asking me for photos and I was like, “Don’t you guys just want to stamp my passport or something?”  It was already from there and Andrew was texting me going, “Dude you do not understand what it is like over here” and I kind of went, “Yeah, I get it” but I was looking on Twitter and it was just like pandemonium.   We went to a Starbucks and within three seconds the girl from behind the counter had like spear tackled me and I had my own security guard and that’s just so weird.  They sit down with you and they don’t eat and they don’t drink and we’re not like that, we weren’t raised like that, you know what I mean?  So it was like, if we were eating we’re like, “Dude, do you want a drink or something to eat?” and they just can’t.  It’s just unbelievable the culture over there and how different it is because to us we’re just normal people and I think that that’s a great way to be but over there it’s something different completely.  And it was like thousands of people.  I was on the phone to my Mum just saying like, “I’m all good, I’ve landed, I’m going to go downstairs”, and the minute I got downstairs there were like, girls everywhere and security everywhere and then going out to dinner and then at the venue.  It was just crazy and it was crazy to see the demographic as well.  A fifty year old guy was asking for a photo while I was just at the shopping mall and I was just like, “How do you know who I am?” but then you turn the corner and there’s a big billboard of you so it kind of makes sense how they know you. (Laughs)

Also his daughter’s probably at home going, “Oh no Dad! I hope you didn’t embarrass me!”

Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

Now speaking of Starbucks, in your song Every Little Thing there is a line that says "She's too hot for working in a Starbucks".  

(Laughs) Yeah.

Is this implying that only persons of a certain 'level of attractiveness' can work in coffee shops or is it more a case of working the milk frothers at Rundle Mall on a 40 degree day get her too hot and she hates being sweaty?

Yeah, let’s go with that. I think that’s politically correct for an interview.  But I think that line was more like a metaphor just going like, “What is she even doing? Like she doesn’t even know, you know, what she’s got” and things like that.  We obviously feel like they’re the special ones, they’re the ones you gotta look out for, the girls that are just crazy good looking, amazing people and they just don’t even know it.  I think that’s what we were trying to do.  And then Andrew of course, “She’s sweeter than chocolate cake”, type things.  It was just like the perfect analogy to wrap that line up.

So sort of taking a line from One Direction, like You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful sort of chicks and you agree with them there?

Totally!  It so works and it’s so true!

Are you guys looking forward to your upcoming tour here in Oz for the Kiss Me single?

Yeah, we are actually because the rest of our year was kind of like, “How do we do something at home?” and we’ve literally got these two weeks that we were like, “We need to put something in Australia” so we can’t wait, they’re really awesome venues.  We played at The Metro when we won the MTV Award (MTV Brand New competition) so it was kind of like, “Oh man, love this venue, let’s play there!”.  Adelaide’s really cool and actually Fowlers is one of the venues that I grew up watching bands, so it’s kind of cool now to go back home.  We’ve been home now for about five days or so and we just played the Clipsal (500) in Adelaide.  So it’s awesome to play at home, and take it around Australia before we go back to the States.

I was going to ask if it was weird playing in your home town in Adelaide?

It so is, not so much because you’re playing in Adelaide, it’s more because your family are there and it’s real for them now as well because they’ve supported us since the open mic nights and to be able to give them something cool, you know.  Like my Mum, she loves it and my parents are so freakin’ proud, like you would not believe the grin on their faces so, you know, it’s awesome for them to check it out.  They are troupers, like when we played Allphones (Arena) they drove to Sydney and they drove to Melbourne to watch us and they just love it, so it’s awesome to be at home.  They can enjoy something and not just have us sending them photos from a different country going, “Oh, wish you guys were here”.

Yeah that’d be crazy for them.  Have you guys spotted any arseholes that you hated at high school in the crowd or anything like that? 

Not so much yet, but what I can say is that it’s very funny how this world swings and roundabouts, you know what I mean?  You run into people and you get the odd text message and you’re like, “Dude how do you even have my number? I haven’t spoken to you for years”.  It’s also cool to see your friends that really are your friends because they’re the ones that stuck by you, never gave you shit for wanting to start a band and all of that sort of gear.  It’s a crazy world out there, like so many people take different things so differently.  So I haven’t seen anyone in the crowd yet, but I’ve definitely heard of someone going, “They love your song, they blare it so hard!” and I’m just like, “Yeah! Yeah they do!” (Laughs).

Speaking of the States earlier, you guys seem to mention the free refills (of soft drink) in the States all the time.  It obviously amazed you guys and admittedly I was excited by it while over there also.  I was thinking that maybe you could incorporate that into your lyrics somewhere. Something like "You're like the free refills at Burger King, I keep coming back for more/or I can't get enough"?  

I can’t believe we haven’t done any of that, like that could be a perfect analogy for ‘I can’t get enough’, you know what I mean?

Feel free to use those lyrics mate.

Do you mind?  Like I’ll cut you into the royalties don’t worry. We’ll have a percentage for ya.  

Mate, just remember me, just be like, “Yeah, I got my inspiration from Kate”, you know?

Yeah I know, Kate hooked me up with this one don’t worry about that.


Um but nah, it’s actually probably not a bad idea; it would not surprise me if one of us suggests that, or I will probably suggest it now.

Do it.

It wouldn’t surprise me because honestly we were just amazed that they were free refills and I’ve never drunk so much Mountain Dew in my life! 

Oh my god I know!  My sister was just like, I think it was Andrew who was obsessed with Dr Pepper?  Or was it you?

No that was me! I’m obsessed with Dr Pepper, yeah.

Yeah, we were at a restaurant and the waitress just automatically refilled our glasses and we were like, “Oh, well there goes another $5 I guess” but it was free!

I know and I think that’s what we were so amazed about.  Like you go to a pub or a restaurant in Adelaide or anywhere in Australia really and it’s just like $5 for a little, little, thin glass and it’s like, dude I’m gonna drink that in one hit!

Yeah man, I feel ya!  Hey what was the last album you bought - like not streamed but physically bought?

Physically bought? Oh, Well I’m in my car so let’s have a look.  Um I’m still old school and still have CD’s in the car.  Hmmm what have I got here?  Half of these are my brother’s, half are mine.  I can see in the corner, I bought The 1975’s self titled album. I bought the deluxe edition as well, it’s awesome!  Like I love The 1975, I think it’s awesome.  Yeah it’s had a big play in my car definitely.  

Yeah I’m the same; I’ve got CD’s all throughout my car.

Yeah I think it’s cool.  Like CD’s are what I grew up with so I’m still rocking that!

I like the feeling of having something in your hands, you know?

Yeah and it looks a lot cooler as well than just having it on your iPhone.

Yeah man, for sure! Now I have one more question for you and it’s a bit of a random one.


If you had to choose between never, ever using any form of social media ever again or losing your left pinky toe, what would you choose?

I would give my left pinky toe.  That’s fine.  I’ve got another one on my right foot.  Mate what’s the worst?  That I’m going to be a bit unbalanced?  Like that’s ok, I’ll ride my hover board anywhere these days anyway.  So yeah definitely, I think I’m going to have to have social media, I get a lot of angry fans and I just would not be in on any of the personal jokes between Andrew and Tom you know?  Like they will just put everything on social media and I will be like, “Damn this pinky toe.  I should’ve just given it up.”

(Laughs) you’ll slowly develop a hate for your pinky toe.

I know I’m just gonna stare at it now going, “Why do I still have you? Just go.  Little pig can go home.”

You’ll cut it off in frustration anyway.

Can you imagine? Oh my god.

Well I also want to wish you good luck at the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards! You're up against some top Aussie acts!

I know; I know; it’s so daunting!  Yeah, we were just stoked to be nominated. We find out in the next couple of weeks so fingers crossed!

Yeah man, nice!  Well good luck, I’m rooting for ya!

Thank you very much!

You can catch At Sunset on the road at the below dates:

Saturday 12th March - Fowlers Live - Adelaide - tickets 
Sunday 13th March - Rubix Warehouse - Melbourne - tickets
Saturday 19th March - The Lair - Sydney - tickets
Sunday 20th March - Old Museum - Brisbane - tickets

Written by Kate Carnell