Q&A ::: Dylan Nowik (Steady Sun)

Steady Sun are a New York band that specialize in psychedelic music. Their new album ‘Indifferent World’ was released on June 7th. The LP has blown us away so we thought this seemed a perfect time to catch up with the band’s driving songwriting force, Dylan Nowik, in order to find out more about his key influences and how the record was made. 

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TSOFD: I grew up listening to a lot of psychedelic music. The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Pink Floyd immediately spring to mind. Can you pinpoint any particular artists which have inspired you to make the kind of music you make?

DN: All of the above definitely planted an early musical seed in me. Of recent, a few artists that have really piqued my interest include Alice Coltrane, Fela Kuti, that sort of thing – music that’s rhythmic and kind of trancey. I just heard a record by Richard Dawson that was pretty cool.

TSOFD: It’s kind of fitting to be in the 50th anniversary year of Sgt Pepper and listening to that a lot at the moment but also listening to Steady Sun’s ‘Indifferent World’, a brand new psychedelic record. I love the fact psychedelic music is still very much alive and kicking and maybe currently experiencing something of a reawakening. Sgt Pepper is undoubtedly a massively influential LP. I just wondered if Pepper is a record you’ve listened to a lot in the past and whether you’ve had a chance to listen to the new mixes that have been released?

DN: I’ve certainly given it many a spin on the literal or figurative turntable, although historically I’ve leaned more toward Abbey Road, White Album, Magical Mystery. It might sound sacrilegious, but there are parts of it that are a little hokey! I could do without ‘She’s Leaving Home’ for instance…but I guess it’s got more than enough gold to make up for those moments. On the remastered version – I listened the other day for a few minutes on nice headphones and I was kind of distracted by its modern-sounding reverbs, 2017 mastering…I thought it had lost a touch of that thin, brittle beauty that it’s always had. However, I threw ‘Lovely Rita’ on at the beginning of this question (now listening on studio monitors) and at the moment I think it sounds expansive and awesome. I guess I’ll have to give it a few listens…

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TSOFD: I’d love to know more about how your new record ‘Indifferent World’ was recorded. Are we talking home-recorded or in a proper studio? Is this an album made using computers but using music software capable of emulating old analog hardware or did you record through a proper desk onto tape? When it came to mixing the record was it mostly a case of settling on levels or was there a lot of post-editing done to get the final sound?

DN: This was by in large recorded in my bedroom and living room, straight to computer, albeit utilizing weird tools along the way – vocals through pedals, acoustic guitars through distorted amps, that sort of thing. Drums on a couple of tracks were recorded at a proper studio that Rowan worked at. As much as we love the sound of tape, we’ve found our own tricks to add grit, smudging, distortion, without it. The exception of this is the track ‘Benthos’, which was recorded to computer but then passed to cassette tape – so when listening to that, you’re essentially listening to a cassette recording. And yes – so so so so much post-editing went into this. I’m obsessive in that regard – over a year of post-editing. Then Andrew came in and basically took my paint-splattered easel and did a final, proper mix of most of the tracks, which rounded things out, made sounds not painful, made everything sound wider. He’s a wizard.


TSOFD: I think the thing people sometimes forget about making a great psychedelic song is that it’s not simply about throwing a mellotron in there or panning the drums to the left, or using a flanger or whatever. It’s just as much about how an arrangement unfolds as well as being rooted in the original structure and feel of the song as it was first conceived. The thing I love about ‘Indifferent World’ is it’s very mature sounding and has a certain awareness and confidence about it. It sounds like a group who knew exactly how to make the record they wanted to make from start to finish. Is this a fair assessment or was it not like that at all?

DN: Hmm – I don’t think I can quite say I knew how it would sound from start to finish from the get-go. Actually…I definitely can’t say that! I thought it was going to be a 5-or-so-song EP at first, then I decided to expand it to an LP. But I’m glad it comes across that way to you!! I did know I wanted it to be a bombastic, exuberant record.

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TSOFD: Going back to this notion of psychedelic music experiencing something of a surge of interest or popularity in recent years, notably with the rise of groups such as Tame Impala and Temples, are there any groups out there right now you really dig or that you would recommend to me/our readers? Or, that genre of music aside, let us know anything in fact you’re listening to that’s reasonably current that you love and would recommend. Perhaps you have some musical peers in your locality you don’t think enough people know about? Feel free to big them up.

DN: Tame was undoubtedly a game changer in the modern manifestation of the genre. Unknown Mortal Orchestra is probably another heavyweight of the genre at the moment, right? But I’d say, the coolest thing about music coming out these days is that it’s very acceptable to blur genres. Admittedly, the psychedelic genre tag does appeal to me because it seems to imply a sense of exploration, a different way of thinking, all that – but I don’t like to be too quick to declare a genre…though we have, half-jokingly, referred to our sound as ‘Jive Daydream’. I don’t know if you’d call it psychedelic, but we just played a show with Pavo Pavo, local BK people, and they’re great! Other amazing artists we’ve shared the stage with include The Big Drops (new record on the way!!!) and Wild Moon. And check out Andrew’s other band Lightning Bug, and Rowan’s project, Wooter!

TSOFD: I visited New York some years ago and went to a place called Sidewalk Cafe. There was an open mic night there. It was insane how many performers turned up to play and it was a non-stop train of talent and quality on show. It struck me just how crazily competitive it must be as a musician and songwriter in New York. Do think that being surrounded by such talent has made you a better artist by pushing you harder to be better? Or do you think you’d be making music of the same high quality if you lived somewhere else? Tied to this, have you always lived in New York or did you gravitate there simply because you felt it was the place to be for music?

DN: This is the grand NY conundrum – ‘Do all these talented people inspire, or inundate you?’ Something I’ve/we’ve all chewed over a lot. Partially for this reason, I’ve actually recently relocated to upstate NY right now, near Woodstock/Hudson, on this beautiful plot of land. I can see the mountains through my window! The rest of the gang is in Brooklyn. So, I’m exploring this question right now in real time.

TSOFD: What’s next for Steady Sun? Do you plan to continue exploring the same kind of psychedelic territory? I’m guessing it would feel wrong to put out a record that is a radically different style because Steady Sun is synonymous with a particular type of sound? Do you have any urges to create different types of music/are you involved in any different projects we should be listening to?

DN: Right now, we’ll be playing shows throughout the summer and going on tour pretty soon. Then we’ll see. I’ve been really interested in using acoustic instruments in a unique way that’s not just pigeonholed as folk – experimental, with the energy of more electric music. We’ll see how/if that manifests.

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TSOFD: If anyone reading this is visiting New York in the near future where should they be heading for a night out? Let’s say for instance they want to grab some great food and enjoy some live music – what would you recommend?

DN: Go to our next show on July 7 at Baby’s All Right! The food is great there! (How was that for a subtle plug?)

TSOFD: Thanks so much for your time. And for making such enjoyable music.

Photos of Steady Sun by Elizabeth Ibarra.

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