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A Dirty Dozen with WESTLY BENJUNAS from SUNDAY MORNING – June 2024

| 10 June 2024 | Reply

Photo credit: Abby Clare

According to a recent press release: “Hailing from New Haven, CT Sunday Morning consists of Westly Benjunas, Erik Stanzel, Dom Barone, Jason Moriarty, and Mike Verrastro. The band began in 2018, opening for artists such as Microwave, Boston Manor, Can’t Swim, and The Plot in You. Sunday Morning’s refined hardcore infused alternative sound is what sets them apart from their peers, making them one of the most exciting up and coming bands in the scene right now. At their core, Sunday Morning is about connection – writing songs that will resonate with their listeners, playing shows to connect with new fans, and at the end of the day, they’re living the dream, playing music they love as best friends.” We get Westly to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

We tried to step out of our comfort zone with this EP. We wanted to make it a fresh sound for the people who have listened to us before, but also something that’ll engage new fans. I don’t think there’s any hidden nuggets in the songs, we try to be as transparent as possible. There are definitely some cool tones and parts that are layered in the songs that you might have to listen closely for.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I remember being infatuated with music from a very young age. I grew up on rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Bruce Springsteen and eventually got into punk as I got a little older. Bands like Green Day and Blink-182 really kick started my love for music. When I started learning how to play guitar and played my first chord without it sounding absolutely horrible, I knew I wanted to be a musician.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Listening to Green Day’s Dookie really got it all started for me. It made me want to dive into the rest of the discography and into bands adjacent to Green Day. It set me up to learn about a lot of good punk/alternative bands in the 90’s and even early 80’s. Which is still a big influence to the songs we write.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I just watched an interview with Brenden O’Brien about his experiences producing with bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam. It was fascinating to hear his experiences and what he contributed to a lot of my favorite albums. I’d definitely call him in to collaborate on a Sunday Morning song. The way he helps formulate and structures songs is really interesting and inspiring.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

I love sports. I watch a lot of football, baseball, and hockey. So when I’m unwinding, or not doing anything related to the band, it’s usually looking up what’s going on with the Saints or Diamondbacks or watching the games. I was an Arizona Coyotes fan until the NHL stripped them away so that was tough.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

This is always a tough question for me… I feel like as individuals in the band, we all have such different and similar tastes in music. I guess bands like Basement, Citizen, and The Movie Life are the usual bands I use to describe how we sound. I don’t think there’s ever been a comparison that made me cringe, it’s usually just bands in the general “rock realm.”

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Mike, our bass player, is definitely the best cook out of all of us… we mostly get fast food or order out when we’re together though. A lot of McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and pizza. I am the one to typically get the drinks in… most of the guys in the band don’t drink so I’ll take that title lol. I don’t think there’s ever been an instance where an acoustic guitar has been cracked out, but I’ll say Mike just because!

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I really have never been in a situation where I’ve seen or met someone so famous that I was star struck. I saw Drew Brees before a Saints game in New Orleans a while ago and that’s probably the closest thing to star struck I’ve ever been!

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

To me, the best part of being a musician is the ability to have songs you write connect with other people. I always believed that music is very subjective, the way a song makes someone feel can be completely different than the way I feel about a song. Hearing people’s interpretations of songs we’ve made is really cool and inspiring. All I want to do is be a musician.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I really love to talk about gear and tone, specifically what we used on the EP during the tracking of it. So any questions regarding that I could probably give an in depth answer on! A question I’m tired of answering is “Where did the name Sunday Morning come from?” I think I’m going to start giving random answers every time I get asked it for fun.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I really try to not get caught up in the past or mistakes I’ve made. I think there’s usually a lesson to be learned from things like that so I always try to take the positive from it. I think if I could go back though, I would have taken more time to maybe write songs so I’m completely comfortable and happy with lyrics and melody before it’s tracked. There’s not many moments where I’ve felt that, but it’s something I try to be cognizant of.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

One of my favorite albums ever is the Third Eye Blind self-titled album. I think to be apart of those sessions and see some of my favorite songs come to life would be incredible. I also feel like being around Stephan Jenkins during that time period must have been absolutely insane so that would be fun too.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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