Indifferent World, Psychedelic Dream: A Conversation with Steady Sun

Steady Sun © 2017

Psychedelic quintet Steady Sun, formed in 2011 and currently based in Brooklyn, are now set to release their third LP, Indifferent World on June 7th. Frontman Dylan Nowik has seen the group vary its style, subject matter, and instrumental composition multiple times over the years. In a candid interview, he now reflects on how this constant experimentation finally culminated into what he describes as the band’s most bombastic effort yet, one which will allow him to become fully immersed in his favorite aspect of being in a band: Rockin’ it out onstage.

Catch Steady Sun’s record release show at Union Pool on June 7th. Tickets and info here.
“Life at One Twenty Two” – Steady Sun

A CONVERSATION WITH STEADY SUN

How did the band first come together, and what concepts did you decide to pursue in your music?

Dylan Nowik: Steady Sun started in 2011 as a solo project. I recorded an EP that summer and later expanded to a full band. Over the last six or so years, the lineup has changed quite a bit– from being a 5-piece set that included violin, to now not having violin and having two guitars. We have definitely emphasized the live aspect [of the music] more and more in recent years.

How would you summarize the experience of being part of a band?

Dylan Nowik: It’s incredibly gratifying. There is a definite balance between the live aspect and the recording aspect, trying to make each medium as powerful as possible. Every single day, I consider creatively what I want the next thing to be, continue working on our pre-existing material, and refine the recorded product and live aspect. It’s basically just always on my mind, so I would say the experience of being in a band is a very complete and total one.

There are five of you guys in the group. How does each one contribute to the band’s output, and how do you manage to find the common ground between each member’s artistic vision?

Dylan Nowik: I’m the primary songwriter of Steady Sun. [On] the first two records, I would write the songs and then everyone else would come in and perform their parts. By doing so, they would give their own creative touch and style, which I think has worked well.

I decided to make this most recent record a solo project, by and large. However, the other members in this band contribute in pretty big ways. My drummer, Andrew Emge, was the primary mixer on this record. My bassist, Rowan Brind, mastered it. Our guitarist, Pete Victor-Gasper, has contributed heavily to our visual aesthetic, and has co-designed our upcoming album cover as well as a bunch of show posters. And our keyboardist, [Paul Truitt], has had a hand in managing our social media.

These are all really audio-savvy guys with their hands in multiple projects. So, in that regard, we really do function as a unit. And then, of course, live, everyone brings their own flavor.

Indifferent World - Steady Sun

Indifferent World – Steady Sun

Indifferent World is your third album. What steps have you taken in between each album in terms of artistic growth and thematic development?

Dylan Nowik: When I finish each record, I try to go a little easy on myself and just give myself a break. Between our second and the third album, I just spent some time simmering, taking things in [and] experimenting before beginning the recording process.

I recorded [Indifferent World] on my own over the course of several months. As a song came to me, I would record it with no demos, because I just wanted to preserve the original concept in all of its spontaneity. Now that I have finished this record, I am again trying to re-evaluate what I think is cool and see what comes next.

Are there any songwriting strategies you use to allow good ideas to come to you?

Dylan Nowik: Not exactly. Sometimes, the first idea comes to me [while] walking down the street; sometimes, it just comes from me sitting with an instrument, whether that’s a guitar, a bass, a drum, or a keyboard.

Pretty much, no matter what, [my songs are] based around the seed of one element. Maybe I’ll want to write a song with a particular drum beat, so I structure the entire song around that drum beat. Or maybe I’ll come up with three cords on a guitar that I think are strong.

I’d say the strategy is taking the seed of that one original idea– whether it’s rhythmic, melodic, or what have you– and kind of molding the song around it as if I were chipping away at a sculpture, just to reveal the finished project.

Steady Sun © Elizabeth Ibarra

Steady Sun © Elizabeth Ibarra

Your music has a lot of references to the natural world -- “Benthos,” “Flora,” and so on. What about the theme of naturalism speaks to you and how do you see it reflected in your music?

Dylan Nowik: I grew up in upstate New York, about two hours north of New York City. Living in a rural area probably affected me subconsciously, although I didn’t really appreciate it at the time. Then I went to college in New York City and have been living there ever since. I think that, by living in the city, I gained a deep appreciation for nature [and] it becomes a little romanticized in the more bucolic lyrics.

I wake up to the warmth of the sun
my walls are on fire, the sermon has begun
to a point I was under a fog
I notice this fading, I’m afraid of what I saw
I don’t know, that’s the way I feel now
I’d expect it to vacate me now
“Benthos” – Steady Sun

When you go into the studio, are there any goals you set for yourselves or any standards you want to see yourselves achieve?

Dylan Nowik: I’d say my goal is to make sure the music I make excites me. I don’t want to make a song just because I think other people will think it’s cool or because I’m following some sort of trend that seems like a good idea at the time. Sometimes, it’s a difficult thing to avoid– subconsciously, something might sound good, but [only] because you’ve already heard it before. [I try] to create things that excite me because of their supposed originality, whatever originality really is.

You’ve mentioned a lot about how your act has become more and more of a live act, and how you’ve really come to savor the live experience. Can you talk about how that’s become a big element for you guys and also what you get out of performing onstage?

Dylan Nowik: We released our first LP while we were still getting to our feet, in terms of live performance. I realized that a lot of the songs on our first album, Good Evening, weren’t very fun to perform live. So, I think the enjoyment of performing live influenced the way I wrote music, because I sought to write things that were as good as they could be in the studio but that would also translate well into a live setting.

Speaking more to the live sensibility, I love it so much and I think the spontaneity of it is really exciting and the temporality and just the component of sharing music face-to-face with a bunch of people in a sweaty room is just the best. It’s just so enjoyable sharing the stage with my bandmates and having our energy play off of one another. And yeah, I love it.

How do you see your new record in terms of shaping the band’s immediate future, and where do you hope it’ll take you further down the road?

Dylan Nowik: I think this record is probably the most bombastic record we’ve ever made… and I feel pretty confident that it’s the best record we’ve made. I hope people get a positive experience out of it as well, but beyond that I can’t really predict where it will take us. Except that I hope people dig it and I think a lot of the songs are going to be really fun to perform live.

television
eyes that look around and they say hello to my head
you will never be alone
they will hear the words you said
holy, purely,
randomly,
we were brought together by design
specter, every passing cause
is a shadow on the mind
“Television Eyes” – Steady Sun

Is there any advice you would give to anyone looking to make music or get into the music industry these days?

Dylan Nowik: Yeah — just do it for fun. That’s the most important thing, and it’s also advice I try to tell myself. Just spend your time, take your time with your music. There’s no rush to put things out, because there is so much music being pumped out every day. I think it’s more important to just really explore and tinker. Really think about what you think is cool, and then just have fun expressing yourself.

Are there any albums or artists throughout the years that have really influenced you or that you’ve really held dear?

Dylan Nowik: One record that really influenced me in the past year or two is Journey in Satchidananda by Alice Coltrane. I love the contemporary psychedelic stuff that’s coming out, and I try to keep the music I listen to very varied.

:: Indifferent World is out June 7th! ::

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Indifferent World - Steady Sun

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I am a Washington, DC native and Tufts University graduate, currently working with the Close Up Foundation and applying to grad school for film and media production. I began writing for Atwood in spring 2015.