An Interview with Brandon Teskey, Bruce Jensen, Alyssa Swartz & Chris Tex of Until the Sun

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Until the Sun are a rocking Blues infused band out of Arizona, who put out a stellar debut record in 2019 called Backheart. If you haven’t heard it, head over to their website here and check it out. It’s not too often I get the chance to talk with the entire band, so I am happy to have Brandon Teskey, Bruce Jensen, Alyssa Swartz and Chris Tex all with us today. We talk about how the band is making out during the pandemic, songwriting, new members, exploring the Blues based roots and so much more. It’s a great talk. Dig in.

Andrew:
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during this seemingly ever-raging dumpster fire?

Brandon:
Our pleasure, Andrew. Thank you for speaking with us. This last year has definitely been a unique one, to say the least, as I’m sure it has for everyone. We ended up canceling most the shows and festivals we had booked, so instead we focused all our energy on recording and finishing up our upcoming album, Drowning In Blue, which we hope to have released sometime in March. We also added a new member, Alyssa Swartz, who is an amazing singer and shares the lead vocals with Bruce.

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Brandon:
Well we all come from different backgrounds. Chris is more of a Jazz drummer than anything. Bruce is a Rock singer and bassist. Alyssa comes from a Classic Rock, Alternative and R&B roots, and I come from a Blues background. So, I think our sound is very much a compilation of all those elements.

Bruce:
I definitely come from Hard Rock and Metal beginnings! When I was about 10, I heard Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood, and I was instantly in love and hooked! Next was Metallica’s Black Album and that was it for me – I was sold! Definitely a child of the 90s, I was into Metallica, GnR, Korn, Deftones, Nirvana, STP, etc. But, I fell in love with Classic Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Southern Rock, Blues, and even some Electronica and New Age along the way. And, as a result, you will definitely hear those varying influences in our music.

Chris:
My gateway into music was when I saw Tommy Lee in his drum cage during Motley Crue’s “Wild Side” video. I took drum lessons from elementary school throughout my college years. I received a percussion scholarship for my undergraduate degree. I played in the marching, Jazz, and concert band throughout school. While I enjoy playing Jazz a lot, I’ve also played various genres of music throughout my musical career (i.e., Blues, Rock, R&B, Electronic).


Andrew:
Let’s jump right into your new music. In 2020, you released a new single called “Drowning In Blue,” right? Tell us more about it. I know COVID sort of put the brakes on things, but what else do you guys have in the works?

Brandon:
We actually released three singles this past year: “Shadow of the Valley,” “Drowning in Blue,” and a slow Blues song called, “1,000 Miles Away.” All three of the new singles will be featured on our upcoming album that we’re releasing in a few months, also called, Drowning in Blue.


Andrew:
Until the Sun has a very eclectic sound. I hear Blues, 90s Alt, Psych and even some Jazz touches here and there. You guys are sort of a moving target. Do you guys intentionally eschew genre constraints, or does it come naturally to you?

Brandon:
Yeah, I think it comes naturally. We definitely had a vision of being a contemporary Blues Rock band when we formed, but we all come from different backgrounds, and Bruce and I used to be in a Rock band back in the day, so our first album that we released in 2019, Blackheart, definitely veered more on the Rock side of ‘Blues Rock’ right out the gate. When we set out to do this new album, our focus was more on the Blues side of our genre. We set out to create as much as possible, a Blues magnum opus that we poured our heart and soul into and hopefully it resonates.

Bruce:
Yeah, the songs just kind of grow and have a life of their own. Brandon is almost always the one who comes up with the base ‘kernel’ of the songs. And, then I get ahold of it, and sometimes really tweak it into something entirely different. See “Shadow of the Valley” as a prime example. That was originally a very basic slide/dobro Delta Blues song, and look what that turned into! And, sometimes, like in the case of “Burning Home,” it just seems best to leave it basic and totally ‘in-genre’. But, your observation is correct – we don’t typically get wrapped around maintaining ‘genre’ – we usually just let the songs go wherever seems best.

Andrew:
Let’s go back a bit now. How did Until the Sun come together as a band? What are the origins of the name?

Brandon:
For me, it is one of those names that can mean a lot of different things. It could mean a psychological state of being in proverbial darkness until the sun rises.

Chris:
I agree with Brandon as the name can mean something different for each person. However, I think the name evokes curiosity as it doesn’t directly imply a particular genre. This curiosity provides us many opportunities to play with many bands in various genres.

Bruce:
Brandon and I have been in several bands together over the past 15 years or so, with him on lead guitar and me doing lead vocals (and rhythm guitar for a few years). So, ultimately, that is the root of the band. Chris joined with us while we were still a Hard Rock band called Corium, back in 2015. We went through a couple bass players and when the last one went his own way, I decided to drop the rhythm guitar and try my hand at bass, and have been handling bass duties ever since. So, we operated as a three piece for a couple of years. We had had female co-lead singers in the past with good success, and we just feel many of our songs lend themselves better to a female voice. So, when the opportunity came to bring Alyssa into the band, we invited her in with open arms. And, that’s how we got to where we are now!

Andrew:
In 2019, the band released its debut album Blackheart. Tell us about the recording of this record. What was the inspiration? Was it self-produced? Where can we get the album and what formats is it currently on?

Bruce: I ’ll let Brandon handle the ‘inspiration’ part…Blackheart was self-produced (with some creative input provided by J. Loren of the band Hurt). This is the album that I learned to record and mix on. I t took a good a few solid years from start to finish for me to get it all figured out. It was literally all recorded in my garage, at our band rehearsal spot, and at Chris’s house! I mean, it got a bit crazy at times, trying to figure out how to do all of it. For instance, we literally loaded a 4×12 guitar cab in the back of my old Jeep Cherokee, closed up in the little one-car garage, with mic cables run out under the closed garage door and into my living room through the front door – all so we could crank the amp and not wake up the neighbors – since we did all the recording in the wee hours of the night! It was quite a learning process for me – and took a lot of time and cost a lot of money to attain all the right equipment. Funny thing is, the new album is also all self-produced, and we got it done in about 2 years, with much less expense and heartache! So, I’ve got it down pretty good now I think! And everything I actually need to record and mix a full album can literally fit in a duffel bag. We self-produce all of the music videos as well, by the way!

Blackheart can be found on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon. You can also get a CD from us directly via our website: www.untilthesun.com

Brandon:
As far as the inspiration, Blackheart was really a return to the Blues for me. That album had a lot of Rock in it, but it was a demarcation from the Hard Rock or Alternative music I was writing and playing previously with other bands, and a return to Blues-based music. Once I made the switch, it was like a breath of fresh air. I felt more at home and realized Blues Rock is what I should have been doing all along. As far as the song content, I would say the central themes that are weaved into the record are mostly a loss of innocence, heartbreak, and a examining the shadow side of human nature, with songs like “I Am Adam,” “Sleepwalking’” and “Demigod.”

Andrew:
A bit more on your songwriting now. How do your songs come together? In terms of lyrical content, are your words very personal to you, or are you merely telling stories so to speak?

Bandon:
So, in most cases, so far, I’ll come up with the lyrics and basic progression or structure of the song. I’ll bring it in and we’ll develop it as a band and change things, so everyone can add their part. Alyssa and Bruce come up with their own vocal melody, Chris will come up with his own drumbeat, so everyone adds to the songs and a lot of times, it turns out completely different than what was first envisioned. As far as the content of the lyrics, often the songs are very personal, other times I’m telling a story in the ‘Bob Dylan’ style of songwriting, or taking something personal and following it to an exaggerated extent in order to tell a story or paint a scene, like out of a movie. Lately, Alyssa and I have been collaborating on a lot of writing, coming up with some new songs we are currently developing.

Andrew:
Let’s talk about the group’s first national tour in support of Blackheart. How was it? Any interesting stories to tell?

Bruce:
We did what we could, but, man, COVID really put the brakes on any touring!

Brandon:
We did some micro tours, focused on the west coast. My most interesting story was when the headstock of my 1969 Les Paul broke off at the Whisky a Go Go due to case shock. I opened the case ready to go on the stage, and the headstock was completely cracked off and angled the wrong way. I always bring a Fender and a Gibson I switch off between, so I had my Strat which I used for the whole show that night.   

Andrew:
Let’s talk a bit about the industry now. One disturbing fact I’ve learned over time is that Spotify doesn’t pay artists well, if at all. What are your thoughts on that issue? How do we as fans do our part to help?

Brandon:
We are dealing with paradigm that currently exists. If you like our music, we always appreciated any support fans give us. Buy the album, or T-shirt, like our Facebook and YouTube pages. If we’re in town, come see a show and listen to some live music.

Bruce:
There really isn’t any place to complain. It simply is what it is. If they paid more on a per-stream basis, then the service would cost too much for consumers to be willing to pay. But, this shouldn’t dissuade anyone. It’s really great that these distribution channels exist. There are far fewer “gate-keepers” and far fewer barriers to entry. Musicians can self-produce, self-distribute, and self-market now – all in a very powerful way – when they could never do any of this in the past.

Andrew:
In a world dominated by capitalism and social media, can artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Bruce:
Everything worthwhile is difficult. And, proof is in the pudding – musicians break out regularly and become wildly successful. It’s still happening.

Andrew:
Unfortunately, due to COVID you’re unable to play live, which must be hard as it’s a huge part of a working musicians life. What do you miss most about live music?

Brandon:
In Arizona, the lock down hasn’t been quite as strict as a lot of other states. We are still playing the occasional show. I got COVID at the last one, and I’m still recovering as we speak. It was worth it thought. Hahaha! There nothing like playing in front of a crowd and connecting with an audience.

Bruce:
Bruce: Yeah, it sucks we don’t get to play out more. But, we did a few Facebook Live streamed shows, and that was kinda interesting!

Andrew:
Are you into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music?

Brandon:
I’m mostly digital, but still listen to CDs and records occasionally. The only tapes I have are from old-school bootlegs that got passed around in high school. I just don’t have anything to play them on now. I think there is something to be said about experiencing the whole album as a complete work of art, rather than superficially scavenging through an album and cherry-picking a few songs. The former seems like a much deeper experience.

Bruce:
I ’m 100% digital. I don’t even have a device capable of playing a physical album of any kind (no CD players, tape players, record players, etc). I’m a very tech-oriented person though, and I cannot see any reason to harken back to inferior playback mediums…

Alyssa:
Digital is so convenient but there is nothing like having the album in your hand to check out all the lyrics, pictures and art. My son is 17 and loves to collect CDs and tapes; when you love the music you enjoy all aspects of your favorite artists.

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Brandon:
For me, BB King Live at the Regal, Ah Via Musicom by Eric Johnson, Tore Down House by Scott Henderson, Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Are you Experienced by Jimi, really everything that Jimi released while he was alive I can’t overstate. The Wall and Darkside of the Moon by Pink Floyd. Zeppelin I & II, and IV, Wheels of Fire By Cream, Smokin’ at the Half Note by Wes Montgomery, Jeff Beck Truth, Muddy Waters Fathers and Sons, and Howlin Wolf’ 1962 Self Titled album. I can go on and on, but those are some ones that expanded or influenced me the most as a musician.

Alyssa: The first album I ever bought on my own was Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, when I was 10. I remember listening to my tape on my Walkman and opening up the lyrics and learning every inch of every song. Then I heard Mariah Carey and was in awe of her range. Daydream and Butterfly were probably my favorite albums as a kid. Lately, I ‘ve been listening to Hozier. I love the way he writes. His music is beautiful, it fills my soul. Of course I love Classic Rock, there is so much I love. I can’t pick just a few favorites. It’s what I grew up listening to. My dad and I would bond over all the music he l oved and in turn I loved it, too!

Bruce: Well, per the previous reply, Dr. Feelgood from Motley Crue – because it was my first! And, the Black Album from Metallica, because it was the first that REALLY grabbed me. Pink Floyd’s The Wall, because it blew my mind in its creativity, intricacy and insanity. Alice in Chains Dirt, because it got me into the whole 90s Grunge genre. The 2nd Law from Muse, because it made me realize that people were still making groundbreaking Rock albums – with world-class musicianship all-around. A Thousand Suns and/or Living Things by Linkin Park, because these are likely the best, most seamless overall albums I’ve ever heard – and just jam-packed with amazing musical compositions – start to finish!

Chris: Third Eye Blind- Self Titled (Great song writing). Chevelle- Sci-Fi Crimes (Great production, as well as great song writing). Fear Factory- Demanufacture (Great production, as well as the intricate drum arrangements).

Andrew:
Who are some of your favorite artists? Ones that mean the most to you.

Brandon:
As a Guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Scott Henderson, Jeff Beck, BB King, David Gilmour, Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhart, and Peter Green. As a song writer, Hendrix again, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Willy Dixon, Robert Johnson, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Doors and many others.

Alyssa:
Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Hozier, Don Mclean, Aerosmith, Journey, The Eagles, Alanis Morrissette, and Florence and The Machine, just to name a few.

Chris:
As a drummer, I am influenced by Keith Carlock, Raymond Herrera, Jojo Mayer, and Tommy Lee. Some of my favorite artists are The Cars, Third Eye Blind, Chevelle, Fear Factory, Arctic Monkeys, and Phil Collins.

Bruce:
As a singer – Layne Staley, Aaron Lewis, Matt Bellamy, Scott Weiland, Chester Bennington, J. Loren, Corey Taylor, Paul Rodgers, Bo & Bear Rinehart, and plenty others. As a guitarist/bass player – David Gilmour, Jimi, Stevie, Charlie Starr, Jerry Cantrell, Slash, James Hetfield, Jimmy Page, Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme, Joe Principe. As a producer – Pink Floyd, Muse, Linkin Park, Enya, Need To Breathe.

Andrew:
Last question. Hindsight being 20/20, what advice would you have for your younger self? Furthermore, what advice would you have for anyone looking to get started in this business?

Brandon:
It’s hard to say what I’d do differently, but my advice would be, as a musician, never be content where you’re at. Always strive to be better and work harder, out-do what you’ve done before and push yourself to produce material that exceeds your talent.

Bruce:
To younger self – buy 10,000 Bitcoin in 2009! Haha! Besides that – go for your dreams! All the things I REALLY wanted to do, I didn’t pursue when the time was ripe ( designing video games, building hotrods, Hard Rock/Metal music). I let myself and others talk me into taking “more sensible” routes – and if I had ran with either or all of those, I would have found great success, as each was exploding and far from peaking at the time. Can’t complain though. My life is pretty sweet as-is! As for getting started in music. One – put your heart into it! Go full bore! You’ll have plenty of time to do “adulting” later – just jump in both feet first and kill it! And, Two – move somewhere where music is a thing…LA, Austin, Nashville, NYC – it’s a huge advantage!

Alyssa:
Don’t let other people tell you who you are and what your value is. Love yourself! You can do anything you want, just don’t give up. Don’t stand in your own way. If you want it, be willing to work hard for it. Find what makes you and work on growing that.

Chris:
Although I took four years of piano lessons, while also doing drum lessons, I wish I would’ve continued with piano lessons. My advice for anyone wanting to get started in the music business is to first love the music that you’re creating. When you are confident and happy in making the music that comes from your heart, others will see your passion. I’ve found that this has inspired many of my friends to start creating music themselves

Interested in diving deeper into the work of Until the Sun? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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