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Sunny Daze & the Weathermen: Supersonic Energy Through Your Headphones

(From L or R) Harry Scarrott, Jason Kuehnle, Max Begler, Nate Ritz, Colin Gasman, Dan Watts. Shot by Chloe Simpson

If you are looking for a hard-hitting album to hyper-fixate on, I have the perfect album and band for you. Sunny Daze & the Weathermen recently released their debut album “Sunny Daze for President” which is a hard-hitting groove consisting of the elements of garage rock, neo-psychedelic, alternative, and post-punk. The sound of the Weathermen comes from Max Begler (lead vocals/guitar), Nate Ritz (guitar/vocals), Zach Thal (guitar), Jason Kuehnle (keys), Colin Gasman (bass/saxophone), Dan Watts (drums/vocals), and Harry Scarrott (percussion). Members of Sunny Daze & the Weathermen also belong to other Pittsburgh-based acts! We had a chance to talk to the group about their new album and all things rain or shine. 

Who are your biggest musical influences?

Max: I made a list once of every band or musician that’s inspired me over the years and at current I think it sits around 250 some names. If I had to narrow it down I’d say The Velvet Underground, The Doors, The Stooges, The Monks, Dead Kennedys, Gil Scott Heron, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Willie Bobo, John Dwyer, and I know he’s an author, but William Burroughs. 

Jason: I come from a jazz/funk background - a lot of my sound caters back to 2020 when I had nothing better to do than to watch every single Vulfpeck tutorial. I also take a lot of inspiration from other bands in the Pittsburgh music scene - I’ve learned how to fine-tune my sound from Moontown, I’ve learned how to groove from Wild Blue Yonder, and I’ve learned how to master stage presence from Pitter Patter, just to name a few. 

Colin: I like a lot of jam/Americana stuff and it definitely carries over into how I approach playing bass. I draw a lot of influence from Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead) and Allen Woody (Allman Brothers Band/Gov’t Mule). They play in such a way that they’ll be in the forefront when you least expect it, all while laying down a real solid backbone to the song. They also play with such power when they need to. Despite the genre difference, this approach is super applicable in so many formats. 

Nate: For playing guitar in this band, I get inspired by players like John Scofield, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Walsh, Bill Frisell, and Nels Cline who can blur the lines between Rock N' Roll, Jazz, experimental blues and Noise.  But for recording and mixing, lately it’s current bands like Suuns, Spirit of the Beehive, IDLES, and Viagra Boys that have influenced me in a more experimental approach to production.

Harry: One of my biggest influences is man by the name of Darren King , former drummer of one of my all time favorite bands, Mutemath. However I tend to try to take in as much new and old music of different genres to keep learning. There is a band called Everything Everything that has been on heavy rotation for me at the moment. 

Dan: When it comes to my drumming style, I’d say I draw most of my inspiration from mainly two types of music: Garage psych and post/dance punk. In the realm of garage I find myself pulling ideas from bands like Osees (double drumming FTW), Ty Segall and his various projects, The Mystery Lights, and a bunch of others too. Post punk and dance punk has also been a big part of my development. Groups like The Rapture, LCD Soundsystem, !!!, The Faint, etc etc

I’ve been asking all the Pittsburgh-based bands this question; What makes the Pitt music scene so unique? 

Jason: The variety and the friendships. There’s such a vast amount of amazing bands playing different styles - every weekend there will be 10 different shows all showcasing a different style, so there’s always something for every music lover. On top of that, my favorite part is that it’s such a tightly knit community. Every show I play I can look out into the crowd and see several people from other bands there. Everyone goes out of their way to support each other and learn from each other. I’ve made life-long friends from the Pittsburgh music scene (except for those Weathermen, those guys are weird) thanks to how welcoming and supportive everyone is. 

The vocals in the album are hard hitting and right in your face. What did the mixing and recording process look like?

Nate:  We started with getting demos of all the songs with Max and Dan, vocals guitar drums.. Everybody listened to the demos, wrote and recorded multiple parts (either in their own home studio or in the Sunny D Studio). With the help of Max and Dan’s vision I mixed all the parts into Sunny Daze For President.  Max has many vocal parts and a presence in this album that gets unnervingly close, but all the musical personalities on the album have their moments to shine.  We wanted to be loud, we wanted to be heard and we wanted to try things we’ve never done before.  

The art style for this album is incredible; what was the inspiration and process for that?

Max: We had a couple different ideas initially, most of which were collage based. So we knew that much. But when Madelynne Martin, who does our designs, started making the single covers the other ideas got scrapped and we just gave Madelynne a list of possible items for a collage and she made it. 

Dan: I think the collage-y, eclectic nature of the album and single art for this project perfectly sums up the way the different styles we play on the record come together to form one cohesive piece. 

This album makes me want to take a roadtrip in the 80s - if you joined the trip, where is our first stop?

Max: Ooo tough one. I’d say a southwest trip ending in San Francisco for sure. Lots of psych rock country the whole ride please. 

Jason: I was born in 2001 so I don’t know what went on in the 80s. I’ll go wherever Max doesn’t go. 

Harry: Our first stop on a road trip would have to be a Buc-ee’s … I’ve never been and I hear some great things. Then from there we could go to the salt flats and see true desolation (my kinda place)

Dan: A 7/11 near Disney World at 2:30AM in 1987

What is your favorite lyric in this album?

Max: “Because this pro quo is quid” Off of Wasting my time, because I think it’s a really stupid lyric but I’ve committed now and it makes me laugh. 

Harry: the verses of what you’ve done to me are my favorite. That song came together pretty organically and seemed to almost make itself… almost. 

Dan: “There’s no more movies, there’s no more cake, just thick black smoke at dawn's first break.” Such a weird and powerful line. No more of the pleasures in life for you or me, only environmental destruction. 

Sunny Daze & the Weathermen have so many talented members, how do you guys stay on top of playing gigs and recording?

Max: Honestly we have a lot of commitment from everyone so setting up practices is much less pulling teeth and much more just working around. 

Dan: Really it comes down to coordinating schedules. With so many members, it’s hard, but we make it work because we all really care about the project. 

Favorite gig you’ve ever played? If you don’t have one, do you have a favorite venue you always like to play at?

Max: Either the first time we played The Black Lodge and the floor almost fell through, the last time we played Penn State and someone busted a hole in the drywall while dancing, or playing Spirit for our album release. Honorable mention to 123 Pleasant in WVU. That place rules. 

Jason: My favorite was the time we played an outdoors South Oakland show during Pitt’s O-Week and the cops shut us down right before we were supposed to go on. It was a traumatizing experience but taught us valuable life lessons. In reality though my favorite gig was probably playing at Smiling Moose in October because it was the first time my parents got to see me play live. 

Colin: 123 Pleasant was such a fun place to play. I’m dying to go back there. But the album release show takes the cake - the energy was off the charts and it was so awesome to see so many people come out and support us! Really makes all the hard work worthwhile. 

Harry: It’s hard to top the album release this past weekend but one of my favorite Sunny Daze gigs was in Morgantown at 123 Pleasant Street. It’s just a wonderful venue that treats bands right.

Dan: My favorite gig was our recent album release show at Spirit on February 16th. It was a ton of hard work by the band and coordination on my part, working to make this event come together. We packed the room, sold out the show. We had a light show and a tattoo artist doing flash tattoos. It was truly an event. Tons of fun with my favorite people. 

What’s next for Sunny Daze & the Weathermen?

Max: We’ve had a backlog of like 30-50 new songs or jams we need to sort through, finish, and iron out. We want to get as Freakier, noisier, fuzzier, synthier, and high energy as possible. More traveling this year too! Whatever we’re doing, we’re going to keep it Weird!

As you can see, this group has a true passion for what they do and strive to share their art with the world. You can listen to “Sunny Daze for President” down below and see everything the band has done on!

Written and Interviewed by Mark Bluemle

Photography by Chloe Simpson

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