When I sat down with Sunday Funeral to discuss the band’s latest album, Hit ’Em Again, frontman Justin Ledesma chuckled when I mentioned the band’s history.
After being founded 11 years ago, Sunday Funeral has included a seemingly ever-rotating cast of local musicians with Ledesma. However, the band re-established itself two years ago after parting ways with former vocalist and guitarist Brian Frang. Ledesma has found solid ground fronting the band with Andrea Taboada on bass and Grant Gruenberg on drums.
The group’s once-shaky live performances are now solid, and the band has been nominated for awards by readers of both the Coachella Valley Independent and CV Weekly.
During a recent interview in Palm Desert, the members discussed how Hit ’Em Again—the first album to feature Taboada and Gruenberg—is a far cry from previous releases.
“I hope it goes to show that I put in a lot of work,” Ledesma said. “That third record, Rising of the Dead, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I was doing a lot of drugs. This one, I spent a lot of time and put in the work, so I hope people can tell. I spent a lot of time on each little section of the songs. I’m pretty sure it comes across as far better than the last ones. On Rising of the Dead, for some reason, I started with the guitar and finished with the drums second, which was stupid! This time around, it was Grant playing live, and Andrea recorded her parts separately.”
Sunday Funeral did include three of the band’s older songs on the album as re-recorded versions: “The Mirror,” “Deadly Kiss” and “Alloy Stars.”
“The brand-new recordings of those songs are nothing like they originally sounded like,” Gruenberg said.
Two of the songs on Hit ’Em Again were originally Taboada’s work.
“‘Battle Cry’ and ‘Who Knows’ are songs I wrote the bass lines for,” Taboada said. “We collaborated on writing the rest of the song, and Justin helped with the structures of the songs.”
The band has a newfound obsession with the ’30s and ’40s. Ledesma has performed wearing a vintage military uniform; Sunday Funeral has done covers of ’30s and ’40s songs; even Ledesma’s microphone stand is inspired by the era. The group sometimes performs with a rotating list of local female vocalists called “B Company,” who also wear military uniforms.
“I liked Indiana Jones when I was a kid,” Ledesma said with a laugh. “I’ve always liked 1930s and 1940s things like the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the movie Swing Kids. I’ve always liked that kind of culture and don’t really know why. Originally, I didn’t want to go full-on military when we would perform live with B Company. That first night, I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll do some kind of soldier thing, too,’ and went, ‘Nah, that’s taking it too far.’ The whole Hit ’Em Again thing really fits in. The more I stopped holding back, the more it worked.”
While Ledesma has endured hard times with Sunday Funeral, he said he couldn’t be happier with where the band is now.
“I’m happy I stuck with it—but there was never a point where I wanted to give up,” he said. “I want to play music, and it’s just really neat that we struck upon something that people are really enjoying. I hope not to take it for granted, because there was a time when people used to think we weren’t that great.
“I have our Coachella Valley Independent award hanging in two rooms of my house,” he said, referring to the band’s Best of Coachella Valley 2017-2018 staff pick as Best Re-Established Band. “It lifts my spirits when I look at it, and it means a lot to me. It’s really neat to be recognized for something you do. It feels really good.”
For more information, visit www.sundayfuneral.com.