Reborn by the Sunshine has flown somewhat under the radar for the last two years—but that’s now changing, thanks to the group’s new EP, These Old Feelin’s.
The five-member band has a rustic Americana sound with some roots rock ’n’ roll thrown in. During a recent interview at Luscious Lorraine’s in Palm Desert with frontman James Dorris and bassist Brett McLaughlin, they explained how they began as a band.
“We started with songs that I wrote myself that were just me and a guitar,” Dorris said. “Once Brett started playing with me, things just started to change, and we started making different songs. Over the past two years, we’ve been a band and have been writing together, and our music has developed differently. I don’t feel there was ever a script, or, ‘This is exactly what we want!’ … We have a broad spectrum of music to pull from, and that’s why it falls into that Americana/roots-rock genre.”
Said McLaughlin: “We definitely wanted a throwback vibe—stuff that we used to listen to when we were kids, something that would jog memories. We wanted our songs to have their own vibe.”
Dorris and McLaughlin said it can be challenging to write songs that represent the band’s identity.
“Finding your own sound is the hardest thing in the world,” Dorris said. “It’s something we’re still doing. We’re writing songs, and we’re more comfortable writing with each other. Our music is still taking all these different turns.”
Added McLaughlin: “What helps is pulling things from different band members. “That way, we can come up with our own genre, just with different riffs. Even Scott (McLaughlin), our drummer, comes up with riffs to incorporate into a jam (with guitarist Brian Gelesko), and we can see if there’s a song later on.”
These Old Feelin’s was recorded at Hi-Dez Recording in Joshua Tree.
“Our engineer was Nathan Sabatino,” Dorris said. “It’s a really cool spot up in Joshua Tree in the middle of nowhere. You have to drive for a couple of miles on an actual dirt road and scratch up your car. But you get there, and it has this beautiful energy to it. I feel like everyone always says that about the studios and Joshua Tree, but there is a great feeling when you walk into the room. We tracked most of the EP live and did overdubs for vocals. Most of it was live runs.”
McLaughlin said the studio felt like home.
“It’s very comfortable. I think it was easy to record in that space because of that,” McLaughlin said. “Nathan’s mixing board is in a shipping container. It’s separate from the actual studio. You’ll see him through the glass in this giant shipping container on his computer.”
Both Dorris and McLaughlin said that recording live, all in a room together, made them a better band.
“You really have to connect in a room like that, because you’ll be staring at each other trying to figure out these songs and tracking them,” Dorris said. “I’d absolutely do it again. There’s something to that. Anyone can track a guitar, drums, bass and vocals individually and do it in a day. It’ll sound decent, but there’s this real warmth from having bleed from the drums, the guitars, and vice versa. That’s how it all used to be, and that’s why there’s all that warmth in those old records.”
Added McLaughlin: “(After) the rigor and that constant playing the songs together over and over like that—we grew as a band. If you ever want to grow as a band, record live, because you have to be a good band to do that.”
Reborn by the Sunshine prefers to play live shows just every so often rather than regularly.
“We get offers all the time to play,” Dorris said. “People who can go out every week and play—that’s great. With a band that’s new, when you’re writing new material, and when you’re trying to develop your sound … we like to play once every six to eight weeks, maybe once every three months. Every time you see us, you might see something different, especially now since we have music out. It gives people more of an opportunity to know our sound.”
Both Dorris and McLaughlin are currently dealing with family additions. Dorris’ wife, Chelsea, the band’s banjo player, is currently expecting their third child. McLaughlin arrived at the interview stating that he only had two hours of sleep after caring for his newborn baby while his wife was recovering.
“You need to have something (creative), especially when you have children,” Dorris said. “I always tell everyone, ‘(Having children) is the most beautiful and amazing thing that can happen to you, and it’s also the hardest thing that can happen to you.’ It makes you a different person. So if you have that release like music to get that creativity out, it’s a good thing.”
Dorris then added with a laugh: “Or, you can start drinking, I guess.”
For more information on Reborn by the Sunshine, visit rbtsmusic.com.