The Coachella Valley’s backyard show scene allows bands to build followings while developing serious DIY skills, because everything is fueled by determination.
Unfortunately, the pandemic pretty much halted the backyard scene—but one local band is carefully bringing back underground shows, while making moves to get more widespread attention.
Blue Sun is a four-piece featuring guitarist/vocalist Madison Ebersole, bassist Erik Ebersole, guitarist Nick Mund and drummer Eduardo Gallaga. Since 2018, the band has played varied backyard shows, bringing a unique and shifting sound every step of the way. While Blue Sun’s sound is rooted in indie/alternative rock, the band has experimented with psychedelic tones (see “Desert Shade”), punk prowess (“Quit Your Job”) and even reggae vibes (“No Sense”).
After Blue Sun released debut album Worst Case Scenario on Nov. 27, I talked to the band (minus Erik) over Zoom about their sound.
“We’re trying to do something completely original,” Ebersole said. “It’s kind of awkward when people ask, ‘What genre is your band?’ I don’t really know what to say. It could be a list of, like, 20 different things. We’re kind of just like, ‘Call it what you will,’ because all of us don’t really stick into one genre, per se.”
Crafting a unique and protean sound is a daunting task for any band.
“I mean, what hasn’t been done already?” Gallaga said. “One of my friends was saying that these new songs sound like Blue Sun. There are completely and totally different genres, but the coming together of those genres sounds like Blue Sun. We’re kind of landmarking this sound.”
Ebersole said everything the band has accomplished so far is the result of hard work by the tight-knit group and good friends.
“It kind of sets us apart from a lot of other bands,” she said. “We don’t have screen-printing friends and stuff like that, but the friends we do have get together with us and help us hand-make our own shirts. We’ve got a great friend who is really good at Photoshop, Timothy Burr, who has just been killer to have on our side. Anytime we draw up a picture or something, we take it to him and shoot him some cash, and he’ll digitize it for us. We do a lot of it ourselves, but we also have this group of really good friends who help us out so much, and it all really saves us a lot of money so that we can save up to throw big events.
“We use a lot of our money to throw these big shows. We pay people to use their private properties and make sure everyone’s well taken care of. It’s teaching us a lot, too, because if we ever do play a bigger show, we have a really good idea of how things work, and that way, we don’t get dicked around or anything like that.”
Mund added: “Some bands can just pay all this money to have all these companies do this and do that, but for us, we don’t have that money. Either we do it ourselves, or we don’t do it at all. For this last show we played, we probably put at least 20 hours into yard work and raking and moving trees to make everything accessible. We could have paid someone to do it, but we don’t have those resources.”
Blue Sun has been playing more as of late outside of the backyard scene. The band appeared at the Indio International Tamale Festival and is set to grace The Hood Bar and Pizza stage alongside Slipping Into Darkness on Friday, Jan. 14.
“We didn’t really plan to grow in the backyard scene; we kind of had no other choice,” Gallaga said. “We tried making it in the venue scene, but I feel like we didn’t get the opportunity. We’re just trying to jam and show people our songs, and all the venues that we hit up didn’t even look into us. We’ve been doing everything we can, and that’s why these events that we’ve been throwing have been pretty huge. They’ve had about 200-plus people—more than some bars or venues can hold.”
Added Ebersole: “There have been a lot of times where I’ll reach out to venues or bigger bands for shows and get turned down. It got to a point where I said, ‘We want this so bad; let’s do whatever we can, pull together whatever resources that we have, whatever little money we have, and just make it all happen.’ That way, we don’t have to rely on anybody else.”
Ebersole said she hopes that a year from now, Blue Sun is only playing backyard shows for fun.
“Backyard shows are great to keep you connected to your community, but our goal is definitely to go somewhere big with this,” she said. “We don’t like working jobs. Eddie has kids, and we’re getting older. I’ll be 30 in a few years, and I don’t want to sit around and just fuck around. I’m trying to really, really take this seriously and take it as far as we can possibly go, for however long we can.”
Worst Case Scenario shows more confidence in both songwriting and performance compared to the band’s two EPs, and is the result of a surplus of musical creativity over the course of the pandemic.
“We just built it up through time,” Gallaga said. “We had just dropped (2020 EP) Haunted Garden, and we had a release party planned for The Date Shed. That was so big for us, and we were so ecstatic about it—but the day before the show, everything shut down. We still had band practice every week, and new songs just started coming out. Everyone was coming in with ideas, and we started putting the songs together.”
Worst Case Scenario also features increased self-recording confidence and expertise.
“For our first EP, Wishin’ We Were Fishin’, we paid a good buddy to record for us, because we had no idea how to do any of that,” Ebersole said. “After that, I was like, ‘Man, I bet we can do this ourselves, and not feel pressured by being timed in the studio or anything.’ We invested in software, microphones and cables, and we did Haunted Garden, which was completely experimental as far as production—trying to throw in little sound effects, and learning how to pan things.
“COVID hit, and that was pretty heavy for everybody out there. I kind of went soul-searching, and I would be gone for months at a time. A lot of songs ended up coming out just from me, putting pressure into myself to write. Eventually, we all cliqued back up and were able to start recording a whole album. My brother Erik spent countless hours just studying how to mix and master on his software, and from there, we just disciplined ourselves and put a lot of hard work into recording. It took us two months to record it, mix it and master it.”
Even though Blue Sun self-recorded Worst Case Scenario, the members made sure they melded self-discipline along with, as always, hard work.
“There was no external pressure. No one was waiting on it, and no one knew anything of it, but we put a lot of pressure under our own asses, and set a deadline date: Nov. 27,” Ebersole said. “Pressure kind of helps the creativity process, and it all ended up working out great. I feel like this album is so significant to us. We all went through a lot of personal shit outside of Blue Sun that all added to the album.”
For more information, visit www.instagram.com/bluesuncv.