Laura Colwell of Sun June leads a performance at Songbyrd Music House on Feb. 19, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Even music aimed to comfort the listener can be adventurous and dynamic within that delicate zone, but getting there unquestionably requires a careful and credible impetus.
Sun June, an encouraging indie outfit out of Austin and yet another outstanding member of the Keeled Scales roster, doesn’t loiter purposelessly, but strolls toward bliss in discovering and reconciling the fleeting beauty of one’s own emotions.
Formed just a few years back by lead singer and keyboardist Laura Colwell and guitarist Stephen Salisbury when the two met and began a relationship while working on the set of the 2017 Terrence Malick film Song to Song, Sun June has been labeled as numerous types of pop — including dream pop and the uncommon “regret pop.”
But whatever category in which it would best be slot, the group’s sound is one that — despite its gentle delivery — wields tremendously transportive powers and showcases a variable depth and precision through five outstanding, like-minded musicians.
Sun June recently set out on tour to support its second studio album, titled Somewhere, and a performance at Songbyrd Music House in DC the night of Feb. 19 would serve as the group’s introduction to the nation’s capital.
Stream the newly expanded version of Sun June’s second album, the 2021 release titled Somewhere, via Spotify:
“This is our first show in DC ever,” Colwell said, the microphone in front of her, keyboard standing to her right. “I thought I’d say it just to jinx us. So … yeah, we’re excited to be here. Starting off real chill for ya. Probably stay that way all night.”
Making light of the gloom, the yearning in Sun June’s early songbook, she’d celebrate its gravity by way of a lifting, gorgeous set of music with her eye-watering, lavish voice that can romance, agonize, and soothe with marked consistency.
The set began with “Karen O,” a far-reaching track that hears Colwell’s breath and the space in between used to establish a meandering, introspective clip that gradually climbs up to a beautiful and vast plateau. The lyrics built around memories of times spent with a loved one, the words here — like those on the first album, too — drift the listener to a distant, more peaceful place, where dwelling or hope can be isolated and addressed.
Stream Sun June’s first album, Years, via Spotify:
Speeding up a touch, “Bad With Time” featured the group’s signature hum of interplayed guitars, with chords contrasting to produce what resonated as singular, definitive expressions of emotion. While each Sun June song, like this one, finds its own insatiably brisk groove, each note seemed to freeze just long enough to shine. And here, Colwell — pure and playful, unembellished in a blue/white polka-dotted lounge suit — delivered her deliberate lyrics instinctively and with an iridescence.
“You’re too cool for LA / I am bad with time / I didn’t mean what I said /But I wanted you to think I did / I am Jackie O / I am Patti Smith / When you wanted it.”
“We’re from Austin, but we write songs about LA,” Laura told the audience at the song’s end. She went on to compliment the room for its grit on a cold, wet winter night.
“Y’all are tough,” she shook her head. “We don’t like the snow.”
Charming, but coy and slightly dismissive of her own prowess, Colwell showed herself to be a masterful stage leader in addition to being a gifted and giving vocalist. She’d lean back, tilt her head to the mic, put one arm up, graceful and delightful, which is how she presented a stirring take on “Slow Rise II,” from the Sun June premiere, Years. Moving along, she’d pull up an electric guitar as well, coloring several tracks with an additional layer.
Guitarist Michael Bain, opposite of Santiago, was meticulous all night with his Fender, exact in blending or inserting his sound within the flow of each composition. Bass player Justin Harris, with a similarly focused demeanor — eyes intensely focused on Laura or his strings, and the cool vibration this unit invents suspended underneath Colwell and concocted the band’s songs as out of the ordinary.
Supplying not only rhythmic direction from the drum kit but also projecting as so unemotional to give the stage a sense of sheltering sobriety, Sarah Schultz seemed the perfect soul to backstop a group that was familial in its synergy.
This current Sun June tour, however, is taking place without Salisbury, who decided during the pandemic to pursue a microbiology degree and hence can’t make it out on road. His void is being filled by another bright musician, Santiago Dietche, who fronted the night’s opening act, Daphne Tunes, and performs as a solo act, Santiago RD.
His presence was natural, his injections crucial and timely as Sun June — yet another impressive artist on the Keeled Scales roster — offered up songs from the most recent release as well as its first record put out in 2018.
Watch the official video for Sun June’s most recent release, “Reminded,” via the Run For Cover Records YouTube channel:
The set included a lasting take on “Once in a while,” a classic and euphoric edition of “Discotheque,” and each of the bonus tracks recently released on an expanded version of the Somewhere album.
One of the highlights of the evening, Laura was arguably at her best for a discharging, sumptuous offering of “Bad Girl,” one of the most popularly streamed tunes off Somewhere.
Showcasing smooth, welcoming veers of assimilated instrumentation, and the remarkable, measured passion in Colwell’s speech, this track drifted in the venue air gorgeously, almost iconic despite being still fresh to the world:
“Tearing up an apartment / Making all that you couldn’t get / Driving down to New Orleans / Spending all of my cigarettes / Falling off into silence / Knowing all I could say to you / I wanted to fight it / I wanted to let it go.”
Watch the official video for Sun June’s 2021 single “Bad Girl” via the band’s YouTube channel:
“I gotta say, this venue’s amazing — I love Songbyrd,” Laura proclaimed midway through the set, and later she’d further compliment the audience with a sincere smile across her face: “Y’all are sweet. There’s not a bad seed among us.”
Demonstrating a talent for creating vivid music with two paramount recordings in just a few years’ time, Sun June made the best of its DC debut, proving to be as every bit relieving and enriching in a live setting as the band has proven to be on two important recordings.
Sun June Setlist
Bad With Time
Slow Rise II
Once In A While
Everything I Had
Here are images of Sun June, as well as the night’s opening act Daphne Tunes, performing at Songbyrd Music House the night of Feb. 19. 2022. All photographs copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.