Words: Kurt McVey

Photos: Kelly Kurteson



“I wanted to make a big sounding record,” says Wesley Bunch, the young, bespectacled force behind the guitar heavy dream pop act Suburban Living. After releasing his 2012 EP Cooper’s Dream and the Always Eyes 7” single the following year, Bunch fulfilled his wish when he reteamed with his friend and producer Mark Padgett in Virginia Beach, VA to record his grandiose full length debut album, Suburban Living (PaperCup Music).


Soon after the album was in the can, Bunch packed up his gear and moved to Philadelphia, leaving his quiet and comfortable suburban existence in the rearview. “I wanted a change of scenery,” explains Bunch on the phone from his new place in the city of brotherly love. “I would visit Philly to play shows with Andy States of CRUISR, Michael Cammarata of Night Panther, and Chris Coulton of Dream Safari and I just fell in love with the city. Also, I really needed to get out of my hometown.”


It’s been roughly seven months since Bunch left the beach, the Wawas, the Navy bases, the endless driving, and the rest of the “melancholy bullshit” behind. Suburban Living, the album, merges the frustrations of a stagnant and sedentary existence with the nervous excitement and rejuvenated optimism one feels when embarking on a new chapter of life and in an entirely different place. It could be argued that Arcade Fire’s Grammy winning masterpiece, The Suburbs (2010) was the final word on this particular subject, but where Win Butler laments the failed dream of the seventies, vacant strip malls and the end of childhood, Bunch holds back with the lyrical bludgeoning, shrugs and says “eh, fuck it” with his guitar instead. “It’s definitely more about the feeling and less about the literal subject matter,” says Bunch. “There are some deep interpersonal songs on the record, but it’s more about creating a vibe.”


It should be noted that Bunch played every instrument on the record, like a bizarrely humble Billy Corgan, with each instrument layered on top of one another like a lush orgy of church bells and swollen vintage synth waves. Comparisons have been made to Joy Division, but the depressive ghost of Ian Curtis far from haunts the album in its entirety. New Order may be a more apt comparison, sans the beat machines and the bitchy crooning of Bernard Sumner. Bunch’s subtle, but surprisingly versatile vocals anchor the record in the here and now, as they’re more akin to Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT or Luke Steele of Empire of the Sun; both trippy, indie pop nerd rockers. The Cure’s 1982 post-punk new wave offering, Pornography (1982), is pleasantly all over this record, especially the Porl Thompson inspired guitar chatter bathed in a dreamy, echoing chorus pedal from start to finish. There are reverb drenched moments of My Bloody Valentine, The Psychedelic Furs, and even flourishes of the new wavers, Simple Minds, as much of Suburban Living evokes a sort of bittersweet, magic hour, John Hughes, coming of age motif.


Bunch, who is currently listening to Alvvays, Twin Peaks, Frankie Rose, and the new Panda Bear record, is candid about his most influential rock idols: “As a kid I got really into Sonic Youth. They made me re-fall in love with guitar music. I thought it was awesome that they could make a pop structured song that was still different and weird.” The same could be said for this album, as one can imagine, as tracks like “New Strings”, “Dazed”, and “Drowning” flow together seamlessly, like a chain of unique but interconnected roller coasters that take you on one continuous journey across the entire amusement park. It’s a testament to the unique composition and varied sounds on this album that Bunch and his fans, critics and peers can’t seem to get on the same page as far as what type of animal Suburban Living happens to be. Perhaps that’s because the album, much like Bunch the young man, never sits still long enough for someone to get a handle on it. “Way more people think it has this post punk, late seventies instead of late eighties, early nineties influence. I thought it was more of a dark, pretty record. I don’t catch those gritty vibes, but I’ll take the grit. I think it’s cool.”


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