Consistency—and patience—is key to Eternal Summers’ success
Nicole Yun can’t think of many bands in the same situation as her own. Coming up on eight years and four albums together, the members of Eternal Summers still live two minutes apart from one another in a cozy Virginia neighborhood. They practice for free in drummer Daniel Cundiff’s basement twice a week. It gets pretty loud, but his roommates don’t mind.
Cundiff and Yun work part-time jobs at a local food co-op in Roanoke. Bassist Jonathan Woods is able to get by without a job. “I’m not sure how,” laughs Yun. “I think he might be hustling on eBay or something.”
Even when they have downtime, the bandmates still get together and jam on the regular. They challenge one another to find their way through different musical scenarios that may or may not turn into songs. Yun says it teaches them about their instincts and strengthens their psychic/musical connection. They also spend time outdoors, riding bikes, hiking in the woods.
“A lot of times, people feel bad for us,” says Yun. “‘Oh, you guys don’t live in a major city. You guys don’t get those opportunities.’ But I think that there are other benefits that we have. Like wow, same lineup—this is our third album with the same lineup. We’ve grown and really gotten to know each other.”
Cundiff and Yun formed Eternal Summers as a duo in 2008; Woods came on two years later, shortly after the release of their spunky indie-pop debut Silver. Whereas Yun sees many of the band’s peers constantly changing lineups and direction, her group has stayed on a relatively stable path.
“Sure, a guitarist is a guitarist,” she says. “But each one is different. It’s not going to sound the same; you’re not going to have the same communication with (another) person. I take it for granted sometimes, but that is one of the best things about this band.”
In an era driven by digital hype, where artists make a massive splash and burn out just as quickly, Eternal Summers have moved at a decidedly measured pace. They gain new fans on each tour; a run with Nada Surf in 2012 yielded a cadre of followers who now come to their shows with home-baked cookies.
But sometimes it’s a little too slow for Yun’s liking; the shimmering Britpop tones of 2012’s Correct Behavior were followed up last year by The Drop Beneath, a record that was unapologetically angry, aggressive and explosive. The title track alone is a seven-minute noise-rock catharsis of Sonic Youth proportions.
“I don’t think that 2013, when we wrote it, was the best year for us,” says Yun. “We were going through a lot of growing pains as a band, not sure if we were going to be on our label or not. There were personal frustrations, too, realizing, ‘Wow, we’re in our 30s and we’re still struggling at this.’ Or maybe not struggling, but still—there was a lot of self-questioning.”
Enter the new Gold And Stone. The album is a handy cross section of sounds Eternal Summers has explored up to this point, but taken several steps further. The aching “Black Diamond” echoes the moodiness of Drop to devastating effect; the blissed-out “Together Or Alone” soars in its revisit of Behavior’s Lush-with-a-capital-L tones. Elsewhere, there’s brilliant anthem “Come Alive,” featuring Yun’s most daring and confident vocal performance to date.
She says the process of taking stock to write Gold was at times perplexing. “Daniel and I used to write very poppy songs, especially in the beginning,” she says. “I don’t think I’m in the same position to write things like that anymore. But I can go back to those general sentiments and general emotional tones.”
It’s stuff that has resonated with listeners bit by bit since Eternal Summers’ earliest seven-inches. In its review of Drop, AllMusic characterized the trio as “the kind that other bands will look to for inspiration 20 years later.” A bit of a backhanded compliment, and Yun hears it a lot—“Eternal Summers: the most underrated band of the past five years” or “Eternal Summers: why does nobody know about them?”
“Maybe there is just a lot going on in the music world,” she says. “Maybe when things die down and people look at enduring music, they’ll consider us something like that.” She laughs and continues: “It’s kind of this weird combination of a really egotistical thing to say about ourselves and really self-deprecating at the same time.”
But if somebody calls your band underrated, they’re still saying it’s good. Just with a frustrating caveat: You’re good, but nobody knows. Then again, there’s another other benefit to Eternal Summers’ slow burn and creative isolation.
“We had no clue that any of this would happen,” says Yun. “We had no clue that we would ever be on a label or make more than one record. Or make any records. All this stuff was never a guarantee. And now, cool things I dreamt about when I was 12 years old are happening.”
Talk about an ideal situation.