May 12, 2023 | NEWS | By Konoha Tomono-Duval

Ever since seeing Seeking the Sun as the final band of the Capstone Concert, I’d wanted to know what had inspired the funereal rise and bouncing punk energy of those opening moments. In a library study room that smelled faintly of chicken, I got to ask Juniper Wolf (frontwoman) and Joe McDaniels (bassist).

Where’d the white dressed ghost aesthetic come from?

Juniper Wolf: I’ve always enjoyed dressing up before shows for myself. I think it helps me really get into the mood of performing and it’s like this alter ego. That’s not me. I think the white dress came about because I didn’t like being physically uncomfortable. It gets really hot on stage. It just started, I liked it, I might as well keep going.

Especially as a female frontwoman, I’m not super into the whole “be sexy on stage” thing. And that’s part of the reason I really liked the long, flowy dresses. Because it’s not about my physical body.

When you say it’s giving you an alter ego on stage, do you feel different when you’re playing?

JW: Yeah. Until I’m comfortable with people, I’m almost standoffish. I’ve been told several times that people assume that I don’t like them before they get to know me. Sometimes it’s true. (laughs)

But getting on stage, especially at CC, I become a different person. I’ve become a more outgoing individual and I think it shows in my stage banter and my physical presence.

Joe McDaniels: I don’t feel like a different person, but that’s different coming from an instrumentalist over our front person. So I feel quite at home playing music on stage. As for dressing up, I just like wearing what could be called pajamas.

Do you have a favorite light song and a favorite darker song?

JW: I think my favorite lighter song is Gaia, which is usually towards the beginning of our set. That’s the one where I’ll say “this one’s about the mamas.” I really like doing that one, it’s a very joyful song. 

And then the heavier one I like playing is probably Tunnels. Towards the end, it drifts into an ambient section and then I start screaming.

Is there a starting point for the band’s name?

JM: (silently points at Wolf)

JW: Joe and I met in high school. We’ve been friends for a long time. And we started this project shortly after the pandemic. We were living together, and we had a friend who was staying with us.

We had this tree in our backyard that was growing in this twisty, windy kind of way. I was talking about how much I loved that it was growing in such a weird way. So, this friend said, ‘Well, there’s so many other trees in the yard. It’s seeking the sun.’ And we looked at each other.

Joe, in my notes I just have ‘Gnome is where the heart is?’

JM: I love gnomes. There’s not much more to it. When I was a little kid, my grandma would always give me a little gnome figurine from her garden. One year, we did a Halloween show and I was a gnome. It’s my Instagram profile picture.

I thought that was Santa for a second.

Over the last two months, you guys had your Spring Tour. That was your thesis, wasn’t it?

JW: Yeah

Was there a goal beyond being on tour? Learning how the music industry works, etc.?

JW: It’s been a lifelong goal. And even though it’s a small tour, I feel like we’ve gotten a lot out of it. I got all of it funded through grants, so it ended up being a very low stakes situation where we were learning the ropes. Learning how to book venues, because that is a whole deal. You have to be planning and booking places at least six months out. Especially in the spring.

For me, the end goal was that it would be a big learning experience, so that I could do it again in a higher stakes situation more smoothly and not lose a ton of money. Because you don’t make any money really. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to lose a lot.

Is this something you’d want to keep doing?

JM: Yeah. I think Juni feels the same, that we do want to make this our life. We want to make it a career. And we want to keep having a lot of fun with it. Hopefully make it in the industry.

Writing more, making a full-length album. I think a touring band would be fantastic. Someday, we’re playing venues like Whiskey a Go Go out in LA.

You guys were just recording for the first time. What was that like?

JW: It was really fun, but it’s also just grueling.

JM: It was very much a learning process. Very humbling in a lot of great ways.

JW: I don’t think most people realize how much goes into recording. There’s such a difference between playing live. Actually sitting down and recording, it can be so much more thoughtful and intentional.

JM: We’ll play shows and that’s great, but this was sitting down and thinking about how we want to arrange our songs in a meaningful way. How can we play together as a cohesive unit? And I think we got there in the end. I’m excited to release it.

JW: It wasn’t just us there. We were recording in Sunshine Studios, and they had a producer there who used to manage…

JM: Who was a tour manager for these big arena and Dad Rock bands.

JW: He heard a recording of us playing live and decided he wanted to see what we were doing in the studio. He wasn’t even getting paid. I think he was there for at least 10 hours. Just giving us a pep talk and helping us so much.

So many people, especially non-producers and non-musicians, are so willing to say, ‘You guys are amazing.’ It’s awesome, I’m not complaining. But it doesn’t help us get better. And he was super willing to say what he liked and what he really thought needed to change.

He’d want to create more space in the track and make it less busy for a listener.

What do you mean by having space in the music?

JM: Using more silence in our sound. How to have a conversation with each other, rather than just playing our parts. How to listen to each other more. How to hold back so vocals can shine more. How this bass part can sit on top of the mix. Rather than all speaking at once, separating them out a little.

JW: I think a good analogy is watching soccer. If everyone’s going for the ball at the same time, it’s going to get really chaotic really fast. You have to be willing to pass the ball and one person at a time can have it. You set things up, so you’re not all trying to kick a really good kick at the same time.

Juniper, you’re graduating this year. Does it feel weird to step away from CC after four years here?

JW: No, it’s going to be awesome.

(Both laugh)

JW: Honestly, I have such a hard time being at CC. That’s not to say there’s not great things. I wouldn’t have been able to go on this tour without CC. The band wouldn’t be a thing without CC.

But as far as people and community goes, this has been a difficult place to go to college for me. There’s a certain level of unawareness on this campus. I don’t know. I come from a low-income background, I’m on basically full financial aid. I’m an indigenous student.

I think people want to have a certain level of consciousness about the world. And the truth of the matter is the majority of students on campus all come from the same kind of place. And they come to the center of the country, and they just end up in… I hate the phrase echo chambers. But they end up in these environments where they’re around people who are exactly like them all of the time.

It’s hard to verbalize. But I grew up in a community. I was raised by a village and the people I grew up around were my family, even though we weren’t related by blood. I feel like people come to CC wanting to find that, and it just isn’t there.

JM: I think that there are really cool people here that I’ve played music with. I can’t really say what it is to be a student here.

It is bizarre, compared to the university back at Salt Lake City or a big public college. There’s definitely some weirdness going on.

JW: It’s like an episode of the Twilight Zone, like everyone’s way too nice. I just want people to tell me F#&% Off. Sometimes, I want people to be mean to me. I’ll be aggressive to people at shows and they’re so polite. I don’t know, I want you to act like a person.

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