Sentimentality is everything to this three-piece “-ish” band — a term they use to fondly describe how they are a mix of everything. Drawing inspiration from artists such as Arctic Monkeys, Cage the Elephant, and alt-J, Sunset Arcade — formed at UTSC by Ethan Whittier, Robbie Macatangay, and Rowan Naidoo — should be the soundtrack to every feel-good summer movie.
Since they released their latest single, “Flour Days,” back in August, Sunset Arcade has been combining their unique musical perspectives to craft pure magic that is the perfect background for a late night drive.
Each member of the band is incredibly multitalented in their own way, which Sunset Arcade proudly embraces to express themselves personally. Their unique yet familiar sound is a product of their different interests and backgrounds, which vary significantly between members.
“My uncle gave me a guitar when I was smaller, and I never played it until I was 16,” said Whittier. “I played it once, or like, tried to, and I was like, ‘This is cool.’ Then, I called Robbie, who had been playing guitar for a long time at that point, and I’m like, ‘Yo, let’s start a band.’ ”
“I actually met Rowan through our small ensemble class,” Macatangay added.
“At the time, I never wanted to be in a band,” Naidoo, the band’s drummer, explained. “But we kind of just got along really well, and I was like, ‘Oh word, I click with these guys.’ I liked this idea of being able to create music instead of just covering [it].”
Sunset Arcade spent a year and a half recording their first EP, “A Never Ending Summer,” released in 2020.
Naidoo elaborated that the band started creating music partially because of a music producer he’d met through church. Naidoo had approached him about booking studio time at Dream House Studios, the company he worked for. “[Dream House] is an expensive sort of studio, but out of the kindness of his soul, he gave us a discount, and that kind of started this whole thing with us recording music to put on Spotify,” Naidoo said.
“We didn’t know what we were going to do if we didn’t get that,” Whittier added. “So, we’re really lucky.”
Though studio production was an excellent start for Sunset Arcade, the pandemic required them to start producing music themselves, an endeavour that was bolstered by a music class.
“Rowan and I actually took the same class, and we all learned how to use our own individual softwares and audio interfaces. It was sick,” Macatangay said. He elaborated that the class’ projects had “accelerated” the band’s music knowledge, helping them to create their second EP during COVID-19.
“We recorded [‘Not in my Mind’ and ‘Put This on Pause’] separately… We were sending files back and forth and doing Zoom calls, and Rowan would share his screen and mix,” Whittier said.
Despite these struggles, Sunset Arcade released the two songs in 2021 on Spotify, a platform where they’ve amassed almost 100 monthly listeners.
Storytelling is a huge part of Sunset Arcade’s work, and it’s evident when you first listen to their music that they put a lot of creativity and emotion into it. Their use of sound effects to illustrate that feel-good nostalgia sets their music apart from others.
“For [the song] ‘Lazy River Interstate,’ Rowan and I were literally sitting in my car with the microphone and a laptop, recording me with my keys,” Whittier said.
It’s details like this that show how much the band cares about the music they share with the world, and how each member’s perspective contributes to the sound.
“We bring a lot of different things to the table. We all like very different genres,” Macatangay mentioned.
“Rowan is really into rap and hip-hop, and I’m really into punk, and we all love jazz,” Whittier added.
“I guess it’s difficult to incorporate all of our tastes. But we realized that when we put the work in and try to incorporate everything, [it] ends up being a pretty unique product,” Naidoo explained.
Ultimately, Sunset Arcade’s philosophy is simple: work is play. The joy of creation is what keeps the band motivated, and that bleeds through in their work.
As Macatangay puts it, “As a trope, [my favourite song is] the next one. We’re [always] anticipating the next song that [we would release, because] it’s going to be representing us.”