The everything 80s music and pop culture-loving musician, Sunset Neon, has channeled this into not only his life but creating music and videos to accompany them. Sunset Neon is the name artist and producer, Bret Autrey, creates music under and is his way of sharing his love of everything eighties nostalgia, including music, bright colors of the decade, and the anthemic themes found throughout many of the eighties hit songs. Sunset Neon will be releasing his debut album, Starlight, on Dec. 1. AXS chatted with Sunset Neon about his transition from rock to electronic music, his love of eighties nostalgia, and his VHS and eighties inspired future funk experience music video for his single "Tonight." Pre-order Sunset Neon's debut album Starlight here.
AXS: Your new album is set for release on December 1...why did you decide to transition from creating rock to creating electronic music?
Sunset Neon: I’ve always had a strong foundation of electronic music in my other project, Blue Stahli. The Antisleep albums (which are geared toward film/tv/video games) are way more on the pure electronic side with elements of rock and live instrumentation slipping through. When I put one of the full-on Blue Stahli vocal albums together with a heavier rock angle, it’s all approached in a very electronic fashion, since I’ve never aimed to be just a “rock band”, and don’t want anyone to get the feeling like I’m trying to trick ‘em into getting that vibe. The whole aim with that material is to put together something heavier and with a rock feeling, but assembled like a Prodigy record. Treating my own guitar takes like samples, over-compressed breakbeats and drum machines from hell, while a wall of sound collage synths bounces around in the background. With Sunset Neon, this is an opportunity to go more purely electronic and indulge the lo-fi, nostalgia-tinged aspect of what I do.
AXS: You're also a producer...did you produce your debut album or collaborate with another producer to bring it to fruition?
SN: When I had some initial demos ready, I played them for Klayton of Scandroid, Celldweller and Circle of Dust so he could hear the direction I was going and make sure I wasn’t crazy. He dug the whole lot of ‘em, so over a few months, I just hacked away at putting the sucker together in the weird new way I was approaching this project, aiming for the lo-fi and twisting audio all over the place. Acting as producer on this project was good because a lot of it was discovered by experimentation in production techniques and returning to a primarily tracker-based (in my case, Renoise) system of programming.
AXS: I love your video for your single "Tonight," and the great VHS & 80s inspiration...was that the initial concept for the single, and how did your vision come to life?
SN: Thank you! The goal with the Sunset Neon record as a whole is to make it sound like a lost soundtrack to a forgotten 80s b-movie that’s been rediscovered on a warped and worn-from-use cassette, then sampled and chopped/flipped through a bit of nu-disco magic. To break up the more electronic elements, I wanted to make something that was like every 80s training montage playing all at once, or something from the movie "Cobra" to soundtrack "Sly" picking out a new set of fingerless gloves and spending an entire afternoon trying to match them to his aviators. Funny thing is that the demo I threw down for the song is what you hear as a finished product. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, everything just came together faster than most songs I’ve ever done!
AXS: Was Sunset Neon your first choice for your new moniker, or did you have a hard time picking one?
SN: I chose “Sunset Neon” as a way of linking my two projects together and to show people the progression of where this came from. Sunset Neon is the name of a Blue Stahli song featured on the album Antisleep Vol. 04. After I wrote that track, I wanted to do an entire album of material with that vibe, the nostalgic 80s and intersecting of nu-disco production. That track lives on as a Blue Stahli track so when people go searching for this music, they can very easily find the rest of what I do, and it’s a nice callback to what sparked the whole thing. Upon making Sunset Neon it’s own separate thing, I realized I now had an outlet for the tracks I had been doing that didn’t really have a place anywhere else. For example, the song “Never Dance Again” was originally made as a Blue Stahli song back in 2013, but I never had a place to put it. It didn’t really fit on any vocal album so it kind of evaporated. With Sunset Neon, I now have a place for all my weirdo 80s-influenced stuff!
AXS: What specifically draws you to 80s music and nostalgia?
SN: I grew up in the 80s, and absolutely loved late nights with VHS movies. Sometimes that was stuff taped from TV, and more often than not, strange straight to video numbers or forgotten films that were absolute classics to me (like, I adore “Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone” and “Radioactive Dreams”). Since a lot of the lost movies didn’t have easily sourced soundtracks, I would record my own by holding up a Radio Shack microphone to the TV and recording the bits of music I liked onto a cassette to listen to endlessly later. The sound of those cassettes and the memory haze of that screen glow is what sparked Sunset Neon.
AXS: Do you plan to tour to promote the album?
SN: I would love to! I still have to work out what a Sunset Neon live show would consist of, but at some point, definitely!