Interview: Sweet Sienna

Guitarist/vocalist Alan Christopher John and keyboardist/vocalist Austin Tucker originally formed Sweet Sienna as a small jam project in New York City. They have a love of the sounds of classic rock and blues music and wanted to start a band that make music reminiscent of their favourites from the era. They needed a bassist and after some auditions, Katrien Van Riel joined the band. Their drummer, Phil, is new to the band. Although they all had former music projects and had played shows in the past, everyone seemed to click together and so Sweet Sienna were formed. Their mission is to “bring the edge back to the music industry.”

I had the pleasure to chat with Sweet Sienna about their new songs, “Rise” and “No Reflection” and about their performances at the world famous Whisky A Go Go.

You can listen to the songs below on Spotify:

Angie Moon: What was writing and recording “Rise” and “No Reflection” like?

Katrien: It was a lot of fun; we’re all close as band-mates but also meticulous with the details of our music. Our closeness meant we could enjoy ourselves, have fun, and joke around while recording, but we also could be brutally honest by providing constructive criticism to each other so we could get each detail of every song to fit our vision and standards.

Austin: The recording process is always an enjoyable time for us.  Although we have a pretty good idea about how we want the tracks to sound, we usually end up adding and changing things around until the final mix.  It’s fun to see how different the tracks will sound throughout the process.

Alan: With a song like “Rise” where we have so much going on in terms of tracking the keys, vocals, and guitars, it was very important to maintain a common sound throughout the recording and make sure the instruments were in sync while getting their points across.

Phil: It was a fantastic experience getting to work together in the studio for the first time. Everyone being at different levels of recording from each member of the band to the engineers made for a real interesting dynamic. We all instantly fed off each other’s energy to create what I think ended up being some fantastic tracks. The kicker was in how short of a time we accomplished our goal and possibly exceeded our own expectations. Looking forward to getting back in again real soon.

AM: What do each of those songs mean?

Katrien: We wrote “Rise” to be an uprising song. It’s about standing up against oppression, and using prior hurt to fuel you instead of falling into futility. It’s a battle cry that we hope people can use as a way to find their inner strength, as well as the greater strength that can be achieved by uniting with people who share our goals.

Austin: I think the music for “Rise” really compliments the “battle cry” and “rising up” themes in the lyrics.  It’s dark yet uplifting at the same time and I think the message is something everyone can relate to.

Phil: No Reflection to me is a total mindset that I think our modern day society is practicing more and more. Looking inward and doing the work necessary to treat others with the type of thoughtfulness that we would like in return. After all, how you treat others is a total reflection of your true self. Encouraging people to think before they act.

Rise is a cut and dry song of overcoming personal obstacles. Ones set up by others, which can be in the form of doubt or discouragement, as well as the seemingly impossible things we stop ourselves from accomplishing. This song is for anyone who was ever told they couldn’t, or aren’t good enough. Rise Above.

AM: I see that you played the Whisky A Go Go a few times, what was that like?

Austin: Getting to play the Whisky was definitely an amazing experience.  Performing in the same venue as some of rock’s biggest legends, seeing the crowds jam to our music, and opening for Gilby Clarke (formerly of Guns N’ Roses) and Mike Tramp (of White Lion) was surreal.  These are guys we grew up listening to and they helped shape our own music; meeting them and performing with them is one of the biggest honours for us.  We can’t wait to get back to the Whisky in June when we play with L.A. Guns.

Alan: For me, playing the Whisky was a dream come true.  Being on the same stage as my idols such as The Doors, Guns N’ Roses, and Mötley Crüe was an absolute honour and pleasure.  I’m very much looking forward to our L.A. Guns gig, another band that has had a huge influence on me.

Phil: Legendary times as the bands first outing. We rocked it two nights in a row getting to open for some of the people that helped make this club the legend that it is today. Can’t wait to get back out there again this summer to open for L.A. Guns. We’ll be working our asses off and have much more to show for it.

AM: Which venue has been your favourite one to perform at?

Katrien: My favourite was the Bitter End because the life of NYC was so palpable and the place was more than packed out with people fully immersed in our music.

Austin: I’d have to say my favourite is a toss-up between The Stone Pony in Asbury Park or the Whisky.  The amount of rock history in those venues is astonishing and definitely gives off a lot of energy.

Phil: The L.A. shows were cool. Getting to play on The Canyons beautiful stage was a great experience. But my favourite so far has been The Bitter End. It’s a classic venue in my hometown that I never got to play before and it was my first show with the band so it holds a special place for me at this moment. I’m sure that’ll change as we grow and get through all the awesome gigs we’ve got lined up for this year.

AM: What have you been listening to lately?

Katrien: Our band comes from a wide variety of musical backgrounds. Phil has experience in hardcore/punk drumming, I come from a musical theatre background, Austin has a classic and prog-rock background, and Alan has blues and 80’s rock in his blood.

We’ve been listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Gary Moore, and Kiss.  These artists have a narrative and drive a performance, a potential spectacle, in addition to being excellent musicians. This is what we strive for in our music and what we want to glean from our fellow artists.

AM: What are you most looking forward to this year?

Austin:  We have a lot of great things coming up including playing with Warrant, Skid Row, L.A. Guns, The Iron Maidens, and Puddle of Mudd.  We also are planning a music video shoot.

Phil: Recording the rest of the songs we’ve been fine-tuning and just getting tighter as an overall unit.

AM: Any plans for an album or EP?

Alan: We just released two singles, “Rise” and “No Reflection”, which are getting positive responses.  An EP is in the works and will be released in mid-2019.

AM: Who are your favourite guitarists, bassists, drummers, keyboardists, and singers?

Alan: My favourite guitarists would have to be Gary Moore, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Buddy Guy.

Austin: My favourite keyboardists would have to be Jon Lord, Tony Banks, Jonathan Cain, and Jordan Rudess, all fantastic and melodic players.

Katrien: Some of mine are Kate Kilbane, Roger Waters, and Whitney Houston.

Phil: Dave Grohl’s playing on the Nirvana records is what got me into wanting to play drums. One of my favourite singers right now would have to be SZA.

AM: If you could work with any musicians, who would you want to work with?

Austin: Getting to work with bands like Def Leppard and Journey would be very neat.  These bands have had a big influence on us.

Phil: This is a weird question for me.  I’m grateful for the current opportunity I have of playing with this fine group of musicians. Just enjoying the ride with them at the moment.

AM: Any words for your fans?

Katrien: Come and see us at our next show and remember that music is about communing with others and indulging in your emotions! Go out on the town one night, see a show, any show, really enjoy yourself, and bring some friends. Let loose and remember life is way better with music in it.

Austin: Music is the universal language and has enormous power.  We make music not only for ourselves, but also for everyone to enjoy.  After a Sweet Sienna show, we hope it’s a night you’ll never forget.  Have fun, enjoy the music, and rock on.

You can find Sweet Sienna on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Shout out to my good friend and Topaz level Patron, Patrick.

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