Interview: Sunday Drive Records

Posted: by The Editor


Sunday Drive Records has, in recent years, become one of my absolute favorite labels. It’s a combination of their diverse roster, home to bands from the metallic hardcore troupe Broken Vow to the off-the-wall pop rock of Photographic Memory to the blurry dream pop of All Under Heaven, and founder Jonathan Gonzalez’s clear and palpable love for music. I spoke to Jonathan about what goes into running the label and what we can expect from Sunday Drive for 2o22.

What originally made you want to start Sunday Drive?
I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and started going to shows when I was around 13–14 and got introduced to the local hardcore scene. From there, I met a lot of people, became friends with people going to those shows, began to really understand DIY music and how anyone can just book their own show, put out their own music, etc. I later joined a band, started booking shows for local and touring bands, and taught myself how to design shirts, album art, flyers, and CD layouts to support these shows. One thing I realized is that every band just did their own release, and never had support from a label — which usually resulted in their music only being available on Bandcamp. Streaming wasn’t big at the time and most bands didn’t have enough money after recording to make tapes or CDs properly, so most of the music wasn’t being documented in a very accessible way. I decided to start SDR in 2015, while I was finishing my freshman year of college because I knew some friends in the San Antonio band Frontage were recording music and I wanted to help them put the album out in order to give a platform to our local community. It’s also worth noting that I had been thinking of starting a label for a while at that point, and around spring 2015, I saw a video or read an interview with Run For Cover, where Jeff stated that he started RFC from his dorm, so that really just lit the spark for me to realize I can just do it too.

Something I appreciate about your label is that you don’t really have a specific sound. What’s the process, for you, of finding and signing bands to Sunday Drive?
Thanks — yeah, since the beginning, I knew I wanted the label to be diverse. I always enjoyed mixed-billed shows and had a hand in booking and putting together show lineups. I always thought it was cool to be able to see a hardcore band and then an indie band or something 15 minutes after. It brought a lot of people together who were all a part of the same DIY community, however may not have always seen each other at the shows they were going to. Mixed-bill lineups kind of break down any separation from a music scene and allow people to be introduced to new music or a new genre they wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. This was the goal with Sunday Drive — I wanted to bring bands together that I enjoyed and have them be all a part of the same scene. There really isn’t a process of finding new artists. I try to keep it very organic. If I discover a band myself and really like the music, I’ll reach out to the band to offer to help. We also get a lot of submissions or get recommendations from friends or other bands on the label, so that is how most bands are joining the label. It all depends if I really enjoy the music though — I need to make sure of that in order to give my 100%.

Are there any albums you’ve put out that stand out to you as big moments for the label?
That’s a good question and something I haven’t thought much about. Looking back, some that come to mind are I Was Afraid’s “Lonely Frontier” and, most recently, Glare’s Heavenly. “Lonely Frontier” was our first 7” release and, at the time, it was really exciting because I Was Afraid was touring really hard and had this great EP recorded by Mat from HUM. There were just a lot of exciting things happening for them and just being able to be a part of this album was so cool. And then most recently, we released Heavenly by Glare. Glare was one of the earlier bands who joined SDR and to see them grow into what they are now is so rewarding, seeing your friends grow and achieve the success they deserve. It was their first vinyl release, so we all wanted to make something special. I got really into the art direction of this EP in early 2021 to try to portray the feeling of the music. We were all super excited about how the vinyl came out with the colors, and it was nice to see people excited as well. I think they’re the first band to fully sell out of the first pressing of vinyl on SDR, which is pretty big, considering SDR is still relatively a smaller, indie label.

How has the pandemic affected the way Sunday Drive operates?
In general, it hasn’t really affected the way SDR operates. I still do everything mostly the same. Some of the bigger things myself, and everyone else who runs a label recently had to figure out is how to release an album with vinyl taking so long. I think that is the biggest change that has happened. In the early days, a band used to hand over the music and we’d release it like weeks later, which is pretty wild to think of now. Now, there is a lot more planning involved in order to make sure the album gets the attention it deserves. This usually results in a much longer rollout or pre-order period, which I know sucks for everyone, but it’s the way things are going now to allow new music to gradually come out, and then hopefully by the time the full album is streaming digitally, vinyl or tapes/CDs are shipping soon after or on the release date.

You started off 2022 pretty strong with three dope releases in January. What can we look forward to for the rest of the year?
Thanks a lot! Going back to the previous question, these 3 albums were actually planned since last summer/early fall. So that’s about how much planning we’re doing to make sure those albums received the attention they deserved. I’m so happy a lot of people enjoyed those records and the bands got the recognition because they’re all super talented individuals. For the rest of the year, there’s actually a lot happening. I don’t want to give away too much, but I can say there will be new music from bands like No Longer at Ease, Sparing, Spark, Feverchild, and more. There will also be some new bands joining the SDR that I’m excited to share soon.

Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison

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