One might think that juggling two bands – and two different touring schedules, for that matter – as Craig Owens and Bradley Bell do with Chiodos and Cinematic Sunrise, would cause some major headaches. Fortunately, the pair’s pop-rock project is strictly about having a good time and making music that is innocent and fun to play. “Basically, the whole idea – everything about Cinematic Sunrise – is just happy and fun. And there’s nothing more fun than coloring,” explains vocalist Craig Owens about the decision to include a coloring book with their aptly titled debut EP A Coloring Storybook and Long Playing Record, illustrated by Rob Dobi.
Owens certainly has a point, and he and his band mates capture that carefree pop sound in their music. The project is rounded out by Bradley Bell (keys), Bryan Beeler (guitar), Marcus VanKirk (bass) and Dave Shapiro (drums). “With Cinematic Sunrise, it’s just more smiles,” explains Owens of the main difference between their sound and Chiodos’, for which he fronts and Bell plays keyboard. “To me, it’s just good-time music,” says Bell. “A soundtrack to a party… it’s music for a wide audience, so I really hope a lot of people can appreciate it and understand what we’re doing.”
Bell and Owens enjoy the outlet Cinematic Sunrise gives them from the harder, more angsty sound of Chiodos – even if the band first began on somewhat of a whim. When Chiodos had completed writing their full-length debut, All’s Well That Ends Well (2005, Equal Vision Records), most of the band were burned out on the creating process. Owens, however, still felt like he had songs he needed to get out. He assembled a group of friends from around his hometown in the Detroit area, never planning to make much of his new project other than having an energizing release mechanism. Fast-forward a couple years, and most of the lineup has changed (Beeler is the lone holdout from the original crew) and the group have completed a six-song EP.
The members’ candor and happy-go-lucky attitude come through in the music, however that doesn’t mean the band don’t take themselves seriously. While Cinematic Sunrise is definitely an outlet from Chiodos, the band considers it a full project. “I think we’re really lucky that we have that Chiodos fan base to begin with,” explains Beeler. “Not too many bands have that. I like to think the music speaks for itself, and it doesn’t sound like Chiodos. If there was screaming and breakdowns, I could understand people calling us ‘Chiodos 2’. But we’re two totally different bands with totally different sounds.”
The band’s debut EP, A Coloring Storybook… was recorded by the band in Beeler’s home studio. “I’d produced a lot of local bands before, but this is the first time I did my own band,” says Beeler of his responsibility helming the recording. “I found that it was a lot different because I was extremely hard on myself. There were some songs where I re-did guitar tracks three or four times because I went back and just didn’t like the tone. After locking myself in my parent’s basement for three months, I think the product came out really good.”
The arrangements range from pretty (“You Told Me You Loved Me”) to more driving (“Pulling a Piano From a Pond”), but they definitely remain “rock” songs, laced with catchy melodies and hooks that will likely remain in your head for days at a time.
“My favorite [song] is ‘Goodbye Friendship, Hello Heartache,'” adds Owens. “I just absolutely am in love with the song. [Also,] I really, really love ‘You Told Me You Love Me,’ because I can’t wait to perform that live. Music has always been a therapy, so being able to perform that live is just going to be great.”
All the members of Cinematic Sunrise collaborated on the music-writing process, often sending files back and forth over the internet and taking turns working with pieces in the studio. Owens, as with Chiodos, composes the lyrics. It is well-known that he incorporates literary influences and daily observations into that band’s lyrical content, though with Cinematic Sunrise, he remains a bit more vague, preferring to let listeners decide for themselves what the songs are saying. “My favorite thing about lyrics is that people are able to interpret them for themselves,” he explains. “People can say they’re about relationships, and maybe they are, but sometimes they’re about different relationships than they think: Friendships or even situations – like relationships to careers, to everything.”
With an EP under their belts and plans for a full-length in 2009, this band of best friends (VanKirk and Owens are roommates; Owens and Bell have played together since high school; Shapiro is Chiodos’ booking agent) plan to tour as much as possible for the rest of the year. The band has booked a headlining run during the second half of May 2008 with My American Heart and Daphne Loves Derby along for support. They are also scheduled to appear on a week’s worth of dates in July on the Vans Warped Tour and are starting to arrange their fall touring schedule, as well.
When asked to explain to fans – both new and old – what sets Cinematic Sunrise apart from other bands operating in today’s scene, Owens is humble. “You know, maybe there’s nothing that sets us apart,” he begins, “but we’re genuinely just five best friends who love each other and are just having a good time, not trying to be big; not trying to get anything. So many people just want so much more out of it, and musically, I’m not sure there’s too much that sets us apart. But the actual motivation behind it, I think, is definitely what sets us apart because we’re looking for nothing but to have a great time with each other.”