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In conversation with Sagrada Familiar

Sagrada Familiar sit down with Honi to discuss their approach to music

A photo of Sagrada Familiar standing in a city alleyway

Sagrada Familiar, as their name might suggest, are as much a family as they are a band. Six of the band’s seven members cultivated their ties at USyd’s Conservatorium of Music; two of them even happen to be brothers. However, above all else, Sagrada Familiar are bound together by a love of hip-hop. I met up with them at Paragon at the start of Semester One to discuss their album, their live gigs and their plans for future projects.

Sagrada had humble beginnings. The group began as a hangout activity in early 2015 between Dave Quinn, Ashley Stoneham, and Roshan Kumarage, who would while away hours experimenting with instrumental sounds. Charlie Sundborn, a friend of Ashley’s, would join them while he was still in high school. Kieren Brereton was eventually brought into the fold to play guitar, as the nascent group wanted to add another layer to their music. Eventually Sid Spring-Winer was brought in on vocals, while Jack Stoneham, brother of Ashely, was the last to join the band in 2017.

Roshan recounted how the band settled on the name Sagrada Familiar.

‘’I was wearing a bag imprinted with a graphic of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, which my friend got for me from Barcelona, and we thought, ‘that’s kind of cool’. When deciding on the name we agreed we may as well be called that. Simple.”

In terms of their musical inspirations, Kieren notes how the band has a wide range of hip hop inspirations, such as J Dilla. Whilst not trying to emulate any one artist in particular, they allow their inspirations to come together when crafting their songs. For example, Ashley mentions how he drew inspiration from James Blake when they were writing ‘Im Okay’.

Ashley went onto explain their artistic process for writing songs.

“We think about it in terms of instrumental beats — what instrumental will serve as a good base for a song. That’s how we’ve always thought about it.”

Kieren detailed how they produce their songs.

“A lot of our songs start off like a blank canvas we all try to contribute to. For example, ‘I’m Okay’ was a song we each made from scratch as a collaborative piece with its instrumental beat as a starting point, that went through a lot of changes before it became the finished product.”

Contrastingly, ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Come Fly’ started off as songs that Charlie conjured up on GarageBand during high school.

“Those songs would then be changed around and adapted based upon everyone’s insights into how it should be, of course with the added sounds, whilst still retaining its basic instrumental beat,’’ Charlie explained.

So far, Sagrada has released one album, Unfamiliar. As a band that puts as much time into creating original music as possible, Sagrada spent two years working on the album before it was released.

The album’s material was written in 2016, but it wasn’t until April 2017 that they would be in a studio recording their album. Cooped up in the now defunct REC studios near Central Station, Sagrada spent ten days recording the 16 song album.

“Shit was missing, the board was broken, it was a bit dodgy,” the band said of the studio they recorded in. Despite the dire state of the studio, Sagrada were able to bang out Unfamiliar within the 10 days, ready for release.

It wouldn’t be another year before Sagrada released their debut album to the public, on the 18th of March 2018 . The band spent the time leading up to that point making a few final arrangements, including addings synths to a few songs, creating videos and commissioning covert art, crafted by Kurt Brereton, Kieren’s Dad.

Unfamiliar would go onto be released gradually in the space of a month in March. ‘I’m Okay’ and ‘Wolf in a Mist’ were released as a double single; ‘Ever Gonna Grow’ was then released as another single in quick succession leading up to the full album release.

Both the double single and album release were launched at Lazy Bones in Marrickville. Sagrada have also played at Sly Fox supporting the Baldwins for their single launch in 2016, as well as other artists including Glen Lumanta, Motherfunk, The Honey Nothings, and Dobby.

After their album launch in September, the band took a brief hiatus, as three of the band members were focused on their studies, while others travelled overseas.

Sagrada did confirm however that they are currently working on producing new music. The band is focused on taking a different angle to produce their new songs, taking a digital DIY process of making music

One thing is for certain, this time Sagrada are really focused on producing the music and working out how it will sound live after it is produced ­— a new approach when compared to their preparation for Unfamiliar.

So far, the band is aiming to produce an EP, but remain open to the possibility of making another album.

“The process is different this time, it’s not as preconceived as last time,” remarks Kieren. The band reckons they should have this next piece released for 2020

Whatever the case may be, based on the success of their last album, especially how unique it was, their next release is certainly something to look forward to!

You can find Sagrada Familiar’s music on Spotify and Bandcamp. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.