Chatterbox: Sulene

Hey, tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa and moved to Boston when I was 19-years-old to go to college. I lived the American college dream and drank a lot of beer in dorm rooms, played in a prog band, and got a degree in film scoring from Berklee. After graduating, I packed up a uHaul and moved into a tiny loft in New York with two other musicians and one actress. I did a lot of composing work when I got here, the most amusing certainly being singing over an Al Pacino stage-dive scene for a movie, as well as a Halle Berry shower scene for a TV show. After that, things got even weirder and more awesome as I landed up playing guitar for Betty Who, and then Candy Hearts. In 2015 I was invited to audition for Nate Ruess and got into his band as the lead guitarist.

This was pretty wild for me since I’m a huge fan of Fun., and by now I’ve probably played “We Are Young” a thousand times and still happily continue to play with the band. Throughout the last year and a half we’ve played all sorts of venues all over the world and recently even got to play in the White House — a place where I never thought I’d end up as a non-American. When I wasn’t playing shows with Nate, I was writing a ton of songs in hotel rooms because I knew I wanted to make my own record. And when I wasn’t writing songs I was learning how to knit or searching for ridiculous sweaters in thrift stores (my ‘Bowlers are Special’ sweater has become a major hit).

I’m a massive Mike Judge fan and I’m currently working on my King of the Hill facts in hope of winning a trivia contest one day. I write a personal blog and try read as many books as I possibly can to stay eloquent, but after 2 Jameson on the rocks at the hotel bar that all goes out the window anyway. I’m a vegetarian, Afrikaans is my first language (a combination of Dutch and German), and I live in an apartment with two drummers, two bassists, and a Zizi plant named Morrissey (all dudes). Overall, I’m a pretty happy lady and I love what I do.

Where did the new single come from?

I wrote What We Had when I had come home from a world tour. I had just moved into a new, unfamiliar apartment with a new roommate who I didn’t know, I was incredibly jet-lagged (I’m talking like waking up at 2 am wanting to start my day), and I had lost touch with my friends in Brooklyn. I realized that after I left college I had unknowingly thrown myself into the deep-end of a working musician’s lifestyle — not being around much and constantly giving all I had to whatever project I was working on. Before I knew it, I felt quite empty and detached from the little things in life. “Black snow, late cabs and mistletoe” were the first images that popped into my head and they become the first lyrics.

The song’s about the time I was in college; before things got so serious, before I was inundated with responsibility and real life and traveling so much. When I just played music because I loved it and there really wasn’t much to lose. I found myself reminiscing on all those small joys – going home with my boyfriend for the first Christmas, snow fights in the city of Boston, drinking whiskey by the Charles river, and dying my hair blue on a whim in a friend’s bathtub. I was so free and inspired. The lyric “all the times we waited” refers to the times we felt like we were waiting for our lives to start, when really these were exactly the moments that made life so interesting. I brought my demo to my three producers — Andre Vasconcelos, Apoena Frota, and Joe Ulmer — who made a slammin’ arrangement of the track. I knew after that that I had to dig up the rest of my hotel room demos and make a record with these guys. I was ready for one chapter to close and another to begin, with my own music.

What other content is in the pipeline?

What We Had is part of a 4-song EP, Strange, which will be released in the Spring. Some of the songs on the record deal with nostalgia, some with loss, some with breaking bad habits, and some with falling deeply and horribly in love. They’re all extremely honest and exactly what I was feeling at the time when I wrote them. More singles from this EP will be coming out monthly following What We Had.

What’s on the horizon for you?

2017 is the year I’ve been so looking forward to as a writer. For many years now, I’ve been patiently writing in moments I could steal away between working on other projects. My EP, Strange, will be released in the Spring, and I will also be releasing my soundtrack to a film I recently finished writing the score for. I can’t give away the name of the film because it hasn’t been released just yet, but keep your eyes open for it. Collaborations with new producers and other artists are also in the pipeline, all of which I’m super excited about. I’ll be playing solo as well as full-band shows in New York and surrounding areas throughout the year, so come say hey and we can take ridiculous face-swaps.

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