Craigslist isn’t just the go-to site for selling your car or finding a place to live—it’s also a surprisingly effective way to start a band. This is the realization John Tosches had last July when he posted on the site to gauge interest in a new musical project.
Jordan Chambers describes how he stumbled across Tosches’ Craigslist post: “It was like, ‘Hey. I’m moving to Charlottesville. I just want to record and play music. I don’t care what you want to do—but I’ll do it.’”
Tosches nods in confirmation. He and Chambers sit at a table in the main room of Tosches’ apartment, where a complicated motherboard of screens and keyboards takes up the back half of the room, indicating Tosches’ passion for creating songs.
Tosches and Chambers, Sundream.’s drummer and guitarist/vocalist, comprise one half of the band. The other members couldn’t make it—bassist Dale Hyldelund is picking up his 8-year-old daughter and the other guitarist/vocalist, Donovan Christopher, is in Fredericksburg—but Tosches solves that with a conference call. The absent members’ staticky voices chime in from a phone acting as the table’s centerpiece.
Chambers does most of the talking. He’s very laid-back, as if he’s been interviewed a dozen times before. His easygoing air seems more fitting for an acoustic singer-songwriter type than a member of an indie-pop, emo, alternative rock group—the way all the members of Sundream. agree to classify their sound. (Hyldelund also describes it as “taking everything in your refrigerator and deciding to make a big soup out of it.”)
One year into bandhood, Sundream. still cares about classification—and what better way to solidify your presence in the music scene than by releasing an album? The band’s self-titled LP, a seamless collection of ferocious, musing tracks, debuted last month. Though short—eight songs clocking in at 25 minutes total—it’s not soon forgotten.
According to Chambers, the songs are all about transitions. “Breakups, jobs, Donovan transitioning as a transgender man…” he lists off. “That’s a lot of life right there, and our album reflects that.”
“Strange Boy,” the track that specifically relates to Christopher’s transition, is one of the LP’s most powerful songs, and at two minutes, it’s also the shortest. Christopher’s vocals glide over moody guitars and drums, creating a subdued sound synonymous with the deeply personal subject matter. Christopher describes the track simply as “what being trans is like.”
“I made a video for it!” Tosches adds, conjuring the clip in question on one of the room’s myriad screens. It features Christopher’s singing, disembodied head with a background that initially shows what seems to be home video clips from various families’ Christmases and backyard barbecues (the whole thing is edited to look like VHS tape footage). As the song’s intensity increases, the images change to news footage. Headlines like “TRUMP BANS TRANSGENDER SERVICE MEMBERS” and “Caitlyn Jenner’s Courage Award: Does She Deserve It?” flash across the screen as Christopher belts out the song’s core—“They cannot tell me what to feel / I am nothing but a strange boy.”
The video, set to be released this month, indicates just how skilled the members of Sundream. are—whether it’s video editing, penning poignant lyrics or just knowing how to play well together. Nurturing a group dynamic is especially impressive for Sundream., because, as evidenced by the conference call, it’s not easy to get everyone in the same room. “We all have very separate lives,” Chambers says. “John lives in Charlottesville but commutes to Maryland every week for work. I work full-time at Milli Coffee Roasters. Dale lives out in Wintergreen, Donovan in Fredericksburg.”
Craigslist really was the vehicle that brought the musicians together, Chambers insists, in what he calls a “happy circumstance.” It’s a term he uses often, saying, “It explains us as a band. Things happen and we’re just gonna roll with the punches.”
The last track on their LP, “Here and Now,” an acoustic song described by Tosches as a “freakin’ banger,” fits this philosophy. “It’s about finding all these people in life who are important to you,” Chambers explains. “Even though they might be gone, we’re going to meet them again someday.”
Since the “happy circumstance” of Sundream.’s formation, the band has enjoyed several others—winning the first round of a Vienna, Virginia, battle of the bands competition, having the unconditional support of Tosches’ fiancée, Christina, a medical student who fills the roles of “merch girl and band mother,” and finding support in other members of the community.
Community is essential to Sundream.. “We’re just trying to put you in a better headspace,” Chambers says. “All the songs deal with really heavy subjects, but at the end of the day, we want to end on a hopeful note. We’re happy guys who are really excited to be together and creating a community around music.”