For many bands, the first year together is a time of development. A trial period of sorts; one for discovering your sound, finding your audience, building chemistry as a group, and working to better understand the fundamentals of the music industry. Most bands don’t come out of the gate hot and establish themselves quickly; it’s a learning process, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sweet Pill is not like most bands.
In their first calendar year alone (2019), Sweet Pill released seven songs and an EP, including popular single “Doubt,” which has amassed over 7,000 plays on Spotify. The band now has 700 monthly listeners on the platform as well.
Shortly thereafter, the group was signed to Know Hope Records and even added to the list of high-prestige performers at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. They primarily played shows under the 4333 Music Label, which was co-founded by their guitarist, Jayce Williams. Their very first show had them opening for well-respected indie-folk group Slaughter Beach Dog, and Williams remembers how the group didn’t even “have enough written music to fulfill a 20-minute performance.”
Much of the band’s early success was thanks to their relationship with 4333 and the DIY community at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. When asked about his favorite gig, drummer Chris Kearney recalled a memorable show at the university. “It had to be playing outside on the basketball courts at Rowan. It was one of my first performances with the band and there were so many people there, like a scene out of a movie. People were selling their art/clothing to the left and right of us and there were people skateboarding on ramps—they made to our right.”
Here’s a live video from that gig, with the band performing my favorite song of their’s, “Swallow the Pill”.
I had asked the band members about what made being a South Jersey band particularly special. Bassist Dylan Walker explained how “the general support between all bands is just so incredible. Everyone shares as much as they can to spread the word of any and all local DIY south jersey scene music.”
In early 2020, the band announced a tour of 17 shows across the Midwest, including another performance at SXSW. Coronavirus, however, had other plans. With a broken-down tour bus and an extensive list of canceled shows, the members of the band found themselves stranded, over a thousand miles away from home.
“Initially, it was devastating. I had put months of work into this tour with the hopes of it putting us more on the map,” Williams told me. “After I accepted that our tour was over, I knew that we had to immediately share our experience to let our fans know how much work we had lost. The amount of support we received after telling our story made the tour worth it, even if it got cut short. It showed us how many people believe in us, and are willing to financially support [us] to make sure that we achieve our goals, and remain safe.”
I felt inclined to donate to the cause when I first saw this. This band’s music had resonated with me from the moment I found them. It turns out, many other fans felt the same way as me. Within a single day, the band reached their donation goal and repaired their broken-down tour bus. Four days later, they returned home safe.
Amidst the chaos of this ongoing pandemic, Sweet Pill has announced that their first full-length album is in the works per an announcement from their Instagram, with demos of three singles from a live session being released as well. Williams is extremely confident in the album’s quality, and he assured me that “it’s the most original music we’ve written; it’s 100 percent our sound.”
Despite their sharp and quick rise in popularity, Sweet Pill has encountered a bit of a roster shift in its members, and Kearney believes this will affect the sound of their newest work.
“Since the band has a very different lineup of members than it did previously, I think we are all going to pull from our individual influences and the end result will ultimately sound a bit different than it did. Generally speaking, I see the band going in a more technical/math rock-influenced direction and incorporating occasional odd time signatures and jazzier sounding chords.”
I like to close my pieces by asking each member who else they wish to see have success from the New Jersey music scene. Here are some of the answers I got after catching up with the band:
“Have a Good Season. They deserve to be heard all around the world! I get asked this question a lot and they will always be my answer. They have been there since Sweet Pill’s start, and we plan on working with them until we both make it!” – Jayce Williams (Guitarist/Manager)
“Have a Good Season from Eatontown, NJ.” – Chris Kearney (Drummer)
“Truly, everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting deserves nothing but the best in the success of their music. We all work so hard for such solid outcomes that I can’t believe the recognition hasn’t set in after so many years.” – Dylan Walker (Bassist)
Cover photo courtesy of B Mensch Photography.