Arts & Culture / Mosaic / Music / November 12, 2012

Coyote Kisses Knox hello

Coyote Kisses is not an average band name, and its members Bryce Bresnan and Joe Sussingham do not compose an average band.


Hosted by 90.7 WVKC, the electronic dance music duo performed at the Taylor Student Lounge at Knox College on Saturday, Nov. 10.


“This is our first college show that we’ve played in a long time,” Bresnan said. “This was really refreshing.


Both Bresnan and Sussingham seem pleased with the experience of performing at a small school in a small venue.


“When you have just a table between the audience and performer, it’s a lot more rewarding,” Sussingham said. “I love the smaller shows where I get to know people during. I like the people who come up and aren’t afraid to, even though there’s not that many people there. People who can just all get together and we all go crazy and forget about the world for an hour.”


Part of the otherworldly experience of their music is their self-defined genre: space punk.


“It doesn’t really exist as far as I know, but it sounds cool,” Bresnan said. “Ever since we heard that, that’s been our inspiration. Whenever we’re stuck — we don’t know what to say, we don’t know what to write, what to do next — we think of that, and it just conjures up cool feelings.”


Another important aspect of their music is its upbeat nature.


“There’s been a trend — especially in the Americanized dubstep/brostep scene — to be intense or scary, angry,” Bresnan said. “Metal is very internal and very embodying, and it was easy to get behind that and be angry. But we like to take that and make it intense, but positive. The whole time we write music, usually we’re smiling. … There’s some kind of fun that we want to convey. Silliness is a close word to what we do.”


Band beginnings

It is this silliness that first brought Bresnan and Sussingham together. Coming from the same hometown of Lakeland, Fla. and the same circle of friends, the duo found themselves at the same party about four years ago, when they were still in high school. Sussingham had his guitar with him, and they began making up songs about their friends and singing to them on the spot.


“I didn’t know Bryce that well, but for some reason, we just came together,” Sussingham said. “We just walked up to people that we didn’t even know that well necessarily and people that we did know, and just really poured our heart and soul into these ridiculous songs we just made up, staring people in the face and following them around and making them really uncomfortable.”


Soon after initially coming together, the duo had the opportunity to be a part of a “real band” with others who had equipment they were willing to loan. Bresnan and Sussingham had created three songs in a week and were continuing to build momentum when their borrowed equipment was taken back.


“We were killing it,” Sussingham said. “We were doing so well, we forgot that we didn’t even own equipment. So I guess that’s why we continued — because everyone else were quitters.”


After acquiring a computer and some other secondhand equipment, Bresnan and Sussingham formed a band of their own that lasted for the rest of their high school years.


“We were a great indie band, I swear to God,” Sussingham said. “And no one will ever know, except for my friend’s dad, whose house we were in.”


After they graduated, though, the band as they had known it fell apart — but not for long.


“I feel like a lot of creative-minded people tend to find each other,” Sussingham said. “[The indie band] broke apart as we both went different ways, but I think it’s one of those things where there was something there all along, and we just made it what it is today.”


Despite the x-factor that brought Bresnan and Sussingham together, neither seemed to believe that it would take them as far as it has.


“Never did we sit down to be like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to be musicians, this is what we’re going to do.’ There’s that voice in the back of your head that’s like, ‘No, no, this is absurd. You need to get a real job. Don’t tell your parents that,’” Sussingham said. “It was one of those things where, the whole time, all Bryce and I would do is put our heart and soul into the song. It wasn’t for anyone else. We’d spend time on it because it was our craft. How often in your life can you find something which you really find yourself saying, ‘I’m putting 100 percent into this’?”


Making it in music

Taking guidance from their passion for music seems to be proving successful. Coyote Kisses has come into relative renown on the Internet simply from posting their songs onto Soundcloud. In turn, their music has reached a large number of people.


Many of these people have messaged the band in appreciation of their music.


“A lot of times, we get, ‘I had never heard your music before, but last night, when I was at this one place — I always go there every weekend, they always play music — I had to go up to the DJ and I had to ask him what your song was, and I went home and listened to it, and I listened to all of your music after that,’” Bresnan said. “A message like that is insanely impacting. We just wrote this for fun. And that person was so inspired by one song that they went and did all that.”


However, being “Soundcloud famous” has had some more troublesome effects.


“We’ve been running into a lot of weird snags in our music recently. It comes slightly from this moderate fame that we’ve had on the internet. There’s been a pressure to write the next best thing,” Bresnan said. “We obviously want to do well and impress the people who like our music. But that’s not our goal. Our goal is to write this song.”


The process of writing music seems to be what keeps them coming back to their careers regardless of the ups and downs of the business side.


“It’s one thing to have people listen to your music — other people that you will never meet, in droves, listening to your music. That is a huge reward. I never intended that. My reward really comes from just writing the music,” Bresnan said. “It’s weird, though — it’s not rewarding enough for me to actually stop. You eat a meal and you’re done, but the thing is, you get hungry again. You’ll get hungry in a few hours and you’ll want to eat again. That’s very much like what this music is.”


Also of importance in their process is doing what they want to do.


“A good melody is something that stands alone regardless of genre, and I think we’re following the path we want to follow,” Sussingham said.


In search of the avant garde

Their path is perhaps not a conventional one.


“I can very honestly say that since we’ve been starting, we’ve been trying to buckle down for the long haul,” Bresnan said. “There have been a lot of opportunities for us to listen to the music that is popular and regurgitate that. That would be a simple chore for us. … The hardest thing is thinking of something that no one’s done, but make it relevant.”


While their conception of the subgenre of space punk may already be contributing to this goal, Bresnan and Sussingham have more ideas for ways to stay on the cutting edge.


“A lot of people want to go to a show to see people play music. Why would you pay to go hear music really loudly when you could just turn your stereo up?” Bresnan said. “We really would like to make music onstage. That would be our ideal. We want people to see it. You hear the process.”


Aside from incorporating their interest in the music-making process into their actual music making, the band also hopes to incorporate their musicianship into their music.


“There’s that inevitable criticism that the DJ style isn’t true musicianship,” Sussingham said. “It is definitely arguable, but at the same time, Bryce and I started as a band. We played instruments. It’s always been a band thing. It’s always been a process of incorporating our ability to be musicians and play instruments and incorporate that into the mechanized, giant machine of patterns and programs that is electronic music.”


Too school for cool

Although they plan on applying these ideas to their shows and pursuing a future in music, they will not be able to do so just yet.


Both Bresnan and Sussingham are seniors in college, and it seems important to them that they graduate.


“We know a lot of other bands that have dropped out of college in order to pursue their dreams, which is cool,” Bresnan said. “But we both come from pretty highly educated families, so there’s a big pressure on us to complete college. And we decided that no matter what happens — no matter how famous [we get] or what record label tries to sign us — that we’ll finish our undergrad and then do professional music.”


Having a college degree seems only beneficial to the duo.


“Music is what we love to do — it’s what we’re good at. And at the same time, I like the ability to incorporate other things that I’ve learned into my music,” Sussingham said. “I find that anything creative or artistic helps in some way. … I think being educated and learning and feeling smarter, and the whole college experience, maturing, has a positive impact on anything that I’ll try to do in the future.”


The band hopes to perform at summer music festivals after graduation, which will hopefully quell the worries of those in charge of their marketing.


“We’re actually dealing a lot with our manager and agency team. Their goal right now is to get us playing as many shows as possible,” Bresnan said. “Electronic music took off really fast, and they’re worried it’s going to shut down really fast too. It’s been a concern.”


The present as a present

In the meantime, though, the electronic music scene does not seem to be shutting down, and Bresnan and Sussingham seem to be enjoying where the band is right now.


“The fact that I would get paid to do this, to go have fun and meet new people and go to different places — what else can I ask for?” Sussingham said. “When everybody else was out at a party, and I’m in my room on my laptop making music, and this has taken me to Galesburg. Who would’ve thought? And I think there’s something to be said for that.”


Part of what has gotten Coyote Kisses to where they are today is the nature of their work environment.


“When we get together, it is working, but it doesn’t always feel like that,” Bresnan said. “I think other electronic musicians would agree — it strikes the same things in me as playing video games. You’re using a mouse and a keyboard, you have your computer, and creating something. It’s challenging, but it’s also fun and rewarding.”


Sussingham seems to share these sentiments.


“It stirs a very innocent, childlike joy in me,” he said. “The same way I used to wake up and watch Saturday morning cartoons, now I wake up at 8 o’clock and drive over to Bryce’s house and get that same sort of excitement. … We’re not taking ourselves too seriously, but at the same time, it makes me happy. There are so many things out there right now to make you sad and make you worried.”


These references to childhood seem to have an impact on Bresnan and Sussingham.


“When I think about it, I’ve had a very specific amount — like two or three — dreams I had as a little kid. I wanted to be a professional athlete and I wanted to be a rockstar,” Sussingham said. “Athlete didn’t happen, and now I just feel like, what else can you really do aside from do what you want to do?”


The desire not to wonder what their lives could have been like had they not pursued music seems to be significant when the duo encounters challenges.


“I think we’re at that stage where there’s one last hump or series of humps before you really start to hit the ground running,” Sussingham said. “We see where we want to be, and we have friends who are becoming very successful, and we see it. The other side of the fence is right there — how do we get there? I think it’s that last push, that last thousand hours of work that we have to put in.”


Yet, just as the band aims to keep their music positive, so its members aim to keep positive as well.


“A lot of life is trusting gut instinct,” Sussingham said. “I have a good feeling about it. I’ve always had a good feeling about it.”

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Chelsea Embree
Chelsea Embree is a senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in art history. She previously served as co-mosaic editor and as an arts and features reporter for TKS. During the summer of 2013, she served as a content intern at The St. Louis Beacon. Chelsea has studied under former Random House copy chief Sean Mills and taught writing as a teaching assistant for First-Year Preceptorial. An avid blogger, she has written extensively about youth in St. Louis and maintains a lively poetry and nonfiction blog on Tumblr. She is also the director of communications for Mortar Board and co-president of Terpsichore Dance Collective.

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