The Haunting Heart Strings of Sonnder Capture Sounds of Life and Longing

As they begin to approach the midpoint of a bold, monthly single-release project embarked upon at the beginning of this year, local Philadelphia band Sonnder is beginning to gain steam and traction, having made a name for themselves through their passionate commitment and hard work in the performance and venue culture of the North Eastern U.S. As the band now finds themselves breaking through even more to reach the ears of audiences in Philadelphia and New York City, there is still more than meets the eye in the story behind the band and its music. Prior to their performance this Tuesday evening, May 12th at Union Transfer here in Philly, Rock On Philly sat down with Sonnder’s leading man, Ryan Weidman, to share those stories and much more as to the meaningfulness behind them.

Rock On Philly: So many things can go into the creation of a band, or in the birthing of one’s music. What are some of the ingredients that form the composite makeup of your lyrics and the very chemistry of your songwriting? What is the message of Sonnder’s music?
Ryan Weidman: All of our songs come from an honest place. I have always written in a way that reflects me personally and/or the people around me. The way I end up writing is really a filtration system of all my interactions and experiences. It has always been difficult for me to genuinely connect to the message of something that I have not truly felt myself. Thus, we aren’t trying to hide who we are or who we have been. I think that ties into the overall message of what we do. Accepting the good and bad experiences of life as one thing, not separate. Channeling those energies into our songs is what we are all about.

ROP: Your band is a pretty eclectic yet close mix of people gifted in different areas, each of you seems to be feeling out their niche, and continues to do so, as far as their value in strengths that they bring to the table in your music and live performances. Tell us about what that process has been like for you internally as a band, the lessons in inter-band relationships it has provided you with and the ways in which it has made you stronger as a group.

RW: Everyone in the band brings their strengths and their weaknesses to the table. Luckily, where one is weak, the other is strong and vice-versa. The final product that you hear is really what it sounds like after everyone has had his or her hands on it. Typically, I will bring in a song skeleton that maybe just exists as an acoustic guitar or piano accompanied idea; and then, everyone will hash it out to bring it to life. Everyone has an idea of where they want the song to go. I think us working together and compromising really produces stronger ideas. Now that we are doing a year-long singles project until December, we are working more closely as a band than we ever have. There is just a lot more communication happening and extensive planning being done. Having our engineer/producer Robby Webb closely work with us on each song has brought a great dynamic to the band as well; it truly is like having a fifth full time member. We aren’t lacking in the creativity department as of yet, that’s for sure. I would say these kinds of projects keep bands together and hardworking; we are the healthiest we have ever been.

ROP: As is so often the case with many acts who built themselves from the ground up, you guys share some interesting roots in terms of community and the team that you have surrounded yourself with to build Sonnder into what it is today. In terms of the members of the band, share with us how you guys came together to form the lineup from your beginnings to the present, as well as your background at The University of the Arts and your unique relationship with local producer Robby Webb that has produced such a seasoned and professional sound so early on in your careers?

RW: I started the band in April 2013 after realizing what it was that I really wanted to work hard for. Going to the University of the Arts was beneficial when needing to put a bunch of musicians together. In the beginning though, that’s all it was. A rotating crew of friends trying to do justice to some songs I wrote. It never really felt like a singular unit. There was never an underlining goal. The lineup you see today is only a little over a year old. After feeling a bunch of people out, it becomes apparent who shares similar musical beliefs and who wants to work on something bigger. That’s why it took over a year before we put out our official first EP Thief. Sonnder wasn’t a true connected band until the four of us you see now came together. The message of the music speaks for itself, and we are just lucky to have found each other. Furthermore, Robby Webb was always a close friend of mine, it just so happens that he is a brilliant sound engineer as well. In fact, I used to jam my original song ideas out with Robby long before Sonnder was ever a thought. He and I come from similar musical backgrounds, so it really just made sense for him to be part of Sonnder even if he is not a playing member of the band. Robby brings a lot of himself to the table when we are in the studio. It is nice having another mind in the room you trust that connects with the music and evolves as you do.

ROP: From where you have come from and gone to, to where you are going in the future- What is the long term vision for your band? Where do you envision yourselves, in the sense of whom you see as the current bands you will take your place alongside both in genre and in larger performances?

RW: The goal of this band is and always will be to create honest music we can personally connect to. Underneath it all, it is a vehicle or our own personal growth. It is okay if someone doesn’t like it, for the music serves its purpose nonetheless. However, we are extremely taken back and very grateful for all the support we received so far in our young career. It is a crazy-feeling having others connect to something that really is nothing other than an extension of who you are. Of course, we want to be successful and self-sustaining. This is all we want to do with our lives. We want to continue to connect with the world around us through our art. If that leads us to giant venues across the world, then awesome! If it doesn’t, I can assure you we will still be making music. For me personally, music has always been the way I could really authentically interact with the world. There is nothing else I am as passionate about. We definitely have a lot of influences ranging from Death Cab For Cutie, Radiohead, Deftones and Blink 182 to Coldplay, Circa Survive, Jimmy Eat World, and Ryan Adams. I can’t really speak on the behalf of us playing alongside or taking the place of any of those artists, but I can say we will always remain passionate about what we do and continue to challenge ourselves creatively just as those influences have.

ROP: What have been the greatest obstacles early on for you as a band that has persevered and endured the typical trials that come along with the early stretch of a new band that has grown up in-process along the way?

RW: In the beginning, we had lot of rotating members and conflicted vision on the musical direction/overall branding of the band. It takes some time to filter through all of the early stages and find the right people who share a similar vision and/or want to make the music their own. We have been lucky enough through our journey so far to have built strong relationships internally and externally to push forward as a unit. Now, we work closely with many talented artists as well to keep our music effectively represented visually. Artists such as John Fitzpatrick (JohnFTheArtist) out of Cellar Door Gallery in New Hope, PA and web/graphic designer Christopher Young have become more permanent fixtures in our machine. Musically, as it is now, Sonnder is the 4 of us plus Robby Webb. Finding the right group of people took some time, but we are proud of what we have accomplished together in just a year’s time. Over all, being noticed is always something any young band struggles with. In Philadelphia, there are a lot of great musicians and bands spanning vast genres. I always felt it was difficult for a band with our sound to fit in. It seems there are bands in our genre, but we are all independently working hard to be heard on our own rather than come together like the folk, punk, and jazz scenes of Philly do. It would be awesome to do one big festival sometime in this city that was comprised of nothing but awesome local Philly alternative indie rock bands just like how some festivals in the national circuit do it.

ROP: Your sound is constantly expanding and growing to encompass more of the creativity that bursts at the seams of this band. What might the future hold for the vocal and instrumental stylings of Sonnder?

RW: It is safe to say that we have barely touched the surface of what we want to do musically as a band. This 2015 year-long singles project is an amazing outlet for our creativity right now. Each month, we can show a different side of what naturally comes out of us. I am especially excited for the next four summer month singles! It will be nice to have material released that personally feels like a breath of fresh air based on what we have released in the past. Moreover, every song we do taps into a different emotion/energy so it is fitting that sometimes we might explore having a string quartet or even a Himalayan throat singer [laughs]. Well, maybe not a Himalayan throat singer, but we are not shy on adding unfamiliar textures to our music if it is what the song calls for. Our May single “Along The Way (I’ve Been Alive)” has some accordion on it courtesy of our buds in The Go Around. It is always exciting diving into waters you have yet to explore. Expect that to be out in a couple weeks!

ROP: On Tuesday May 12th, you will be joining Equal Vision Records artists The Dear Hunter and Northern Faces for a performance at Union Transfer here in Philadelphia. What will the show mean to you as a band that has taken a blue-collar approach to performance in the local venue circuit? Tell us a bit of what fans of Sonnder as well as new audience listeners who are being exposed to your music for the first time have to look forward to?

RW: We are excited and grateful to play alongside some bands that represent a national music scene we have always been moved by. The Dear Hunter and Northern Faces make music that influences and motivates us as artists, so it is going to be a great night to share all that energy with the crowd. Growing up in the Philly area, all of us have seen shows at Union Transfer with thoughts in the back of our heads of what it would be like to take that stage ourselves. It really is an awesome opportunity to keep pushing forward towards what we want to accomplish. We are just very thankful to everyone who has made it possible thus far! When it comes to the performance, I would say people should expect some tunes from our EP, the singles project, and some new ones. Oh yeah, and lots of sweaty dancing on stage [laughs].


Keep an ear open and an eye out for Sonnder’s monthly single-release project all year at and come out to hear them perform this Tuesday night, 7:00PM at Union Transfer in Philadelphia!

Featured Image by Christopher Young


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