Our March Spotlight Artist is Sentinel! This Oakland trio self-produces all their tracks and is fast on the rise with their ‘dream-pop’ sound. Check out our exclusive Q&A with the band to hear about their DIY music process, how they got started, and their latest EP ‘Points of Light’!
How did you get started in music?
Dennis started playing music in high school when he taught himself guitar and started and fronted a rock band with some friends from high school. They wrote all original songs and performed in Long Beach and Los Angeles. I (Tarabud) began an interest in music in elementary school learning violin, then later teaching myself guitar from a Beatles song book, and all the while joining school choirs all up through High School. When we first started Sentinel as one of his side projects, I was only singing. It was not till Dennis encouraged me to play bass out of necessity that Sentinel came together for live shows. Singing had always been the most natural thing, but learning to sing and play bass was a whole other animal. Lots of practice was needed! Billy picked the drums up after a few lesson once he moved to the Bay Area from Colorado. Since then he played in several local indie bands till we all met and he joined Sentinel in 2010.
As an indie artist, tell us what’s involved in the self-releasing process of getting your music out there?
Self-releasing all Sentinel albums has been quite a huge endeavor for us. We write original music pretty much starting with acoustic guitar, or a piano melody and build from there. Usually lyrics come last. When we have a certain amount of songs we feel good about we begin recording. We have done live drums recording in PopSmear studios, for previous albums, but mostly we have recorded all our albums in our home studio. Dennis being a pro recording engineer; we get our signature sound from his skills. At the end of that process, we often send completed albums for mastering. Finally, we create the art work, often with Billy’s help in graphic design, and of course, get CD’s printed. For an indie band like us, we often struggle to be heard by the masses, but we have built up quite a following over the years of doing on-line promotion ourselves, and with the support of podcasters around the world, not to mention DJ support from college radio stations across the US and our very own Bay Area tastemakers like the influential Aaron Axelsen of Live105 FM, somehow we get our music out!
What’s the music scene like in Oakland/the Bay Area?
The local bay area is a great place to start a new music project. People are hungry for new music in various genres. It is a very vibrant music scene.
If you could go on tour with any artist (past or present) who would it be?
Dennis would dream of going on tour with the band U2 or Flock Of Seagulls, or currently with Metric. I myself would have liked Blondie, and currently with The Joy Formidable, a UK band I just love.
What’s your ‘go-to’ karaoke song?
I personally cannot do karaoke, but if forced to by friends and drinks, maybe Pat Benatar. I have seen Dennis do The Smith’s very well!
WorldArts is all about giving tools and opportunities to artists. What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
We would say music should always be inspiring you. It keeps us young and free doing what we love. Don’t give up on your dream just keep writing music and sharing it through the Internet and playing shows, because your song might be the one that saves someone. If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
We would change how little recognition and distribution opportunities there are for unsigned bands in US. In Canada there is much more support for the arts of all kinds. If it was more about supporting the arts, rather than making super stars, we would hear much more variety on radios and on TV.
What is the best way you’ve found to market yourself as an artist?
I feel that Twitter is the best platform currently for independent artist doing self-promotion. Also I would include the website TheSixtyOne where listeners are very engaged. I now include WorldArts website as a newest platform that promotes music like ours.
What can you tell us about your latest EP, ‘Points of Light’?
The 10 song album was written in spring and summer of 2015 from some ideas we had noted but hadn’t developed. So basically, we selected the 10 best songs from a total of 30 we hand written. These lyrics felt very meaningful to us as we were writing them. The song “Counting Stars” is a highlight for us, it culminates a beautiful sound with uplifting lyrical quality, in the way we imagined. We are very proud of our latest album, each song being dear to us.
What next on the horizon for you?
On the horizon…we imagine playing more shows, doing more live sessions on college radio, and touring the West Coast!