It's Monday night at The Casbah and Fernando Hernandez Jr. is nervous as hell. He knocks back some drinks in hopes of easing up a bit. And though the crowd has thinned out some since Northern Towns opened, the remaining 25 or so is enough to put Junior (as he's known to just about everyone) on the verge of hyperventilation.
“I get nervous before every show,” Junior says the day after the show. “I love playing live. That's where it's at for me, but, yeah, I get real tense.”
The fact that Junior is nervous at all about Sunday Times' first headlining gig at the venue seems surprising. Back in 2007, he was playing to huge crowds in his band Fifty on Their Heels. In fact, things were looking very promising for those guys: A steady local following, great press, some shows at the annual CMJ showcase in New York (the East Coast equivalent to South by Southwest) and a spot opening for The Buzzcocks in Las Vegas.
“That was when everyone was all on the same page and we were all happy,” Junior recalls. “And then a week before the show, we got bumped off. After that, our—well, my—enthusiasm started going down. There was a lot of things I was unhappy with. I wanted to do a different style of music. It was time.”
Junior thought he was out of bands for good. Resigned to just do his own thing, it took a little less than a year to realize that he wasn't being true to himself.
“I was gonna try and do my own thing, but every time I do it, I realize that I'm a band guy. I like to be part of a band. I like the unity and craziness in a band. I like the conflicts. I like all of that.”
Around the same time, bassist Ryan White and a friend were looking to start a new band. White eventually met Junior, and while the sparks weren't initially there, each says he found what he was looking for in the other.
“Yeah, I ran into that guy at Bar Pink one night, and he approached me about it, and I was like, ‘Well, we'll see how it goes,'” Junior says about meeting White. “He drove me nuts at first, but I love him now.”
“Yeah, I grew on him,” White says.
“Right, we tell each other we love each other all the time now,” Junior adds.
That love also extends to drummer Rene Romero. Junior and White initially approached Romero, Junior's childhood friend, about making some merchandise for the band. Romero reminded the guys that he also played drums and, suddenly, they had a unit. And even though they've been together barely six months, Sunday Times have already developed a sound that's unique in the scene. Not exactly punk, not exactly post-punk and almost certainly not new wave (although you can certainly dance to it), it borrows from all those genres in some regard while also adding elements of '60s rock and '80s Brit-pop. It's something new and interesting that might get them lumped onto the same bill as The Soft Pack or Apes of Wrath, but still beyond easy categorization.
“Fifty on Their Heels was post-punk stuff, but I'm more into bands like The Television Personalities and Stone Roses and stuff like that,” Junior says. “I want to do more poppy and '60s-influenced stuff. More melodies. That's where this band is going.”
Their live show feels more dynamic than fine-tuned, and you can tell they're still finding their musical balance. It's rough at times, not all the way there, but in it you see the big picture. A virginal je ne sais quoi, and an exciting sense of starting anew. Perhaps opening for The Buzzcocks in a few years, perhaps not, but certainly something special.
“It was really scary for me at first. I'm very hard on myself, and it's hard to start all over again,” Junior says. “But we're a unit. Right now, we work together, we listen to each other and we're on the same team. We all want the same thing.
“I found a lot of what I was looking for in these guys.” Sunday Times play at Soda Bar with Woven Bones on Friday, June 26. www.myspace.com/sundaytimesband