It’s a wonder Wesley Bunch doesn’t write more songs about burritos. The man behind Virginia Beach’s Suburban Living, Bunch composes tight jingles of shoegazey dream-pop that are not merely about his surroundings, but entirely of them. His affection for Tex-Mex is only tangentially represented on his recent Cooper’s Dream EP, which stems from broader conversation topics like temporary poverty, David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks,” and the mundane melancholy of living in the suburbs. At times ethereal and indirect, Cooper’s Dream ultimately provides a convincing distillation of the inner tensions between comfortable appeasement and a more challenging growth process that faces just about all 20-somethings these days. Recently, Bunch sat outside of a neighborhood Chipotle to talk to Prefix about getting comfortable in the suburbs, recording solo, and trying to sound like Prince.
Is it just a matter of convenience, or are you willing to take a stand on the debate between Chipotle and Qdoba?
Chipotle all the way. I eat way too much Chipotle. Like, all those pop-culture jokes about Chipotle—I think it’s the bomb. Reasonably priced, good food; I really like Tex-Mex stuff.
How long have you been writing music?
It’s been a while, about seven years ago. I started playing out when I was 14, just some real crummy, kind of folky stuff. Then I joined this post-rock, instrumental band with some friends. And I just recently made Suburban Living my main goal. It started just as a side project—I guess you could say—from my post-rock band. It’s very different. Suburban Living is very poppy, and the instrumental band I was in was really—there are no lyrics, so there is no pop ambition to it. It was a really good time. I really liked doing it, but I don’t know.
What were your main influences to getting into more dreampop and shoegaze stuff?
I’ve always been a huge fan of, like, My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth and stuff. Even when I was in that post-rock band I would try to incorporate those kinds of sounds into our songs. But then I really got into, like, ’80s music. I got really into Prince. I started listening to a lot of Prince in my downtime, and I think there are a lot of Prince-y kind of tones, especially in the drums on the Cooper’s Dream EP. I just remember being in the studio and telling my engineer I want the drums to sound like “Purple Rain.”
That makes sense because a lot of dreampop bands seem twee by nature, and you seem to deliberately avoid that.
Yeah, I think a lot of dreampop bands always reference, like, the Cocteau Twins, and stuff like that. And I do think that’s a really big influence—I love the Cocteau Twins. But I’m really more into that cheesy ’80s stuff. Like, I listen to Exposé some times, and, just that really synth-y, dance-y stuff—just a different perspective from that same era, I suppose.
I was going to ask about non-musical influences too. Your video for “I Don’t Fit In” has pretty direct ties to Stanley Kubrick, your Bandcamp page mentions you were watching “Twin Peaks” while recording Cooper’s Dream, and even you mentioned Prince, who was really influential with videos as well.
When I really sat down and wrote that record, I had just come back from being on tour with my friend’s band, We Are Trees. We went on this month-long tour, and I didn’t quit my job to do it, but I went on hiatus at my job. And it was the summer, so when we came back I had a whole month with, like, nothing. No job, no school, I was living on my own. I was kind of broke because I had just gone on that tour, and I’d just gotten Netflix. A hurricane rolled through Virginia, so me and a few friends had this hurricane party and we watched Netflix. And we wound up watching, like, seven or eight episodes of “Twin Peaks.” And I don’t know, I just got really infatuated with it, and I finished it so fast. People just get really infatuated with TV shows, and I think it can set the tone for a record, maybe. But I try not to think it super-influenced it, it just was something that I was really heavily into at the time that played a little part in the tone of the songs and stuff; just dance-y, dark, sad lyrics and stuff.
And what about your name. Do you live in a suburb? Or did you grow up in one?
Oh yeah, totally. I live in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which is right at the southeast tip of Virginia. It’s a beach town, but when you get out of the beach area it’s just totally the suburbs. Talking, like, a Taco Bell on every corner and one big road that goes throughout the entire city, and nobody rides bikes or walks outside of the beach, they just drive. I recently just moved back in with my parents who live in this suburban neighborhood, and that’s sort of where I derived the name from. The biggest problem in that neighborhood is we have these neighbors who always lose their dogs, so I have to go out and help them find their dogs. Just these suburban melancholy problems.
I try to not let anything like a TV show influence me, but I guess it kind of happens. I’m more informed by, like, the interactions with people, and the people who float in and out of my life, and friends. Just melancholy problems too, I guess, so in that way I guess it goes along with this.
Virginia Beach sounds a lot like where I grow up, and my siblings and I all took the first opportunity we could to get out of there. Are you still living there? Do you have plans to move?
Yeah, for sure. I’m finishing my last semester of college now and after that I’m going to set my eyes on a different place, for sure. Definitely relocate the Suburban Living project. That’s a big goal for me, to kind of get out of here. It’s just so hard because it’s so easy here, and I think that happens to me and a lot of my friends is we just get complacent here because it’s so easy. And if you’re in a band—I’ve never played shows in this area, but it’s so easy to tour out of this area because it’s right on the east coast. So that’s one thing that’s, like—it’s easy to do it here, but I feel like a lot of my friends, including myself, could accomplish way more if we were in a different city and had more opportunities.
What’s the songwriting process like for you? Is it just one person or has it evolved into a larger project now?
It’s just me. Songwriting is just the normal stuff. I start with a melody or something and build on that. As of recently, I’ve started recording this full-length, and I’m incorporating actual, real drums. Everything on Cooper’s Dream is a drum machine that I did by myself because I don’t know how to play drums. It’s the only instrument I get behind that I’m, like, not good. At all. But I’ve started incorporating live drums in this record, so I’m gettinga live drummer in the studio, a friend of mine, to come in and lay down these tracks. So it’s different from before when I would just go in the studio, bring in my samples, load them in and then start tracking instruments. But now tracking drums and getting the sound that I want is kind of a feat, but it’s fun. I enjoy it.
Can you talk more about this LP? Is it going to be different from Cooper’s Dream?
It’s definitely going to have the saem dream-y vibe to it. I feel like I want to do somethign a little bit different with it, though. I feel like the abundance of dream-pop bands right now is kind of huge. Which is cool because it’s a cool genre, I like it. It’s everything I like about music. So I do want to keep that same sound, but I don’t want to make the same record. I don’t want to make something that you could just add to Cooper’s Dream to make a full-length. I think that’s why I’m working with real drums now, just trying to have it a little more mature-sounding.
Something that sounds a little more like Prince, maybe.