AP&R: How Unturned created an album that pays homage to pop punk’s VFW hall days
Welcome to AP&R, where we highlight rising artists who will soon become your new favorite.
Minneapolis-based pop-punk group Unturned are breathing new life into the genre with a perfect balance of nostalgic and progressive sounds. Forming in 2013 when founding members vocalist Parker Toyne and drummer Sam Kuchera were in high school, the two best friends dove deep into their collective influences and slowly built the band from the ground up. After years of releasing EPs and playing DIY shows around the Minnesota area, the group began to travel out of state and make a name for themselves in every city they would play, all while balancing their full-time college education. Finally, with their four-year degrees in hand, Unturned are now set to hit the ground running with their best music to date.
Nearly a decade since the band’s formation, Unturned will release their stunning debut album, Dreams of Being on Television, on the beloved indie label No Sleep Records, with plans to tour as much as possible. Dreams of Being on Television is soon to become a pop-punk classic, with songs that hark back to its VFW hall roots while incorporating its fair share of ‘90s alternative radio-rock influences.
Unturned have been around since 2013, which means you've been a band for almost 10 years. However, your debut full-length is just now coming out. What was the journey like to get here?
PARKER TOYNE: Unturned has been operating since 2013, but Sam and I really just started the band when we were freshman and sophomores in high school, so it was a very nonlinear journey for us. We really just focused on becoming the best songwriters that we could be, learning how to play live and how to operate as a band on tour. Obviously, doing our first record was always a goal, but the pieces never fell into place until we sat down to write this album. We did a bunch of EPs and really wanted to build up as much as we could before we jumped in and took on something like a record. I would say [we] really only started operating fully in 2015 or 2016. Honestly, 10 years of Sam and me playing together and all of us becoming close as best friends really laid the foundation for us to write a record the way we wanted to do it, and I think you can really hear it in the album.
SAM KUCHERA: It took a while because it was just Parker and me for two years, with friends filling in. A while after that, we added an official bass player and then added our guitarists Issac [Luedtke] and Will [Leach] so Parker could shift to just doing vocals.
It's so special to hear that you have been friends for such a long time. I imagine that makes the dynamic strong musically. Do you feel like you're all unified by a common vision?
TOYNE: I would absolutely say so. Sam and I have known each other since we were 7 or 8 years old. We both learned how to play music together, which was really formative. Everyone who is in Unturned now met through the band. We all met through the music scene, and we wouldn’t want to do this band if it wasn’t all five of us since we're so inseparable now.
I understand that you were doing the band actively during your college years. What was it like balancing the band and school?
KUCHERA: Parker and I were both in four-year universities. On the first day of each semester, I would let the professors know that I would be gone for weeks and would need to do my assignments early or while I was on tour, so juggling that was a nightmare. I remember being in the van and having my laptop set up on the merch box to get my stuff done.
TOYNE: Our heaviest time touring was at the beginning of college. We would drive overnight to get back to the cities and miss so much school already. We would get in at 6 in the morning and go straight to class at 8, so it was definitely a weird balance but also one of the best times to do it. College encourages you to chase your dreams, so we did that.
KUCHERA: We both graduated, so obviously it worked out. [Laughs.]
Tell me about your Minneapolis roots. So many amazing punk bands have come out of the scene since the early ‘80s. Is the scene still thriving?
TOYNE: It never ends and is ever-evolving. Even if one venue closes, two more pop up. There are always shows happening constantly and always new faces, which is something I have always loved about Minneapolis. People are just so stoked, especially after lockdown and the lack of live music. At house shows you are seeing 150 people in a backyard, so it’s just really thriving.
[Photo by Kay Dargen]
Switching gears, I want to dive into the band’s influences. I hear a lot of the 2010s pop-punk sound in the vein of Transit or Modern Baseball, but I also hear a distinct ‘90s alternative style in your later material, particularly with the single “WAX.”
TOYNE: When I listen to the record, it is exactly like that. I like that it sounds like a ‘90s radio-rock record. All of us grew up on Green Day, Sum 41 and blink-182, but now being in our early 20s, we started revisiting those ‘90s bands like Sugar Ray and Third Eye Blind. I feel like we found a common sound to really chase after. We wanted to write a record that is really accessible with songs that you could hear in a movie or on the radio.
How did the band link up with No Sleep Records? The label has had a hand in jump-starting the careers of scene staples such as the Wonder Years and Balance and Composure, so how does it feel to be a part of that history?
TOYNE: I think I had a hundred of those No Sleep Records stickers slapped over everything growing up. If I could go back in time and tell my 15-year-old self that we would be releasing on a label like No Sleep, I’d be really stoked about it. We got linked up with the label just through word of mouth, but the owner Chris [Hansen] got a hold of our last EP Sunk and emailed us out of the blue.
Dreams of Being on Television drops Aug. 26. Who produced the record, and what was the recording process like?
TOYNE: We worked with Corey Coffman, who is the lead singer of a band called Gleemer. We have known Gleemer, and they have been big in the Minneapolis scene for a long time. All of us collectively have listened to records he has produced, and everything he puts out has a unique and distinct sound. We knew we wanted someone to put their unique spin on the record, and Corey was the perfect person. We went out to a studio he was renting in Loveland, Colorado, and spent about 11 days out there recording the entire thing. For all of us, that 11 days working in the studio with Corey was the best experience we’ve ever had as a band.
What's next for Unturned beyond the new album?
TOYNE: We are in the early stages of planning another tour in mid- to late September or October. We’re trying to hit the ground running, play in different cities and meet new people. I think that’s really where we thrive.
SONG RECOMMENDATION: “WAX”