Artist On The Rise: Sideways Orange

Sideways Orange is an alt-rock trio hailing from Richmond, Virginia that has been gaining a lot of attention from their recently released ‘The 302 EP’. Despite only being a full band for a little over a year they have been taking the RVA music scene by storm, opening for acts such as The Whigs and PBR all while gearing up to hit the studio to record their first full length album this spring. The band is made up of Garrett Whitlow on guitar & vocals, Mitchell Latimer on bass and Josh Santamaria on drums and they’re using their love of all things 90’s rock as their inspiration to make music for a new generation.

Photo Credit: Ashly Covington
Photo Credit: Ashly Covington

What does the name Sideways Orange mean? Where did it come from?
GW: We always get that question right off the bat. And for that reason, you’d think I would’ve come up with a witty answer by now. But in actuality, it started off without a meaning at all. I have been doodling band names, album names, and song titles in my notebooks for as long as I can remember. Even before I could actually play an instrument. It was just something me and my friends would do for fun, and then we’d tell each other about the ones we thought were good. It sounds pretty ridiculous, but we were all completely obsessed with rock n roll bands growing up. I still do it to this day actually. But anyway, Sideways Orange was one that always stood out to me for some reason. I really liked the way it sounded, and the words created a sense of ambiguity that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. So it just kind of stuck. I think that since then it’s taken on a life of its own. I know it means something special to the three of us in the band, but I like the idea of everyone being able to create their own meaning for it. I was talking with someone after a show recently and they were telling me they thought it meant an orange (fruit) on its side. But they said there is no definitive way for an orange to lie sideways. What one person might think of the orange’s side, another person might think of as the top or bottom. I thought that was a cool way to look at it. I like for our songs to be open to interpretation in the same way. I don’t like for anything to be too surface. Whatever picture it paints in your head…that’s what Sideways Orange and our songs should mean to you.

Photo Credit: Ashly Covington

How did the band form?
JS: Garrett and I have been musical friends since we were in high school together and have continued creating music since then. One day in the summer of 2013, I finished cutting the grass and had an epiphany and decided to call Garrett to have him show me some of his latest material because he’s always writing these really catchy tunes with great lyrics. Sure enough, he had a group of songs that he had written and was working on. He made it very clear to me that he wasn’t in a rush to start a band or find other musicians. He really wanted to let things happen naturally. So we got together weekly for about six months, rehearsing those songs and perfecting them as a two-piece. Mitchell, who has also been a musical friend of Garrett’s since high school, was riding his stunt bike through the downtown alleys near our practice spot and heard us rehearsing one night. He came in to say hello, and have a beer and ended up staying and listening for a while. He liked what he heard and said that even though he was a drummer and guitarist, he’d like to buy a bass, learn how to play it, and play with us. Garrett and I talked about it after he left, and immediately knew that he was exactly what we’d want in this band. We met up with him one night a week later, on Halloween actually, and formally asked him to join the band. Mitch bought a bass and an amp on Craig’s List and we were practicing that next week. Even though I never played with Mitch ‘till this project, his influence on the band has been great. He has brought a lot of material to the plate, and we’ve really started to gel as far as our writing process goes as a group.

How would you describe your sound?
GW: Simply put, it’s rock. We incorporate a lot of different styles with our music which is a lot of fun. We put a lot of emphasis on mixing things up. I never want a song to be too punk, too poppy, too heavy, or too light. I like to contradict myself musically. If I write a really heavy riff, I like to throw a catchy, poppy vocal melody over it. Or the other way around – if I have a vocal melody that is very dark and heavy, I’ll contradict it with a poppy guitar part. It keeps the listener on their feet. The three of us will attack the song a thousand different ways before we decide which one works best. Even if we like something, we’ll try it different ways just to be sure it’s the best it can be. There are times where we’ll stumble across something that none of us expected and it works beautifully.  Other times, we’ll end up going back to the way we originally liked it, but at least we’re sure. But I definitely think the underlying theme of everything we do is definitely a rock one. It’s just the way the three of us naturally sound together. A lot of people have been calling our sound a throwback to the early 90s rock, which is definitely cool with us because we all love that stuff…well, most of it, haha. But that’s not something we’re consciously trying to emulate. It probably just comes out that way because of our influences.

Photo Credit: Ashly Covington

Speaking of influences, who are the bands biggest influences?
ML: I love Jimmy Page’s blues/rock guitar style. I’m also a big fan of some outlaw honky tonk, like Waylon Jennings. Honestly, I’m into writing Sideways Orange songs with G and Santa more than anything else right now. So my major influences at the moment are The Strokes, Nirvana, Dead Confederate, and Hardy Morris’ solo stuff.
JS: I’m inspired by a wide range of music. However, for this band I am influenced by The Beatles, Nirvana, The Strokes, and The Black Keys. I would say Keith Moon and Dave Grohl are my drummer influences as far as style and texture. Other than that I am a big fan of whatever gets people off musically, especially G and Mitch. I enjoy being able to capture beats and grooves that make them say “f*** yeah!” with big smiles on their faces.
GW: I’ll try to condense this as much as possible, because there are so many influences. I really became obsessed with music as a young kid in the early 90s when I heard bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana. I vividly remember seeing them on MTV and saying to my brother “THIS IS IT!” It’s like I had been waiting for it or something. Up to that point I didn’t really have an interest in music. Whatever mom was playing in the station wagon was what I listened to. But ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with it. To this day, both of those bands remain my biggest musical influences. Getting really into the bands from that grunge era opened the door for a lot of their own influences, like: Pixies, Fugazi, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and Black Flag. The Strokes have also made a huge impact on me. So as far as influential artists go – Eddie Vedder, Kurt Cobain, Julian Casablancas, and Shannon Hoon, to name a few.

I saw on Facebook that your ‘The 302 EP’ got pressed on vinyl, was that an exciting moment?
GW: It’s actually not pressed on vinyl, but we printed the CDs and the sleeves to kind of look like an old 7”. It’s definitely something we will do in the future with our albums though. This EP was done really just to hold people over until we record our album. We’ve already grown as songwriters and performers since then, but it’s a snapshot in time of where we were as a band in our earliest stages. But releasing it was very exciting, nonetheless. We’ve all played with bands before and recorded, but none of us have ever given something a proper release like this. We took some time to make sure it looked the way we wanted and made sure it would be a solid introduction to who we were as a band. And the response has been great so far. So it’s really exciting for us.

Are you guys recording? When can we expect to hear a full album?
: We aren’t recording yet, but we will be very shortly. We are fulfilling some show commitments before we go into the studio. When we were recording the EP, we did it a little bit at a time. So we went into the studio for a couple hours each week for several weeks. Doing it little by little like that probably wasn’t the most productive use of our time, but it was the only way our schedules allowed us to do it. So with this full length, we wanted to make sure that we would be able to dedicate as much time as possible to recording. We think that doing it this way and completely submersing ourselves into the recording process will be more conducive to making the album we know we’re capable of. We’re very excited to get these new songs out there though, so we hope things will move quickly.

Will we see Sideways Orange at any festivals this summer?
Unfortunately, no. We made an agreement as a band to lay low this summer as far as festivals go. Our top priority is getting into the studio this spring and releasing the album by mid-summer. We have really tried to keep things somewhat under the radar until we had all that stuff done, but then we kept getting offers that we couldn’t refuse. So, summer 2015 will involve a lot of work…but hopefully summer 2016 will be a complete different ball game and we will be out showing everyone what we’ve locked ourselves away working on. It’s tough though. Festivals are always so great and it seems like there is a new mega festival with an amazing lineup every time I turn around. There are even a lot of smaller festivals that are more suitable for bands like us that still have incredible lineups. It’s such a great way to get your stuff out to an audience that probably wouldn’t have come to see you if you were playing by yourself. So we definitely hope to be able to do that in the not too distant future.

Photo Credit: Ashly Covington
Photo Credit: Ashly Covington

What’s your favorite part of the Richmond music scene?
The RVA music scene is definitely blossoming. It’s an amazing thing to witness, actually. All three of us have always been a part of, and supported the scene here for years, but it really seems like it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves. Even on a national level, bands from here are getting a lot of play, and touring bands are making it a point to stop here more often. I think a lot of it can be attributed to the local venues really stepping up their game and providing great places for bands to play. There are also several different houses and garages that put on shows, which is really something that makes the scene special. Some of our favorite gigs to date have been played at house shows around The Fan area. The whole city really seems to be blossoming in terms of art, music, and culture. It’s funny, we were just talking about how much better the local scene has gotten a few nights ago. There was too much going on! There were four bands that we’re friends with and wanted to see…all playing at different venues on the same night. Now that’s definitely not an awful problem to have, but we were joking that we didn’t use to have that problem. There are just a lot of really great bands in the area nowadays. All different types of music too. If you want it, we got it.

What would be a dream venue to play?
GW: Give us a room big enough for the three of us, our instruments, and a case of Busch, and we’re happy. But no, honestly, we’re all just happy to be playing our music anywhere. The fact that people have started to take notice and come out to our shows is obviously amazing. But, we’d be doing it in our practice spot (302) regardless. A good crowd that is into it and in there sweating with you feels great though. There’s nothing quite like it. I really like to play the places that I like to go see shows from the audience.  So here in RVA, The Camel, The Broadberry, and Strange Matter are my local favorites. I’d love to play The Black Cat in Washington DC, or The 40 Watt in Athens, GA. I think those mid-size venues are always the best. Big enough to feel the energy of a lot of people, but small enough to keep it intimate.

For being a band for such a short amount of time, you’ve really gotten yourself out there. Who have you preformed with so far?
 We’ve had the opportunity to play shows with some major acts as they’ve come through the area. We’ve played shows with The Whigs (Athens, GA) several times, The Features (Nashville, TN), and next month we’ll open for Catfish and The Bottlemen (UK). Doing the big shows like this has really been great because it gets us in front of some different crowds. We were actually at a Whigs show when we decided to accept our first show offer. We had just gotten started as a 3-piece and got an offer to do an opening slot for URTH who were coming through Richmond about a month later. We were all drunk and excited watching The Whigs play and decided to do it. So we called up the booking agent and told her that we would do it, and then continued to party the rest of the night. The next day we woke up hungover along with the realization that we had to play a gig in four weeks and at the time we only had about six songs that were complete. I had several more songs written, and we all had a bunch of stuff that we had worked on, but as far as the whole band knowing every part…we had six songs. That next month we went into rush mode and were basically living in our rehearsal space. It ended up being a really positive thing. We needed a hard deadline like that to keep us motivated and moving everything forward. That’s actually what the song 302 ended up being about – about locking ourselves in that room until we had everything perfect. That was a year ago and now we’re looking at almost two full albums of material ready to record. We’ve come a long way…but we’ve got a long way to go…

Photo Credit: Ashly Covington
Photo Credit: Ashly Covington

If Sideways Orange could perform with any artist or band, who would it be and why?
Right now, probably Dead Confederate. We actually went and saw Hardy Morris and The Hard Knocks (Dead Confederate singer’s solo project) in Charlottesville and had the opportunity to chat and have a few beers with them after their set. Garrett had met Hardy a few times before, and we’ve played with their friends The Whigs several times, so after his set he found us and we went to go have some drinks down the street from the venue. The place we went to was closed, so we ended up drinking beers in my truck (which we call Club Chevy) and talked about and listened to music. He was really cool and we got along really well. I think their crowd would appreciate our music too. So, it would be awesome to do our thing and then get to watch them rock out.
JS: I’d like to play with The Black Keys. We’re all fans and I’m a huge Patrick Carney fan. The way he plays the drums is inspiring.
GW: It’s obviously a long shot, but I’d love to play with Pearl Jam. They’ve been my favorite band ever since the first time I heard them as a kid. Throughout the years they’ve really expanded into territories you might not have expected them to when they first came on the scene. They can go hard, they can go soft, they can do grooves, they can do folk, they’ve even been the backing band for rappers like Jay-Z and Cypress Hill…there’s really nothing that they can’t do. That’s really inspiring to me, and I think that since their style covers such a wide spectrum of music, we’d be able to appeal to their crowd. That’s what I’d like to think at least, haha. Over the years of going to see them, I’ve noticed that their fan base is usually pretty receptive to the opening acts they choose, so it would be cool to get out and play to an audience as big as theirs and try to win them over.

What do you want the world to know about Sideways Orange?
GW: We’re just really excited to be making the music that we’re making and that people have taken notice to it. Expressing myself through music and art is really important to me, so I wanted to make sure we did things the right way from the get go. Sometimes that can be a tough thing to do with a band because the right way definitely isn’t always the easiest way. It’s quite the opposite, actually. It’s not all fun and games. You have to be willing to put in the work. So far, it’s been great. Mitch and Santa are my brothers and I think that’s the way a band should be. We’ve had the opportunity to play shows with some major acts as they’ve come through the area.

We’re stoked to see what Sideways Orange has in store for us with their upcoming full length album. Show some support for this up and coming band by liking them on Facebook and downloading their EP on Bandcamp!