Gunshine hails from the panhandle of Florida, offering a breath of fresh air to the rock scene. The band was conceived by Daytona Beach native and New Years Day ax man Austin Ingerman, who, as a result of the world shutting down during the pandemic, suddenly found himself off the road and eager to carry out his vision of forming a fresh, edgy rock n’ roll band.
Drummer James Renshaw was the first to join GUNSHINE, followed by Jordan Benson, a distant cousin to Elvis Presley, who became the band’s lead singer. Jordan then brought in a longtime friend, and talented multi-instrumentalist Pat Brown who embraced the position of bassist and piano. With Ingerman as lead guitar and vocals, this dynamic foursome lays down face-melting guitar solos, catchy riffs, soaring vocals and a lethal rhythm section which all come together to create a sonic boom harkening back to a time when music was raw, blisteringly energetic, and loud. Gunshine recorded their debut album in Las Vegas with producer/engineer Chris Collier (Korn, Mick Mars, Whitesnake, Lynchmob, Prong).
In this interview exclusive to WEHO TIMES, we talk about it all. A musical love child conceived during the pandemic. These Rock gods will restore any disbelief that Rock N Roll is here to stay. The best way to sample them is live.
Michael Holdaway: The basics- where are y’all from?
Austin Ingerman: Born in Daytona Beach Florida, Lived in Alabama, Pensacola Fl., then Hollywood California for 3 years where I attended Musicians Institute- MI.
Jordan Brown: Born in Central Florida and raised by my mother in upstate South Carolina. However, I’ve lived all over the US.
Pat Benson: born in Monterey California, but grew up in Germany, North Carolina and since 2016 Florida.
James Renshaw: Born in Alabama. When I graduated high school, I moved to Nashville then Florida and all over while touring.
MH: Austin, what was that like moving from Alabama to Hollywood?
AI: Gunshine recorded their debut album in Las Vegas with producer/engineer Chris Collier (Korn, Mick Mars, Whitesnake, Lynchmob, Prong). Well, the speed of the city was evident immediately. I learned to punch it on a yellow light, pull out from a parking spot quickly and give myself 3 hours to get to Rock N Roll Ralphs to grocery shop. I was ready for the big city!
MH: What music was playing in your home as youth and who was playing it?
PB: When I was very young my grandmother played country music and a lot of Willi Nelson.
JR: Both my parents had good taste in Music, my mom played bands like Green Day, Alanis Morrisette, then my dad played Metal, Megadeath, Pantera and Van Halen.
AI: My dad played everything from KC & the Sunshine Band, Ozzy, Boston and Brittany Spears to boy bands, Australian and African music. He exposed me to everything.
MH: Jordan, You’re the Distant cousin of Elvis. Let’s hear it!
JB: Elvis’s grandmother Minnie May Hood had a brother named Harrison Hood who is my Great, Great Grandfather. So, Elvis is a distant cousin a few generations removed. My cousin is the King of Rock N Roll!
MH: Your musical influences?
PB: Green Day and Van Halen were huge influences of mine. In 2002, when I was 15. We lived in the country without internet, so, when I first heard Van Halen on the radio, I thought they were a new band. I remember thinking ‘These guys are going to be huge.’ I didn’t know at the time I was a few decades behind.
MH: Late, but you had a good ear for discovering talent.
JR: Neal Peart/Rush, Keith Moon/The Who, John Bonham/Led Zeppelin.
PB: My grandmother playing guitar and BB King’s performance on TV when I was a kid blew me away.
MH: Austin and James you had an idea, intuitively for a band and creatively had the inspiration for the music. What happened next?
AI: well, we had the music and were compelled to lay tracks down even though we didn’t have a singer yet. However, we knew that we would know when the right person showed up. You have so many boxes to check. Do they have a good voice? A great attitude, a look, etc. it’s hard. So, for five years we just recorded the tracks instrumentally.
JR: Yeah, we searched the country looking for a singer for 3 years. They were all great, but we were very specific. I was burnt out auditioning singers by the time Jordan showed up. We gave Jordan the music to “Wall Said to Call.” I didn’t even go to that audition. He wrote the lyrics on the spot, and we knew he was our singer.
JB: Yeah, from day one we had a strong connection. We knew we had something. We immediately went into writing sessions together and finished an album before we knew what we were going to call ourselves.
MH: How did you come up with the band’s name?
JB: Were from Florida and back in the 80’s it was called “The Gunshine State” because it’s shaped like a gun. It was Austin’s Idea and I think I even said “naaaa” when he proposed it. Then I change my mind.
MH: You guys are excellent performers and put on a spectacular live show. Can you name any musicians who’ve influenced your performance chops?
JR: Personally, most of it is from a decade of playing on stage. Pure experience.
AI: Neal Schon. I love the way he combines melody and technique in a unique way. He can play anything, bluesy with great melodies. I got to jam with his son Nyle Schon. I remember at a gig someone said to me” You have to smile more; you have a great smile.” So, I’m conscious of that. Smiling always looks better and connects you to your audience.
MH: Jordan, there is a lot of pressure on the lead singer to carry a live show. Are there any artists that influence your performance style?
JB: I’ve always been a Journey fan and have drawn inspiration from Steve Perry. Also, I’m a huge ACDC fan as well.
MH: AC/DC with Bon Scott or Brian Johnson?
JB: both… they’re both a little gritty, down and dirty rock n roll performers. Brian is a little more sophisticated.
MH: Austin, you’ve mentioned that you often hear vocal melodies in your head and that starts your songwriting process.
AI: I think of it as Meditative; it usually happens when I am clear headed. After I get the melody, I picture a band on stage as if I were in the audience. I put the question out, where would the Melody belong in this song and craft it from there. There are so many options and directions to go I do not like to get too mathematical. I want the song to tell me what to do. I try and draw from intuition.
MH: The great Chris Collier produced your first album, and you consider him a fifth band mate? How was he to work with?
AI: I met Chris when I lived in Hollywood. He’s a phenomenal producer, engineer, and multi-instrumentalist. He produced a bunch of Korn records, Lynch Mobs, White Snake to name a few. Easy going, nice guy and intelligent. We have a great chemistry with him. He played bass on our first album, before we had Pat.
MH: Jordan, can I get a little personal? Can you talk about your slight stutter and how that has affected your singing career?
JB: Yeah, I don’t mind talking about it. I have a slight stutter with words or sentences that begin with a vowel. When I was little, there was a time when I couldn’t even speak, it was so bad. I had to learn how to focus on my diction and enunciation.
MH: I’m so impressed that you’ve worked around that obstacle and your voice and words are the instrument for which you make a living.
JB: it’s a different part of your brain that you use to sing, so it is not a problem. I like encouraging children who stutter to work through it and not place limitations on what they can do with their lives. It’s just a hiccup.
MH: One of my favorite people, music lawyer Dina LaPolt, has said to me in the past ‘The labels won’t even sign an artist who doesn’t have 1 million social media followers.’ What happens if you’re a talented artist without a million followers?
JR: The music industry changes every year. Right now it is definitely about the numbers, social followers, streaming numbers etc.
PB: I was hesitant about social media, but I see how it has benefited us. We’re se establishing a great fan base who really get us and selling merch. What has helped build an audience is listening to what they want, instead of what we think they want. They like to see us perform live.
AI: Yeah, It’s frustrating. There are all kinds of psychological things happening in your head when starting a new band. I’ve heard things like ‘well we haven’t heard of you.’ I thought, like, that was a bad thing? I want to say, well of course you haven’t, we’re a new band. Or someone said, ‘They sound great, but they only have 4k followers, so they must not be that great.’ Could it be that were just new?
That being said, it’s the lay of the land right now. We decided we must do whatever it takes. So, we started posting every day. We increased our followers by 15k since the beginning of the year and 3 of our videos have over 500k views.
MH: which of your songs has the biggest streaming numbers? I’m personally a big fan of ‘Feel Alright.’
AI: well, ‘Feel Alright’ is doing great. But our best numbers are with ‘Wall Said To Call.’ It also came out first. They are both fun rock songs that I’m proud of. We have a new single that just came out called ‘Swing Away’ its aggressive. We are super excited about our 5-song EP that comes out in a couple of days, April 27th. I think it really shows our versatility and depth because each song kind of has its own thing going on. Everything from this EP was recorded with Chris Collier at the famous Hideout recording studio in Las Vegas.
MH: Sex Drugs and Rock N Roll. You jump on your first big tour like you did with the band New Year’s Day, how did you balance it all when everyone around you might be getting crazy?
AI: I think the times are different than how they may have been in the past. It’s funny my audition with NYD they asked me questions about my drinking, looking back, probably to make sure I wasn’t a partier. In the 80’s they might have asked the same questions to make sure you were a partier. My experience in the touring world, most bands are very professional. When you go day in day out, performing it takes a toll on your body. You must have a clear head to pull it off.
There is a much bigger health and fitness movement in the music community than ever before.
Thank you GUNSHINE for your contribution to Rock N Roll and for the interview. Please follow them on all social media platforms and streaming services and get their new EP on 4/28.
“SWING AWAY” (official music video)
Thank you, Copy editor: Pat Dixon