Local Wire

Sundressed to Impress: Phoenix Indie Punks Prove Emo Can Grow Up

When Phoenix songwriter Trevor Hedges formed Sundressed in 2012, he was pulled in two directions.

He had a heart for pop-punk, with its big hooks, crunchy power chords, and tight harmonies, but Sundressed was mostly a solo, acoustic enterprise. So Hedges took another route, one more in-line with other influences of his, channeling the indie-folk of Bright Eyes or Rocky Votolato.

But over time, Hedges began recruiting other players — like Garrett Tretta, Forest Waldorf, and others — and the group’s sound grew louder and faster, echoing the emotional punk of Hedges’ favorite bands: New Found Glory, Taking Back Sunday, and Saves the Day.

“I grew up loving [pop-punk] but also loving Bright Eyes,” Hedges says, polishing off an iced coffee at Cartel in Tempe, brushing his long blond hair from his face as he speaks. “At first, I didn’t know how to write for a band. But as time went on, it just kind of happened that way.”

Hedges says he considers Sundressed’s forthcoming album, A Little Less Put Together, its proper full-length debut. Due out in early spring, it’s a tightly wound, exuberant rock record. It bears traces of Hedges’ teenage emo influences, but has the kind of emotional maturity which put it in the same league as “emo revivalists” like Modern Baseball, State Champs, and Hotelier, all groups Hedges expresses admiration for.

And like those bands, Sundressed packs a melodic punch, sprightly lead guitars, and the kind of undeniably catchy songs that wouldn’t sound out of place on vintage Drive-Thru or Vagrant Records releases. But the record never condescends to listeners or tries to retrofit teenage melodrama. It’s a grown-up record, typified by the title track, where Hedges sings sweetly, “I learned how to love from all the wrong songs/Those hopeless, self-deprecating monologues.”

At 29, Hedges spends a lot of time thinking about how to write the right kind of songs, honest and healthy ones.

“I think about that a lot, actually,” Hedges says. “A lot of the earlier [Sundressed material] was really personal stuff about getting sober.”

Hedges has been sober for nearly eight years, and says his sobriety informs his songwriting and the kind of songs he writes.

“A lot of people [reached] out to me saying they were going through addiction stuff,” Hedges says. “It makes you want to touch on dark subjects but offer some kind of resolution, or at least some kind of hope, like, this sucks, but you’ll get through it.”

And while A Little Less Put Together sounds more mature than many records in its genre, that isn’t to say it doesn’t indulge in heightened emotional fare, too: “Lime Light” explores theatrical angst, “Feelings Mart” is a classic outsider anthem, and “Mill and Broadway,” about the dissolution of a relationship and moving on, is “the most honest breakup song I’ve ever written,” Hedges says.

The record demonstrates how classic emo themes might translate to the nearly-30 set. While Hedges says younger fans tend to “get it” right away, he believes the record could resonate with fans of the early- to mid-2000s material that inspired him.

“It is kind of frustrating, because I feel like we do well with younger kids … but we should be able to play in the middle of an Emo Night and people should be into it,” Hedges says.

He’ll have a chance to test that theory out soon. The band’s scheduled to play an upcoming Emo Night in February at the Echoplex in Los Angeles. But he’s not above winning the crowd over with a sure-fire pleaser.

“We might have to start with ‘At Your Funeral’ or something,” he jokes, laughing.

Chances are, one of his bruised-heart gems will do the trick just fine.

Sundressed is scheduled to perform Saturday, December 17, at Crescent Ballroom.