"Musical candy for the sweet-toothed; think Owl City meets Relient K... in Australia". So reads the one-line summary with which 19-year-old Daniel Throssell describes his one-man electropop act, Summertime's End. What exactly does that mean, though? "Candy is something that's nice to have, but it's sort of a taste you have to have an inclination for, and you don't always want too much of it!", Throssell explains with a laugh.
"But really, what I mean is that my stuff is really upbeat and poppy, and I say 'sweet-toothed' for those who can appreciate happy music. Thankfully, most guys know what it's like to be in love with a girl, and most girls like to hear love songs about them, so it works out pretty well." And it's a good thing, too, because love songs are not lacking in the musical repertoire of Summertime's End: "I have a beautiful girlfriend who I love to write songs for, and that kinda shows in all my work," says Throssell. "It's by far the most prevalent theme in what I write, but so far, nobody's complained!"
Indeed, the response so far to the Perth, Western Australia-based musician's work has been anything but negative. In the space of two years from the band's inception in January of 2010, Summertime's End has managed to release two full-length albums to a positive reception. December of 2010 brought the debut album, With Love From Where You're Not - a self-produced, independently released collection of nine songs about "friendship, regret, affection, faith, dreams, hope, betrayal and love". Released at the time to less than a hundred fans, popularity of the album quickly spread and in just over a year the tracks had collectively received over a quarter of a million plays on YouTube, earning a YouTube partnership and multiplying Throssell's fanbase tenfold in a matter of months. Just over a year after the release of With Love From Where You're Not, in February 2012, the sophomore effort and 'sequel' - Light And Colour - was released, this time for free. Like its predecessor, it was produced, mixed and released independently by Throssell, but this time was mastered by the up-and-coming Jared deCook of liberatingpulse. The recording and production process occurred mainly in Throssell's bedroom with a MacBook Pro, somewhat akin to Owl City's Adam Young, whom Throssell cites alongside Relient K's Matt Thiessen as his greatest musical inspiration. Light And Colour showed a marked improvement in all aspects of the music, from the songwriting to the vocal and musical performances to the mixing quality. Fans rushed to download the new, free music and the special edition of the album hit dozens of torrent sites almost instantly. But rather than worrying, Throssell took it for the compliment it was: "I guess it's kind of sad that people would reduce what little you make as a musician these days, but I had to tell myself, 'aren't I blessed to be making music that people want to torrent? Nobody steals bad music'. That was a realisation that helped me relax and even smile about the whole issue: people are just showing that they like my music."
So what exactly is it that's so appealing about Summertime's End? "I don't think I'm anything revolutionary in terms of my sound," says Throssell. "It's really just my attempt at blending two of my favourite bands' styles - Relient K and Owl City - into one electropop/acoustic/pop-punk mix. But lyrically, I think I write about topics that lots of people can relate to. My Christian faith and my relationships with friends and loved ones are extremely important to me and I sing about them a lot. I tend to be pretty honest and direct in terms of my lyrics and I think that allows people to connect really well." Perhaps what Throssell refers to is best demonstrated in electropop ditty The Art Of Succinct Compliments: "You're cute, you're sweet, you're soft, you're smart / You fill the gaps inside my heart / You're nice to hold and hard to leave / You're everything that's good to me". Cheesy? Perhaps to some. But the name of the game here is cute, unadulterated honesty, and it's a formula that seems to be working, especially in the teen-girl fan demographic. Light And Colour delves a lot deeper lyrically, with topics ranging from whimsical and tongue-in-cheek topics such as sitting on a trolley in a deserted carpark, dancing with flowers before sunrise, and falling in love with a girl out of one's league to more serious themes such as discovering purpose in a life lived for God, a farewell to a departing friend or saving a girl from suicide. Throughout the album, however, Throssell retains a bright sense of optimism, layered over a sugar-sweet blend of Beach Boys-style harmonies, acoustic instruments and synthesiser leads.
The album opens with the aptly-titled "Valentine's Day", given that release was on February 14. The song itself is an excellent introduction to the style of the album; a romantic ballad set to a blend of piano-pop-rock, orchestral arrangements and synthesisers. The vocals also display a marked improvement from the first album, with a display of harder-edged vocal mastery in the bridge. "Airport Dreams", a blatant Owl City tribute, follows with some of Throssell's more abstract lyrics accompanied by strings, synthesisers and a solid electronic beat. The tone of the album is lightened with more humorous offerings, such as "There's Room On My Trolley For Two" and "Dazzling By Design", with the latter - along with "The Sunset Conspiracy", a metaphorical musing about chasing the sun around the world - being a fully-fledged pop-punk offering. Throssell's faith is put on display with the powerful piano-based "To Light" ("Feel the love that changed your life / Know now to truly live is Christ / Let your broken spirit glow so bright / With his light"), and the ultra-catchy "Live Like You", with reverent lines ("Help me to live so Your glory shows / 'Cause how I'm alive only Heaven knows / Teach me to love them in all that I do / 'Cause God, all I want is to live like You") delivered to high-energy drums, piano, acoustic guitar and synthesisers. "Light And Colour" sees Throssell pairing with guest vocalist Roisin Mary Jane for an electropop duet, and the inspirational "More Beautiful Than You Believe" delivers a powerful message for girls with low self-esteem, through the story of saving a girl from suicide: "She looks over the balcony / Wondering who'd care if she fell / But as she jumps, I catch her / I save her sinking heart / And gradually I'll teach her how to find a brand new start". The album closes with the melancholy yet hopeful "Until Blue Skies Return", with pristine fingerpicking giving way to some of the most complex and experimental instrumentation in the album. The special edition features four bonus tracks: the moving piano ballad "When She Sails Away", which sings about a long-distance love, followed by acoustic versions of two of the most popular tracks from With Love From Where You're Not: "In Stereo" and "Away", which shines in the instrumental with its synthesisers stripped away to reveal clever vocal harmonies and Throssell's solo guitar work. Finishing the bonus tracks is a remix from closely associated musical act and friend Jesse Burns from Seasons In Oregon (formerly LoveIsElectric) who applies his production mastermind to transform the high-octane pop-punk track "Dazzling By Design" into a characteristically poppy electronic tune, complete with a clubby kick drum outro to usher out the record. Throughout it all, the album never lets up for a 'filler' song - fan votes on favourite tracks show an even spread throughout all the album's tracks. It's a testament to the quality of the songwriting that each song on the album is able to stand up as a solid track in its own right. In terms of the songs, Summertime's End appears to be getting it all right.
If the music's good, then, why the relative obscurity? Claims Throssell, "I think it's clear from the response I've seen already that people do respond well to this kind of music - the problem is getting it to them in this super-saturated modern music industry." It's a claim that's hard to deny - such bright, poppy music is highly polarising, as can be seen by listener responses to influences Owl City and Relient K, and yet the reaction to this music is overwhelmingly positive; a fact evident from fan interactions and comments on various social media. Furthermore, it's a different kind of fan that's drawn to this kind of music; not the regular listener who has a few tracks on their iPod, but a culture of young listeners who really relate to the music they hear, and are passionately involved. And with a fanbase that's exponentially increased since the release of the first album, and live shows coming up for the first time in the band's history, it's not difficult to foresee Summertime's End becoming a bigger act over the next few years. "I used to get excited when one of my songs would be played overnight on Myspace," recalls Throssell. "Now one of my songs gets streamed online on average once a minute around the world. It's been a huge blessing to even get this far. I never dreamed that anyone other than myself would be hearing my music, so it's absolutely incredible. I'm under no illusions about being big-time, but I'm truly happy where I am now, and I trust that wherever God wants me to be, he'll put me there. I'm just so excited about the opportunity I have to be a witness through my music, and I can't wait to see what's in store for me as a musician".