The Road to Summer Camp with Kevin Donohue

Do you remember the first time you came to Summer Camp Music Festival?

Kevin Donohue, the guitarist/keyboardist/driving force behind SunSquabi does. All thanks to a little thing called the Summer Camp: On The Road series. 

Supporting local and up-and-coming artists has always been an integral part of Summer Camp Music Festival. This value is what helped inspire the On The Road tour which gives bands across the country the opportunity to compete for a spot to play at Summer Camp each year. 

You may or may not know, but SunSquabi made their first debut at Summer Camp debut after they won their local Summer Camp: On The Road competition in 2013.  You can listen to a recording of their inaugural SCamp set here

Since winning their first spot at Summer Camp, SunSquabi has come back to play the festival in 2016, 2017, 2019, 2021 and will be dazzling SCampers once again at Summer Camp 2023. 

As we approach Summer Camp Music Festival’s 22nd and final year, Donohue took some time to talk to Camp Counselor Ashlee about the band’s experience competing in the On The Road contest, as well as share some other special SCamp memories. 

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Camp Counselor Ashlee Czapla: SunSquabi is no newbie to Summer Camp. You guys have played numerous times over the years, but what was everyone’s first year attending?

Kevin Donohue: Chris and I both attended Summer Camp for the first time in 2013 after we were fortunate enough to win the Summer Camp on the Road battle of the bands in Boulder at our hometown theater of The Fox. So we’ve been playing Summer Camp for 10 years.

AC: As someone who loves Summer Camp and SunSquabi, I loved learning that the On The Road contest brought you two together. How did the band prepare for that contest?

KD: We were living in Boulder at the time and Chris had read about the opportunity and was working as an intern at The Fox, where the concert would be held. He submitted us as an entry and we worked day and night to rally all of our friends and neighbors to go to the show. I’m pretty sure that Chris wore a dress as a deal to get a lot of kids to buy tickets, and he ended up selling all of those tickets and wearing the fuck out of that dress. We brought all of our friends and ended up getting selected for the slot.

AC: What did it feel like to win and how did that experience impact SunSquabi? 

KD: These kinds of events are so crucial for up-and-coming bands to break out of their shell and really rally their fans. I think at the time it pushed us to see what we were capable of inside of our own local world and then further propelled us to seeing ourselves as a national band and being able to share that feeling with people all over the country that we hadn’t played for. Definitely a massive door opener and even a lot of the groups that also played with us but didn’t win the contest, ended up playing at the festival either that year or years down the road, so it truly is amazing that  Summer Camp hosts the On The Road concert around the country still and catalyzes so many artists in the way that it catalyzed us

AC: Do you remember what it felt like to play Summer Camp that very first time? 

KD: Do you remember what it was like trying ice cream on a hot summer day for the first time? It was like that. A taste of the good life. A feeling that we had never experienced before and I think helped us realize what we were really accomplishing by pushing ourselves to travel and play music for people. Seeing all of those happy faces in such a beautiful outdoor setting really propelled us to view our music on a bigger scale.

AC: You guys are no strangers to the festival circuit. After performing at so many festivals over the years, what is something that strikes you as special about Summer Camp?

KD: Summer Camp seems to be a first time festival for a lot of people in the region. There is nothing like playing a guitar solo for that teenage kid who has never been to a festival before and seeing the look on their face like, “Did my life just change?” So there’s a lot of that energy at Scamp, as well as so many dedicated veterans guiding the experience along too. Just good people.

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AC: What is your favorite Summer Camp memory as a band?

KD: I think from a bonding perspective, it would probably be the year we didn’t get to play due to rain (I believe 2015?) So instead we shared a bottle in our van and really got into the nitty gritty of what it is we were doing as a band. Sometimes those nights are so crucial and they always happen when you don’t expect them to. The night ended with the rain clearing and us watching Big G together in the Red Barn and just hugging it out as bros.

AC: Summer Camp has a way of bringing people (and musicians) together. You guys toured with Lespecial this year and both of you will be back playing at Summer Camp this year! I wasn’t able to catch any of the shows and will forever regret that. What was a highlight from that tour for you?

KD: Honestly, every night on that tour was special. I can’t say enough about how great of people and musicians those guys are. I think a personal highlight was the last couple weeks on the East Coast, where we all really locked in and we’re jamming on each other’s sets each night. Looking forward to collaborating with them so much more in the future.

AC: Your much-anticipated album “Arise” was released in November 2022.  How does it feel to have that album out in the world now? 

KD: Such a relief to finally press that album and share it. We began work on that album as early as Fall of 2018, and it took almost 4 years to finally finish it. A few very select pieces of it finally came together through improv sessions, meaning some of these songs on Arise are the most raw form of SunSquabi that’s out there. It’s just nice to finally share it.

AC: On the topic of new music, I also know the band has been in the studio cooking up a lot of new music. What do your listeners and fans have to look forward to? 

KD: We are currently finishing a new LP due out by the end of this year, with SO many collabs to come throughout the summer in the meantime. Keep an eye out for some big sit-ins at our set at SCamp this year featuring some friends who will be on the upcoming releases!

AC: Last but not least, what words of advice do you have to share with musicians who are competing in the Summer Camp On The Road contest this year, or are just starting to make a name for themselves? 

KD: Do whatever it takes. You will get tired, you will get frustrated, you will run into obstacles. Find a solution, and be creative! If you believe you truly have something to say and share through your music, find a way to do that that feels like YOU!

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From competing for a spot at Summer Camp to becoming what many now consider a Summer Camp staple, SunSquabi’s story is a testament to staying driven and committed to your dreams. 

If you’re curious about this year’s Summer Camp: On The Road winners, you can check some of them out on our official playlist Summer Camp: The Undercards. And if you’re feeling nostalgic, you can take a walk through Summer Camp history by checking out all of our past lineups here.

For over two decades, Summer Camp Music Festival has created a special place for artists and fans to come together over a shared love of live music. And so, let’s gather once again at #SCamp23, to celebrate and cherish this last chapter as “Summer Camp Music Festival” together as we look forward to the road ahead. 

With love, 
Camp Counselor Ashlee