By Maddie Lipe
The strumming of Ryland Bagbey’s guitar and the beat of Owen Yawn’s drum set resound throughout the worn wooden walls of an old barn located off a backroad in Banner Elk.
Lights hang on the barn ceiling, creating a warm environment as well as a personal touch added in with a skate ramp and vintage furniture.
Cigarettes @ Sunset band members, lead singer Garrett Dellinger, violinist Sarah Elizabeth Vann, bassist Wells Whitman, drummer Owen Yawn and guitarist Ryland Bagbey prepare for their upcoming shows, specifically the second annual Thaw Out Fest April 22.
After being the only band voted into Thaw Out Fest’s lineup, host organization Draba placed Cigarettes @ Sunset to open for Adam Church.
The band started recording demos three years ago with Bagbey and Dellinger as members and Yawn as the band’s producer. The band originated out of Banner Elk, where Bagbey, Dellinger and Yawn grew up.
“Ferrari,” “Boy Band” and “Great, Kid” are among the demos that the band created before they started performing in September.
Yawn had never played the drums before at the two-week mark before the band’s first show.
“He bought a drum kit and learned how to play, and we kind of just went from there,” Dellinger said.
Now, the band plays at the TApp Room, Lily’s and is gearing up to play for the second annual Thaw Out Fest after the band was voted into Draba’s lineup by folks in the High Country.
“We feel really fortunate. It’s really cool that we get to do something like that and to play for that many people,” Dellinger said.
Among the setlist for the band’s 3:15 p.m. performance will be a new song as well as the most popular songs among the band’s listeners and band members themselves.
Yawn said the band might even add in a birthday song if someone attending the festival has a birthday that day.
“We want to make sure everyone feels celebrated,” Yawn said.
Yawn sat down and talked about the upcoming show right outside the barn, which is located on the property of his childhood home.
He said he is confident that the band will deliver as far as sound goes but wants the band to put on a show that will be memorable for Thaw Out attendees.
“I want to look a little crazy because I think that will be good to stand out.”
Yawn said he hopes bandmate Dellinger will crowd surf.
“I just want to look and act as chaotic as possible while sounding tight and good,” Yawn said.
Vann, who has been playing violin since she was five years old and performed classical music most of her life, said the atmosphere Cigarettes @ Sunset brings is a lot different from the more formal setting she’s used to.
“People are quiet and sitting down and dressed up, and this isn’t,” Vann said.
Whitman, who is originally from Raleigh, recounted how he ended up playing bass guitar for Cigarettes @ Sunset. Whitman was and still is in another band named Yesdude! and offered to play bass for Cigarettes @ Sunset because they didn’t have a bassist when they first started playing shows.
The plan was for Whitman to fill in until Cigarettes at Sunset found a bassist, but he stuck around, and Whitman said one day Dellinger said, “You know you’re in now. It’s decided.”
“And I’ve been here ever since,” Whitman said.
Whitman said the band went to Wilmington recently for their first out-of-town show, but ever since the weather got colder, the band has had more recent shows at the TApp Room, Noble Kava Boone and Lily’s Snack Bar.
“They’ve been really good to us and all the bands by providing us a place to play,” Whitman said.
Each of the band members have their favorite songs to perform. For Dellinger, either “Ferrari,” which is an original or the band’s cover of “Vampire Blues” by Neil Young.
For Yawn, either “Great, Kid,” which is an original or their cover of “Lost” by Frank Ocean. Vann seconded the Frank Ocean cover as her favorite song to play in front of a live audience.
Bagbey laughed and said, “I hate all of them equally.”
Cigarettes @ Sunset released their first single “Whatever U Say” in March 2022 and has since released “Ferrari,” “Get By,”and “Misery Forever” with Yesdude!
Cigarettes @ Sunset released their first album, “Mr. Pucky and The Star Destroyers” April 7. The album is available for pre-save or pre-add on platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer.
The band’s next show is at Thaw Out April 22.
“We couldn’t have done this without everyone’s support over the last year,” Cigarettes @ Sunset posted to Instagram. “Can’t wait to see y’all at Thaw Out! We’re gonna give you everything we got!”
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