New Sounds: Boston duo sundial sample success on glowing single ‘Dive’



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From Charlie Puth and St. Vincent to Quincy Jones and Esperanza Spalding, Berklee College of Music has no doubt seen its fair share of success stories. But that kind of pressure doesn’t weigh too heavily on Jisu Kim and Dorothy Chan, the up-and-coming twosome making music as sundial.

“It’s not so much pressure, but more inspiration,” says Kim, and Chan agrees: “We really look up to those people.”

With smooth, calming vocals layered over an electronic jazz fusion, the Electronic Production and Design majors — who both produce, contribute vocals, and write the songs together — have found inspiration in artists varying from Tori Kelly and Taylor Swift to Canadian brother-sister act Tennyson.

sundial’s latest single, September’s “Dive”, shows off their catchy, melodic harmonies and clever use of sampling. “We intentionally made [‘Dive’] to sound more poppy,” they explain. “At Berklee, there’s some pressure to like certain things and dislike other things, but we love pop music.”

Snippets of passing cars, streaming water, and rustling paper blend seamlessly into the fabric of the dreamlike pop melodies they create. The appeal of their sound is grounded in honest storytelling and the sensory feelings of the world right outside your bedroom window. For most of their music, the duo starts out with production before tinkering with the words and the melody.

“[On ‘Dive’] we started out with production, but the songwriting on that took us a long time,” Chan explains. “We worked hard to really perfect the vocal production on it.”

After starting work on the new single, the pair then looked to take it a step further with incorporating the right sample. “We hear [the sound] in our heads, and then we go out and search for it,” they tell Vanyaland. “Before, it used to be the opposite, where we just thought something sounded cool and then we would try to use it in a song.”

Now more than ever, the pair are careful and meticulous about the sound they want to create. “It’s all about the sonic experience, you know?” asks Kim. “You have to think about how everything interacts with each other.”

Recently, Kim and Chan have also decided to make sundial a serious career move. “Being an artist is a full-time job,” says Kim. “And that’s something we want to take seriously. So for people who love sundial, we’re not going away.”

Check out “Dive” via Spotify below, and catch the duo perform live for a free Berklee Caf show at 160 Massachusetts Ave. this Friday (November 3).