Interview with The Sunshine Underground for (sic) Magazine during their current tour, and ahead of the release of their new album.
Originally from Shropshire, before re-locating to Leeds, The Sunshine Underground sprung into public consciousness in 2006 with debut album Raise The Alarm. Its success, including hit singles ‘Commercial Breakdown’ and ‘Put You In Your Place’, still an Indie Disco favourite today, led to headline tours and festival appearances for the band. One such appearance was headlining the last everD:Percussion in Castlefield.
“It was pretty amazing! We thought it was gonna be like a small, city-centre festival,”recalls vocalist and guitarist Craig Wellington.
Readers may recall TSU’s blend of dance grooves, guitar stomps and sing-along choruses captivating the balmy August evening crowd, the perfect way to bring down Manchester’s iconic festival. Wellington continues:
“We got it through a mate that was working it. But it was a legendary event, wasn’t it?”
It certainly was. In previous years, this free festival had hosted The Buzzcocks, The Fall,Elbow and The Courteeeners, amongst many, many others. 2007 became the last due to the sheer scale of the crowds.
“The setting was amazing because it’s like a natural amphitheatre, so you could see everyone and you don’t usually get that. It was smashing to play. We’ve just recently seen some photos actually. I had no idea how big it was,” recalls guitarist Stuart Jones.
Following second album Nobody’s Coming To Save You, released in 2010, TSU appear to have been quiet.
“We’ve been away for a good three years, off the scene completely really. We’ve just finished making an album, which will be out start of next year,” explains Wellington.
Jones details their work:
“It sounds like a long time. I guess if we had stayed writing songs in the same format, maybe we would have written them quicker. But there’s a different sound on this one, it’s almost been going back to basics on how to use some new pieces of kit, so we’ve been finding our feet. It’s taken us a while but we’re pleased with it.”
“We just can’t wait to get going and do the record, and kind of independently. We’ve got a bit of a fanbase these days so we can do that initial bit without going to a record company.”
Indeed, the band have demo-ed, and largely funded and produced (latterly also with Ross Orton – Arctic Monkeys) the album themselves.
“A lot of music I listen to is by people that have recorded their own music. A lot can get lost in translation (with a producer). A lot of demos made it onto the record. The studio was a place to glue the sounds together,” offers Jones, before reassuringly adding that home recording does not have to compromise quality:
“It’s ridiculous what you can achieve.”
“(For the) first album we wrote the songs over five years and picked the best at the end. Only after that album do you think about the concept of making an album from start to finish. We were experimenting for a long time.”
So less a collection of songs, and more of an ‘album’. Jones recalls the songwriting:
“This was written at home – literally on the sofa, coffee table, keyboards out, drum machines. It doesn’t have to be written at loud volume in the rehearsal room, all banging away. It was nice.”
Previewing the album, the band released ‘It’s Only You’ earlier this year, which has almost a progressive house feel to it. Wellington describes it as:
“Sunshine Underground without any guitars. That song was a load of different samples put together. That was a stepping stone sort of song.”
Samples are a theme of the album, too:
“Rather than four lads in a room, now it’s a lot less real playing from start to finish, and lots of sampling,” continues Wellington, before Jones adds that the vocal ‘ties them all together.’
The band sound genuinely invigorated discussing their new material, with drummer Matthew Gwilt adding:
“It’s moving on, in a way. We don’t think about the past stuff that we’ve done, just about the next record.”
[sic] meets the band backstage at Gorilla in Manchester, on a tour showcasing the new songs. Tonight’s show (and this interview) is being filmed as album bonus material.
“The set is about half and half, old and new,” states Jones. “We’ve re-vamped the old songs, given them a makeover so they all sound current.”
By time of reading, TSU will have also supported Happy Mondays on their ‘Bummed’ tour, including twice at the Ritz.
“We’ve toured with them before and they asked us again,” says Wellington. Jones is looking forward to it:
“For this tour they have the full line-up. We get to meet the other characters.”
After the tours, attention will turn to releasing the album, which Gwilt and Wellington, respectively, confirm is ‘pretty much done’, requiring a ‘few tweaks here and there.’
Wellington also excitedly confirms plans for a single, tour and host of festival shows over the summer, adding that the band:
“Can’t wait to get out again!”
The new album can be preordered at: