Cast your mind back a few of years and you may remember the hype surrounding indie four-piece The Sunshine Underground. Their debut album Raise The Alarm received great critical acclaim and the band hotly tipped to become the next big thing. However a long period of inactivity resulted in the band almost disappearing into the ether. Having now released their sophomore album, Nobody’s Coming To Save You, I caught up with front man Craig Wellington and guitarist Stuart Jones to discuss their background and return to the music scene.
From early on in the interview it’s apparent that the band have worked restlessly from the start to achieve success and to build up a strong fan-base. Things began to get serious for the band when they relocated from Shrewsbury to Leeds. Jones explains the importance of the decision; ‘We moved up there with the band in mind – if we had an evening off from work we’d spend it rehearsing.’ The fresh and versatile music scene and plentiful venues gave the group a platform to unleash their energetic live performances. After the release of Raise The Alarm the band embarked on a large tour, and soon sweaty local gigs turned into festival appearances, most notably at Glastonbury. The guys thrive off their live shows and Jones speaks passionately about them, ‘It’s nice when it’s a challenge to share the bill; not everyone’s there to see you play’.
Wellington describes The Sunshine Underground as ‘a guitar band, with dance music influences’. The band’s combination of quirky offbeat rhythms and funk driven guitars resulted in them being branded as being part of the ‘new-rave’ movement alongside acts like Klaxons and Hadouken in 2007. Although the exposure was appreciated, it was not a pigeonholing the band wanted to embrace. ‘It was invented by NME, but everyone knew it was a quick label that would be extinct in six months.’
The band’s reluctance to jump on this media-constructed bandwagon was a large factor in why the group’s second album has taken so long to see the light of day. Wellington explains how they wanted to create a very different record to their first; ‘We had to try and make our own sound.’ Despite taking a long time to get their act together, Wellington is much happier with how the album came together the second time around. ‘It felt much more like making a record this time; we had more time to think about the mood we wanted’. By working with Kasabian producer Barny the band have been able to hold much more creative control over their sound in the studio. Being signed to independent label City Rockers has allowed the band time to mature since their first effort (a relative luxury compared with the pressure often imposed by major record labels).
Over the course of their break the band wrote almost thirty new songs. With regard to the final track selection Jones jokes: ‘after extensively touring the first record you think to yourself, “do I really want to be playing this song live?”‘ The result is a follow up album packed with infectious vocal hooks and soaring guitar riffs – as Wellington puts it, ‘we always like big choruses!’ I was interested in what the band thought about the changes in the music industry since they first started. ‘We’ve come to the conclusion that our album is going to get ripped illegally – everyone’s does – but in a way we don’t mind that now. Obviously it would be ace if everyone pays for it, but if someone does steal our album and likes it, hopefully they’ll pay to come to a gig, or even buy the CD’. Jones has a refreshingly positive attitude to the bleaker side of the
music industry: ‘Spotify is brilliant to be honest, the more people that hear [our record] the better’.
The band hope to be returning to the festival circuit this summer and Jones jokes that the only way they’ll manage to headline Glastonbury is by befriending and marrying festival co-organiser Emily Eavis. I’m tempted to say that The Sunshine Underground could one day headline, but judging by the inaccuracy of past predictions, I’ll just settle for a third record sometime before 2014 instead.