Sunbeam Sound Machine sound exactly like what their name suggests. And frontman Nick Sowersby, the brain behind that sound, has crafted a multi-instrumental dream-pop sensation in Melbourne that is definitely going places. Five years on from previous album Wonderer, Nick has pleasantly surprised us all with three new singles, ‘Talking Distance’, which came out earlier this year and more recently 'Seems Like You've Made Up Your Mind’ and ‘Anyway Anyway’. And it was worth the wait.
We had a chat with Nick about his artistry and the process behind upcoming album Goodness Gracious.
BYO: Dream pop seems to be having a return to form. What do you like about the genre and what do you see in its future?
Nick: Well I guess [pop] is always going to be around in some form and there’s always going to be someone applying a dreamy production to it. I think it’s a good way to define my music but I don’t always feel comfortable with saying it when people ask what sort of music I make. I feel a bit silly because people are like, what’s that?
And in terms of why I like it, I guess I’m always attracted to pop genres, dream pop has layers, and I like that it’s open ended.
BYO: Was there a vision for what you want people to take away from the upcoming album?
Nick: The plan is always to record it with no real bigger picture in mind, no overarching themes, but then of course you always look back and see some things. It’s about what people turn to for stability and comfort when life gets just a little crazy. It was recorded at a slightly crazy time, and it took a long time to record so, it’s just about really trying to figure some things out.
I’m always trying to capture a feeling or an emotion more than a message, and that’s where the production, the dreamier side of things comes in. Trying to create an atmosphere for the whole song. And obviously the lyrics tell a personal story that fits in with the atmosphere the song is creating.
BYO: You said that your album came out in an exploratory way, what does your writing process look like?
Nick: Generally I write as I record. Just laying parts down and seeing where it goes. I think this time I tried to do little demos of the songs and think about it more before I started recording the final version. Generally guitar and bass first, then drums, then lyrics and vocals. I’ll have a vocal melody in mind the whole time, but finished lyrics always seem to come last. Which doesn’t go to say that they aren’t as important, but I like to have the song dictate the lyrics, rather than the lyrics dictate the song.
BYO: What do you do when you’re feeling stuck?
Nick: I think persistence is important. Usually there’s something else musical that I can do, like part of the song has been written but I haven’t recorded the proper version yet, so I do something which doesn’t require me coming up with something new. Sometimes that gets the creativity flowing or at least feels useful. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever had a period where I feel really creatively stuck, but I find that helps, just to do something that’s less creative and more nuts and bolts.
BYO: What music influences did you have that led to this album?
Nick: I had a lot. There’s this album by Talk Talk called Spirit of Eden that I listened to really obsessively while I was working on this album. There’s a composer called John Luther Adams that I got really into. And a lot of ambient music music as well. I really liked Solange’s new album. The Velvet Underground was a big influence as well, there’s a soft part of an album of theirs, that’s really stripped back, which I found inspiring.
BYO: What music influences did you have growing up?
Nick: A lot of 80’s music I think, Talking Heads, The Specials, Paul Kelly, a bit of New Order.
BYO: What can we see from you in the future?
Nick: We’ll be doing some touring once the album comes out and I’m already working on some new stuff that’ll hopefully be the next album. Really keen on their not being such a big gap between this album and the next, the sooner the better.
Stay in the loop with Sunbeam Sound Machine here: https://sunbeamsoundmachine.bandcamp.com/