News Sunless ‘97: ‘We Don’t Know What Our Next Songs Will Sound Like’

Sunless ‘97 talk control, comfort-zones, and why not even they’re sure of what’s to come from the band next.

As the year commenced, DIY included London’s Sunless ‘97 amongst a cluster of new bands, together classified as a Class Of 2012. Since January, we’ve seen the likes of DZ Deathrays and Niki & The Dove putting their stamp on things with the release of debut albums. All while this fizzling of activity persists, the London trio have kept at their own pace; slowly and surely unveiling their plans. On the sunniest day of the year, with the sun blaring through windows in stuffy rooms, Jamie Milton took to Skype to chat to Ed and Alice of the band, to discuss their meticulous planning and their very gradual rise to prominence.

How have things changed for you since January, are you working on anything in particular?
Alice: The live show has been a big part of things, we’ve grown up a bit. We’ve only done around 10 or 12 shows and there’s been a lot of issues with sound but we’re definitely overcoming it all; it’s starting to feel like a slight step up from before.
Ed: The last few months have been us working out how to recreate it live, how to make the live show as good as it can be.
A: We moved from it being more of a band thing with live drums to using Ableton and making it more electronic.

So you’re relying on the electronic side of things, with a laptop as part of the show?
E: One thing that Alice was really certain about was not relying on the laptop in the sense that if it fails, the whole show fails.
A: That didn’t work out!
E: But what we’re trying to do at the moment is a long tortuous process - we want it to be more like where the computer is a secondary, backstage figure. Everything we’re doing is completely organic and we don’t have to rely on it so much. I think we’re slowly managing to find that good healthy balance.
A: We want it to feel like it’s happening there and then but at the same time, with the fact that we make music electronically, it has to be there. We’re trying to get the balance of it being a real experience but also having that background assistance.
E: And one way of doing that is that everything that comes out of the laptop, we are able to manipulate there and then.

There is a cynicism, isn’t there, with producers huddling over a laptop? They get a poor reputation.
E: It’s the most awful, boring thing to watch, isn’t it?
A: Whereas for us, every show of ours is different, and for the others watching it.

I suppose you’ve been playing live in a few showcase festivals - what’s the atmosphere like at your shows? There must be a great sense of intrigue to see if you can pull it off live.
A: I think we’ve just been so self-absorbed with it all that it’s only the last few shows we’ve done where we’re able to turn a corner and start appreciating what’s going on in the room.
E: I think those festivals that you’ve just mentioned, there’s quite strange festivals to play. They’re slightly uncomfortable. Everything we’ve got for the rest of the summer is really fun.

When it comes to playing live - the first thing I heard from you was a cover of PJ Harvey - and since then the initial attention, which was all quite online based has fleshed out with proper releases etc. What’s it been like as an evolutionary experience, so to speak?
A: I guess our online presence has evolved online because we had a few tracks on Soundcloud and that’s how someone heard it. I guess that’s how a lot of people do it.
E: It’s funny because we’re not constantly on the internet, as much as maybe we should be. I think we’re just making music in our flat - however it gets out there, it gets out there. That PJ Harvey cover was so long ago! There are pros and cons to being on the internet all the time. It’s a real good tool to communicate with people.
A: But it can take over from real life as well. There is a real world going on, aside from the internet (laughs).

Would you say that there was a certain level of mystery surrounding who you were when it all began?
E: Not intentionally.
A: We just had a few songs, no press pictures. A lot of people have mystery around them. Maybe it’s just because we didn’t have interviews for a while. We didn’t have a build-up or a record company - there was no aim or image with the intrigue.
E: It’s just taken us a while to get around to bringing these things out.
A: It’s just been a natural speed. We had the songs but we didn’t have anything else to put out there. I guess we just started with the songs and everything else followed. We didn’t turn anything down from people.

It sounds like you’ve done things at your own pace, which must be quite beneficial to how you make music.
Both: Yeah, definitely.
E: I think the whole thing for us has just been very real. We’re just lucky because it’s getting to the point where there are people who want to share our music.
A: I guess we are fairly controlling. We don’t like just handing things over for someone else to do. We’re involved with every aspect of everything, visually and everything. It’s happening at our pace because that’s as much as we can do right now.
E: Yeah because when you’re in charge of every aspect then there’s so much work to do, so it slowly rolls along.

So you’ve had no real assistance elsewhere in terms of design or anything like that?
A: I do all the artwork and the flyers for the shows. There’s no delegating. I guess we don’t know how long that can last…

It felt like a turning point for me when ‘Body Weather’ came out - a lot of people really love that song - and it felt like a real progression. Does it represent how you intend to sound in the future?
A: It definitely represents where we’re at, or where we were at in the studio at the time. It’s definitely a step forward.
E: There’s no plan though. I mean that honestly.
A: We don’t know what the next songs will sound like.
E: And that’s not an intentional thing either, like ‘wow, we’re so crazy’. I guess we’re just perceiving a lot of different influences and inspirations and we can’t really tell until we’re halfway through a song, where it’s going or what it is.
A: We have a few ideas but it all comes from so many different angles, we don’t know how it will translate in the end.

It must be exciting though to be able to go into the studio, not knowing what’s going to come out of the recordings.
E: That’s really exciting.
A: I think we’re getting more and more excited by dance music as well. We’re also thinking a lot more about the living experience when we’re writing, like how it can translate - not all the time.
E: We’re not necessarily letting this thought dictate our writing but I think just from certain things that we’ve seen live, it’s started to-
A: I think in the back of our minds now we’re wanting it to be a real experience. We want it to be a body experience.

It must be nice not to be under any pressure at all - or do you put yourselves under pressure?
A: We have a great manager. He does all the things that we can’t do. He thinks about future things that we wouldn’t at all. So he’s a great person to have there. He often has plans and ideas. So we do have plans - an album definitely will happen in some way. But we like the idea of doing little clusters of songs when they’re ready.

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