Sunstack Jones on signing to Mai 68, the value of albums and preview of new single – How It All Went Down

Sunstack Jones delayed the release of their fourth album, Golden Repair, as a result of Covid 19, but it will see the light of day next month. In the meantime, there is a brace of teaser singles to ease the pain.

Of. course, Sunstack Jones are by no means the only band to have had their plans screwed by Covid 19.

Their album, Golden Repair, was all ready to go – recorded, artwork done, gigs lined up and scheduled for a release in May this year. And then the shit hit the fan.

Not being able to tour to promote the album, the band decided and / or were forced, to delay the release. Finally, we have a date when it should hit the shelves of your fave record shop – 9 October 2020.

It has been preceded by two single releases. Glass Boat, earlier in the year and, now, How It All Went Down, due out on 11 September 2020, but we have an advance video link at the bottom of the page.

How It All Went Down is about acceptance of where you are in life and not looking back, throwing the rose tinted glasses on the floor and stepping on them.

It became obvious quite quickly that this would be a single on the next
record, playing it at shows always created a good vibe that carried
through into the studio where it was recorded it live. Simon Jones [Mai 68] had actually heard an early incarnation of the track whilst sitting in on a
rehearsal months before and pinpointed it as a stand out single. And so it is.

How It All Went Down

We caught up with the band’s bass player Jules for a chat about the band and the new album.

P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?

Jules: I’m in Wavertree, Liverpool. In the house, been in work, come home, just finished me tea, and now sat on the couch.

[Jules later emailed us and asked if he could change that answer to: “waiting around all day for Everton to announce James Rodriguez“]

P3dro: Tell us a bit about the band, because we gather it’s quite a revolving collective of people.

Jules: It started out that way, but for the last couple of years it’s kind of settled down into more of a defined line up.

I think it started with Chrissie. I used to play with Chrissie in another band, and then with Richy in another band. Then I went off travelling so we ended that band. They then thought “Let’s make a record”. So, there was Chrissie and his mate Lorcan, who had gone to uni together, they used to mess around making music, but hadn’t ever really done anything with it.

So, when Lorc’s band split up, Chrissie was, like “Come and play some guitar on this record I’m gonna make”. So, it started as a project to make a record, basically. And then Chrissie roped Richy into doing some drums on it. It was just the three of them on the first record [Surefire Ways to Sweeten the Mind]. Chrissie played most of the bass on this record as well.

Then they got Dan in to play bass on the second record [Roam]. He left after that, although he does play bass on some of the tracks on the third album [Sunstack Jones]. But he had his own solo thing going on.

That was the point at which Dave and I joined the band. I think Dave went to school with Chrissie. I first met Chrissie in a place called The Kif, which was like this crazy 24 hour rehearsal / jam / hippy / communal place in Liverpool where all these weird bands used to play at, like, 4 in the morning.

[Once] Dave and I had joined the band, that’s when it all settled into a proper line up, really. There was Cheryl, who also sang on a few of the songs. So, yeah, there’s been a lot of members.

P3dro: That’s quite a family tree.

Sunstack Jones

Jules: Yeah, in the last couple of years, with Dave on guitar and me on bass, we made an EP, finished off the third album and now we’ve finished this 4th album [Golden Repair].

P3dro: That was due for release earlier in the year. In May?

Jules: I think it was due for June. It was all pencilled in, ready to go. Everything finished, recorded, mastered, all the artwork done, everything finalised and ready to go to print. And then all this happened.

The record plants shut down. So, we couldn’t press anything. We couldn’t play any gigs. So, we thought “What’s the point of putting it out when we can’t promote it or sell it at gigs”.

So, we decided we’d still put a single [Glass Boat] out, just to keep people interested. And then delay the album until everything starts up again. There was an idea at one point that we may have put it out digitally , but we felt that might have watered down the release a bit. We very much prefer to send records out in the post, rather than be about downloads and streaming.

P3dro: I know what I think of your sound, and I am prepared to tell you. But …

Jules: Ha! Go for it.

P3dro: How do you describe it?

Jules: North / west coast psychedelia / folk. Everything really. Shoegaze, or something. There’s a bit of California in there, but also a bit of the pissing rain of north west England.

P3dro: Actually, that’s not a million miles away from what I would have said. Psychedelic Americana is what I have heard.

Jules: Yeah, that’s probably pretty accurate.

P3dro: Where do you think that comes from?

Jules: The way Chrissie writes his melodies and the guitar parts – a lot of it comes from that west coast California [style] – Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, that kind of stuff. And I guess more recent stuff like Beachwood Sparks.

But then Dave’s more like a straight up rock ‘n’ roll guitarist. He’s into Keith Richards, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Hendrix. And then we have Lorc, who listens to funk music and all kinds of soul music, so that comes [as well]. But then he’s also into his delay and reverb [pedals]. I think his guitar sound is almost orchestral and that gives that kind of weird shoegazy / psych thing as well.

P3dro: I think that’s quite interesting as I’ve spoken to quite a lot of bands recently and even some of the more heavy, thrash punk bands will be saying all their influences come from many different places. Even as way out there as 70s disco, jazz. There’s a lot a group of people can bring to the table.

Jules: Yeah, I think having three very different guitar styles, and then having a lot of the music I listen to as a bass player, like 60s, 70s, pretty straight guitar playing. And then Richy’s quite into Nirvana – he’s a bit of a heavier drummer. I guess bands are a bit more eclectic these days, maybe.

Bands aren’t trying to market themselves in terms of fitting into any particular category. There’s a lot of messing around in rehearsal studios and seeing what they come up with.

There’s a new song we’ve just been messing with – not on this album – but we’ll probably start playing it live pretty soon at a few gigs. It sounds a bit Hip Hop, as cringeworthy as that is for 5 white fellas, but has definite Hip Hop drumming and guitar lines, although with harmonies in the singing.

P3dro: How’s lockdown been? Have you managed to be creative?

Jules: We’ve been very strict about following the lockdown rules and staying apart from each other. Richy’s wife was pregnant so he didn’t want to be around the band and risk transmission. Dave and I both work in social care settings, so we’re coming into contact with a lot of vulnerable people at work. There was the chance we could carry it [and pass it on].

P3dro: Were you able to work [as the band], remotely, put stuff on video, or sending tracks to each other?

Jules: Probably for the last three years, most of our stuff was done remotely. Chrissie lived in London, so he was putting demos together, sending them to Lorc, he was putting guitar on them, then sending them to us and we were putting our bits on.

Then [Chrissie] moved back [to Liverpool] and that’s when we could start to rehearse every week and that’s when we became more of a live band again. That’s where this new album came from – playing live all the time. There’s a lot more dynamic in the new record because we’re just playing live together a lot more. It’s not like [being] on a straight train track. Musically we can go off in different tangents, exchange [ideas] which you can really only do in a live rehearsal room.

Sunstack Jones

P3dro: What about gigs? Had you had any planned?

Jules: Yeah, that was the hardest part, probably. We had about 10 gigs booked around the release of the album. We were going down to the Heavenly Social in London – we were really looking forward to that, with the rest of the bands from the label. We were in talks about a festival in Holland, in touch with people in Berlin and Belgium as well. Chrissie was in touch with some people in Paris as well, so we were sorting out a little European jaunt. As well as the usual Manchester, London, Leeds, Liverpool. So, we were trying to get out in Europe, but that all came to a halt.

We’re doing Phase One [Liverpool] in November 2020 – that’s going to be strange being the way it is at the minute, but we’ll give it a go.

P3dro: That’s the Mai 68 Live Showcase isn’t it?

Jules: Yeah, it is.

P3dro: What was the attraction of Mai 68 [as a record label] for you?

Jules: We’d recorded the album and we had it ready. We were talking about trying to shop it to some more established labels … but Si [Jones, of Mai 68] was so enthusiastic. He and Sally, his wife, both loved the band. They’ve been supporters of ours for a long time. Si gave us a manifesto of how he’s running the label and his grand ideas for it. He sold it to us, really.

Instead of us having to chase someone and them not being that enthusiastic – even if we had got a ‘decent’ label to release it, I think just that he was going to be so behind it, Si’s sheer enthusiasm for it and having someone that vocal outside of the band and being supportive of us was kind of a big deal. The way they wanted to go fitted with how we wanted to go as a band as well. So it was great timing.

P3dro: The band has been quoted in the past as saying they don’t promote very well. They don’t appear to be that interested in social media? Digging around on Facebook, it’s not easy to find what the band’s about.

Jules: I guess we’re trying to improve in that way.

P3dro: Is that where [Mai 68] comes in?

Jules: Yeah, he does help in that way, it’s good to have someone else who’s bigging it all up, rather than us trying to do it all ourselves. That just doesn’t come across as great, does it?

I guess the kind of people that we are appealing to are the people who go to gigs and people who buy records, people who listen to the radio. Not necessarily people who are into the social media thing.

We’re word of mouth. Probably a bit more traditional in that way. We’d rather sell records than have this many streams, get 1,000s of streams and get, like £0.03 for it. Whereas we can sell a record on BandCamp and get £20 for it – that’s one person giving you £20. We try and use BandCamp for physical sales – that’s where we we’ve had the most success.

P3dro: Are there any plans for an album after Golden Repair?

Jules: Oh, yeah. The way it always happens. We start off with one or two tunes. And then it’s “Shall we put a single out?” Then it goes to three or four and we’re: “Shall we put an EP out?” We’ve probably got about five or six by now. So we’ll probably end up with about 15 or 20 to whittle down into another album. There’s been talk of doing a double [album] as well.

P3dro: Really? That’s very prog isn’t it?

Jules: Yeah, definitely. I think for Golden Repair, we had to cut maybe three or four songs from the sessions. So, we still have those songs to work on as well. So, with those and the new stuff, we have pretty much a new album.

Sunstack Jones

P3dro: Do you see yourselves as an album band, or do you think the album is dying out and singles are the way to go?

Jules: Commercially, the album might be dying out. But, not to be wanky, artistically, the album has always been what it’s about. We do this to make albums. The manifesto of the band, before I even [joined] was about making [albums]. That’s what the band started as – they wanted to make an [album], pressed on 12″ vinyl and put it out.

As much as I enjoy making a playlist for the car, it’s always about albums. It is for me, anyway.

P3dro: Recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now.

Jules: Probably, the album that I’ve been playing most in the last few months is the Better Oblivion Community Center from Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridges. I’ve been hammering that. It’s Americana a bit. Folky a bit. It’s the two voices all the way through – it’s brilliant. Check it out!

P3dro: Just before we sign out, is there anything else you want to tell us?

Jules: Have you got any albums to recommend that you’ve been listening to? I’m curious. [This is a first – nobody has ever fired that question back at us]

P3dro: Ha! I’ll just check my playlist. Ribbons by SPQR. All We Are, Providence. And I’ll tell you the one that really surprised me was the new album by The Pretenders – Hate for Sale – and I reckon it’s a perfect rock ‘n’ roll album – it’s absolutely the way to get your point across in half an hour.

Jules: The single’s out this Friday.

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