INTERVIEW: The Sundowners | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Hailing from England’s North West, The Sundowners’ focus is on producing vibrant psyche-folk sounds, with a tinge of shoe-gaze. With their strong familial connections to indie-rockers The Coral, the band are blessed musical talent and their live performances, such as their stunning Glastonbury set in 2013, forbid any reasonable doubt to the contrary. Their tale expands continuously, as they’ve recently announced that they will be supporting Paul Weller on his upcoming UK tour. I talked to vocalist and guitarist Niamh Rowe, who was making some jewellery at the time, about the band’s exploits.

The debut is coming out on the 9th February. How excited are you?

Yeah, two weeks! People have already got the vinyls weirdly, they got them on Saturday even though they were meant to be coming out today [26th January]. There was a problem with manufacturing, so I’m assuming that was the CDS now. I think they were just ready earlier so just sent them out as soon as we got them.

You’re releasing it via Skeleton Key Records, but I also saw some content released on Thin Skin Records.

Thin Skin we just made up because we were releasing Hummingbird ourselves, so we just made up a little record label to put it out. We just had to have a name on it. It’s pretty much what Skeleton Key turned in to, cos we weren’t having any major label interest to put anything out, so James Skelly [of The Coral] pretty much just created the label to get our stuff out. He got the ball rolling and then everyone is on it now [it is pretty much the Skelly family label].

What image would you use to describe the album?

The one that always pops up is west coast harmonies, with like a heavy psychedelic backline. I think we are quite psychedelic. Me and Fiona [Skelly, co-vocals] both love west coast harmonies and folk music anyway, so that’s where most of the melodies come from, and then the backing is quite heavy.

Me and Fiona started out playing together before the band, so we were just singing, working on our craft and getting good at singing together. There was this natural sound we made, without trying to be anything. We went a little off course, trying different styles and everything, but we went back to the folky, psychedelic sound. We are massive fans of The Byrds, who were a big inspiration for the vocal style.

What are you guys listening to currently?

We really like Broadcast, and The Soundcarriers as well. Alfie [Skelly, lead guitar] has just bought all their CDs, so we have all been listening to them. It’s well up our street anyway, a lot what we are like. Personally, I love country and folk music, so I listen to Gillian Welch and Valarie June. The boys like a different style. Our drummer Jim [Sharrock], he loves Krautrock: Can and that. Then Alfie he likes bands like Air. They all go towards the sound of the album. With the production, the things which I wouldn’t even understand, I wouldn’t even be able to hear, there’s those little things the Alfie will pick up on and put in there. The normal ear can’t pick up on it, but they’ve got these mad ears: “oh I like this bit,” “a bit low here.”

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“The one that always pops up is west coast harmonies, with like a heavy psychedelic backline. I think we are quite psychedelic”

You guys have been involved in anti-fracking campaigning.

Me and Fiona basically became aware of what was happening in America and the damage it is doing. We watched a documentary called Gasland [directed by Josh Fox in 2010] and it just showed how detrimental it is to the environment and the people. Basically, in America, they do it on these vast parts of the land where there isn’t much population and the amount of damage it caused there, pollution and to the ground water and everything. So why do they want to do it here on a tiny little island that is heavy polluted? It’s just ridiculous. It has never even proven to be safe and just because the government see a profit in it, they go ahead with it. They don’t care about anybody’s health or what damage it is doing to this country.

You organised an event in Liverpool (at the Picket, now District) for a musical campaign.

We organised a gig with Paul Malloy [of The Zutons] for loads of good bands to play. We had Dave McCabe out of The Zutons play a couple of tunes and James Skelley did. Vipers Kings and Ian Skelly and the Serpent Power, and Marvin Powell too. That was the bulk of it anyway. We got loads of good footage. Yoko Ono got involved sending us footage and tweeting things about it, trying to get it out there. It was really successful.

Fiona and Paul are still going at it, still campaigning loads. It’s pretty much going to go ahead now in this country, but we will just wait and see until people start getting poisoned and turn their back on it.

All this Band Aid thing just to raise people’s profiles for something horrible that’s happening, that’s not what we’re about. We just want people to be aware of what’s going on around them so they can have an opinion on it.

You previously said you didn’t “feel ready” to make an album. Why was that?

When we started, we were really inexperienced. We got a load of attention at the get go, but we only just started being a band. It does take a little while to get in to your natural rhythm and find what you naturally are. We could’ve done it sooner, but we didn’t have the funds. The album is what it should be right now.

What would The Sundowners have done if they were not in a band/making music?

That’s a hard question because I’m not really good at anything. I think we all have this stand point. You just have these mundane jobs until you get the money to do what you really love. It would be good if the arts and being creative paid like being a lawyer so we wouldn’t have to do all these jobs we’re not interested in.

The Sundowners will be at Newcastle Cluny 2 on Thursday 12th February. Their eponymous debut album is out on 9th February via Skeleton Key Records.

Out of common curtesy, find Niamh’s homemade jewellery by searching for IntoTheLightVintage on Etsy.

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