On the surface at least, it may seem that until recently SUN DRUMS had been largely inactive for the best part of a year, with live performances and new recordings proving few and far between.
However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Holed away in their shared house, the band have been writing and recording their debut, self-titled EP for months on end; toiling with the minute details and intent on making the record as grand as it could be. With the recordings mixed, mastered and (courtesy of Everybody’s Stalking Recordings) sitting comfortably on the shelves of Rough Trade no less, it is evident that all the hard work has paid off. Perhaps there was never any doubt that the band would successfully bring the EP to its conclusion, but sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel seemed a long way off: “(When working on the songs) it was hard to think or talk about other stuff. It was a bit intense. There’s not much sunlight involved in Sun Drums”.
As I speak to Tom, Sam and Jacob over a winter-warmer in MelloMello, the camaraderie and closeness they have developed throughout the writing process manifests itself in finishing each other’s sentences, and bouts of incredulous laughter regarding the efforts they have gone to in order to get the right sound. Hindered by crashing laptops and technical glitches, the process has been a challenging one. “The logistics that got in the way made it difficult. Waiting for laptops to load was a nightmare and our computers packed up when trying to bounce it.” For those who dismiss the use of laptops in music as a cop-out, by pushing machines to the limits of their ability Sun Drums have shown that they can be as temperamental, fickle and thus capable of spontaneous results and happy accidents as an electric guitar or drum kit. The most prominent evocation upon listening to the EP is texture and lots of it. “We have a tendency to layer things up to make them sound as massive as possible, to generate a sense of drama. Complete self indulgence is what we specialise in”. Whilst the term ‘self indulgence’ may ring alarm bells (how ever tongue-in-cheek the comment) and evoke thoughts of lengthy prog rock songs, in the case of Sun Drums it manifests itself in added sonic depth rather than excess noodling. “There’s so much on the record that is just used as ambient textures and sound-scaping, a lot of which you probably can’t even hear”.
This attention to detail shows a strong belief in what they do, yet after dedicating so much time and effort to the music, the band remain remarkably candid and realistic about its marketability: “It’s nuts how four or five songs can be your life for such a long time and you care about them probably more than anyone else ever will”. This is not a show of self-defeatism, more an acceptance and a realisation of why an artist creates: for their own pleasure and personal development. It is when bands take on this attitude, this sense of humility, that music becomes interesting, progressive and perhaps even more real. Sun Drums were keen to get the songs onto vinyl, allowing for the best possible audio quality as well as the satisfaction of having a physical reward for their efforts. “The record acts as closure and is the culmination of a year of hard work. The CD is on its way to being obsolete and it’s romantic – the idea that your blood, sweat and tears are pressed into a record”.
Having reared their head at a time when the city is seemingly awash with venue closures and noise abatements, Sun Drums are not particularly worried, and believe the culture of the city to be in rude health. “It’s not brilliant to see music venues closing but I think the good ones are still here. The ones that have that sense of community – not the bars; they are the good ones. This little art community is fantastic and would rival anywhere in the country.
After a year of graft, Sun Drums have cut to wax a collection of songs that are dense, rich and saturated with the sound of late nights and dark cityscapes; and that hold a deep atmospheric intensity. With that chapter complete, the band are keen to avoid stagnation and are already writing new material. Whether we are made to wait weeks, months or even years, it’s a fair bet that it will be worth it.