It’s halfway through talking to TWO SUNSETS that Sean (Butler, vocals and synths) declares of their music that “I think of it sometimes like an explosion of sound, it kind of hits you all at once… it’s that euphoric feeling.”
It’s the sort of spot-on summation that makes me feel like the duo should be writing their own feature, so aware are they of exactly what they want to achieve. And with just one single in the bag in the form of Venetian Skies, they’re clearly already adept at actually achieving those intentions; just press play on Searchlights, and you’ll be enveloped by the bleary-eyed euphoria that they’re talking about. The other half of the musical marriage, Phil (Bridges, guitar), then animatedly outlines the root of this sound as being what he calls their “collage of sound”; a sort of paradoxical tapestry of euphoria and melancholia tied together by their melodic instinct and, as he says himself, “lots of layered vocals”. The end product, Sean suggests, is what he calls “gorgeous cloud music”; an ambitious description, but the immaculate, hazy sweep of Venetian Skies is sturdy evidence for their claims. This ambition gives a sense of just how involved the duo are in the world of their music, a fact that was not lost on The Great Pop Supplement, the pioneering record label who were impressed enough to release Two Sunsets’ debut single in February and will be releasing the band’s next outing in July.
But the Liverpool-based outfit have not always pursued their music with such single-minded confidence. Only after Sandunes was written did they have the self-assurance to share their creations with the public, and Phil recalls that “once we wrote Sandunes it gave us the belief to pursue it as a worthwhile project, as we were happy with the blend of melody and sounds.” Yet Two Sunsets had existed in one form or another for years, born from the alignment of the musical minds of Sean and Phil, as the latter explains: “We were both really into the same music; I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else with such similar taste.” It’s not hard to notice traces of this well-informed musical heritage in their music, which oscillates between the direct impact of melodies, and something altogether more undefined; perhaps not surprising as the first two shared passions that they mention are 60s girl groups and synth pop. In a sense, it’s that interplay between the instantaneous and the veiled that defines their music, and never more obviously than on Venetian Skies, with the vocal hook nailed in place by blissfully warped guitars.
Yet, at the risk of sounding pretentious, Two Sunsets really are about more than just the music. It’s not without some significance that all of their tracks so far have been accompanied by striking videos, or that Phil also produces collage art under the name Low Coney. For Two Sunsets, what goes into the eyes is almost as important as what goes into the ears, for, as Sean says, “The combination of music and images definitely increases the sensory experience of consuming music.” This artistic approach is often a tightrope between being conceited and actual artistic merit, but Two Sunsets seem to be making a breeze of that balancing act, mainly because their visuals genuinely add to the music rather than simply existing as promotional devices. Take the video of Moonshadows, for example, in which grainy footage of an old fairground evokes the nostalgia of the track itself. Through these videos and the home-made art that hangs from their various pages on the internet, Two Sunsets have created a world to be immersed in which plays on the emotions as much as the ears. As Sean explains, “I think a lot of the time we talk about our music in terms of feelings rather than sounds… We’ll work together to try and recreate the feeling of watching the sun rise or something like that.” There’s definitely a sense of a need to provide stimulating imagery in a digital age, as Sean continues that art “makes it [music] less disposable. I think you’re more likely to really engage a listener on YouTube than on SoundCloud or Spotify.”
You might expect a group with such a detailed vision for their output to be control freaks, but although Two Sunsets currently do literally everything themselves, they argue that they do like doing things this way, but they wouldn’t disregard the possibility of working with like-minded people. Phil explains that, “We home record at the moment through necessity rather than a deliberate lo-fi ideal. But at the same time, it’s been ok not going through a huge production filter.” As he points out, there’s an effort not to distort the natural sound of Two Sunsets: “Our music goes through filters anyway, so if we had another filter of another person in a studio we’d get further and further away from the source.” This comes across in their music, as each track is edged by that blurry introspection characteristic of Two Sunsets, which could become diluted by the pressures and time constraints that come with professional studios and producers. Yet, at the same time, the duo are open-minded about working with people who are going to add something to their sound; in fact, it has just been confirmed that Sonic Boom is going to be mastering their next single, Katy Komatsu, and the band are understandably pleased: “We’re fans of his production work on Panda Bear’s Tomboy and MGMT’s Congratulations, so going forward it could be a good fit, as we share some intentions.”
Katy Komatsu itself, although cut from the same melancholic cloth as their previous releases, certainly re-imagines some of the band’s central aspects in new ways. It’s a vivid paean to love, still cloaked in their enigmatic fuzz, but is perhaps more direct than we’ve heard them before. As Phil says, “It’s possibly the catchiest chorus we’ve recorded so far, but our desire to create slightly out of focus dream pop/shoegaze/psych/Balearic music remains the same.” Yet, it’s still abstract enough to suggest a multitude of images with evocative lyrics like: “Sun spills in winter/pale on the shore/falling around you/burden no more.” Phil explains that the abstract approach was intentional, saying that “It’s a really surreal song about what love is… but it’s hard to put the lyrical meanings into words without trivialising them, really: we’d quite like people to interpret them and take what they want from them.” Musically, Katy Komatsu really exemplifies the breadth of Two Sunsets, and Phil continues that “If you listen to the Super Furry Animals they have such a wide variety of work on just one album. So we want to achieve a mood, certainly, but to be free to explore different avenues.” This exploratory edge is definitely something that sets the duo apart, as they have such a strong identity that they can be more ambitious and the end product will still fall under the umbrella of that Two Sunsets aesthetic. At this, Phil trails off suggestively with: “We just don’t yet know how wide that umbrella is…” But judging by how involved they are in making their music, it seems fair to assume that we’re going to find out. And that when we do, there will be pictures.