ALL BAND PHOTOS: Hush Photography
I have been spending time with the awesome-foursome…
of Sunstreets. They chat about their new single, Only Time Will Tell, and whether there is going to be more material coming. I ask the Southampton band how they found one another and if they have plans regarding gigs and performing. They tell me about their musical upbringings and favourite artists; what Southampton is like for music – they offer advice for new artists emerging.
I ask them about Paul Simon’s performance retirement and whether they have views on that; how important independent venues are; if they struggle to stay optimistic in a busy and hard scene; what this week has been like for them – and whether they get chance to chill away from music.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi. We are all well, thank you - and our week has been great! We were rehearsing hard in the lead up to Icebreaker Festival which was held on Saturday (3rd February). We had such a great a time and had a really lovely crowd; we played lots of new material - which seemed to go down - well so we’re all happy!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
We are a four-piece Pop/Rock band from Southampton called Sunstreets - made up of Lisa Vibert (Vocals), Matt Cook (Guitar); Jamie Rendall (Bass) and Sam Turner (Drums). To sum up our sound: it’s very guitar-driven with strong riffs stemming from our Rock roots; combined with a rhythm acoustic guitar - to create a unique softer feel to fit alongside female vocals. All our songs have a strong lyrical meaning, which is influenced by the music we grew up listening to - ranging from story-teller songwriters such as Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon to musical influences like Stereophonics, Goo Goo Dolls and U2.
How did Sunstreets come together? Do you recall when it all sort of ‘gelled’?
Sunstreets began as a solo project by Lisa - with the ultimate aim of becoming a band. It finally came together as a complete band almost exactly a year ago, when we met Matt. Sam and Lisa had already been playing together in an acoustic setting and we met Jamie, I think, in October/November 2016. Then Matt joined after we put an advert out in February 2017.
I think the first practice we had with Matt was when it all gelled and straight away knew it was right. We didn’t have to explain anything of what we were after: he just sort of did it (much to our amazement!) and it all sounded great. In fact, I think on the very first practice we showed Matt Wildfire and he just came straight out with the riff.
It kind of just fell into place!
Tell me about the single, Only Time Will Tell. Is there a story behind the track?
Lisa: I write all the lyrics for our songs and this one in particular; I feel was a turning point for my writing. I think at some point in everyone’s life things don’t go the way you hope: it feels like you’re just going around in circles or you find yourself at a crossroads in your life where you don’t know what you should do. I try to write songs as open as possible so that people in any situation can relate to the lyrics and make their own connection - and it not be limited to what it means to me. So, without giving too much away; I wrote this song to reassure myself that it’s ok not to know what’s coming and what the future hold. As I was once told; life has a way of working itself out - but it never happens how or when you plan it to. As the chorus says: “Only time will tell, where we all go now/ you don’t need to know where, when or how” which, I think, sums up the message of the song and to the listener.
We live in a very fast world and I think, sometimes, we have to accept that some things are out of our control - and that’s ok. The artwork is a metaphor of this - with something as delicate as a feather being blown around in the wind; just like us through life. The journey it could go on is endless: through all the weather and all the cities or towns and, I suppose; the point is that you never know where it’ll land and if it ends there!
How do you think you have developed since your debut single, Vacant Eyes? How did it feel having that song featured on BBC Introducing Solent?
Lisa: Vacant Eyes came out when Sunstreets was just a solo project. I wrote the song a long time ago - as it took a couple of years to get the song out. I came across many problems which was definitely a lesson for future releases, but was well worth pursuing. To have my first release played on the radio was something I was very proud of - as that seemed somewhat of a dream. Although the track didn’t exactly do all that well; it was a stepping stone which has been invaluable. I think my writing has come on a long way since then and, since meeting the rest of the band, the sound I was searching for has finally come together. I feel the songs I’ve written since, particularly the latest songs, seem to be falling into place a lot easier now. We know each other better and we’ve started experimenting with ideas together.
I’m excited about the future.
Will there be more material this year? What are you guys working on?
I hope we’re releasing more material this year: we have been looking into it but nothing is set in stone at the moment. We’ve got a lot of songs which are complete and ready to go; all of which are different in their own way - but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. For now, we’re just trying to gig as much as we can and, hopefully, we can play some more festivals to get our name around a bit more (and show people who we are)!
What is the Southampton area like for music? Is it as productive and varied as some of the better-known cities?
Southampton has a great music scene. So many amazing original bands are around at the moment and coming out of the area. The city is full of great venues such as The Joiners and Talking Heads along with many others which give local bands the opportunity to play and support touring bands and other local artists. The surrounding areas across the South like Portsmouth, Brighton and Bournemouth all have a great music scene, too; some of which we’re yet to branch out into (we hope to soon) but, unfortunately in this day and age; independent music venues are struggling - not just in Southampton but all over the country (which is a shame).
We’re proud to be able to support the local music scene as it’s a really important part of communities. Eventually, musicians often do end up needing to travel to bigger cities such as London purely to expand audience-reach and build up to playing in bigger venues…but the venues in places like Southampton play such a vital role for music developing and showcasing emerging artists and bands that the country needs.
Who are the artists that influence you? Do you share tastes in music?
All of our influences are mainly Rock-based; so we all like fairly similar bands and artists. Sam and Lisa are both big fans of Bruce Springsteen, whilst Sam also likes musicians such as Phil Collins, Toto and Billy Joel. Alongside Bruce Springsteen; Lisa is influenced by artists such as Stereophonics, Paul Simon; Bon Jovi, Goo Goo Dolls; U2 and The Killers. Matt has a more Metal and Heavy-Rock influence: so bands such as Muse, Guns N’ Roses; Slipknot and Two Door Cinema Club.
Jamie is particularly influenced by bassists such as Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers and John Entwhistle from The Who.
It can be hard staying optimistic in the modern music scene! Does music and the desire to get your songs out there help? What is your opinion regarding mental-health and self-doubt in music?
The music scene, put simply, is tough. This, naturally, will bring in many feelings of self-doubt and often can lead to mental-health issues - particularly with the industry being the way it is now. Musicians have to work exceptionally hard and overcome a lot of rejection on a regular basis - but modern-day advances have caused there to be so much more expectation where you need to be active on social media: posting regularly; showing people, not only your music, but who you are as people (and be engaging all the time). Now times have changed; on the one hand, there is much more opportunity for musicians to get their music out there - because of things like social media and independent distribution. However; the downside of this is that the volume has increased so much so that there are many more musicians doing the same thing. It’s much harder to stand out and actually have your music heard by the right people. You do have to graft away. It’s like swimming upstream against a strong current: you either fight it and adapt to get to the top or it’ll keep pushing you back down.
But ultimately, musicians keep going purely because of the love of writing and the love of playing music. Being a writer, particularly; you open yourself up and bring to the surface all your emotions - which is a dangerous thing for mental-health as you continually relive moments of your life (good or bad); especially when you then end up playing those songs live for years to come! But; I find I write to help me overcome my worries or fears and use my songs as my own advice which, I admit, most of the time I need to take! I’m just glad to see there’s a lot more organisations about now which are directly aimed towards helping musicians - especially in light of a number of musicians and creatives who have recently taken their own lives.
It’s opened the world's eyes to the struggles creative people go through.
What gigs does the band have lined up?
So far, we have a couple of gigs lined up in Portsmouth for March and are due to play a gig in Southampton soon, too (date to be confirmed). We just played Icebreaker Festival - which was our first gig of the year - but we hope this to be the start of many more.
This year; independent venues are under the microscope – a music legend, Paul Simon, is retiring from the stage. How important are gigs to you guys? What has been the most memorable gig you have attended?
Gigs are so important for upcoming musicians: it’s where you learn your craft! Even if you’re playing to an empty room or for a few people, it’s experience - and any opportunity to play is worthwhile. If gigging wasn’t possible, there would never be any musicians in the world - as no one would learn how to put on a show, talk to a crowd or what to do when things go wrong (which will happen at some point!). It’s sad when you read about musicians as iconic as Paul Simon calling it a day because touring isn’t the same for him anymore and he doesn’t enjoy it as much. Obviously, he’s accomplished more than most in a lifetime and is iconic for a reason; but I hope, for his sake, he doesn’t give up music completely – as, I think, he’ll realise it’s a part of him and it’s not something a songwriter as great as him can ever switch off.
Lisa: Sam and I had the opportunity to see Paul Simon live in Bournemouth at the BIC in 2016. He is such an inspiring man with so many stories to tell. I’d love to just sit and have a long chat with him as I am just so in awe of him; the vibrant life he has led and, of course, his natural talent for writing! Growing up with his music being played definitely is the reason for this connection - I especially remember singing along to Homeward Bound as a child! But; seeing him was a dream come true. I was singing my heart out along to all the songs and, although we were right at the back (as we got the last tickets); just being there in the presence and atmosphere of one of the all-time greats will always be one the most memorable gigs for me.
Matt: Seeing Aerosmith live would definitely have to be the most memorable gig for me!
Jamie: The most memorable gig for me would be when I went to see Iron Maiden and all the power went off! It was right at the start and we waited a while before it came back on – but, once it did; it was one amazing concert.
Sam: Seeing Bryan Adams in Bournemouth with Lisa. We managed to get right to the front (all be it, a little tipsy!) and he was just so amazing, live. It was just one great gig.
If you each had to choose the one album that means the most you; which would they be and why?
Lisa: Bon Jovi - These Days
I think this was one of the first albums I discovered that I started to understand the importance of lyric-writing and how you can connect with certain songs. This album, in particular, has had different meanings to me over the years as I’ve been growing up – which, I think, is why it is the most meaningful to me (as it’s not just relevant to one time in my life).
Matt: Muse – Origins of Symmetry
The song Plug in Baby was the reason I learned to play the guitar!
Sam: Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
All the songs are about hope, where you’re going in life and about moving forward. Its message is what makes it such an inspiring album to me - and was the start of my appreciation for Bruce Springsteen and his music.
Jamie: Sum 41 – Does This Look Infected?
This means the most to me as it was the first album I ever bought.
What are your ambitions, as a band, this year? Do you have any goals you want to conquer?
Mainly to gig and get our names around. We’d love to do more festivals to reach out to new audiences and, hopefully, get the opportunity to expand across the South with our gigs. We only formed as a complete band a year ago: it’s been a bit of a whirlwind as we’ve been working so hard getting our music up to gigging standard - as most songs were only written throughout last year; along with releasing two singles already last year. Now we’ve got a good selection of original songs which we can swap between for gigs…we feel we’re ready to give it our all and play where we can.
Is there any advice you’d offer likeminded bands coming through right now?
Play any show, especially when starting out - most will be for no money at all. All gigs are experience and a chance to meet new people who, you never know, might be a very important part of your journey. A lot of musicians are perfectionists – me, included! Perfection is good to a point: but learning when to stop and appreciate a song for what it is (is) very important.
Do you all get time to chill away from music? What do you all get up to when you’re not creating music?
We’re not full-time musicians - and each of us has jobs - so our free time is our music! We’re all very flexible so we can gig and work around anything musical (as it’s important to us all).
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Lisa: Richie Sambora – One Light Burning
Sam: Deacon Blue – Dignity
Matt: Audioslave – Cochise
Jamie: Ben Howard – Keep Your Head Up