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Q&A: Sunbather Gives Us A Healthy Glow

Photo: Alexander Bubke

Brisbane's brightest dream-pop duo are here to deliver their latest single 'Out of Context' with a zany interview. It is a curious track, produced and mixed by Aidan Hogg (Jaguar Jonze, Holy Holy, Asha Jefferies), and mastered by Matthew Gray (Carmouflage Rose, The Veronicas). It combines dreamy, ethereal vocals with crisp, spacious & atmospheric soundscapes. The track is about themes of transformation, with the pair stating:

The song is about change, and the new perspective that it brings. The lyrics were written while walking, inspired by being outside on a cold morning, when the world seems clear and sharp, the wind is blowing, and it’s like you’re seeing everything with new eyes. Love weaves hope through the good, the bad, and everything in between, and Out Of Context was written in that spirit.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Sunbather and pick their dream journals about everything going on since their Brown Bread EP, to 'Out of Context' and beyond:

What have you been listening to recently? And which are your favourite Brisbane venues to play or see live music?

We’ve been listening to a lot of Low, especially their new album Hey What. I think they might be the band we’d like to model more than anyone - they’ve been around for decades, and their sound has gone in so many different directions in that time. Sometimes I feel like our music releases reflect our general seasonal changes in the music that we listen to that inspires us. During the writing process for Out Of Context, I (Mike) had been pretty consumed with new-wave emo - bands like Oso Oso, Foxing, and Macseal - that are musically quite upbeat but still have this pretty obvious melancholic lilt.
Our favourite Brisbane venues - there’s lots! We love playing at Black Bear Lodge. And The Bearded Lady is always cosy.

The new single ‘Out of Context’ seems more upbeat than the previous tracks on the Brown Bread EP. Do you think this is indicative of the sort of sound you would like to pursue in the future, or will you remain eclectic dream cryptids?

Out Of Context is definitely our most upbeat song we’ve written to date. I think during the writing and recording process we were having fun leaning into that a bit, because I don’t think it’s quite our natural inclination. As for future music writing, I think we’d always like to stay open to being pulled in any and every direction. I’ve been subtly trying to convince Sally that we should write a doom metal track for about a year now, although I do concede it could remain a pipe dream. But I think all our music stays reasonably unified just by nature of our playing and singing styles.

You stated that the song is about “change, and the new perspective that it brings,” and that the lyrics were conceived on a crisp walk on a cold morning. I personally bug out on Brisbane nature, it’s such a beautiful town. I was wondering if you could tell me where this inspiring spot was? Peel back the edges of your life and give me a glimpse into that day.

We’ve actually been living in Northern NSW for the last year in a little townhouse near the beach. Sally’s gotten into going on long walks most mornings since we’ve been here, and says it’s become like a form of meditation. Lyrically, our music is often an enquiry about what it means to do the right thing and live a good life. There are so many twists and turns on the way, and Sally said she was thinking about how these hopes and struggles are reflected in the greater patterns of nature as she was walking and writing the lyrics.
That being said, even though we’re in NSW at the moment, so much of our shared experience is in Brisbane, and it’s impossible to separate that from the way we write and where our creativity comes from. West End always has a particularly pedestaled place in our hearts - it’s where we met, and where Sunbather was formed.

I hear that Aidan Hogg did the production & mixing, and Matthew Gray mastered the track. What was it like to work with these legends? They have some big names under their belts. Was it daunting at first, or did it all effortlessly flow together?

We’ve been lucky to have worked with Aidan ever since Sunbather began. He engineered and produced our first EP Brown Bread and mixed some of the tracks, so we were extremely excited to get to work with him again on this latest body of work. He has this great studio energy, where he works for hours on end, but is incredibly enthusiastic and encouraging of the ideas we’re bringing in, and also provides a lot of great direction. He seems to really understand where we’re trying to go, which has made the recording and mixing process seamless.

Coming off the back of your debut EP Brown Bread, has your songwriting process & craft changed at all? Did you want to tackle different themes or styles this time?

Our songwriting process has changed a little bit since Brown Bread, although I think it’s more that we’ve just found a groove. Part of that has been shaped by certain time constraints and other commitments. I’ve been lucky enough to work part-time over the last 18 months, whereas Sally’s work has really ramped up over that same period. As a result, I’ll usually write the bones of the song on guitar, and then pass it on to Sally who’ll then come up with the melody and eventually the lyrics. There is some bouncing around of ideas after that point, but certainly a good amount of the writing process is done in layers, which I think works really well for us.

What can we expect from you next? Do you have any more up-coming release plans, or any live shows in the works? I for one would go crazy for you guys at a live gig.

When we recorded Out Of Context, we also worked on a bunch of other songs, so we’ll hopefully have a few more releases lined up soon - we’re hoping to at least have one more release before the year’s out! As for live shows, we’re currently living in Northern NSW, so we’re really just hoping the NSW-QLD border opens so we can play some gigs in Brisbane, unfortunately we’re still somewhat in limbo and it might be a while away yet. But hopefully early next year!

I'm just going to be the first to say that I would kill to see Sunbather release a doom metal track. Literal murder. As if that wouldn't be the coolest thing ever! Let's hope those borders can open soon, so we can share a beer in West End!! Thanks again to Sunbather for their ruminative & insightful responses. Be sure to check out their latest track, 'Out of Context' and also their incredible Brown Bread EP, both available on Spotify and all your favourite internet music holes.

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