By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Sunbeam Sound Machine.
Nick Sowersby might make music in his garage in Melbourne, Australia, but that doesn’t make it garage rock. It’s ethereal and dreamy–and catchy as all hell–but it’s not exactly dream-pop either.
So let’s just check the cookie-cutter genre stereotypes at the door. This multi-instrumentalist crafts music where time turns elastic, where blissful waves of reverb-drenched vocals surround us in harmonious cocoon. It’s ambient, yet it demands attention.
Originally started as a bedroom project, Sunbeam Sound Machine is now a five-piece live band that has played a residency at Tote and opened for acts like Cults and Soda Eaves. The debut double EP One/Sunbeam Sound Machine wowed audiences with its sense of wonder and exploration, and they won’t have to wait much longer for more.
SSM will be releasing Wonderer sometime next month, which was produced by Stu of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. In the meantime, BTR catches up with Sowersby about his creative process.
Your sound has an undeniable “psychedelic” quality to it. What does the word mean to you, and do you see it influencing your sound and vision?
I guess it refers to something that alters your state of mind or mood, and that’s kind of what I aim for when I’m making music. With the production and melodies in particular I’m trying to capture a certain mood or state of mind. Having said that, I don’t really consider it “psychedelic” music, per se. I describe it to people that way sometimes because it’s easier, but I feel like anyone with a delay pedal gets called “psychedelic” these days, and a lot of psych bands use trippy effects for the sake of it. I just think of them as pop songs and the production is always aimed at enhancing the mood of the song.
What are some of your biggest creative influences—both musically and otherwise?
There’s way too many to list here, but generally I’m really inspired by anyone who really seems to be doing whatever they want to do. I love artists who make music that only they could make, and who give you a sense that they’d be doing exactly what they do whether anyone was listening or not.
How about your songwriting process? Do you find yourself drifting into a recurring headspace, or is it different every time?
I try to approach different songs from different perspectives, that way it keeps it interesting for me and hopefully for anyone who listens to them. It’s easy to fall into the same headspaces and habits with recording but I try and keep a check on that and make sure that I don’t repeat structures or production techniques or even particular words too often from song to song. All of my favorite albums are pretty diverse and that’s something I aim for too. It’s good to have a cohesive feel to things but no one wants to hear 12 variations on the same song.
You’ve been writing songs out of your basement in Melbourne, Australia. How has that environment influenced your creativity?
It’s not a very creative environment to look at, but it’s been good to have a space set up with all of my stuff in it. I recorded an album in there this year and I was able to set up a bit of a nest with all of my instruments within reach. That way I could do lots of experimenting without wasting too much time which is good for creativity I suppose. It lets me be productive and efficient which sounds a little bit clinical, but that’s the best way to try out as many new ideas as possible.
What’s the music scene like in Melbourne?
Melbourne’s had a reputation for a while as a good music city, but I feel like it’s really stepped up a notch in the last couple of years. You can go out any night of the week and see great live bands, and there’s some really interesting music being put out. I think the best bit is that people are really doing their own thing and creating their own unique sounds, because sometimes there’s a tendency here to try and emulate scenes from overseas. Australian music in general is in really good shape at the moment.
You recently released your debut EP, One. What were some of your favorite moments working on that record?
The first EP really just a way of learning how to put songs together the way I wanted to. My favorite moments were the ones where I really felt like I was making something good enough to show people, and when I felt like I was writing songs that sounded like me.
What can fans expect in 2015?
I’ve got an album coming out later this year, so the band and I will hopefully still be playing some shows in support of that. Apart from that, I’ve been working on some bits and pieces of new stuff and I’m really keen to start recording again soon. So next year will be spent writing and recording lots of stuff, and hopefully some of it will see the light of day before 2015 is over.