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The Sunpilots - Chasing The Sun

Author: Nina Bertok
Monday, March 9, 2009

They’ve already conquered the international music market thanks to last year’s rocking debut album Living Receiver and now Australia is next when Sydney indie four-piece The Sunpilots set off on their biggest national tour yet. 3D’s Nina Bertok speaks with frontman Raj Siva-Rajah.

“We have been fortunate enough to be able to put out an album completely independently,” says the Sunpilots’ frontman Raj Siva-Rajah. “We also basically started our own label called Honeytrap Records specifically for the band so we could put out our record, it’s just for our stuff for now. I guess we just wanted to do everything for ourselves in our own way and we figured since we were doing all the hard work already there was no point in signing to a label. We did speak to a couple of guys from some major labels when the album was getting close to being finished and they were such crap deals being offered. On the other hand, MySpace and YouTube being what they are, we figured we’d do it like that and it’s worked out well for us.”

It’s perhaps an understatement on the vocalist’s part, seeing the impact Living Receiver had on American college radio charts with singles You’re Gonna Be A Star and Spotlight in the Sun.

“You know, it’s pretty random how it all happened,” Siva-Rajah recalls. “We had a few DJs contact us on our MySpace to ask if we could send them some stuff to play on their radio. I guess they ended up sharing it with other people because it just seemed to spread from there. We started charting on the college radio stations in the US and we didn’t even know what was happening. So we will be going to the States for a college tour in September, which is going to be mad. The Americans in particular really like what we’re doing. When you look at the hits on our website it’s insane because half of them come from the US and the other half from Australia [and] the rest of the world. But when you consider how many more people there are in American than Australia, it’s a lot of interest. We have thought about basing ourselves over there but I think we’ve still got things to do here at home before we think about heading there.”

Not only have The Sunpilots got America in the palm of their hand, Canada has been just as quick to catch on to Living Receiver, according to Siva-Rajah.

“Canadian college radio picked up a couple of our singles too,” he says. “We actually got Best International Artist at the Canadian Indie Music Awards and we received the Single of the Year award at the LA Music Awards. We were also one of the 15 rock finalists in the International Songwriting Competition, which is the most prestigious songwriting competition in the world and it’s judged by Tom Waits, Robert Smith from The Cure, Frank Black from the Pixies and Joe Satriani. We are really stoked with the way the album was received, especially because we did exactly what we wanted to do on the record. We wanted it to be big and to go all out with the production. We have lots of friends in the music circles, from string players to Hammond players, and I also have a few friends in the eastern music circles. So we wanted to get all of that in there and just make it sound as big as we could.”

And while The Sunpilots took care of most of the production duties on their debut album themselves, Siva-Rajah says the band did enlist the help of Australia’s Phil McKellar and America’s Ted Jensen.

“Phil is known for his stuff with Grinspoon and he is also a friend of ours so we knew he’d done heaps of good Aussie stuff. We added him on as a bit of a fifth member to the stuff we were doing and he came up with some good suggestions that we hadn’t thought of and that we added to the songs. Then we got it mastered in New York by Ted Jensen, who has worked with Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance. We didn’t actually go to America but we trusted him enough to do it on his own because we knew how good he was. He was able to give the album this really punchy feel and add some balls to the songs. My mum also ended up on the album, she tracked a traditional Carnartic-style introduction to one of the songs called Medicated Shell, which added a nice eastern element to it.”

And as Siva-Rajah reveals, album number two is coming along quite nicely too.

“It’s sounding a bit different to Living Receiver,” he admits. “With the first album there was a collection of songs on there which were both new and some which had been sitting back in the catalogue for a few years. Our second album is all new stuff and all written within the last year. Another reason it’s different is because there is a lot more collaboration within the band and so it was co-written with the rest of the guys as opposed to having just my influence. There is still a lot of dark stuff on there because we generally write pretty broody music but I would say there is more of a funky element this time and a more up-tempo feel.”

For now, however, Siva-Rajah and The Sunpilots are solely concentrating on their Australian national touring schedule, which will see the boys on the road until early April.

“By the end of 2009, this whole year will have been just on the road all the time,” he admits. “We’re also adding bands from each of the towns as support rather than touring with one band the whole time. We pretty much drive everywhere except for Perth and Tasmania so being in a car with people for such a long time means you get to know each other pretty well. It starts going downhill and turning into a big boys’ night out every night, especially with the way we’re always playing stupid practical jokes on each other.”

WHO: The Sunpilots
WHAT: Play Old Manly Boatshed / Park Hotel, Bathurst / The Cambridge, Newcastle / Bald-Faced Stag / Fringe Bar / Living Receiver through Honeytrap Records
WHEN: Friday 13 March / Saturday 14 / Wednesday 18 / Friday 20 / Sunday 22 / Out now