Out of all the interviews I’ve done for Pennyblackmusic, this is one one of the ones that I have been most excited about (and that’s meant in no disrespect to the other bands, trust me!). It is just that Silver Sun are one of my favourite, favourite bands ever, a band I used to listen to a lot, particulary when I was 13 or 14, and first getting into music. When I heard before Christmas that James Broad, the band’s singer and songwriter, had decided to record a new album and give it another go, I was very excited and thought it would be really cool to mark their return with an interview. Luckily it has all come together nicely.

A bit of background first. Silver Sun released their debut album, called 'Silver Sun' in 1997. It contained their hit singles, 'Lava' and 'Golden Skin', and was, in short, absolutely brilliant. Their summery pop music meant they fitted in nicely with a whole scene of great bands, like Midget, Symposium, Glitterbox and the Americans Radish. In 1998 they bettered it with 'Neo Wave', a classy album, which was both catchy and more musically adventurous, even outrageous in places, and gave the band more hits with 'I’ll See You Around' and 'Sharks', and their cover of the 'Too Much, Too Little, Too Late'. Sadly, they were struck by the collapse of Polydor in late 1998, and were left without a label. A small pocket of fans, however, remembered them fondly, and now they’re back!

PB: The first thing I wanted to ask about was the situation now and your plans for the band at the moment?

JB : We have the whole album planned out and we’ve got a distribution sorted out for it. We’re just planning how we’re going to record it and who’s going to do what on it. As it’s been such a long time since we’ve recorded, it’s a bit difficult to ascertain who’s in the band and what their responsibilities are.

PB: So is everybody who was in the band working at the moment ?

JB: Yeah, I suppose so. Everyone’s doing different stuff. Richard Sayce (the band's drummer) is playing session stuff with BBMac, mainly because he got a free trip to Japan and America. I’ve been writing constantly throughout that time and I have a big backlog of songs. I’m trying to convince everybody that there are pockets of people around that are desperate for me to release all that stuff.

PB: They are about, I think.

JB: Yeah, they’re about. It’s just a case of trying to reach them. I think they all live in caves!

PB: So did the band ever formally split up?

JB: No, not at all. We had a tricky time recording 'Neo Wave'. There was second album pressure, even though I knew we had good songs. It was like being pushed along a tunnel at a thousand miles an hour and not having enough time to stop and think how we should be doing this. We had problems and got rid of Richard , the drummer, and had big arguments and got angry with each other. Then we realised that we’d all been a bit stupid, and we’re friends again, and that’s how we are now.

PB: So is Richard back in the group?

JB: Well, no one is actually in Silver Sun until we definitely start recording. The thing is that all the stuff we’ve done in the past has been me and Richard on the drums, and everyone else doing stuff when they can. It’s hard when you’re the songwriter and you do all the arrangements to work out who else is doing something.

PB: After the 'Neo Wave' period, were there any more concerts and gigs?

JB: There was a small tour of America and a few concerts in Britain, but there haven’t been any actual Silver Sun gigs since 2000, so it’s been quite a while.

PB: So is it the case that you want to get the record sorted out first?

JB: Yeah, exactly. I was thinking of doing a gig or two soon, just to hear what people think of the new songs. You can never be sure until you hear how they’ll go down live. I have whittled 200 songs down to about 12 so I guess its time to do a gig soon.

PB: Do you think that the new material will be different to the stuff you’ve done before?

JB: Well, we had a thing for the second album where we thought we’d go into rock, and try to be a real rock band, which was very silly because we’re basically a bunch of insecure idiots who aren’t any good at being a real rock band and going out and getting laid all the time. We were rubbish at that and we realised that we should have stuck at being ourselves. It was worth having a try, but we realised that it was wrong. So the new album will be kind of like the first album ,but a bit more futuristic. There will be more synths on it, and it might be more unusual lyric wise. But basically the same old thing! I don’t write any differently now than I ever did, but I’ll go for more interesting instrumentation, not just straightforward guitars.

PB: You say you went ‘rock’. Was that because one of the main magazines picking up on you was Kerrang?

JB: I suppose so. That might have been a part of it. They really liked the first album (they gave it 5/5 and a place in the album of the year chart – PB), but they didn’t like the second as much, though they gave it a good review. So, that was always our problem. We were liked by so many magazines that it was difficult to be really liked by one of them. We had articles in Smash Hits, NME, Melody Maker and Kerrang. We didn’t suit one particular audience. At our gigs you’d get really hardcore nutters who liked punk and then 12 year olds going to their first gig, and people who were just pop fans. It was really wide-ranging. I think to be successful initially you have to be fitted into one genre, and I think Polydor, especially, weren’t sure what to do with us. They just hoped that if they spent enough on us someone would buy the records. That works in some ways, but not in others.

PB: I remember you used to be on kids TV show 'Fully Booked' a lot.

JB: Yeah, that was great because we got to go up to Scotland and stay in nice hotels, and Richard always fancied Gail Porter (One of the presenters) quite a lot, so that was good for him. We used to go on loads of shows. 'Fully Booked' was a funny one though; it was kind of cheesy, like an old-school kid’s show.

PB: It was funny though. It used to have loads of good bands. I was probably too old to be watching it, but…

JB: It was on on Sunday mornings, wasn’t it? It was quite amusing because they’d tell you to go on the show, and we’d do our miming and then they’d let you go and play computer games in the background whilst they did the show, and that always made us laugh because we’d be sitting there trying to look serious and they’d do the show in front of us. I think I have some of them on video, but I can never watch anything I’m in so I’ve never seen them. My mum and my family have, and some of my friends have told me about some of the stuff but I can’t bear to watch it.

PB: Being this weird pop-rock crossover, did you get to do any other cheesy stuff?

JB: Oh, we did loads. ‘Farm Shows’ where you’d go to Bristol in the rain and go on a stage between two tractors and mine, say “thank you” and bugger off back to London. And in Japan they’d get you to do stuff and you wouldn’t know why and they’d say stuff and you wouldn’t know why. So, yeah, we did all sorts of crazy stuff.

PB: Did you mind doing it at the time?

JB: Well, the thing is, when I think about it now, I kind of wish that we’d taken the piss a little more because we played it quite straight at the time.

PB: Polydor kind of disbanded after 'Neo Wave', didn’t it?

JB: Well, its still there but it got swallowed up by Universal and those kind of people and it was difficult.

PB: Prior to that happening, did you have any problems with the label?

JB: No, not at all. They were amazing actually. We were very lucky. Our manager’s very good and he got them to do whatever we wanted. I must commend them for that. We got our own way, which is probably why we never did anything, but they were very good. I think, maybe, with 'Neo Wave' they had lost a bit of faith in us because they had so many big bands that they had to look after and the smaller niche bands got left behind a little.

PB: You had some big hits, though, like 'Lava'.

JB: Golden Skin was bigger, and then 'Ill See You Around' was the biggest. Well, apart from 'Too Much, Too Little, Too Late' but I don’t really include that because I didn’t write it.

PB: Were you pressured into doing a cover?

JB: Well, not pressured, but we shouldn’t have done it. I mean its good and everything but it’s not what we’re about. We recorded it as a B-Side and it was good, and we thought, “We could release this”. It was our biggest success but I don’t know if it made people like us any more.

PB: Who was it actually a cover of ?

JB: Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams. The original is brilliant, actually. Richard Kirk (the band's bassist)taught me it when we’d play it with him on the piano and all the harmonies and it would always make us laugh. We thought we’d do it as a B-Side and it went all out of proportion.

PB: Did you think that when you were doing the first album there was more interest in you?

JB: No, I don’t think so. I love the songs on the second album. I was listening to ‘Neo Wave’ yesterday and I still love it. I love everything we’ve done, except 'Too Much, Too Little, Too Late', which I can’t really listen to. Everything else I love. I think people were waiting for us, and once 'Neo Wave 'came out, they felt that it wasn’t what they were expecting. But I still get people e-mailing and saying it’s their favourite.

PB: It’s my favourite of the two, actually.

JB: I think things like 'Mustard' and ' Dead End' are really good, I love them. Maybe it wasn’t produced as well. It was a great guy doing it, but he was a bit overbearing and he maybe made us do stuff we shouldn’t have. We didn’t use our own equipment like we had on the first and maybe the guitar sound suffered a little.

PB: What will you do differently on the new one ?

JB: Well, I’m going to produce a lot of it myself. So no one else will have a say in it! But I think it will be slightly quirky and more lo-fi but still nice.

PB: You’ve talked about a big ELO influence before?

JB: Yeah, I mean if you listen to 'Time', it’s a brilliant album, and it’s quite rough, but compressed. Even though it has elaborate arrangements it doesn’t sound overdone. But I love the synths and I love the vocoder and the songs are great. It has been a big influence on me. Well, 'Scared' from Neo Wave is a complete rip-off! But a lot of the things people think we’re influenced by aren’t really at all. Like The Beach Boys, when we recorded 'Silver Sun' I didn’t even have 'Pet Sounds'. I’d never bought a Cheap Trick album. I was more influenced by tThe Muffs, Weezer and Crowded House, and all the bands I still love, Rush and Zappa and stuff.

PB: Did it ever annoy you that they got it wrong?

JB: Not really, because they were just saying what they thought we sounded like, even if they were wrong, you can’t blame them for that. It did use to piss me off when they’d say a band sounds like X meets X, because the bands never sound as good. They’ll say a band sounds like Zappa meets Sepultura and they’ll end up sounding like Def Leppard. You never get what you’re hoping for!

PB: Thanks a lot!

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