You might remember that in the mid 90's there was a band called Ultrasound. It consisted of Andrew "Tiny" Wood (vocals, guitar), Richard Green (bass), Andy Peace (drums), Matt Jones (keyboards), and Vanessa Best (bass). Signed to Nude Records, the same record label as Suede, it attracted great attention from both the media and music fans. One of the band's biggest successes was playing the Glastonbury Festival in 1998. They followed this with their debut album 'Everything Picture' in early 1999. Unfortunately for their fans, after a series of gigs that summer were cancelled including an appearance at the T In The Park festival, the band disbanded in October of that year

Each of five musicians in the group have carried on making music with other bands including Blue Apple Boy, Sleepy People and most importantly for us, the Sunshine Valley Dance Band.

The Sunshine Valley Dance Band was formed by Vanessa Best, Andrew Peace (guitar, vocals) and Mark Refoy in 2001. Mark has been in several bands, including Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized. Their combined experience with Ultrasound and Spiritualized has been an important component in defining the Sunshine Valley Dance Band's character. Their music is full of a similar energy and charisma.

I caught up with Vanessa and asked a few questions about the band and their music.

PB: You and Andy were together in Ultrasound before the Sunshine Valley Dance Band. How did you get to know Andy? Was it through the band or did you know him before?

VB: I went to Newcastle College at the start of the 90's and one third of the course was made up of a strange bunch of Yorkshire folk rumoured to have travelled up together on a special Wakefield bus. Andy, Richard and Tiny from Ultrasound were all on that bus and life was never to be the same again!

PB: What happened with Ultrasound? Why did they split up ?

VB: Ultrasound was a beautiful and terrifying force that none of us could control. I know that this sounds really pretentious but, even if I rant about personal disagreements and all that minor shit that people get caught up in, I still would not be able to express to you what on earth happened. I know I was there and it was real. 'Everything Picture ' really does sum it up. Ultrasound was and is every emotion you have ever felt, magnified so big that you can no longer see.

PB: Mark used to be in Spiritualized. When exactly was that, and how did you meet him?

VB: Mark was in Spacemen 3 between 89 and 90, playing only a handful of gigs and recording the album 'Recurring'. He was then in Spiritualized from 1990 - 94 playing on the live album 'F***ed up Inside' and the first two albums, 'Lazer Guided Melodies' and 'Pure Phase'. I met Mark through a bloke called Tony,. We were introduced back stage at a Dark Star gig by a mutual friend, Dave . who was the drummer from Dark Star. He knew we were both looking to start a new band and brought us together. Looking back now it was all pretty weird. None of us really knew one another but we just set about writing. Sadly Tony didn’t work out but I am eternally grateful to both Tony and Dave for bringing Mark and I together.

PB: How did the band start coming together?

VB: With nothing to lose, back on the dole and armed with more fight and determination than ever before, Mark, Tony and I gathered a couple of times at Mark's rather bleak bedsit to write and record our ideas. We were sometimes joined by a refreshingly enthusiastic Johnny Mattock (also of Spiritualized/Lupine Howl). I don’t suppose we were a band at that point but we certainly had songs. About 6 months later, post Tony, I just booked a gig. We didn’t have a drummer, but I knew it would force our hand.

PB: Who came up with the name ? Do you think it describes what your music sounds like?

VB: During one of those early bedsits sessions I remember discussing band names in a jokey way and Johnny said, "What about 'The Sidmouth Beach Boys'?" then Mark said, "Or 'The Sunshine Valley Dance Band'". I think it was one of New Order's joke names when they were doing the very same thing. Mark is a huge New Order fan, and I just loved it!

As far as it describing our music, I think you become the name once people know how you sound. For me it just sets a rather eerie scene and then we do the rest.

PB: How do you work on writing your music and lyrics?

VB: Mark is a prolific writer. We could probably record 5 albums now. He has a QY70 so he is in charge of the programming. I don’t write as much as him but when I do it’s the whole song, chords, lyrics, melody and arrangement, but I really should write more.

Mark often comes to rehearsal with a complete song or sometimes with just a simple repetitive looped idea and no lyrics or just one phrase and I will add a tune or a chorus or a middle 8 sections and lyrics. It really varies quite a lot. We are all very involved and vocal in rehearsals, when it comes to throwing in ideas and arranging a new song.

PB: It's only 3 of you which is definitely enough to make good music. Would you consider auditioning another member or are you happy with the way things are?

VB: We are perfectly happy with the way things are. We have discussed getting a fourth member on numerous occasions and we know who it would be. We have, however, not as yet got it together.

PB: You haven't officially released anything. Are you interested in releasing something or even just doing a demo? Also will there be anything available for the fans?

VB: We have only made one recording and that was 2 years ago. Although we still really like that demo, we are aware that our sound has developed and the live side is far more rock and roll than the recording.

After seeing how stir crazy people can go over 'the top end on a snare' for example we vowed we would not get caught up in recording hysteria.We are, however, desperate to record again and put something out, but want to work quickly and really capture the moment. Any offers?

PB: You have been around about 2 years now. What kind of reaction do you get from people when you play? What is it like to be back to the smaller venues after playing with Ultrasound at big venues and festivals?

VB: It's actually really difficult to get decent gigs in London. All you ever get offered is generic new band showcases. Many promoters are also pretty unscrupulous. Consequently we are very cautious and try to hold out for good supports with promoters who we feel are genuinely music loving

Every time we have played in the last 7 months the reaction has been amazing. It's like we have come of age. Something changed in the summer. We supported South at 93 Feet East and it all finally clicked into place that we really were in a band and everything about it felt right. I cannot lie. I would love to be playing bigger venues with the Sunshine Valley Dance Band, but it's not just because they are bigger. It is also because you have a crew, which means we would buy loads of gear again, have your own sound engineer so it actually sounds like its' meant to and no bloody job taking up valuable creative headspace. Oh joy ! Now breathe!

PB: What are your plans for 2004?

VB: To do more gigs, play to more people, put out a single and plumb in my washing machine.

PB : Thank you


Sunshine Valley Dance Band will appear at the 4th Penny Black Music Night along with Vic Godard and the Subway Sect, Venus Ray, Saint Joan and Moly at the Spitz on the 7th February .












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