INTERVIEW: Dave Campbell (SOMETIME SONNY)
Life ain't always sunny, but for astral indie-popper Sometime Sonny (aka Dave Campbell), the cloudy days can make for some pretty spectacular songwriting.
Coming to life in 2016, Dave's solo-project as Sometime Sonny evolved after years of kicking around the local Brisbane scene in bands, bringing glimmers of early Sticky Fingers and Tobias Jesso Jr into heart-wrenching tunes that punch you in the heart but caress your soul into bittersweet oblivion.
Having already released his self-titled EP earlier this year (recorded somewhat illegally in an empty uni concert hall), there's a whole lot more in store from this beguiling Brissie artist, including brand new music in the very near future - but before the next phase of Sometime Sonny kicks into gear, Dave took a few moments to talk songwriting, stealth recording missions and going solo.
TIANA: Hey Dave, awesome to talk to you. So your side, or solo project 'Sometime Sonny' began back in 2016...but I believe you were already playing in a few bands before this all started...what was the motivation behind going solo for this project?
DAVE: So the guys in my previous band, they all got busy with other jobs and that sort of stuff. So me and my drummer, we decided to do our own thing. And then he got busy (laughs). And he was a much better songwriter than me and I just learnt as much as I could really. So, when he got busy I just like "oh bugger it, I'll just give it a crack myself!". And there you go!
TIANA: Ahh, the secret to success - just do it yourself! What kind of music were you playing before this, was it in a similar vein to what you're doing now?
DAVE: Kind of, it was a bit more rocky I think. More, um...."amateur" (laughs). It was a band we were in straight out of school for a few years, so we were just finding our feet really.
TIANA: And with your solo stuff now, people always love to jump on the "sounds-like" bandwagon, you've drawn comparisons to a few people already, including early Sticky Fingers. But are there any specific influences outside of the slightly more obvious ones that have impacted your songwriting?
DAVE: Yeah, I think it's no surprise that I sound like those guys (laughs) cos they're such big influences. But there's kind of two, really...I've got a new album coming out soon and that's all done, but the new stuff I'm writing now is kind of influenced by the stuff my dad listened to when I was a kid, stuff like Patti Smith and Jeff Buckley and Van Morrison and all that sort of stuff. So I think that's where the foundations of the songs come from. And then what I listen to as well, I love Sticky Fingers and Ball Park Music and The Strokes and DMA'S...I think a lot of my songs sound a bit different to one another and I think that's cos of the different influences and you can pick up on who I've been listening to at the time for each song I think. They're my favourite bands, so if I sound a bit like them then that's good!
TIANA: Especially if other people think you do too, then you're definitely doing something right!
DAVE: I know! Biggest compliment ever.
TIANA: In July this year you released your self-titled EP, and it's just ridiculously honest and super textured and beautiful...and also obviously dealing with a fair amount of potentially personal themes. Was it a difficult process to put your heart on your sleeve so publically with some of these songs?
DAVE: (laughs) Wait til you hear the album! Yeah, it's funny cos my producer Hugh, I don't know if you know the band Mid Ayr, but basically how we came about was - I'm like his biggest fan ever. And I emailed his producer Alex L'Estrange and I was like "would you wanna record" and he put me onto Hugh. And then we started together, and I suppose the point is that we built up such a friendship that I felt so comfortable around him writing songs, and I never even thought about it. And then I released (the EP) and I thought "oh shit!", and then the songs are getting played on the radio and it's like "oh man, that's some feels" (laughs). So, yeah it is difficult, and this next one's even more. I suppose you right about what's going on, it's more like a scrapbook of my life all the new stuff coming out so can't complain about that!
TIANA: Most recently you released a music video for 'Wasted On Me' to conclude the release of that EP, and that song itself was like a damn freight-train, I read it got a spin on triple j within 24 hours of you uploading it to Unearthed...
DAVE: It was pretty cool! I just put it up and then the next day I checked and it was all in the works!
TIANA: And that music video, it really complements that super emotive feel of that track...
DAVE: What did you think of that? I did that all by myself from a little shitty old camera (laughs).
TIANA: I had such an epic flashback, those visuals coupled with that song - I seriously got triggered! It's this crazy beautiful song and watching this old-school VCR footage, it totally took me back to this nostalgic place..
DAVE: Yeah. how funny! That was the point of it, so that worked out well (laughs). The first time I put it with the visual I was like "oh wow". It's pretty powerful I thought.
TIANA: And can we expect some more music videos in the near future, have you got a taste for them now?
DAVE: Yeah, I've got a new single coming out in two weeks, and I just recently did the film clip for that one. It's a similar kind of vibe, still recorded on a tape recorder, but a newer quality one. I think my plan is to, like, start on a lower quality and just work my way up!
TIANA: You seem to have a bit of a flair for the DIY, I read that the shaker sound on 'Wasted On Me' was actually sugar in a tupperware container, you've got these low-fi music videos and I also believe you recorded the EP in stealth mode in a concert hall in the middle of the night....
DAVE: So I was studying at UQ at the time, I was doing my education degree and they have a nice concert hall in there. And cos I was a music student at the same time, I had access to it 24-hours. And then annoyingly, I finished my degree over the time that we were writing it, so I had to go in there and leave one of the doors open or wait for someone to come out so I could race in. Then someone would come out and you'd race in to hold the door open for all the equipment, and hope you don't get caught! So, it was mostly recorded at 11 or 12 at night really, in the beautiful acoustic concert hall. Then - we needed a shaker and we didn't have one (laughs). So I went to the kitchen at uni and saw there was a tupperware container and poured in a bit of rice...or sugar? And there you go!
TIANA: You're a serious contender to be labelled the MacGuyver of musicians.
DAVE: I do find it funny that it was playing on triple j - the shaker with the sugar in there.
TIANA: I can't wait for the next time I hear it, all I'll be able to picture is you sitting in the middle of a hall in the dead of night, stealing sugar. But looking ahead, you already mentioned there is some new music in the very near future, what can you share about the new stuff, it sounds like you may be heading in a slightly new direction?
DAVE: It's fairly different, again I think the songs are quite different from one to another, but there's a cool, unique flow between them all. The first new single will, I think, surprise a couple of people, it's pretty rocky and upbeat. But then there's some tracks that are similar (to the first EP), but also some tracks that are fairly contrasting. But at the same time, I think my vocals are a bit unique so it makes it all work together, and you can still tell it's me.
TIANA: I'll still prep myself for future goosebumps, just in case. And you've also got some live shows up your sleeve, what can we expect from a Sometime Sonny gig?
DAVE: Um...I dunno. (laughs) Hopefully for it to sound like the recording, I suppose! And for people to be really into it.
TIANA: And you've got a band I believe that's gonna jump up onstage with you, are they people you've played with in the past? Or are they just some randoms you've roped in?
DAVE: They're mostly just mates that are in really good bands, I don't know if you've heard of The Jensens but the lead singer's playing the bass, and the Mid Ayr drummer's playing drums for me and one of my mates is playing guitar as well. It's all just really good musician friends, really.
TIANA: Not too shabby! And have you got a song you're most excited about to bust out live?
DAVE: Um...I guess 'Wasted On Me' will be pretty good to see everyone's reaction. I'll be interested to see everyone's vibe.
TIANA: I know it's still early days since the first EP has just dropped this year, but you have been playing music for a while before that - have you got a dream band you'd love to play with in future?
DAVE: I can't think too big (laughs). I love all those local Brissie guys, I've become friends with the Ball Park Music guys so it'd be awesome to play with them. Or The Jungle Giants or those sorts of guys. But maybe one day if I'm lucky bands like The Strokes! And Sticky Fingers - there you go, number one!
TIANA: Well I can't wait to hear the new track when it pops out, thanks so much for chatting!
DAVE: Awesome, thanks so much for having me!
Sometime Sonny self-titled EP is out now. For more info head to: https://www.facebook.com/sometimesonny/
BY TIANA SPETER