Words by Kate Lockyer – Kate Lockyer Music
Sunbather is a dream pop/indie duo from Brisbane that has just released their debut EP ‘Brown Bread’(released Friday June 26). Their reflective, lo-fi EP is artistic in more ways than one, with one of the tracks and the title ‘Brown Bread’ inspired by paintings. Made up of vocalist Sally Latter and instrumentalist Mike Todman, the pair have combined their creative forces to produce deeply-felt tracks that resonate to the small moments in life.
Sunbather’s formation is a classic Brisbane love story: Sally met Mike when he moved into their West End sharehouse and they soon became late-night music collaborators and also, a couple. They are even due to be married in July this year after releasing their debut EP together in June. Working with producer Aidan Hogg at Plutonium Studios, Stu McKenzie (Good Boy, Future Haunts)joined Sally and Mike in the studio to record drums for the EP.
‘BROWN BREAD’ TRACK LISTING:
- Wide Open
- Softly Spoken
- Bad Timing
- Same Place
- Life To Come
The first track on the EP, Wide Open, was released as a single earlier this year, and was the first song that the duo finished writing together for the EP. Sunbather says that “We wanted the vocals to evoke a sense of spaciousness by use of wide vocal harmonies, as lyrically, the song explores the sense of space that opens up when you can truly let someone go, without forgetting or devaluing them.” The muted background guitar riff and slow, reverberating chord strums conjure the echoes of a wide open space, immersing the listener in their world. The idea of letting go and giving someone their space is explored in the imagery of the lyrics as well. “Down by the river / I can see it too, space in front of you / Down by the river / I can see it too, wide open for you”. The sweetly nostalgic video clip they have released for ‘Wide Open’ is much like a video diary, filmed on Super 8 of their time in Myanmar together.
Sally works as a human rights lawyer currently involved with a humanitarian organisation advocating for the rights of the Rohingya people in Myanmar – the largest refugee crisis in the world. Needless to say, Sally loves having Sunbather as a creative escape from the heavy content of her day job. The other half of the duo, Mike, also has fascinating work: he works in medicine and has pursuits in neuroscience investigations of human behaviour and consciousness. The intellectual pursuits of the pair’s day jobs filter through to their creative pursuits – it is easy to see the consideration put into every aspect of their music.
Softly Spoken is the next track on the EP and their debut single. It was inspired by the painting ‘Twilight Conversation’ by Ron Hicks, and Sunbather took the image of two girls having an intimate conversation to tell a story of gentle friendship. The dream pop atmosphere is enhanced by the layered vocals and ethereal guitar hook woven through the song. With lyrics like “You dream with all you breathe / Breathless with the thrill of it” and “I could stay here forever”, the song’s warm companionship seeps into your bones.
Bad Timing is my favourite song from the EP, a more upbeat, playful song that made me scrunch up my face grinning at the light-hearted guitar melodies. Sunbather says that they wrote the lyrics “as an encouragement to be less hard on ourselves and others”. They tell us that people can be lovable even with their flaws, singing “Even with bad timing / You were mesmerising”. This song has a sun-drenched positivity, with polyphonic guitar hooks criss-crossing like jet-streams in the sky.
This gorgeous sunlit coastal feeling is a feature of the entire EP. The duo’s vocalist Sally lived on the Gold Coast for a year, in Palm Beach, making music with her old band. She often reminisces about living there. She lived close to the beach in a crumbly old townhouse, worked at the local falafel shop, and got into surfing. This reminiscence washes into the tone of Sunbather’s music. In fact, the next track on the EP, Same Place, has a lovely backstory set by the beach.
“We were sitting on a park bench overlooking the ocean when an elderly man approached us with a friend. He told us that his wife, who had passed on some years earlier, loved this exact spot, and he wanted to show his friend the plaque of her name by the bench that he had placed as a memorial. The interaction was brief, but it stuck with us. The man told us that he regretted that he didn’t come here enough with his wife before she passed away.”
The touching story inspired Same Place, and the man’s regret is reflected in the dark tones of the effected guitar and hushed vocals. “Quiet tragedies calibrate your heart / Doing what you wish you’d done at the start”. The song implores me not to take things for granted, to hug a friend and call my family.
The final track, Life to Come, is another mellow piece that speaks of the promise of love. Sunbather has said simply “This one is a love song”. It is. It wraps itself around your heart with lines like “Life to come / Breathe it down into my lungs” and “Your time collapsed with mine / Tangle up the blind and light streams in”. The instrumentation is a slow, euphoric soundtrack to the dizziness of falling in love. The music slowly builds to a crescendo by the end, a whirling atmosphere of cymbals, cutting electric guitar and devotion.
The name ‘Brown Bread’ for the EP came from an artwork of the same name by Gary Abkin, and Sally’s attachment to the phrase brown bread as a reminder of a suburban childhood. It is ultimately a moving piece of coastal storytelling, their music heady and refreshing. I can’t wait to see what Sunbather does next.
Stream ‘Brown Bread’ HERE
With thanks to Gyrostream/ PR