Electric Sunkings in the Ascendancy
The Electric Sunkings are on the crest of a wave. In a world awash with new-age retro bands merely rehashing a poorer version of the Rock and Blues of old, the Electric Sunkings stand apart as a band actually bringing something new to the table. Whilst steadfastly maintaining the rudiments of Blues/Rock, the Electric Sunkings are an expansive band who explore a cosmic and original soundscape, often shifting effortlessly from genre to genre multiple times during a singular song. The Sunkings are a real band’s band, hardened by live performances and forever tighter musically because of it. The band is comprised of vocalists/guitarists Chris Barbetti and Kobie Brown, drummer/keyboardist James Hughes and bassist John Finch who occasionally adds bar chimes for spiritual effect.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with all four members of the band on the banks of the somewhat picturesque Lake Wendouree, Ballarat, ahead of their twilight show with the Whitlams as part of the ‘Flix in the Stix’ film festival. I used the opportunity to discuss the band’s sound with them to gain an insight into how they create their special blend of Rock.
Over time, how much has the band evolved since its inception? What elements have changed? What have remained?
Chris Barbetti: We’ve generally become more progressive I think with the way our songs roll.
James Hughes: We’ve gotten better equipment over the last 18 months, that’s helped a lot. Plus, the ability to hear a shit load of recordings back. We’ve taped most of the shows we’ve done, you really get to hear your mistakes and see your mistakes when you watch every show back. Also, you can really fuck around with songwriting a lot more when you’re recording, you can really take the time needed to make a song. I think it’s a different approach to getting songs ready for live playing.
You guys are known for using unconventional, non-linear song structures in your songs, how can you tell when a song is finished?
John Finch: Because everyone starts jumping up and down. [laughs]
Kobie Brown: It’s not about knowing where to stop, that’s not how I think of it. The way I like to think of it is trying a few different endings to songs, usually the way it rolls is we don’t just cut them back where it feels like they should end. It’s a tricky one actually, the ends of songs, usually they don’t have any set ending, we’ll just play them out. Some have a structured end, but most don’t.
JH: Maybe it’s a contextual continuity thing and they never ever end?
CB: I was about to say something similar, I think they’re all part of a collective work.
KB: At this stage, for the album, we’re going to be having a couple of tracks fading into one another, and maybe a couple that just stop. Who knows?
How much of what we hear is improv?
KB: For me, as a guitarist, most of my leads are improv. Maybe it’s a bit out of laziness, an avoidance to come up with a structured solo. That can be a bit tricky when you’re in the studio and it doesn’t feel easy to improv, that’s something I’ve got to work on a little bit. But that’s why I like it for live stuff, a lot of improv, and I think [Chris] Barbetti is the same with the solos and stuff. It gives you room to move around.
CB: It gives you a lot of freedom within the songs and there’s a lot more space to do things. I think that there’s a certain structure that we follow, but within that structure we set the guidelines for ourselves. We’re able to work within those boundaries.
JH: I definitely don’t change the beats of the songs when we play them live, I think it’s important for the song and the whole feel of it. So I keep the beats the same, I try and mix up the fills a little bit. The songs still stay the same, but mostly they’re improvised during the solo sections and I feel it’s important to improvise with the rest of the band.
You guys are going to be gigging up until April, and then you’re set to record your debut album which will be released in both Australia and the United States. Any ideas for an album name?
JF: We haven’t really discussed it yet.
JH: Electric Sunkings I [laughs]
JF: We’ve got one single for the album that’s already been recorded, “Mountain Queen,” and we’ve got another couple that we’ll be sending over [to America] to precede the album thanks to a small distribution deal.
JH: Well, now that we’ve got so much more technology, albums don’t have to be 70 minutes, so we’ll just see how much we get done. If it ends up being a few hours or something, so be it, we’ll just create a physical album from that. Maybe link it so there’s a free download code with our singles so people can grab the rest of the stuff online when we complete the album.
Who might be producing the album? And where will the album be available in the US?
JH: Not sure if we want to work with a producer at the moment. The songs might be mastered by Dylan Jones who did “Mountain Queen,” and “Out of Mind” too, which are up on Soundcloud.
JF: All the songs are going to be available on iTunes and ReverbNation, some of the songs already are. They will become even more available to Americans once distribution begins, we’ll be sending them to a few radio stations over there.
Later that evening as the sun began to set the Electric Sunkings assumed their place on stage and belted out several of their most recent tracks to a crowd of well over 500 people. For those of you who hail from Victoria, Australia, the Sunkings now have a long list of shows ahead of them before they hit the studio the record their, as yet, untitled debut LP. On the 17th of March they’ll be playing at Aireys Inlet Music Festival at 2pm on the Ocean Road stage. Then, on March 23rd they’ll be at the Macedon Railway Hotel in Macedon, a gig that will be followed by one at Melbourne’s famous Revolver venue on April 5th. Finally, the band will be featuring at the ‘Big Bash Bush Fest’ in Morwell on April 13th. For those from the United States or otherwise who might not have heard of this little Australian band, the Electric Sunkings can be heard or downloaded on Soundcloud, ReverbNation and iTunes.
As for the US, the Electric Sunkings are confident they will be over there sooner rather than later, plans to get the band touring overseas are already fully operational.
Chris Barbetti: As soon as we can afford to fund ourselves to get over to the States we’ll be there.
James Hughes: We want to be in America.
John Finch: We’re just planting the seed now.
Artist Name: The Electric Sunkings
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Genre: Post-Classic Rock
Band Members: Chris Barbetti, James Hughes, John Finch, Kobie Bryan