Ahead of the release of their debut LP One Degree, Sunfruits sat down with Mixdown to chat process, workflow and the gear that makes them tick.
Melbourne/Naarm Psychadelic darlings Sunfruits are radiating with the glow that comes when a band truly begins to hit their stride. Their ascent has been nothing short of inspiring to watch – from their local, garage-roots beginnings to now, landing slots on festivals in the Netherlands and the UK alongside their indie-heavyweight childhood heroes.
Read up on all the latest interviews here.
The band’s forthcoming debut album, One Degree has hotly anticipated ever since the the release of their Certified Organic EP in 2020. The LP sees the band delve into their most mature and conceptual songwriting to date. As heard in recent singles “End Of The World”, “Believe It All” and “Made To Love”, the album showcases Sunfruits’ infectous talent for writing memorable pop songs and their desire to use their music for good.
The album follows the compelling tradition of Gen Z/Millennial artists such as US chanteuse Weyes Blood, who sonically reference the golden age of chamber pop and psychadelia of the 60s and 70s, yet employ forward thinking, enviro-conscious lyrical themes, creating an artistic product that is both deliciously nostalgic and pressingly contemporary.
Ahead of the release of One Degree, Sunfruits sat down with Mixdown to chat process, workflow and the gear that makes them tick.
It seems like there’s been a pretty massive expansion of the band’s sound between your earlier releases and the singles you’ve released and teased from the forthcoming LP – what kind of sonic palette were you folks working with when you began writing and recording the album?
In the early stages of the album writing process our palette was rather ‘lo-fi’ and janky. Demoing almost all of the album on broken laptops that needed to be refrigerated for 20 mins to continue. As time progressed and the brainstorming of what we wanted to create sonically began to take shape, thankfully so did our demoing skills. We started demoing songs early 2019 and just kept writing and recording all throughout until June 2021 where we bunkered up for 10 days at Kennett River with the full band to record with good friend Theo Carbo who really helped bring to life the various musical worlds we were chasing. We were looking for lush sounds like grandiose orchestral swirls, big synth moments, fuzzed out lead guitars, thumping drums and as many vocal stacks as possible. Thanks Theo!
There definitely has been a pretty big shift in what we’re trying to do now vs what we did on previous releases. I think the main focus point has been really trying to hone our songwriting to be as meaningful and poignant as it can be. Lyrically and musically. We want to write memorable songs that show our influences but also create something new.
Tell me about Sunfruits songwriting process – Is it entirely collaborative, do individual members tinker alone and then present to the group, or is it a combination of both?
On ‘One Degree’, all the tracks were written by either Winnie or Gene or both of them collaboratively and then performed by the full band. We would usually present an idea and fleshing it out over many back and forth emails especially during lockdowns. We got pretty good at sending over Zip files and describing our thoughts over text by the end of the writing process. As a result it was an absolute dream to go and record together as a group including the very talented Imogen Cygler who brought her amazing sonic expertise with strings and keys across the record. We recorded most of the tracks as live takes during the day and each recorded our overdubs at night.
Moving forward I think the writing will be a lot more collaborative and even during the recording process, the shared vocals and different instrumentation definitely started going into a more collaborative place, which is exciting.
Talk me through your recording workflow from demo to track completion. Do you begin in the bedroom or head straight to the studio? Any preference of DAW/special set up that goes the extra mile?
For this album we relied heavily on at home demoing and voice memo ideas from jam sessions. Relying on demo’s can be a dangerous path, though, as we were still figuring out what we were going for. This process favoured us well. Some songs started out as Country Jingles and turned into Brit Pop bops. Other demos were re-sampled and turned into a whole new song.
Thankfully we all use Logic Pro as our go too DAW so sending projects between each other is super easy!
Which pieces of equipment are integral to the band when it comes to translating Sunfruits’ essence from a recorded to a live context? Particularly considering that these new songs are larger and lusher than ever before – are you trying to replicate your studio sound when you perform, or do you prefer to let the songs breathe and find their own live groove?
I think we’re trying to replicate the album as best we can but also not fretting over it if we can’t nail the exact sounds. We just want to make the live set as exciting as possible, sometimes that means going wilder live than the original recording but that’s just more fun I reckon. Equipment wise, the fuzz / overdrive / delay pedals Win & Evie have running are very integral in replicating some of the sounds heard on the record. Another aspect is defs the keys setup that Charlie has going on atm.
Are there any pieces of gear you’ve acquired, be it something cheap that punches massively above its weight, or a less-wallet friendly splurge, that have tangibly influenced the way you write and record music to this day?
Gene has been using the same snare that he was given to him as a child, I’ve been much more invested in recording gear. Though my most trusted essential item is my AKAI MPK49 that I got for Christmas when I was 12 along with Logic Pro a few months later.
Winnie recently was loaned an acoustic 12 string from a dear friend Pat that was owned by some pretty amazing songwriters including Jay Watson (Tame Impala, Pond) & a member from Scott & Charlenes Wedding. This guitar has been a staple since.
Gene: I may be outing myself here, but I’ve been using the same snare that I got when I was 5, can’t complain, it just needs a new head every couple of years. I’ve been much more invested in recording gear. Though my most trusted essential item is my AKAI MPK49 that I got for Christmas when I was 12 along with Logic Pro a few months later.
I feel like I’ve only just recently really got my tone dialled in after a lot of weird combos haha this is what I’m running at my feet:
HoTone Wah / Expression Pedal: This one is great cos it fits on the board real snug and has a really versatile ability in playing with texture and expression of the signal. Little wahs all day.
Boss Digital Delay: A psych band classic lol, this is pretty self explanatory but I really love the sound and control you can have on this pedal.
Blues Driver: A recent addition, really nice volume boost and crunchy.
Fuzz Face: Really nice fuzz and another volume boost, kinda use it as an overdrive pedal. Fun to combine with the Wah for premium overdrive.
Death By Audio ‘Apocalypse’ Pedal: Ty Segall has this one on his setup and I can see why. Extremely loud and cuts through like a DI guitar.
Tuner: Hell yeah.
Revelation 12 String: This guitars been with me for a while and I really love it. Just a nice 12 string chime that is really fun to play and sounds great. I almost got sold a 12 string lute when I went to buy this cos the cashier thought I pointed to that instead.
Ibanez NesPaul: Not the prettiest guitar but it sounds so good. Crunchy and full, may look like I’m playing a Les Paul but I’m not!
Heya Mixdown I’m still working with my very first big purchase, my first love, my sweet sweet Baja Telecaster that I saved all my pennies for ages and purchased on my 16th birthday. Pedal wise I’m currently rocking a set up with a cute nano big muff alongside a few TC Electronic ol faithfuls such as an El Cambo Overdrive pedal, afterglow chorus and an Echobrain Analog Delay! I like how comfortable I’ve gotten with each of the textures these pedals make within our set at the moment, it’s really nice being able to constantly change up your sound through a few different tweaks of a pedal. Though it is nice to throw some discomfort your own way every now and then and maybe a new pedal might be just that, so who knows but for now viva tc electronics!
Winnie: I usually like a Fender amp but have found Voxs can also be good if dialled in correctly.
Evie: I still play through my first proper amp, she’s a beauty! A Fender Hot Rod Deluxe I got second hand off the iconic Georgia Maq, thank you my rock queen.
Nord Electro 4D 61: This has been a staple of my live rig and home setup since I got it back in highschool, and the first piece of synth gear I ever owned! Such a sturdy keyboard with great emulations of Rhodes / Wurli / organs / pianos, and also has some of the Mellotron library which is essential for strings & flutes on stage.
Novation Peak: A recent addition to the Sunnies setup, the Peak was a downsize from Winnie’s Yamaha DX21 for our NZ tour in Jan. In love with this synth, it has so much power and a heap of knobs on the panel which allows me to change parameters on the go, and get some pretty wild bass and lead tones during the set.
Arturia Keystep: MIDI controller which I use to play the Peak. Handy as it fits in a backpack!
Elena: I’ve always been super minimal in my setup! I’ve been using the same Fender Jazz Bass live since I was 14 – thanks to my bass teacher in high school who recommended I get one of the classics to start off with (a Fender P or J bass) and I’ve never looked back. We’ve been through a lot together haha. I just love how warm it sounds, but also can pack a punch.
We actually had a bit of a revolving door of basses when we were tracking the album – we borrowed our friends Hofner and I also brought along my P bass which has a set of flatwounds on it. As for pedals, pretty much all I use is the tried and true Green Russian big muff distortion pedal.
Winnie: In terms of Mics / vocal effects we haven’t really dived too heavily into this world. Just a nice quick slapback delay and cut out the midrange frequency and Im good to go lol
One Degree will be out everywhere on April 28th. Keep up to date with Sunfruits here.