The Sunnyboys was one of those too-bright-burning acts from arguably the best creative period in Australian music history. Although the songs they’ve crafted are unforgettably catchy, they appealed to those who saw ourselves as musical purists by standing against the slide into disposable pop, and then left us disappointed when they imploded without an opportunity for many of us to see them live.
I recently had the pleasure of a chat with Sunnyboys’ founding member and bassist extraordinaire, Peter Oxley, who now seems to be living the true musician’s dream: playing his band’s much-loved back catalogue to record crowds of fans, with his brother and the rest of the original lineup, and doing it purely for enjoyment. I asked if that was the reason that the Sunnyboys has now been playing dates since 2012, which is nearly twice as long as the same four original members were together in the early ’80s, and he agreed that the landscape has changed dramatically for them.
“Back then there was a lot of pressure from labels, and touring all over the place. We were really only together for about three years.”
Now the band has the enviable position of being able to cherry-pick dates and locations:
“We do one run of shows each year, capital cities, over a few successive weekends, and this time we’re coming all the way to Cairns.”
It’s been long enough since the band’s last gig here that even Google doesn’t seem to know where the show was held, but I think it’s safe to say that the Tanks show will be more memorable, as Peter comes across as super-professional and completely focussed on delivering the best quality event possible.
“We’re all playing better than ever, I think that as musicians you just get better and better on your instruments. And we’re very careful with things like our lighting design; we won’t just turn up and play at a venue with, like, ten lights.”
All up, sounds like an ideal act for Tanks Art Centre. The effort taken has certainly paid off judging by the rave reviews from recent tours: co-headlining Day On The Green, sellout gigs at the Sydney Opera House and Enmore Theatre, etc, etc. Not bad for four blokes who actually only intended a one-off show “for old time’s sake” at the urging of their Hoodoo Guru mates, back in 2012.
I wondered if the creativity shown in designing shows was enough of an outlet, or whether it is spilling over into possible new songs. Peter gave me a slightly guarded but optimistic outlook: there is certainly material there, and as well as the live dates, February 2018 holds some studio time. Introducing new songs into live sets is obviously controversial territory for a band with such an eminent back-catalogue – regardless of how great a new track is, its unfamiliarity with a crowd will always shine a harsh light when it’s sandwiched by monster hits. Peter agreed:
“I saw Cold Chisel last year, at the Sydney Entertainment Centre with 10,000 fans, all screaming away, and then when they played their single off the new album – which is great, I really like it – it was, like, silence.”
My hope is that the more purist, less commoditised Sunnyboys fans are more likely to be receptive, and that we will hear some new songs, but if I have to wait for the album that’s cool too.
Regardless, it’s clearly all about enjoying putting on a spectacular gig for the fans. The Saturday night Cairns show will cap off the band’s third super-busy weekend in a row, with a show in Canberra on Thursday and Thirroul on Friday, and it also marks the end of their tour dates, so I daresay they’ll be absolutely at the top of their game. And I’ll finally get the chance to see them live. See you there!
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