In our first interview of the Edinburgh interview series, Geofrey Njovu speaks with guitarist Scott Gourlay from Fife band Sunstinger about song writing, new single The Void and the things that keep them going as a band.
Hey how’s it going? Where are you joining us from?
Scott – I’m in Fife, the good side of the water!
Thanks for making time for us! So how do you pronounce your band’s name? Does it have any particular origin?
Scott - Sunstinger yeah just the two words, as easy as that. There’s no real hidden message or anything in it, it was Taylor the lead singer and guitarist who just came to us one time at a practise and said we should call the band Sunstinger. We never queried it, we just said we’ll go forward with it. There’s no deep meaning, just sounds pretty cool!
How did you guys meet?
Scott – We’re all from small towns and villages in Fife and there was actually quite a good music scene, we all knew each other through going to gigs and playing in different bands. We were always friends and it sort of came about from that. Taylor was in a band, Bill was in a band and I was really good friends with him from school so the band formed from that.
So it’s just long-time friends who have come together to make music?
Scott – I sort of came away from music all together, I’d grown up and got a job away from home. Then Taylor asked if I wanted to jam some songs and it went from there. The intention wasn’t to form a band at first, it was just mates playing together.
When did you decide to take it more seriously?
Scott – We were just recording and rehearsing at first, we never really intended on putting our music anywhere and it was sort of said when we started that we wouldn’t do gigs. But then the guy who was recording our songs gave some of our music to someone involved with SoundCity in Liverpool and they offered us a gig. It was quite a good thing to get straight off the bat and it brought back good memories of gigging so we thought you know what, if people are into the music we should maybe start putting it out.
It seems to have come together quite organically then!
Scott – Yeah! With it being old friends as well it makes it a bit easier.
When you’re rehearsing and arranging music it must feel like productive playing rather than working!
Scott – (laughs) Yeah it’s definitely productive playing, sometimes it can be a detriment though cos we mess around too much, we should be more serious sometimes but it’s good fun!
Who inspires your band?
Scott – There’s so much! It’s so random the music I like, I suppose we could pigeon-hole our music into post-punk. We get compared to The Jesus and Mary Chain quite a lot, Chameleons as well, eighties bands. We all meet in the middle and quite like them, influentially they’ve had an impact on us but there’s such a broad spectrum of music that we listen to. My dad raised me listening to really old blues music.
How have you been doing during quarantine? It must be difficult since you can’t really meet.
Scott – We’ve just been sort of sitting in the house playing Call of Duty, so we can keep in touch at least. Me and Taylor have done a couple of stripped back songs through the Acapella app so that’s kept us occupied but yeah it’s pretty tough times, nobody really knows what’s going on.
Talk to us about your new single ‘The Void’.
Scott – So at the start of the year we actually recorded 3 songs and we weren’t sure what to do with them, how quickly we were gonna release them. So we released Shimmer and then lockdown started, we were quite lucky because we’d already recorded them so we just threw out The Void. It’s part of another song we had a while ago but we never really had a use for. You can have your own interpretation but it’s written from the perspective of a close friend who’s having a bit of a tough time, so it’s kinda written about his situation. It comes from Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of the death drive. The French terminology for it is l’appel du vide, you know that feeling when you stand next to a cliff edge and you think of jumping? You’d translate it to The Void in English.
For me it resonated quite a lot with the times the world is going through right one, you can’t see your friends, you can’t go out. We can be very susceptible to having such negative, destructive thoughts.
Scott – Definitely!
Is using these experiences a technique you usually use for song writing?
S – Taylor deals with the songs, the rest of us don’t really write any words or melody with regards to the vocals. He’ll come in with a song he’s written in the house and we’ll all add to it. Sometimes the lyrics are nailed down until we go into the studio. I’ve known Taylor for a long time and he’s very good at song writing. He’s really clever with his song writing and very mature with his songs.
Personally I really liked the lyrics to Shimmer, it seems very profound and coordinated as well.
S – Yeah profound, that’s probably better than I could’ve described it! People definitely take stuff away from the lyrics, he’s got a great talent. A lot of good bands can write a three chord song and sing lyrics about nothing but Taylor still impresses me when he comes out with new stuff.
How are you using your social media right now during the coronavirus pandemic? As a way to maintain your presence for your fans, keeping them in the loop.
Scott – Just trying to post as much content out, the last single Shimmer got a really good reception and we think it’s because we’re using our social media more. It would be quite difficult if we didn’t have it and you don’t want to keep re-hashing stuff. Taylor actually participated in a live session from PJ Molloy’s (Dunfermline) and a lot of people tuned in, lots of people and venues are helping out.
I suppose it’s a time that encourages you to innovate and use social media well. From what I gather the purpose of your band is friends wanting to keep together and grow their relationships, what should we expect from you as a band? Why do you do what you do?
Scott – The whole friends side you mentioned is a good part but as well when people are receptive to the music you’re putting out that you’ve put a lot of effort in to, that’s sort of what keeps it going for me. That’s definitely what the purpose is now. Songs resonating with people is a massive thing, we know someone who got a tattoo of one of our single covers on their leg and that’s crazy for me, I’m just a random guy from a village in Fife and when someone proper likes the music that me and my friends are making, it resonates quite a lot.
Personally what’s your favourite song from the band?
Scott – We’ve got a song called She Stole My Sky which I love when we play live. The drums and the bass are quite driven, my guitar goes between a fuzzy overdrive to lots of reverb and delay so it’s fun for me to play. I’ll probably change tomorrow though!
Which one do you vibe to during quarantine?
Scott – I dunno lad, I dinnae listen to our stuff too much! The only thing I’ve been listening to a lot from us is one we’ve not released yet.
What should we expect from you post-quarantine?
Scott – Post-quarantine is gonna be a difficult one. We had a gig booked in at PJ Molloy’s in Dunfermline in June, I’m looking forward to that but we dunno how this is gonna go. See after quarantine I’m not sure everyone’s gonna be rushing out to gigs, same as they won’t rush back to nights out and stuff. I think there’s probably a bit of time before this goes back to normal. In the meantime we’ve got another song that we’ll probably release called Nothing’s Alright Leave Me Alone, if this goes on for a lot longer and we can’t get out to do gigs for fans that we’re probably gonna release that.
Just to finish off, what has been your favourite moment in the band so far?
Scott – That’s quite a hard one! Anytime somebody comes up to you and says they’ve enjoyed a gig you’ve done or a song that you’ve done, that resonates, but my favourite one was probably a time we were playing a gig and I saw a guy walk through the whole crowd to the front, have a look at my pedal board and just looked up and gave me a wee nod, as if to say he was into the guitar sound I had, so that’s maybe one of my favourite moments!
Well that’s so much for joining! Enjoy quarantine!
Scott – Thanks so much for having me on! It’s been nice meeting you. Stay safe, and hopefully this gets over soon and you can get to a Sunstinger gig.
The Void by Sunstinger is out now on all major streaming services.