Get to know Sunflowers and their Castle Spell

SF 2 - credit Rui Fonseca.jpg

Blistering riffs, ferocious drumming, water being spat in your face, hair thrown about, kicked in the head by a crowd surfer. Sounds like a Sunflowers show. Or at least that’s what it was like when they last played Bristol. Their latest record, Castle Spell, is a testament to that. It’s loud and raucous yet at the same time incredibly catchy. The band have a drive like no others, with tours lasting months on end in a small van giving it everything every night. No doubt, they’re one of our favourite bands for just that. We caught up with drummer Carol Brandão and guitarist Carlos de Jesus for a quick chat.

Hey guys, how’s it going today?

Hey Nathan! Pretty good, pretty good. The sun is out, the weather is warm, we have a show tomorrow in Lisbon… All is good in Sunflowersland.

Your tour is now complete. How did it go?

Well, we didn’t really call it a tour amongst ourselves since it was just a 10 day trip with 5 shows. But that’s probably more of an inside joke so I’ll just say it went pretty well. All the shows were amazing, we sold merch, made new friends, saw new places and ate good food. I think we can say that other than the whole Barcelona fiasco (be careful with fake promoters, kids) the tour was a success.

You guys tour pretty relentlessly. How do you do it? Surely it can get tough out there, especially on a low budget. 

We believe that if we don’t show ourselves to the world, the world won’t bother to know who we are so we try to play as much as we can. I think we learnt a lot from all the concerts and tours we’ve done. I do the tour management (and band management, now that I think of it) and I got pretty good at managing all the expenses and stuff. But money aside, I think that one of the best assets that we have is that both of us have the same mind set when it comes to the band.

I think touring, especially for us, keeps us improving our craft and helps us create an identity live. Most bands are fairly good recorded but seem kinda lost when playing live. With all the shows we've played we’ve created a visual chaos of sorts and some personas to go along with it and it keeps people interested and coming to our shows. I might be wrong but I think we're the kind of band that you have to see live to get the full experience.

Do you think it’s easier touring as the two piece than it would be with a larger band?

Much easier for sure. In our first years as a band we were able to fit all the backline (and ourselves) inside a small Honda Jazz and, since we’re a couple, we only need a room. We’ve since updated to a better van (Jean Claude Band Van!) and added a bassist to our live shows but since we can still fit everything in a 5 seater, not much has changed. We save a lot in tolls and parking and it’s much easier to manage a small crew. Besides, when we do have some free time in our trips we can enjoy it as couple. So, how much better could it be? And even now with Fred, he is one of our best friends and we get along great. We know each other and we know when the others are in a bad mood, feeling down because whatever… So we try and create a good vibe and a sense of comradeship for everyone in the van because we are no more than friends playing music and enjoying the road. We love it.

Talk to us a bit about the sound. It’s quick and raw, pretty untouched. How did that sound come about?

It's basically our own DIY sound. When we started to make music we didn't have a lot of gear (and didn’t really know how to play that well) so we created a sound that was simple but effective for us. Since then, we’ve upgraded our gear and technical abilities but still the raw sound of an uncontrolled guitar feedback is appealing to us. We like to keep things simple, fast, a little chaotic and now, as we’re growing as artists as, we also like to experiment with new sounds and instruments and the sort of songs that maybe are more unexpected coming from us.

Your LP Castle Spell has sort of a story behind it, of a 10-story palace lived in by “murderous” tenants. Where did that idea come from?

Well, the song Castle Spell came from a place in Southern France where we slept. It was a 18th century palace and was creepy and welcoming in equal measures. The idea for the song came during the night, when the sounds and sights of the old palace were creeping their way into our minds. The album itself was a way to create a concept and we just went for it.

Do you find it easy to write with a theme like that?

We read a lot of fantastic horror books and sci-fi, so I think it's easy for us to create a universe that's dark and even funny sometimes, specially since we both have a very similar sense of humour… A sarcastic way to write a horror story, I guess.

You’ve shared the stages with the likes of Moon Duo, Oh Sees and Black Lips to name a few. What’s your favourite memory of playing?

We have a lot of cool stories from all the playing but at the top of my head I can say that one of the best ones was when we played in Endless Daze, South Africa, with Moon Duo and Oh Sees and somehow we all ended up by a fire in the African desert/beach by the moonlight, hearing the festival sounds at the distance. Just chilling and shyly enjoying the company of great musicians.

Now you’re on a little break, but for how long? What’s next in the future for Sunflowers?

If it were up to us, we would never stop playing but we have to know when to stop for a little while and leave people some space so they won’t be annoyed by our constant presence. We have a lot planned for our future. Some things will happen, others won’t. For now, we’re preparing our new record, which we think is our most artistically ambitious project so far. So yeah, we wanna release the album and continue our journey to world domination. One small step at a time, my friend.

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