Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Shawn Biggs
It was a whole rat's nest of things that happened to bring this Sonny & the Sunsets session together this past spring, during the week of the Noise Pop festival in San Francisco, California. It's the place where singer, Sonny Smith lives, so it really wasn't that hard, but the seeds of the session started when our biggest Australian fan - a man who made a pilgrimage to our studio with his sister in the bitter coldest of days this past winter and who spent way too much money to send us a pair of authentic Bluey jackets in the post - made a casual mention to our, at the time, casual acquaintance Kelley Stoltz that we would love to take a swing at taping this, a side project band that he was playing drums in at the time. Stoltz dropped us some electronic mail and gave us Smith's phone number to set the sucker up and what happened next was a longer night than we expected at Studio Paradiso, shutting down the night with a few too many beers, six songs and a cancellation of any other plans that anyone had made prior to the session. The beer hadn't really been tapped into until Sonny & The Sunsets showed up, but then they started flowing - everyone being a buddy and looking out for the others, anticipating when the contents in the can may have been dwindling down to the last sad drops and making sure that no one hit bottom. The songs that were being laid to tape that night were the happy little by-products - both in their creation and in their capture to tape - of this kind of buzzed atmosphere. You see, it seems as if Smith - the man with the chipped tooth, mischievous grin and all kinds of hair-brained thoughts squatting up in that head of his - gladly takes himself into that mindset, when all rational thought absorbs and is adjusted by a bounty of "that's just the beer talking." This can lead to a couple different things to transpire. It can lead to the most earnest of thoughts and sentiments, getting down to the core of what a person's going through and experiencing. This could be the part of the man or woman that admits to loving someone they have never had any intention of telling that they love them. Oops. And yet, often, this is what was supposed to happen, regardless of how the slip ends or how sloppy the execution may have been. The other very real possibility for copious, but ideal amounts of an alcoholic booze drink or a combination of booze and weed, leads to the kinds of sentiments that are just outright bizarre and fantastic. Smith goes there often as well, combining genuine tenderness with odd science fiction/weed talk in as playful and literate of a way as the great Dr. Frank of the Mr. T Experience used to do before becoming a YA author about being such a dork growing up. On "Planet of Women," from his Fat Possum debut, "Tomorrow Is Alright," Smith sings, "The two-headed lady said I couldn't land my ship/I said it would only take a minute/Well, she said, What's in it?/Awww, I don't know, just some weird shit," and a better explanation of what he, Stoltz, Tahlia Harbour and Ryan Browne pour into every song couldn't be found. There are inside jokes and sly usage of language all over "Tomorrow Is Alright," and it goes to show expertly that this business of writing music songs and performing music songs for people doesn't need to be all buttoned up and serious. It should be flippant and goofy and it should be okay to be a dork growing older, without having to give any of it up. The booze can make many things alright and it certainly makes the youthful worries of love, inclusion and getting someone to have sex with you all the better to hear about and even experience.