Rock n’ Recipes: European Sun
A little over a week ago European Sun released their self-titled LP on one of my favorite labels WIAIWYA. But, despite being a relatively new band, the pedigree of the members is really special for all the indiepop fans (Heavenly, Talulah Gosh, Short Stories)…enough heavy-hitters to pique your interest I would reckon. We caught up with the bunch via email to chat a bit and a recipe for “Steve’s Daal.” Click on below for a great read…and be sure to listen to the entirety of the self-titled LP.
ATH: Let’s not beat around the bush here…the pedigree of the band members in European Sun (including yourself) is quite remarkable. Coming into a relatively new project, do you feel that there are still certain expectations, or does all that seem like nonsense? Do you have expectations, or just happy to be playing?
ROB: This was a different experience for us. Although me and Amelia have played in lots of bands together, we’ve never been in the position where we arrange and produce someone else’s songs. It’s a great responsibility on one level it would be awful if you spoiled the spirit of those songs, or failed to capture it. But it also quite liberating; I think it’s easier to be playful, to experiment, with someone else’s raw material. But like with our own songs, we do it for the joy of playing. We’ve never really cared what the rest of the world thinks. We want to make things that we think are good and if the rest of the world agrees, thats a lovely bonus!
ATH: Staying in the same territory…you’ve been part of some historically great record labels/musicscenes…aside from technology…what seems to be the biggest changes in releasing music now versus30 years ago?
ROB: We have been very lucky with labels like Sarah Records, K , WIAIWYA and
Elefant. They introduced our music to people who liked it, and none of those labels ever tried to influence what we do. I remember Matt Haynes of Sarah saying that if the internet had been around at the time he probably wouldn’t have bothered making7 inch singles – they just happened to be the cheapest and most accessible format at the time. So these days it makes complete sense to release material on Bandcamp, for example. You can sell music to people very cheaply there, and you can have a direct relationship with the listeners if you like. I feel very differently about the streamers (like Spotify). These are organisations that want to extract as much value out of your music as possible, and share as little of it as possible with you. It is worth bearing in mind that they are part-owned by – and do deals with – major labels (who’ve always had that vampiric philosophy). They are the new enemies of indie music. Like Google and Apple, they have managed to make people think that they, as corporations, are cool – even edgy. They are not.
ATH: I have to know, as a person with a sweet tooth, what is inside the ice cream cone on the album artwork…andalso featured in Amelia’s hand for the “Favourite Day” video?
Amelia: In the UK, it is known as Mr Whippy ice cream. It is pretty tasteless, but it has the perfect soft consistency for sticking a 99 flake into. We made the video on apretty warm day, so the ice cream was melting fast. Rob (on cameraphone) had toget his filming right first time.
ATH: In the songwriting process, how much of the work is done by Steve beforehand? I know a lot of folks, myself included (sorry Steve) probably reference Catenary Wires/Heavenly, etc more often than he’d like. How much does he come in with a finished concept and then say, lets flesh this all out together? Or is the process moreorganic?
Steve: It’s great to be a part of Rob and Amy’s illustrious story; I don’t mind the referencing of their other projects at all. Quite the reverse – what they bring to the songs is that experience and talent. I write the songs by myself. We then record a simple guitar part and vocals and then they add Rob-ness and Amy-ness to them. Then we laugh a bit and argue a little bit, and change a bit. And then they’re done. But it only works because they understand and love the songs. If they didn’t, it wouldn’t work for either of us.
Rob: Nearly all of Steve’s songs work perfectly as complete, stand-alone acoustic pieces. So our job is simply to enhance what they already do. In some cases (eg My Friend Robin), it involves chucking out everything he’s done (except the singing) and building something entirely new. But sometimes (eg You Belong Somewhere), we just add delicate elements to
the piece hes already recorded. The other person who we need to mention here is Ian Button a brilliant, subtle drummer. He plays with us in the Catenary Wires (as well as Wreckless Eric, Papernut Cambridge and many others). Where we need some structure, Ian delivers that.
ATH: It feels like there’s a slight bit of a political statement being made with the available tracks, including the bonustune “The Future’s Female;” was there a conscious effort (if you can speak to this) on everyone’s behalf toinclude some political sentiment on the record? If so, what’s the big message you wish you could push?
Steve: We believe that the personal is political. Mental health, gender issues, jobs, families, leisure – they’e all ultimately affected by ‘politics’; both in the sense of the way society is structured, who owns the media, and so on, but also by party politics. If you’ve just lost your house in Oregon, that’s because of global warming. And that means that a raft of
political and economic issues – agriculture, transport, world trade, nationalism – have had a deeply personal impact on your life. And if your President thinks he knows better than the scientists, that’s only going to make it worse. So if you want to sing about how you feel and how your friends are feeling, you can’t really do that without talking about big issues too. The events of 2020 have made that more obvious than ever, and maybe made it even more important than ever to speak about.
ATH: And with that, how are musicians and the music scene holding up on your side of the pond? We seem a bit downtrodden in the States? What’s the pulse overseas?
ROB: For those musicians who need to play gigs to make a living it is a very difficult time indeed. It’s very scary for the venues too. The UK indie scene depends on a network of small venues that nurture new bands. These places are always only scratching a living, so we are all really nervous about whether they will survive. We are quite close to several people who run these venues, and who are in danger of going under. On the up side, people have been sticking by each other. Like people in local neighbourhoods, musicians have found more support and solidarity from each other than they might have expected.
ATH: So many of the projects you’ve been a part of are near and dear to so man (myself included), yet despite the lore and legends, it still seems the music itself is overlooked in a sense. Looking back, are there any regrets inyour career?
ROB: Heavenly were once approached by some proper major label A and R men.We couldn’t really take them seriously, and didn’t reciprocate. Personally, I don’t regret the fact that we never tried to do the corporate thing. More people would have heard of us, but we’d have lost the will, or fallen out with each other, or started doing guitar solos in the hope of being taken seriously. All of us have always been into other things too, and we were lucky that we never had music as our only source of income. We’ve kept our freedom and I think that matters more.
AMELIA: I think my only regret is that some of our records could have been produced better. Right at the start, with Talulah Gosh, we had so little clue how to make a record that we were put in proper studios with decent producers, and those recordings are pretty great.
With our later bands, we were left in charge of picking where to record and the results are a bit more patchy. Some of it is brilliant but some of it I can hardly listen to!
These last two are just personal questions for me that I can include or leave out, as they’re mostly just me askingquestions that were popping into my brain while I was writing questions.
ATH: You read some haikus for The Moon and Back…is there a Rob Pursey poetry book in the works? Are youcurrently working a day job?
Steve: I have poems!
Rob: Steve does have poems. The haiku was only read my me, not written by me. I’ve never written poetry, and I don’t know if I could…It’s enough of a challenge coming up with lyrics!
Amelia: What we should probably advertise is that Rob and I are have yet another band, called The Drift, with our friend Darren. We have done the musical backing for three poems by Nancy Gaffield about our local area the Weald. The pamphlet/CD is coming out in October on the publisher Longbarrow. The music is nothing like anything else we have ever done, but we are pretty proud of it.
ATH: What are your current thoughts on Marcus Rashford?
Steve: I would like him to be our Prime Minister.
Rob: Hes the only truly great player Manchester United have ever had. [editor: False!]
When Steve stays with us I only ever cook vegan food (our family is not vegan). I think this daal is my favourite thing, with other curry, or justwith rice.
Heres how I do it:
Cook 200g of red lentils in 1 litre of boiling water. Add two slices of unpeeled root ginger and a teaspoon of turmeric to the pot. Simmer gently. Stir towards the end, as it can stick.
Takes about an hour, maybe less. After its cooked a smooth thick soup remove the
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil and gently fry, in this order –
– 1 teaspoon asafoetida (aka Hing powder)
– 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
– 2 teaspoons ground coriander
– teaspoon cayenne pepper
A couple of minutes is enough to get the flavours out. Tip it all into the
lentils and stir.
Thats it! If you have fresh coriander leaves, they are nice chopped and sprinkled on top.This daal tastes even better if frozen and re-heated, so don’t worry if you make too much.