With the simmering surge of a Summer day and the stirring sting of a solar flare, the Sunnyboys have returned like a sunrise with the same burning passion and radiating spark as they have shown for the past forty years.
Proving their music is there whenever ‘You Need A Friend’, Sunnyboys 40 is the most recent emergence from their musical orbit; and the boys’ original constellation is set to brighten the town of Torquay in February for an aurora of starlit songs.
Faithful Sunnyboys guitarist Richard Burgman quite suitably describes the band’s name as ‘bright, happy, young, fun’; as the music certainly encapsulates those adjectives. Richard’s resolve is anything but icy – more meltingly sweet, when reflecting upon the correlation between the band’s name and the popular and eponymous 1970s–1980s ice-block: the Sunnyboy! “Well, it was more coincidental, the ice-block… the name existed obviously from our childhood – the tetra packs were around for ages before we ever thought we actually might be the band…it was just the first reasonable name that came up [devised by bassist Peter’s girlfriend; and] we all thought yep; that’s fine! There was no massive research involved…or mass debates or arguments or any of that nonsense! We even registered the name… and they gave it to us because it’s not an iceblock!”
Richard reminisces that at the inception of the Sunnyboys’ glowing career around 1980, “It was just busy. There were people everywhere; there were bands all over Sydney…we were stuck in our own little bubble, but there were bands everywhere. Darlinghurst and Surrey Hills and Newtown…all the inner-city suburbs were all so cheap to live in…these were run-down hovels…there were all sorts of places all through those suburbs, which meant we could all afford to live close to downtown…but mostly, it was walking distance from the Trade Union Club… there were hundreds of bands and dozens of venues, and you could play in all of them…Paul Kelly would come up…various people would sort of turn up and play…no-one had ever heard of them! They didn’t know who we were, either; so it didn’t matter!”
With reference to the boys’ prologue of performance experience in Syndey and suburbs, Richard recalls “As a training ground, it was incredible”; and following “intense songwriting”, bands were exposed to the cosmopolitan scope of suburbs including Bondi, Cronulla, Sydney City, Cremorne, Neutral Bay, Chatswood, Rydalmere and Newtown; where musicians could play their selected circuits “all in the same two-week period”. As bands were autonomous in promoting their own gigs and creating individual posters, the 1980s period was “full-on” and “incredible” to “learn what to do and what not to do” – “it couldn’t be beaten. It was wonderful.”
In the midst of the Punk explosion and the New Wave movement, the Sunnyboys triumphed with their own frenetically edgy and rhythmically driven sound; and as Richard rationalises, “[There were] so many bands around and lots of influences…there was this sort of three-chord, turn your Marshall up to 100, chugging rock ‘n’ roll…Billy Thorpe, Lobby Lloyd…this was from the late 60s; early 70s…[but] we had the one thing that every band needs; and we had an excellent songwriter which separates you from the crowd instantly. From the day Jeremy [Oxley] arrived in Sydney…he had all these wonderful songs…and that’s what separated us. We learned them…but the other three of us all put in our little pieces, and our little bit of flavour; and our little bit of content…so that first album is a real conglomeration of the work of the four of us. There was just us building the songs ourselves.”
Richard’s devotion to his craft has brought its own trove of rewards; and as he so sunnily summarises, “I’ve thankfully never really stopped playing. The band broke up at the end of 1984, and within two weeks I was in The Saints, so I played with Chris Bailey for two years; [and] ended up joining Weddings, Parties, Anything. The bands were all really influential; really ground-breaking; really noteworthy…weren’t trying to compete with anybody else.”
One of the most treasured achievements for the band, as Richard boasts, is “Well, we’ve got a new record…celebration more than anything else. To me, it’s quite spectacular – a beautiful little piece of work… it’s a full twelve-inch album-size book with an album in it. Side One of the album is the first four tracks we ever recorded back in October 1980; and Side B is four newly-recorded tunes. It’ll be a bit special – we also put it on cassette!” The most recent releases of The Sunnyboys’ album and C.D. are available at record stores, and other merchandise is easily obtainable from the Sunnyboys’ website.
With rays of brilliant optimism, Richard beams “I’d like the Sunnyboys to keep going as long as we can, because it’s really, really fun. I’m really proud of us; I’m really proud that we’ve managed to get Jeremy back on stage, because he’s been ill for so long [with Schizophrenia], but it’s managed now…he loves to perform, and we love performing with him. We are so happy to be here, because…so many things could go wrong; and so many things…could mess up, and we’ve still managed to make this happen; so let’s have some fun!”
Sunnyboys will be storming into the Torquay Hotel on Friday, February 7.
Written by Renée N. Abbott