The musical year 2021 has started well and one of the most beautiful releases appears to have been recorded in 1996. Underwater Sunshine’s Suckertree takes you back to the heyday of Modern Power Pop and sounds as fresh and exciting as the records released that year by the likes of The Posies, Fountains of Wayne, and Superdrag.
Sweet Sweet Music spoke with John Nikolic about the extraordinary realization of this record, renewed friendships, and humbling learnings.
(Listen on Spotify)
I understand there has been hardly any contact between the band members in the last twenty-five years. What prompted you to start looking for the old tapes?
That’s right. There was very little contact but not for any reason in particular, other than typical life engagements. Family, career, etc. The last few years resulted in a few relationship changes, for me in particular. This led me to contact old friends that I hadn’t spoken to in many years.
I felt alive again when those doors were opened, which led me to think of the past. I wanted to share my musical past with my new girlfriend but realized I had very little to share. I had to ask friends and family for a copy of our first album. I dug through old boxes to try and find photos, videos, etc. I wished I could show her the latest music we recorded in 1996 but had never released.
Next thing you know, I was reaching out to the guys for the first time in many years, asking where the old unmixed ADAT tapes were. Within a month or so, we began the mixing process.
How and when was it decided to turn the songs on the tapes into a new record?
The original intent was to mix the songs so we could finally have it as a souvenir for ourselves and a showpiece to share with our family and friends. Once we started the mixing process and heard the quality of the songs, we started thinking that maybe we could actually release it in some way. We had no idea in what format or even how, but it all came together eventually.
And how did the record come about?
Originally, back in 1996, we wanted to get in the studio to record some 15+ songs. We were only 21 at the time, and hungry to get signed by a major label. This meant getting our best songs onto a demo CD. We funded the recordings by playing live shows. We were headlining some major music venues here in Vancouver at the time.
The songs were recorded in a basement, on a very low budget. Unfortunately, the process took longer than expected and we broke up before we could even mix the songs.
The tapes of unmixed recordings ended up sitting in various boxes and storage spaces for the next 25 years.
Were you pleasantly surprised when you found out how good the songs were or have you always known that?
Very. We couldn’t believe how good the quality of sound was when using today’s technology to mix the tracks down.
We are twenty-five on and the music world has changed completely. I can imagine that the current possibilities played a part in the consideration to release the songs?
We were all very uneducated on today’s methods of releasing music. We had to turn to friends that were in the industry to get advice on how music was released nowadays. We didn’t even know that CDs were becoming a much less desired product of music. It was a very humbling learning process.
And now? What are the musical ambitions for 2021?
We don’t expect to do much since we all have families and careers. We do however want to play some live shows, to get some of that rock n roll out of our 45+-year-old systems. We will have to wait until the current COVID situation allows. It is quite unfortunate that we rekindled all of this after 25 years, within months of the COVID outbreak.
The Posies, for example, had quite a large following here in the Netherlands in the mid-1990s. They still fill the smaller venues today based on that fame. ‘Suckertree’ can compete with the best work of The Posies. Don’t you ever lie awake about what the musical career could have been?
Well, thank you for that. The Posies were a major influence on our music. Oh yes. We had those moments of thought. I think we are all very happy with how things worked out in the end.
And hey, it’s not often that 4 friends from youth get to unearth a time capsule like this 25 years later and share it with family, friends, old fans, and new. How fun is that?!