Sand Brothers – Too Much Sky (Q&A)

Introducing Sand Brothers, a hotly anticipated musical venture hailing from the land down under, led by none other than Greg Walker of Machine Translations and Rick Sands of The Night Party. Joining forces with the likes of Pete Cook from Yamamoto, Din Roberts from Kutcha Edwards Band, and Glen Scarlett from Oak, this quintet delivers a beautiful and captivating sound that is sure to leave listeners mesmerized.

Their debut album, ‘Too Much Sky‘, is a hauntingly beautiful masterpiece that boasts jangly guitars and poetic lyrics that are reminiscent of the exceptional quality that The Church has been renowned for over the years. From the moment the first note hits, it’s clear that Sand Brothers is not your average band. Their distinctive style and captivating melodies set them apart from the rest, making them one of the most exciting musical projects of the year.

I’ve had the pleasure of listening to some truly exceptional albums this year, but there’s no denying that Sand Brothers’ debut is a cut above the rest.

Rick Sands explains about the making of ‘Too Much Sky’.

How did this record come together?

About ten years ago, I played drums and sang in a band called The Night Party and during rehearsals, I’d sometimes swap to guitar and make up songs, with any demos we recorded named ‘Sand Brothers’ and dumped in a folder that never went anywhere. A few years later, Greg Walker, who had produced some later Night Party singles suggested we work on something together and I suggested that we use that name, this resulted in a few jams with Korg synth and upright piano – very Roedelius sounding and atmospheric.

It wasn’t until I threw a big party at my place, for New Year’s Eve 2020, that we came together as more of a rock outfit. Pete Cook and Din Roberts joined us that night on synth and bass and we could feel a creative frisson in every improvised track we knocked out. There were quite a few friends there and their positive response encouraged us that we had something going on! It was quite exciting to have a band materialise so quickly.

Well, as that weird year rolled out, we began rehearsing whenever we could. We’re based in the countryside about two hours southeast of Melbourne so we were not as deeply affected by the lockdowns and so forth – we worked around the various restrictions to rehearse at Greg’s studio but we didn’t record properly until January 2021. We got about nine tracks down then did another session one year later with another eight or so.

We actually have a double album’s worth of material but we decided to focus on these nine – primarily as they fit perfectly onto a vinyl record without any loss of sound quality!

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

That’s a great question! When I was younger I suppose it meant getting signed to a cool label, recording in real studios, touring and playing stadiums etc., Some of that has happened. All of the members of Sand Brothers are ‘lifer-musicians’ and have played in a wild variety of bands over the years to varying degrees of success. Greg’s the most established of us, with his band Machine Translations having had a pretty successful indie career. I’m not sure if he’s played any stadiums though – I’ll have to ask him. He’s also quite renowned as a producer, having worked with Paul Kelly and the like.

Success for this record would be reaching listeners overseas and perhaps even breaking through enough to justify touring not just other parts of Australia but overseas too. It would be nice to be ‘big’ in The Netherlands…or even Portugal or Greece!

You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?

If I think of some of the (still-living) masters – Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Paul McCartney, etc, I can’t really imagine the kinds of music we could write together without me feeling very inadequate and not pulling my weight! I like the idea of other people performing songs I’ve written. Maybe in the distant future some cool Dutch or Portugese kids will do hip-hop mashups and sample Sand Brothers a la Avalanches or something. That would be nice.

How do you decide when a song is finished and ready to be recorded?

Our songs are usually 95% in place by the time we record, then we might add some interesting backing vocals or percussion etc. We’ve been lucky in that most of our songs have come together very quickly. For whatever reason, each member is contributing the exact sound and feeling at the right time! As far as knowing when a song is ‘ready’, David Bowie said something about it being important that you don’t ‘recognise’ what you are doing – and that’s when you know you’re doing something possibly interesting. If the song is too familiar it will probably bore people! We use that philosophy.

We often have to stop ourselves from diving into new jams and ideas as we need to rehearse current songs for an upcoming show and we don’t have a lot of time to get together as we all have quite busy schedules. We really have to fight to find windows of time to get together.

Cassettes are back. Which five songs would make your first mixtape?

Oh, there are so many good songs out there at the moment! But if I had to share some recent Australian songs with friends in Holland I’d send them:

1. Simon Juliff – Private Party

2. Tyrannamen – Diamond Ring

3. Murphnick – Coming On Home to You

4. Machine Translations – Weightless

5. Augie March – AWOL

Suppose you were to introduce your music to new listeners through three songs. Which songs would those be and why?

Well I guess the first three singles do give people a broad sense of what we do – Adelaide,The Usual Things and Spirit Animal were chosen for a variety of reasons like being radio-friendly and some catchiness – however there are songs on the album like Dead End Road and Stolen Poetry present a quite different band. I don’t believe there is anyone around at the moment pulling songs out like Stolen Poetry. It’s hard to do half spoken-word vocals well, in your own accent without sounding provincial. We’re tapping into something bigger that we really don’t recognise there, and it’s exciting to make music like that.

If you could tour the world with two other bands, who would you ask, and why?

They say never meet your heroes. It would be disappointing to go on the road with some great band to find out they are awkward weirdos or arrogant jerks! That can happen and we’ve all heard those stories. However, most of the bands we spend time with are all very gregarious and easy going, like us. So, on the pre-condition they are friendly enough and easy-going I’d suggest Guided By Voices or even Pavement. The Flaming Lips would be fun to hang out with but a hard act to follow!

What place do you occupy in the music industry?

A minor one, but we’re all happy here in our little corner of the world, doing our thing!

What’s up for the next couple of months?

We’ve got some launch shows coming up for the album. A few of us are going overseas in the next few months, so we’ll get busy with more shows later in the year. We’ll also start putting together an EP of some other songs that are ready to go.

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