Formed in 2019 by Daniel Haggis and Tord Øverland Knudsen of The Wombats, Sunship Balloon, is the second export to come from the Liverpool band along with frontman, Matthew “Murph” Murphy’s, solo project, Love Fame Tragedy Project.
Sunship Balloon take a stride away from The classic Wombats sound, opting for leftfield pop, closer to Tame Impala. Their debut EP Intergalactic Teacup Travel Centre released last year, received critical acclaim with its kaleidoscopic synths and grandiose hooks.
We caught up with Sunship Balloon a week prior to the release of their debut album Everywhen (18 September) from Tord’s kitchen in Oslo. We spoke about how the duo approached this debut, how they have both been coping with lockdown, and their shared passion outside of music, which may just surprise you…
The VLM: So let’s start with the first track from the album, ‘1982’. It is so calm and smooth. Was that the intention? I felt like I was on a fishing line being pulled in when listening to it.
Tord: We wanted to start the album with something that wasn’t giving you a song with lyrics straight away. Something that kickstarts the album, but puts you in the right mindset for what’s coming next.
Dan: A palette cleanser
Tord: It’s got some sort of modulation on there, their is a reversed glockenspiel, I think it’s pitch shifted so it doesn’t sound like that but yeah that’s what it is.
Dan: I love the visual of you getting reeled in on a fishing line. When you’re making stuff you have all sorts of mental images and all that, we kind of hoped other people would find something and it’s so cool to hear that you actually had that experienced.
How do you unwind in these crazy times?
Tord: Aside from music, picking mushrooms and walking in the forest. I grew up with parents who loved going out picking up berries and mushrooms. I’ve got a three and half year old daughter as well who is really into that, so I take her into the forest. When we had lockdown and we were home a lot, I took her out into the forest for little trips. I’ve been taking up playing football again as well, I haven’t done that for decades really.
Dan: I think outdoor activities whether it’s a sport or just walking in the park, is such a good place to unwind and think and digest. When you’re walking or running you can’t do anything else, you can’t be on your phone or watching stuff. That’s definitely an important thing, especially these days with social media and 24 hour news cycles. It really is easy to loose yourself in that rather than just look at what’s going on around you. For me making music was the relaxed time. If you get writer’s block it is frustrating. I love going for walks as well though, you come across thoughts that you didn’t even know you were thinking and all of a sudden a lyric pops up. It’s really nice to do that. It feels like therapy.
Now onto ‘Interstellar Ride’. It is a beautifully juxtapose song around the dark and light. It feels an especially important message given everything our current situation.
Dan: Oh yeah 100%, you nailed it! Someone really close to us was going through a really tough time mentally and it’s about how helpless you can feel sometimes when someone you’re close to is going through a tough time mentally. Actually the whole album is lyrically taking myself out of my own brain and almost auto analysing what was going on. In a way I was talking to myself. If ever I’ve had periods of anxiety or depression, you know making a song that is saying, ‘come on, remember to try and stick to the brighter side of things’. This year has been absolutely mental, and no one has all the answers; when things are going to get back to normal; or how we’re going to get through it. If we can at least point ourselves in the right direction there’s a good chance that we’ll get there. That aspect is definitely always going to lead in a brighter direction than hate and divisiveness and all the shite we see out in the world with some of the horrendous leaders.
How was the writing process, when you were presumably in separate locations?
Dan: It’s pretty collaborative really. The majority of the album Tord would have a backing track idea and then send me over stuff, then I would move things around and sing over the top of them and see what melodies came out. We’d have different melodies for some of them.
Tord: We were in two separate cities, even back then so it was a similar way of working as we had to do in lockdown. We would work on things remotely and then send them back and forth. Obviously you have to be in the same place to finalise the recording process. Which is what we’re doing now. We’ve even started working on the second album.
I love Marta Brodacka’s work on the videos, how has it been collaborating with her?
Dan: Marta was amazing and when we asked her if she could come up with a narrative, she came back with this mad world. We all love images that get burned into your mind. With Marta’s stuff I was like where did that come from? If we’d heard your one about the end of a fishing line, getting reeled in, I’m sure Marta could’ve incorporated something like that into one of the videos.
The album title, Everywhen, is a word you don’t often hear. Why that title?
Dan: I actually read in a book called The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells and I remember when I got to the word, he was actually explaining the moment that you see a glacier melting. Obviously the book is about climate change and what’s going on scientifically around the world, but that moment, its an aboriginal concept and it’s been translated as Everywhen or Dreamtime. Its a hard concept to try and understand or explain. It basically encapsulates the past, the present, and the future and your ancestors and nature all mixed in together in one moment. I love the idea that all humans, all society, songs as well, are a product of past, present and future all coming together as a happy accident. Whatever you’ve lived through, whatever your ancestors have lived through is going to have a knock on effect all the way down to all of the decisions you make in the present, which is then going to have a knock on effect in the future. I felt like it summed up the album perfectly.
Will we see any live performances after the release of Everywhen?
Dan: Hopefully. We really want to play live. You can’t really replicate that moment or connection in the studio. I love going to gigs to get that sort of feeling.
Tord: We just have to accept that we can’t do any touring now and when things start again then we’ll maybe release another album and get to tour it a little bit. That would be brilliant.
Dan: I would love it if we could film a sort of live intimate concert. We’ve got a few musicians who we’ve been playing with.
Tord: We did start rehearsing in January so we had the live set sorted, it was all coming together nicely. We had the tour coming together at the end of March and then everything got cancelled.
Dan: On top of that all the crew that work with us when we’re on tour you live on a big bus together, you become like one big family as well on the road. We did like a little live thing for Everton FC who were raising money for people in Liverpool, and I sat there and watched it on the Friday night when it came out. I was sitting there watching and I was absolutely buzzing to see live music.
If you could perform this album in its entirety in any venue, where would it be?
Dan: I feel like it would have to be somewhere pretty epic. You know like the Royal Albert Hall or the Sydney Opera House.
Tord: Red Rocks in Denver what would be pretty amazing being outdoors.
Dan: Or set up a stage at an observatory. There’s one in the Pyrenees called Pic du Midi I think. That would be amazing, maybe people could go and see some mad shit and then have a couple of Jägermeister’s, and then off we go!
Which albums have you been listening to most in lockdown?
Tord: I’ve been revisiting a lot of Beck’s music. He’s a super inspiring artist. It feels so free. You never know what he’s going to release, it could be a hip hop or a grunge album. I like delving into his back catalogue.
Dan: I’d been listening to it a bit before lockdown, but I really got into Big Red Machine, its a side project between one of the guys from The National and Bon Iver it’s so cool. I listen to that quite a lot. To be honest I listen to a lot of podcasts as well when I go for my walks around Clapham Common, because I was working on so much music during the day, I wanted something else.
Have you found any new artists you’ve fallen in love with in lockdown?
Tord: I always make a little Spotify list of songs that I want to listen to
Dan: I have a new songs playlist too. Sorcha Richardson’s debut album is called First Prize Bravery. It actually came out in 2019. Her song writing is really good. There’s a song called ‘Don’t Talk About It’ and there’s another one called ‘Oh Oscillator’ which is great. I really love Phoebe Bridgers stuff as well, she’s definitely a new artist that I’m into. I love when you hear a new artist that has a unique way of looking at the world and bringing something new and she’s a bit dark but its so honest and raw.
Aside from being phenomenal musicians, do you have any hidden talents or passions?
Tord: I mean we’re pretty decent chefs – we enjoy food and cooking. That’s one of the other things I’ve been doing while I’ve been in lockdown. I’ve been trying out new recipes.
Dan: I’d say food and natural wines. This is going to sound so pretentious. They’re basically like the most lo-fi indie band of the wine world. I’ve got a friend in France who is making natural wines. It’s a really small production, so they cannot make huge profits. There are no pesticides, it is 100% organic, and you don’t get a headache the next day, because there’s no sulphates in them. Its like drinking grape juice. If you like getting a bit merry and having a glass of wine I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Tord: We’re probably more star struck when we meet an amazing natural wine producer than when we meet a famous artist!
Dan: We drank a bottle of wine from Australia the other day called Haggis. Which is obviously my surname.
How was it?
Dan: It was delicious!
Before we talk about wine forever we better wrap up, thanks for your time!
Both: Thank you.
Everywhen is out 18 September. We will be sharing our review following its release. You can watch the Marta Brodacka directed video for the latest single ‘1000 Conversations’ below.