Sixties Production and The Key to Finding Vibe: Sun Sap Chat Their New EP

Sun Sap

There’s something about the Leisure Coast* that seems to seep its way into the soul and essence of the bands it produces in a very visceral way, and Sun Sap are no exception.

The band have finally unveiled their debut EP following a string of singles released over the past two years. Packed with sun-soaked melodies, interminable swagger and 60s garage inflections, the 5-tracker is every bit as inviting as the band’s moniker suggests.

Recorded in parts during the latter half of last year in drummer and producer Shaun Gaida’s home studio, Sometimes, Always, Never, Maybe is a motley offering – lively and free-flowing. Packed with a diverse range of instrumentation that includes horns and strings, percussion, cello, and even a sneaky mellotron, the band’s psych-garage sound was taken to new heights, diverging from the run-of-the-mill Brian Jonestown-esque affair that is so often heard.

We chat with Shaun Gaida about the brilliant EP, looking to the sixties for inspiration, and why vibe is king.

Sun Sap

We chat with Sun Sap drummer and producer Shaun Gaida about the band’s brilliant EP, looking to the sixties for inspiration, and why vibe is king.

Hey guys, digging the new EP. How are you feeling now that it’s out?

The making of the EP feels like a lifetime ago, especially the first two singles Miss Behind and Walking Out The Door. We recorded, mixed and released those songs one after the other starting in September last year and there’s been a lot of demoing and recording of other new songs since that time.

Is demoing an important part of your process? How do the final tracks differ from those recordings?

Demoing songs is vital for us. Because there is usually a pretty large pool of songs that Adam (lead vocals) and Evan (guitar etc) have churned out in writing sessions, if we tried to record them all, we would find ourselves in a Chinese Democracy kind of situation where we only release music every ten years!

In terms of the final recorded versions of songs differing from their demo counterparts, we are always really careful to try and capture the same vibe that a demo has about it.

I think tracking this EP has been a bit of a learning curve for us in terms of, if we find ourselves in a situation where we can’t recreate a particular aspect of the demo, it’s ok to use a track from a demo, be it a guitar or backing vocal, in a final recording. Vibe is king at the end of the day.

Tell us a bit about your home studio. What’s the space like? What gear are you working with?

The space we tracked the EP in is pretty pokey, just a couple of rooms downstairs at my house. Lots of tripping over other people and cables. Which was ok for the most part because most days it will just be me and Evan tracking a bunch of different instruments, and it also makes for a cosy atmosphere. Unfortunately this means we had to rely on plug-in reverbs to get those bigger sounds.

In terms of gear my microphone collection is starting to get pretty tasty now, with a few new purchases of clones of vintage mics such as the Telefunken U47 Tube Condensor and the Royer 121 ribbon, so we mostly relied upon that with almost all dynamics and equalisation happening digitally. In terms of mic pres, I have UAD Apollo that does some pretty killer mic preamp emulations (the Neve 1073 being the favourite of this EP).

Nice. Were there any records that really influenced the production on the EP?

We had our usual staples; The Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed, Foxygen’s …And Star Power and Allah Las’ Worship The Sun. And then a few tracks that were kind of more specific to certain songs like; I Need Never Get Old by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats, Can’t Seem To Make You Mine by The Seeds and I Want You Back by The Jackson 5.

I love the woofiness of the vocals. Tell us a bit about how you approach vocal processing in the studio.

Definitely the ‘less is more’ approach works best for us. I would say 80% of the sound is just the combination of this Telefunken U47 clone with Adam’s voice. The rest is a mild amount of compression from an LA-2A and a DBX 160 and a bit of warmth and distortion from driving the input of a Echoplex.

The diversity of the instrumentation really gives the EP this psychedelic, variegated quality. Often there’s just so much going on. Tell us about some of the more obscure instruments that feature on there.

For me the feature of horn parts (trumpet played by Tom Smithson and Trombone played by Mitch Lowe of Kava Kings and Yeti Calzone) on every track was my favourite of the new instrumentation we explored. Although we did record horns with the boys on our earlier single Love Is Gone, I think we hit a really good groove of working well together. When they came in on the day to record the horns for Time Enough For Love and we had basically said to them “Just have fun with it and play what comes naturally to you”, having not really had a solid part down for it. When we listened back to the rough mix after those parts were done I was so blown away by how it lifted the chorus!

Apart from that Evan has been playing lots of keys lately and has become quite the wizard behind the ivories. So tracking him playing upright piano was a real treat. Probably the weirdest instruments we tracked would have to be the mellotron flute part in Time Enough For Love and I somehow talked my girlfriend into playing cello on When Tomorrow Comes.

How did you approach mixing such a broad spectrum of tonal colours?

I guess we just used those 60s productions from the likes of Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and George Martin as our guide. Rather than trying to just have big drum sounds or big guitar sounds we just tried to fit everything together in a way that made the sum of all the parts could sound as big as possible.

I love the twangy guitars that pop up all over the place on the EP. Big 60s influence there. What are we hearing across the album?

Funnily enough, there’s not a huge amount of variety in guitars and amps on this EP as our guitar and amp collection is still in its infancy. For the most part, any electric guitar on the EP was done with Evan’s Stratocaster (easily the nicest Strat I have ever recorded) through either a Vox AC30 or a Pignose amp. Evan also has one of those Danelectro 12 string guitars that you can hear in Time Enough For Love.

In terms of effects, we tend to drive the amps for any distortion rather than using pedals, but I think there might be some BOSS Blues Driver in there for the more saturated guitars. In terms of reverb, nine times out of ten the Electro Harmonix Holy Grail has what we’re looking for, but sometimes the AC30 spring works better.

The bass tones are excellent too. What were you working on there?

Again very simple stuff, Evan has a Hofner violin bass that sounds awesome through a Fender Bassman and never any pedals.

What’s next for Sun Sap?

In terms of stylistic inspiration, we seem to be off on two different tangents right now. Adam and Evan are listening to lot’s of Motown and I have just had my first tabla lesson, so where that takes us I’m not quite sure. We are heading out on the road across April – June to get the EP out there and some general shenanigans no doubt.

Check out all the tour dates for Sun Sap here, and listen to Sometimes, Always, Never, Maybe via Bandcamp and Spotify.

*Read: NSW’s South Coast – aka God’s country.

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