Music / Features
They Made Me Do It -
Talking Influences with
Sunbeam Sound Machine
Words by James Lynch
Wednesday 8th May, 2019

Just a few weeks after the release of his mesmerising new album Goodness Gracious, we got in touch with Nick Sowersby, the mastermind behind Sunbeam Sound Machine, to find out what inspired his latest collection of gloriously blissful psychedelia.
Following on from his cult-classic debut album Wanderer, Goodness Gracious finds Nick honing in on his woozy bedroom-psych as he embraces a more open-ended songwriting style. While the album still stays true to the debut, honouring Sunbeam Sound Machine’s distinct lush instrumentation and up-close production, these tracks excel as they meander and evolve, resisting any desire to reach a destination. What comes out is something that manages to feel both expansive and introspective at once, resulting in a collection of tracks that celebrate the journey while existing in the blurry space between gloom and hopefulness.

Goodness Gracious kicks off with ‘Heart Strings’, an immersive introduction that builds around an ethereal looped sample, before Nick shapes the track with his languid, unassuming vocals. Despite the opener only lasting a minute and a half, it immediately sets the tone for the album, showcasing Nick’s remarkable ability to create soundscapes that flitter on the edge of untethered dreaminess before they are masterfully morphed into gorgeous psych-pop nuggets. The following tracks, two of Goodness Gracious’s strongest moments, build on this idea as two sides of the same coin. ‘Anyway, Anyway’ is a tangle of crystalline guitars that is fleshed out with a 60’s pop backbone, transforming the translucent psychedelia into euphoric, sweeping pop, and ‘Talking Distance’ builds around a crunchy, driving groove, that pulses and warps before amassing into a woozy wall of noise.

The album continues to wash over us in a similarly fluid fashion - from the glittering chords and expansive ebb and flow of ‘Seems Like You’ve Made Up Your Mind’, to the hazy ‘Silent Era’, with its blooming guitars and hushed synths, through to the melancholic yet uplifting ‘Other Kindness’, with its stark guitar, wide-eyed vocals and waves of atmospheric harmonies. But despite the fact that almost every track elects not to diverge from the instrumental motif it opens with, Goodness Gracious never fails to keep us captivated. Whether that be due to the mesmerising layering of sounds, Nick’s effortless hooks or his ability to sound both assertive and vulnerable at once, it’s an album that you could listen to every day and find something new that highlights an impressive songwriter coming into his own.

Talk Talk - 'The Rainbow'
This is the opener from Talk Talk’s amazing Spirit Of Eden album, which I became more than a little bit obsessed with over the last couple of years. Basically they started off as a synth-pop band and after a couple of big hits EMI pretty much gave them a blank cheque to record their next album. They spent about two years in a dark studio improvising with jazz and classical musicians and the result was an amazing album that featured precisely no synth-pop hits and led to a court case for not being ‘sufficiently commercial’. I love the contrasts of this album - it goes from moody and dark to beautiful and lush, almost silent to incredibly loud. I lived in this album like a favourite jumper and it brings a lot of comfort, but also inspiration to pursue whatever sounds and visions you want to without any fear.

Eddie Callahan - 'Santa Cruz Mountains'
There’s a lot about the production of this song that inspired the new album, the warped string sounds and the sparse drums especially. Such a lovely song. I love that you can tell Eddie just got himself a new synth and decided to shred over 3/4 of the song. Why the hell not?

Magic Silver White - ‘Knew That I Loved You'
Magic Silver White was a band that existed for a couple of years in Melbourne around 2010 and released 3 pretty much perfect singles before quietly wrapping up. As far as I know it was mainly the recording project of Jojo Petrina, and the live band featured Laura Jean (I think). This was the first Magic Silver White song that I heard and it blew me away. It has ever since too. Everything I’ve done with Sunbeam has been trying in some way to capture a moment as perfectly and beautifully as this song does. My friend Lochy and I once approached Jojo at a gig and asked if she’d be interested in recording our band. She laughed and said she had no idea what she was doing. I wish I had no idea what I was doing like this.

John Luther Adams - 'The Farthest Place'
John Luther Adams is a composer who lives in the Alaskan wilderness and makes this really beautiful music with very blurry edges where everything is very carefully placed but all blends into one thing. The podcast Meet The Composer did a great episode on him, I’ve listened to it a lot and find it very inspiring. He sounds like a really lovely person too.

Solange - ‘Cranes In The Sky'
This song feels like a moment suspended in time. Such a perfectly captured mood. Those ‘away, away, away’ backing vocals are freakishly good.

Dexter Wansel - ‘One Million Miles From The Ground’
Have a listen to Goodness Gracious above, and follow Sunbeam Sound Machine on Facebook keep up with everything he has going on.