‘We’re launching the new album tonight… it’s been a long time coming’, Nick Sowersby says sheepishly from behind his luscious blonde mane. He is standing with his five-piece band on the dimmed, pink-hued stage of CBD venue Hugs&Kisses, imploring punters to buy their vinyl album, and clearly feeling uncomfortable doing so (bless). Mixed by Stu Mackenzie of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and mastered by producer Andrei Eremin, the debut LP from Sunbeam Sound Machine Wonderer has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the fronds of Melbourne’s bustling music scene. That said, Sunbeam Sound Machine is still a group that receives too little attention – and this album launch is a testament to that. There are probably 50 people in the crowd for Sunbeam’s set alone, most of which seem to be members of supporting acts Methyl Ethel, Good Morning and Pearls, (who each garnered an even smaller audience) and their respective entourages. It’s at least great for us though, as the intimacy of the show makes for a super respectful crowd and Zen-like atmosphere.
Perth’s Methyl Ethel hit the stage at 8.30, setting an unprecedentedly high standard for the rest of the night. Maybe it was because they only played a half hour set; maybe it was the fact that they were the first act on the bill – whatever the case, their brand of melodic, experimental indie pop went down a treat. The band played impeccably considering there would have been about 15 people watching, who were all assembled in a single row-file in front of the stage. Combined with the fluorescent, prom-like interiors of Hugs&Kisses, the whole thing kind of felt like a high school audition scene befitting of a John Waters film. So in other words, it was great. Most impressive was singer Jake Webb’s vocals, which seemed to be modeled off of Jeff Buckley as they danced beautifully over the other instruments in songs like ‘Rogues’ and ‘Architecture Lecture’. During the set Webb giddily announced that this was the band’s first-ever show in Melbourne; it surely won’t be their last.
Following Methyl Ethel was Melbourne based purveyors of catchy, inoffensive indie rock Good Morning. Their set was enjoyable; the leisurely, jangly-guitar music forcefully sending you into a wine-tinted daydream. But it was less the music and more the bands stage presence, a sweet blend of larrikinism and awkwardness, that really stole your heart. Between songs Liam Parsons declared ‘thanks for coming by’ before correcting himself ‘–stopping by. Thanks for stopping by’. Rock ‘n’ Roll. Soon after that, last-minute lineup addition Pearls descended onto the stage like a gang of sullen emo kids. Most of the set I spent preoccupied with the fact that guitarist and singer Ryan Caesar was chewing gum the entire time and that aesthetically, the band seemed to be going for an unsavoury Stevie Nicks/Morrissey mashup look. Nevertheless, the music added an old school glam rock flavour to the evening, with droning ‘70s keyboards and faint Nico vibes.
Finally, Sunbeam Sound Machine hit the stage, bringing an exciting air of professionalism and rock star-ness to the fore. Their set featured suitably blissed-out soundscapes, though there was a significant distinction between the sound of the record and the live act. Live, the music translated as more indie pop than dreamy and psychedelia-tinged – perhaps telling of Stu Mackenzie’s influence on the record. Of course, slight changes are always to be expected. There was no denying that they were at their greatest playing banging singles like ‘Wandering, I’ and ‘Real Life’, where the slower songs tended to lull and linger just a little too long. Overall the band played cohesively and enthusiastically. We will take that vinyl now, Mr. Sowersby.