*Article from MyCraft magazine, Issue 103
Hailing from Sydney, Australia, The Sunpilots have quickly earned a reputation as a killer live act and one of the hardest working independent bands in the world. They left their home Down Under in 2010 to begin their ‘Gypsy Tour’ and have been living on the road ever since. The boys have no fixed home and have been staying on fans' couches for the past 4 years.
So far The Sunpilots have toured the USA, UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Latvia and Lithuania.
“On average we do around 4 to 5 shows and 2000 to 3000 kms of driving a week,” says Raj Siva-Rajah, who is both frontman and manager of the band. “The first van we bought in Europe was a 20 year old shitbox with no airconditioning. Yeah, that was fun in summer…” he laughs. “We run our own record label, do our own booking. It’s been intense.”
Formed by Raj and guitarist Bob Spencer in 2008, The Sunpilots have always been fiercely independent. The band released their debut album ‘Living Receiver’ in 2009 to rave reviews, a MusicOz Award, an ‘Indie Album of the Year’ and two ‘Indie Album of the Week’ awards from Australian street press. The single ‘Spotlight in the Sun’ became the #1 most added song on Australian radio and Apple featured another track as an iTunes Single of the Week. The band also became a North American college radio favourite and won ‘Best International Artist’ at the Toronto Independent Music Awards and ‘Single of the Year’ at the LA Independent Music Awards.
But it wasn’t long before The Sunpilots began feeling the limitations of touring a huge but sparsely populated country like Australia. And so came their decision to embark on a full-time tour of the rest of the world. While the plan might seem slightly insane, it fits with the band’s do-or-die ethos. “If you’re not on a mission, you might as well be dead,” says Spencer with a smile. “We’ll keep doing this till we make it or kill each other, what ever comes first.”
The Sunpilots’ latest album ‘King of the Sugarcoated Tongues’ is an epic 8-chapter story about the human need for security and the freedoms we trade for it. The record sees the band’s sound evolve into a kind of Zeppelin-meets-Radiohead progressive rock that has been critically acclaimed by reviewers. Raj’s unique singing style comes from being raised in two musical worlds: from the age of 8 his mother (a classical Sri Lankan singer) instructed him in the Carnatic music of the east while he simultaneously fell in love with all things rock. When the passionate vocals and storytelling lyrics collide with with Spencer’s ripping guitar solos the result is explosive. Especially on stage, where the band shines brightest.
The Sunpilots have made the decision to let fans download ‘King of the Sugarcoated Tongues’ for free. “We just want people to hear our music, so we let them download it,” says Raj. “All we ask in return is that they share it, and donate something if they can afford to.” It seems to be working since the album is downloaded several hundred times a week and that number is growing daily.
So what’s next for The Sunpilots? The boys have just finished a 35-state tour of the US and are now en route to Berlin to start work on a new record. “It'll be great to be in one place long enough to write again!” Raj says. “We’ve started demoing ideas and we’re really pumped about where it’s going.” With a new album around the corner and more US & European touring to follow, The Sunpilots are set to achieve big things next year.
Long live independent rock.
*Live photo credits (in order): Gabi Henke, Domenico Perri, Arthur Obédia