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Shedding Light Underground

Proto-punk Czech rockers Sunshine find that they're right at home in the U.S.

by tim mcmahan






Lazyeye: Nov. 15, 2000


Making it in the good ol' U.S. of A. is tough enough for your run-of-the-mill punk rock band. You've got your constant touring, being away from your friends and family, trying to draw a crowd in towns where people have never heard of you and could care less. Imagine how hard it for a post-punk trio from the Czech Republic, with two CDs on a microscopically small indie label and a fetish for '80s post-New Wave.

But through tons of hard work and touring, Sunshine has managed to do it. The self-described New Wave/No Wave trio has spent the last couple years touring America and Europe, and will finally wind up shining some light at Omaha's Sokol Underground Nov. 19 for a show with Omaha's most incendiary punk band The Carsinogents.

Consisting of "Dan" on drums and percussion, "Martin" on bass and keyboards and "Kay" (pronounced Ki) on guitars and vocals, Sunshine has basically spent the last couple years on the road, both here and in Europe, Kay said in transit to Knoxville for a Nov. 4 gig at The Pilot Light.

This was a tough interview. Talking to someone on a cell phone while he's driving a van on a busy freeway is hard enough. Add to that Kay's thick, Czech accent and having to repeat every question three times and you've got a real challenge on your hands -- sort of like interviewing Steve Martin a la the SNL "Two Wild and Crazy Guys" sketch. Despite the language barrier and the obvious distractions, Kay's enthusiasm for touring, living on the road, and the United States came through loud and clear.




Few American bands have been lucky enough to have scored the tourmates Sunshine has shared over the past year. The trio just finished the East Coast leg of their tour opening for Murder City Devils and At the Drive-In, two bands on the verge of exploding through the dark catacombs of indie rock.

The ATDI opening slot was payback after that band hung out with Sunshine for a European tour this past spring that resulted in an ATDI/Sunshine split 12-inch on Big Wheel Recreation, the label that also put out Sunshine's last full-length, Velvet Suicide.

"Playing with At the Drive-In was an important part of our tour," Kay said. "They have a really big response and big crowds. For a European band touring the U.S. without a fan base, it can be difficult, but we've been playing to packed houses every night."

The bands on the next leg of Sunshine's tour were no slouches: Seattle's Botch, Epitaph recording artist International Noise Conspiracy and Le Shok. The 4-band ticket drew more than 400 a week ago at Chicago's Fireside Bowl. "All the crowd was shaking," Kay yelled into the phone. "Everyone was dancing; the response was really nice."










"For a European band touring the U.S. without a fan base, it can be difficult, but we've been playing to packed houses every night."


"I don't care if we're touring Europe or the U.S., the people are the same everywhere."


He said touring in the United States means everything to the band. "It's the most important part of our tour," he said. "In Europe, we're a really underground band because we're on a small label, but we're bigger there than we are here. In Europe, it's important for us to play with U.S. bands because everyone is curious to see them."

With an obvious love for Bauhaus, early Cure and any other '80s pop-punk-verging-on-New Wave band, Sunshine sounds like a weird hybrid of Them-era '60s garage rock, Material Issue faux nostalgia and, at times, very early U2 minus the pretension. Strange and slightly off-kilter, they proudly wear their influences on their guitar straps like badges of honor. "I'm 32, and for me the golden years of rock and roll were the '80s," Kay said. "We're not trying to rip anyone off, itís just the influence. Everything is coming back in weird circles that are fashionably trendy now."

Though Kay sounded excited about the tour, more than once he said it was tiring, and boring. "I don't see much of the country," he said. "Everything is going quick and fast and itís a lot of driving."

Though he's a long way from home, he doesn't miss his homeland. "Maybe the other guys do," he said. "Our bass player is alone and probably homesick." But not Kay. He's brought his girlfriend along, while Martin has his wife in tow.

"I'm cosmopolitan. Also, I like being on the road. It's really important for my life personally. I don't care if we're touring Europe or the U.S., the people are the same everywhere. The crowd is really young and dancing."

The one thing he probably is getting tired of is touring Velvet Suicide, which has been out for a couple years. The band is writing songs for a new album, some of which they are playing on tour. "We recorded some new stuff before we left the U.S. last time out, but had to cut it short," he said. "It was a last-minute thing. We have another recording session before Christmas, then again in January. The new album will be out in early spring of next year."

He said the new CD will be more of the same late-80s punk-rock-influenced sound, but more powerful. "We will use more keyboard stuff," he said. "It's like a celebration of New Wave."


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Printed in The Reader Nonembet 15, 2000.

Copyright © 2000 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.