THE SUNDAYS, an influential alternative rock band throughout the 1990s, were on an upward trajectory when lead singer Harriet Wheeler and guitarist David Gavurin walked away from the business side of music in 1997 to raise their two children. They have rarely been heard from since. The couple recently chatted via email exclusively with American Way from their home in London.American Way: Looking back on the early ’90s, when the college radio stations discovered Reading, Writing and Arithmetic and MTV started airing the video to “Here’s Where the Story Ends,” was global stardom what you thought it would be?
Harriet & David: “Global stardom” might be a touch out of our league, but hey, thanks for suggesting it. No, our first taste of anything fame-related was when we started getting recognized in London, and given that things had kicked off for us in such an overnight fashion, this felt a little freaky initially. So we decided to clear off to Barcelona for a few days to get our heads ’round this new change in our lives, only to find the same thing occurring there. For a brief paranoid period, you can think the whole world is following your every move. Things move on pretty quickly in the music industry though, and there’s always some up-and-coming act to take the spotlight, and what with gradually adapting to our newfound minor-celebrity status, life overall didn’t alter significantly. The main upside of any success was that we were able to live from making music, traveling the world in the process — something we felt hugely grateful for.
AW: Good music can transport you back to a particular place in time faster and with more clarity than any stargate ever could. When I play any song off any of your albums, I’m immediately back in high school, awkwardly asking out the girl I had a crush on, or hanging out with my buddies, or typing college applications. Do these songs bring you back to a particular place?
H&D: As writers, the odd thing is that you’re as likely to think back to the place where the songs were actually composed as to any location or situation that inspired their creation. So in the case of “Can’t Be Sure” and “Here’s Where the Story Ends” in particular, these songs transport us to the minuscule boiler room attached to the equally cramped rented flat we were living in before our careers took off. At the time, despite the industrial noise of the hot-water system and the frequent burglaries, this felt like the perfect writing environment, and virtually all of what ended up on our first album originated there. Not very poetic, but there you have it!
AW: I started listening to you when I was 13 (and you two were 26), and I still play your albums. I’m now 37 and my 5- and 8-year-old daughters know the lyrics to The Sundays’ songs. You’re officially shaping the musical tastes of another generation. Considering your public (and admirable) decision to focus on raising your children back in 1997, what does it mean to you two as parents to know that other parents are raising their children on the music you wrote?
H&D: First and foremost, your daughters clearly have fantastic taste. But it’s always good to know that people are listening to your songs, whatever their age. It’s particularly gratifying, however, to think there may be a new, younger audience who are responding to the music, free from any attendant publicity and any sense of whether it’s “cool” or not to like it. Our attention was drawn recently to a children’s choir rendition of “Folk Song,” a track from our album Static & Silence. The idea that this basic song had taken on a new and wholly different lease on life was incredibly heartwarming.
AW: If I can get American Airlines to fly the band to any point in the world for a one-off reunion concert, where would it be? And can we do it?
H&D: This is a rather tough one. Touring in the U.S. and Japan, for example, was always great, but having already been to these countries, we might have to think farther afield. Aruba and Fiji definitely appeal because of potential snorkeling, as does Baltra in the Galapagos, for the wildlife. The contentious bit unfortunately is the reunion gig — first let’s see if the music we’re currently writing ever sees the light of day, and then we can get on to the enjoyable globe-trotting-meets-concert-planning stage. Beyond that, of course, we might have to look at whether any of these destinations would have an audience for The Sundays over and above the odd tortoise or triggerfish. Nice to think about, though.
Tune to Channel 07 to hear our favorite songs by The Sundays, and read Adam’s “Editor’s Note” about the band.