Sunflowers - Between Douro River and the Atlantic Ocean

Sunflowers are a Portuguese duo, drums, and guitar, based in Oporto, a large city on the north of Portugal, were Rio Douro meets the Atlantic Ocean. They have been playing together since 2014, and released their second full length a couple of weeks ago, Castle Spells.

Sunflowers are Carlos Jesus who plays guitar, bass, synth, and Carolina Brandão who plays drums and, like Carlos also helps in with synth and Theremin, being both in charge of the vocals.

If you're in some noise garage stuff, you should listen to them, although I must say that their true nature is only fully understood when you see them playing live. 

©Rui Fonseca

The Sunflowers were formed in 2014 in a succession of random events. 4 years later, more than a handful of Ep's, the first record in 2015 and now on the verge of the second, what has changed and what remains the same?

I think what has changed over the last 4 years it's our dedication to the band. We decided to take it on 100% after the second EP, and we have been getting more and more involved with the idea of this being our main job, our occupation and our way of living, without ever losing the passion that made us pick up instruments to start the band. All the rest remains the same, we continue to do what we did before the band, we dated and we walked through this beautiful country. We are the same people, just changed the amount of dedication to our own music.

After your tour across Portugal in 2016, that took you to most of the places where everybody wants to play, in late 2017 you toured Europe with 800 Gondomar. How did it go? Has it exceeded your expectations?

The secret is to go without expectations. We were throwing ourselves out there, to get noticed in other countries, and traveling our music across the visible land on the horizon and playing every night. We had memorable moments, and not so good moments! But that doesn't matter that much because you are experiencing a whole new world. The fact that we were able to do it with great friends made it even more awesome. A great shout out for the great Renato Top Driver.

How is your creative process?

There's always that riff that I invent when I'm walking down the street, it's echoing in my head and I'm recording that for the cell phone on the street. I get home, I pick up the guitar and I transpose what's on the recording, of the improvisations that we make. We are both multi-instrumentalists and we often improvise with various instruments. From these improvisations come ideas that we later put into something on the guitar-drums set. There are many ideas that eventually get better and these end up being the ones that we bet harder to record.

Between one record and the other what are the biggest differences that you felt in your creative process and then recording it?

In creation it didn't change anything but the influences we captured at the time, we simply applied ourselves to doing something with a precise idea of what it could be. In the making, we spent more time in the studio on this second album, which helped us make the recordings more calmly to explore sounds.

To what extent have the Sunflowers changed your lives?

They have not changed much, we are still the same Sunflowers who wanted to conquer the world 4 years ago. We just learned how to conquer it.

What was the theme that gave you the most joy to record? (the first doesn't count and the last one either!)

All! It's super fun to be in the studio recording and experimenting with new ideas and sounds for a song. This makes them special individually. And it's hard to choose which one is the most special!

Who's in charge of the artwork of your records and Ep's?

Usually it's us. It's the DIY spirit and we can't fight it.

Your sound is hinted at by a provocative garage punk. How did you reach your sound?

I think everything comes from the scenes we hear and we identify. Perhaps the fact that we are quite calm people offstage makes it the perfect excuse to get rid of the negative energies on stage. We can act like crazy on stage and get paid for it. It's perfect!

I have read in several places that you feel very comfortable as a duo, despite some participations on certain tracks. Don't you feel this need on stage?

More and more we have realized what we can do as a duo and less and less we miss a third person in the band. Of course, in a week from now, we can decide that we need someone because of a certain song or that we need more people to create new textures in the songs ... But for now, we feel good just the two of us.

What was the most joyful concert you gave?

We have had enough, but I think the ones that stood out were the concerts at the Ateneu do Porto, in the NOS D'Bandada 2016, the Barreiro Rocks 2015 concert and the Olympic Café in Paris with a full house on the last European tour in December.

If I'm not mistaken the Sunflowers are not your exclusive occupation. Given your agenda in the last two/three years, how have you been doing this management?

It was not exactly easy to balance all the demands of college (in the case of Carolina) and work (in my case). But however complicated it may have been and may be in the future, we both think it's a small sacrifice that we are more than willing to do. In fact, all this extra effort gives us more enthusiasm to continue doing what we like and makes us appreciate all our little achievements even more.

What are your biggest influences?

We have many and they come from all musical genres and even out of music. All this garage psych wave, the krautrock of the 70's, the books we read while composing something influences a lot. We like to keep open to what we can influence the composition of new themes because it helps us open the horizons for what we can do as a band.

Four years ago, when you started playing together, did you imagined that in about three/four years you would already have several Ep's and two recorded albums?

As I mentioned before, after the second EP, we focused on the band very seriously and it made us pay more attention to what we do, how fast we compose and release. For me, I would like to be able to always be in the studio and launch new things more regularly but for now, we can't afford to do this exclusively. But slowly we reached something that 4 years ago would never have come to our minds. European tours, foreign publishers, vinyl editions, etc. Everything that we worked to make it happen and that we were fortunate enough the out-of-band people bet as much on us as we do.

How would you describe your music, more specifically your latest album, Castle Spell, to someone who has never heard you before?

Garage punk with a psychedelic touch, often skimming on noise pop and surf punk at the Dead Kennedys. A mixture of fantasy and science fiction, with many touches of sonic paranoia and that slight repetition that we went to get to krautrock.

Where do you imagine yourselves 4 years from now?

Releasing records, playing and conquering the world, one stage at a time.

'Isabel Maria is a music lover, plain as this. Occasionally djing, but always feeling the need to exchange more information she was driven to create her own mixcloud, four years ago after the life-changing experience of Reverence Valada. After that event, she started to create mixtapes whenever she felt that there were songs that she wanted to share. That work gave her the opportunity to work with Caleidosocopio Radio, where for a whole year she cruised the skies every week with her Voyage Dans La Lune, almost exclusively devoted to psychedelia. From a couple of years to this point, she's been collaborating with the site Música em Dx, creating mixtapes, reviewing concerts and interviewing bands.'

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