A Long Sundays' Journey Into Night

It's late in London and the Sundays' David Gavurin and Harriet Wheeler have

just convinced their 2-year-old daughter Billie to sleep. It's been a long night for

the couple, full of all the unexpected twists and turns of parenting.

They even had to pass up a photo shoot because they couldn't find a baby sitter

for Billie. There are more important things than music, after all.

After a five year hiatus that saw them fall from public consciousness, the

quartet's long-awaited third album Static & Silence(Geffen), the first

since 1992's Blind, has finally made it to the presses. Now it's time to talk

about where they've been and what has come of their music over the years.

Sitting by a speakerphone from across the Atlantic, they follow-up each other's

points and finish each other's sentences -- that is, when the garrulous Gavurin

pauses for a breath.

"It used to be the case that we'd finish the music before we'd even write the

melody line on top of it," Gavurin says. "And last of all we'd do the lyrics.

But on this album, the melodies came up as the initial idea came up. It felt

like a less clinical process. It made for a more direct-sounding album. We kind

of wanted it to be quite natural, so the effect is..."

"More human," Wheeler interjects. "And this time we used all live drums. We

recorded virtually all of it in our little studio, but to record the drums we

had to go to a big studio. Drums don't make for real happy neighbors."

Since the Sundays have been out of the public eye for some time, the new

album will reintroduce, and in some cases introduce, many to the band.

Longtime fans will find it instantly familiar: offering the same brand of

shimmering, strikingly melodic, acoustic-electric pop as offered on the first two

releases. Gavurin allows that some listeners will find it too similar even.

"It wouldn't surprise me if people said it sounded exactly the same -- or if

people said it sounded totally different," he says.

But there are real differences. Real horns and strings on a couple of tracks,

and -- more significantly -- a more organic feel that likely comes from the way it

was written and recorded: at home in the couple's small recording studio. "The

album feels less lightly poppy than the first two," Gavurin says. "It's

more mature. You don't imagine a 17-year-old band wrote the songs."

Though Static & Silence is only the group's third release, the Sundays

have been together since 1988. Gavurin and Wheeler met at Bristol University

and formed the group that year with bassist Paul Brindley and drummer Patrick

Hannan.

On the basis of the band's first album, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic,

and its hit single, "Here's Where the Story Ends," Britain tagged the band as the

next big thing. But the Sundays' low public profile and meager recorded output

have caused public consciousness to slip and rumors to surface that the band

had dissolved. "It's not really something we've lost a lot of sleep over," she

says, adding that she and her husband put the band on hiatus for a year after

their 1993 tour simply to break up the monotony.

"I don't mean to say that we're not ambitious," Gavurin says. "We're happy with

how many records we've sold, and we'd like to reach more people -- but not at

the cost of who we are. If this record gets a good response, I'm sure we'll be

very pleased. But we'll never put out something we didn't believe in just to

have something in the marketplace."

"It'd be much worse," Wheeler says, "to put out an album that you don't believe

in. If we don't get a good response to this one, we'll be upset, but at least we

know that we acquitted ourselves well."

A good deal of why the songwriters say they are happy with Static &

Silence is the album's lyrics. At 34, they wanted to express thoughts that

were more profound, less juvenile. "The album is less youthful," Gavurin says.

"It's less quirky and jokey than the first album; that one was more stream-of-

consciousness. The new one is more poetic. We took a lot of time over the

lyrics. They're hopefully evocative, express a mood, express feelings. The

essence of the first album was sort of..."

"Flippant," Wheeler finishes.

The couple says they were not looking to get a message out to the world. They

have no story to tell. They just wanted to make good evocative music, Gavurin

says. "It's not pages torn out of a diary. It's not autobiographical for either of us.

It's just moods and feelings. That's what moves us when we're listening to

music."

Drawing inspiration from some of the classics, they cite Joni Mitchell's landmark

1976 Hejira album as an influence. "I think we're going to have to update

our CD collection!" Wheeler laughs. "The things in the CD player most often

lately are Fred Astaire, some very weird French film themes from the 1960s, and

quite a lot of Frank Sinatra."

That doesn't mean there isn't something new in their sound though. Wheeler

admits to liking "a lot of trance music, ambient dance music," especially when

she's driving.

"We do follow the pop world very closely," Gavurin says, "but as you're working

on a record, you become very immersed in details, so it's hard to just listen to

new pop music without being too intense about it."

Gavurin adds, "I can write songs like the Prodigy!"

A tour is tentatively planned to support Static & Silence and Wheeler

says the Sundays will play a dozen or so U.S. dates before the end of the year.

But one question remains: How to handle Billie on the road. "I don't think either

of us are attracted to the idea of having a rock 'n' roll kid," Wheeler says. "So

we will take her, but we'll take a nanny as well."

"If (Billie) wants to come at all, she's got to prove herself," Gavurin quips. "We're

auditioning her these next few months." [Thurs., Sept.

4, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]