SUNGLASSES KID - '80's Baby' | An Interview
There's simply no denying that Sunglasses Kid is THEE Doyen of 80's Cinematic Synthpop. Charming audiences since 2013 with his perfect slices of Synth Funk served piping hot on all the best streaming sites he's also seen popping up at such incredible events like 'Night Arcade' in Amsterdam amongst others.
It's a testament to this man and his incredible talent that his list of collaborators read like a who's who of the Synth scene to include Highway Superstar, D/A/D & Phaserland to name but a few. Having also penned one of the scenes most prolific tracks 'Beyond Memory' for Nina and more recently teaming up with the Dapper Dan of Synth himself Mr Ollie Wride with the phenomenally successful 'Stranger Love' he shows no sign of slowing down.
Always searching for the best possible representation of himself, Kid Fandom waited anxiously on the follow up to his seminal album 'Graduation' released on Valentines Day 3 years ago and they where not disappointed in the recently released 'Sophomore' which critics and fans alike have lapped up.
I was absolutely thrilled he took a little time out for this kid..take a look!
Let me start by thanking you for sharing your time with Forged in Neon today and Congratulations on the recent release of the brilliant ‘Sophomore’ Album which has received such great praise, how do you think the launch has gone?
Thanks so much. I’m really pleased with the response. This time, we released physicals (vinyl, tape and CD) at the same time as digital, and people really responded to that. It was also the first time I did singles (Chill with Jay Diggs and Fixing Me With Love with Primo The Alien), and of course, having Stranger Love with Ollie Wride on the album was the cherry on top. By sheer coincidence, it hit a million You Tube plays the day my album dropped.
The album itself sounds amazing and draws on returning guests such as Miranda Carey and Phaserland and adds some flavour in the form of the sublime Jay Diggs and the 80’s Sax Icon Tim Capello, I’d say it was no mean feat to pull this talent together, how did it all come about?
I won’t lie, it was a lot of admin. The team at Aztec Records were instrumental in making sure I crossed the T's and dotted the I’s with the artists, Between designing album art and mixing in remote sessions with Israel in L.A, I did a lot of DM’ing, emailing, nudging, Zoom calls and voice messages with singers and musicians. Tim Cappello was the very last addition to the album. I used my powers of persuasion to obtain his email address, but for an entirely different reason. One night I woke up and just realised I was being crazy not asking him to play sax on this album.
The song ‘Never-ending Dream’ was already complete with Megan McDuffee and All The Damn Vampires providing a guitar solo he very graciously agreed to sacrifice if Cappello said yes. It was so last minute I held up the entire album, had the mix adjusted and the song re-mastered. And all this was after I’d already changed my mind about the vibe and re-composed the entire song from memory during the mix session. So it was bordering on a never-ending nightmare. I’m so pleased I took that risk though, as it was a true 80s dream to work with Tim.
There’s absolutely do doubt in the world that you’re the king of pure 80’s beats other than that what would you say is the most distinctive trait of the music you create?
Well I don’t know about there being 'no doubt in the world' - that’s a pretty bold claim, but thank you for the kind sentiment. I guess asides from the orchestration and percussion, which I’m often told has a distinct sound, I guess it’s an emotional quality. I always want my music to make people feel something.
It’s not enough that the music has the sounds of the 80s, it needs to evoke the feeling too. Whenever I write, I often have a few musical references, but also movies in my head guiding me. There’s often a moment in each track when I have a bit of a crazy brainwave. Like, ‘ooh, what if I used that weird woofing cow sound?’ or ‘could I get away with a record-scratch?’ or ‘oh wait, what if I did triplets on the kicks here?’ If my question makes me laugh out loud or increases my heart rate, I know I’m onto something. It’s always when I push it right to the edge of ridiculous, that the magic starts to happen. The trick is to walk the tightrope, staying on the right side of silly. There’s a fine line between 80s cool and 80s corn.
Who have been your musical influences growing up? I suspect that’s changed a little as time wore on? Or has it?
I was a child in the late 80s and remember long drives in the family car with Janet Jackson, Phil Collins and Bobby Brown on heavy rotation, courtesy of my big sister. And Paula Abdul and New Kids On The Block were the two first albums I ever had. As a 90s teen, I loved hip hop and fell in love with rock whilst learning to drum. I was introduced to jazz by my drum teacher at 13, artists like Herbie Hancock and John Coltrane inspired me to learn more about things like syncopation, off-beats and being experimental. At film school, I fell for movie scores and took my hand to orchestral and ambient electronic music.
So I’m also very influenced by composers like Harry Gregson Williams or Ennio Morricone, as well as electronic artists like DJ Shadow, Unkle, Orbital and Leftfield. I take inspiration from everywhere. But I find I always return to the past. I like to go back to the source wherever possible.
Probably placing you in a hot spot here but of your entire discography what would be the one track that you are most proud of?
Stranger Love certainly captured something very special, and was more magical because I never really set out to write that song. It was a loop I posted on Instagram that inspired Ollie, started a friendship and created a track that blew up. It’s bitter-sweet, as we started writing it before the pandemic and finished it when the world went into lockdown. I’ve very fond memories of being in Brighton with Ollie and friends, drinking too much and playing it on the piano late last year before the shit hit the fan.
What do you enjoy most about being a musician?
On a selfish level, it’s the joy I personally get from writing music. Especially the moment you break the back of an idea, you get over that difficult second act and find yourself on the home straight to finishing a song. So I get a lot of pleasure from just writing, particularly if I achieve what I set out to do (which is very rare). I find it very moving (and surreal) when I get a message from someone saying they liked my music, or it meant something to them emotionally, or was with them at a milestone moment in their life. But I first and foremost do it for the love of doing it. If people also enjoy it, that’s a real bonus.
What would you say is the best advice you have ever been given as a musician?
You need to know the rules to break the rules. ‘I’m a rule breaker’ can’t be your excuse for a bad composition. That was from my classically trained mum who’s my biggest critic, but probably taught me the most about composing.
Give us some cherished moments of your Sunglasses Kid career to date?
I tell this story too much, but the memory will stay with me forever. My first gig, on a boat in Amsterdam with College, Timecop 1983 and Maethelvin having a meal before the show. The sun setting, FM84 was on the mixtape and whisky in my glass. Then a pitstop to The Grand hotel and me and Timecop getting ridiculously excited by the taps. This year, it was getting Stranger Love on UK TV. Who else managed to sneak an 808 cowbell into Made In Chelsea during a pandemic I hear you ask? And working with the sexy sax man from The Lost Boys movie, Tim Cappello = life goals achieved.
There’s no doubt you’re the collab king teaming up with the likes of Ollie Wride, Nina, Jay Diggs & Iversen to name but a few, is there anyone on your wish list you’d love to create music for or have them guest on a track you create?
I’d kinda love to work with Justin Bieber on some crazy 80s pop jam thing. But I’d also settle for David Sanborne, the saxophonist from the Lethal Weapon movies. I mean, realistically, we all know which of those options is cooler don’t we? Them Danny Glover jams though!
I’ve been pretty lucky to catch you at various events up and down the land over the past number of years. How’s the gig scape looking for you in 2021?
Gigging is never a thing I planned or set out to do. I do it when the right opportunity comes along and have no planned live shows in 2021. I think until we get this 80s apocalypse under control, I won’t be signing up for anything. But then never say never. I remain fluid and open to anything.... as long as it's cool. DJ'ing on a boat in London = yes. Pub function room in fucklefield = no. #SorryNotSorry
How do you balance the music side of your life with family, do you get much downtime to chill?
I hold down a day job, so Sunglasses Kid happens at night. I don’t have kids but do have an incredibly supportive fiance. I try to spend at least a few hours a night chilling with food and a movie, but from about 9pm till 2am, it’s songwriting. I also try to take a break each year in my favourite city, Rome. We even managed it this year. Being in a floating Jazz bar on the Tiber during a storm with a glass of whisky and some soulful italian jazz was the 2020 commercial break I needed.
If there was one thing you’d change in the Music Industry what would it be? Why?
I’m not sure. I want to say something about vacuous shit rap with 808 bass lines infecting everything on YouTube Trending, but I feel like that’s supply and demand. I guess something about hacks and hangers-on using talented hard working people, and not being passionate about the product. But that’s endemic in the arts.
Can you tell us anything about current or future projects in the pipeline?
I’ll make a third album at some point. I’m aiming on releasing some lost demos and rough mixes as a bonus EP. I’m working on a few non-Sunglasses Kid but 80s vibe projects I can’t tell you about without breaking non-disclosure agreements. Oh and I might write a book.
Anyone on the scene at the moment that you enjoy listening to?
I’m loving Jay Diggs, Gryff is great, obviously Ollie (he’ll steal that for his next album title), and Primo The Alien always inspires.
What is the one guilty pleasure you cannot live without?
A message for your fans?
Give Waterworld a chance. It’s actually a really great adventure movie with some incredible set pieces, practical effects and detailed costumes. With oceans rising and our climate changing rapidly, it feels even more relevant to the cultural zeitgeist. Also that bit when Kevin Costner zip lines off an exploding oil tanker is off the chain.
Do you want to support Sunglasses Kid? Of course you do....