The world's most appreciated band is back and better than ever. After 6 years of silence, Sullivan has returned. Their new record, Heavy Is The Head, comes out December 9th. We talked with Phil Chamberlain about the reunion and plans for the future.
When were the seeds sewn for this reunion?
About a year ago we started texting and emailing around some song ideas, a few pieces Brooks had written just kind of morphed into new Sullivan songs. It wasn't really a planned thing but turned into a whole new album and shows, release with Spartan, and us actually getting together for first time in years to work on the new material and rehearse. It's been a great and unexpected experience.
How did all of you keep the reunion and album news from getting to the public prematurely?
Well when we were around a few years ago, about 7 since we've been a fully functioning band, it was back in the Myspace days. Facebook and Twitter weren't really outlets used by bands at that time. I think it would have hit the public a lot sooner if people knew there was a Facebook page to check or whatever for Sullivan news. So it's kind of a double edged sword, we were able to keep it quiet but at the same time that was because we had to build up our online presence again and let people know about the reunion and the new album.
With six years since the last Sullivan record, what’s the new music sound like? What’s changed?
Man, it’s weird, this new record really to me sounds like a great sequel to our last album "Cover Your Eyes." To me it’s a natural progression from that album to "Heavy Is The Head." I think it expands on that sound and is an improvement. As weird as it sounds to say this, it feels like exactly what it is - Sullivan took 7 years off and came back with a new album. Haha.
At what point during the past six years did you realize people wanted to see Sullivan reunite?
Over the past 7 years while Sullivan was on a break, I still toured and traveled with another band. During that time I would randomly have people approach me about how much they enjoyed Sullivan and from time to time asked if we were ever going to do another record. So, I think the desire to see us reunite has always been there in one way or another. It's been great to see how many people have reacted positively to us coming back and everyone has been super supportive.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen with musicians reuniting old bands and playing old songs is their struggle to physically re-live the emotions of those old songs. Was that an issue for you?
I don't really think we had a problem in that regard. It had been a long time since we had played the old songs but once we did get back into the practice space and start going over them again it came back really naturally. I think we played a few of them like "The Process" and "Great For My Collection" straight through without any trouble the first time. It was kind of like "Hey, this is weird but it feels like we never left the practice space."
What was the vibe like when you got back in the rehearsal space to practice for the album release show?
It was great, we just kinda dove right in and started rehearsing the set. We only had 2 days I think to relearn all the old songs but we had spent a few months rehearsing on our own so it was a pretty easy undertaking.
Did anything about the experience of the most recent show surprise you?
Man, I had no idea what to expect turnout wise. We didn't know if even 20 people would show up because it had been so long. The show turnout was incredible and all the bands and the promoter were great. It just all fell into place really nicely and everyone did a great job that was involved. People came from as far away as California to see the show, it was just an all-around a great time. I cannot thank everyone enough for that.
How much was Sullivan still a part of your everyday life or even your subconscious in the time off, given it was really all you knew for many years?
For me personally it would come and go. I grew up with most of the Sullivan guys, so we were still friends and talked from time to time. I recorded with Brooks a few times and anytime I heard of a band needing a recording I would send them his way. My other band also did quite a few music videos with Zach's company after Sullivan broke up. So we were all in each others' lives pretty regularly. It never really left my mind, but I personally hadn't listened to our songs in a while until I started relearning them. I think we all have a special place in our hearts for "Cover Your Eyes.” It was exactly what we were trying to do as a band from a record standpoint at the time and this new album I think takes that in the same direction but further. That being said, I think Sullivan was always in the back of all of our minds over the years.
Does it feel weird with the band being on social media as opposed to when you broke up when Twitter was just kicking off?
There are quite a few more social media outlets available for bands compared to when we were around last ,but luckily we have all been keeping up with that from a personal or new business level since our breakup so we've been able to get back into the swing of it for Sullivan. We realize that it's a long term build when it comes to these outlets. Just because we had 50k or however many Myspace friends back in the day, that doesn't really translate to anything now.
For you, who’s next? Who do you want to see get back together that hasn't done it yet?
That's a great question, I'd have to say To Speak of Wolves...? Hahaha. But seriously I'd love to hear another new Mars Volta album, they're one of my favorite bands of all time.