Sulk was formed in 2011 in London by Jon Sutcliffe (vocals), Tomas Kubowicz (lead guitar) and Andrew Needle (rhythm guitar). The line-up was later completed by Jakub Starzyński (bass guitar) and Lewis Jones (drums). The band’s debut single, “Wishes”, was recorded and produced by Suede, Pulp and White Lies collaborator Ed Buller and released in August 2011.
Their second single, “Back In Bloom”, also produced by Ed Buller, was released in November 2011. The band played several shows in 2012 across UK, including being the main support for The Dandy Warhols at the Manchester Academy 2. Sulk released their debut album “Graceless” on 15 April 2013 which was followed by their third single, “Flowers”. The band recently released their brilliant second album “No Illusions” on the 15th April 2016 – exactly three years after the release of their debut album, Graceless. Mark Millar caught up with Sulk front-man Jon Sutcliffe for a chat.
Jon: Sorry I’m a bit late – I went out on the bus and it took me ages to get home.
XS: Don’t worry about it! No problem at all.
XS: What has the band been up to since releasing Graceless and the new record?
Jon: Well basically we’ve been trying to get the newest one recorded. We did it on our own record label and so as well as writing music and recording you are trying to raise the capital to fund it so it’s been focusing on getting the album ready. We got on to it pretty much straight after the first one. We’ve had these songs for quite a few years now – we wrote them a while back so we’ve been concentrating on getting the money together to get the album released.
XS: Would some of these songs have come from the sessions from the first album?
Jon: No, there is only one song that we’ve had a while, the rest of the album is all completely new. It was quite quick to write the tracks – it didn’t take that long, and we’ve got six songs for the next album that we’ve written from scratch.
XS: I wasn’t even aware you had a second album out – I came across it by chance and was pleasantly surprised!
Jon: Thanks – it’s tough at the moment, guitars seem to be treated badly and the music industry doesn’t seem that bothered with them at the minute and it’s quite hard to get noticed.
XS: The album seems to be getting a good response though?
Jon: It does and we’re made up! We’ll never release anything we don’t like ourselves and we’re really proud of this one. It’s nice that people like it and it’s been so well received by everybody. We’re doing something right!
XS: Are there any tracks you would pick out as favourites?
Jon: To be honest it changes every day – sometimes it might be a track that I don’t actually like performing but it still could be a favourite but on this album I really like Tape Of You. I think it shows we have matured in our direction and shows another side to us. Also Past Paradise – I absolutely love singing it. It gives me a bit of a break on stage as well when he’s doing his thing.
XS: I see on your website you have some shows in May – will there be more shows in the UK and possibly Ireland?
Jon: Absolutely – we’re working on it, it’s a case of getting promoters on board that can afford you to get gigs further away, because it isn’t cheap to get to some places and we do a lot of shows at a loss just to get the experience of going to different places and giving people a chance to see us, but never say never – in my opinion, I don’t think we’re doing enough shows at the minute but again it’s about picking the right thing and getting out there so hopefully (eventually!) we’ll get to Ireland.
XS: Where did you record the new album?
Jon: We did the album in Ramsgate. Our soundman bought a studio in an old church by the coast and it was the obvious place to record. It’s a fantastic place and to be honest I think we’ll do all our albums there from now on. Over the years we’ve built an army of people we want to work with and we don’t want to stray from that, and now we’ve got a studio to work in it with such good vibes about it the album was really a joy to do.
XS: Was it an easier album to record than Graceless?
Jon: Yes, 100% easier, because we got the producer we wanted. On the first album everyone gives Ed Buller the credit, but actually it was Jonas that did the second album. Actually we weren’t that happy with how the first album sounded when we listened to the mix, and we didn’t really get a lot of say in how we recorded our own album which was a bit strange, whereas Jonas had a very distinct vision for the first album that was slightly different and from talking to him we realised we were completely on the same page and so this album was really good fun to do and a hell of a lot easier. We did 25 takes on every song and a lot of the material used is live material, there is not much editing. We got really good at playing the tracks live.
XS: So what was the song writing process? Did you write the songs in the studio or were they already formed?
Jon: Thomas writes pretty much everything and then we help with lyrics and if one of us comes up with a better lyric we go with that but he comes up with the demos so we don’t really write anything in the studio. We do alter tracks once we’re there and some of the songs have ended up completely differently than how they were on the demo in the end once you’re all together and you hear them back, for example changing drum beats and speeds, so that’s the only writing we did in the studio, making things better, but the core of the song is always presented to us in demo form. I’ve already got six tracks for the next album, which were sent to me the other day.
XS: On your last album I loved the remix of Sleeping Beauty. Will there be any remixes of any of the new tracks from this second album?
Jon: Yes, there will be. We did it with Mike Porter and him and I have been in touch quite a lot and we’ve been talking about doing a few new ones. We wanted to get something out before the album came out to create a bit of interest in it but it’s getting the time. We own the label now and we manage ourselves and do everything ourselves so obviously it means there is not a lot of time. However it is a massive advantage doing everything yourself – you answer to nobody. One of the reasons why we decided to set our own label up was that we were sick of the promises and people telling you that they were going to sign you to work on particular stuff that didn’t happen, and also for some reason in this industry things take forever, and I knew we could get our album out whenever we wanted to rather than waiting and relying on anyone.
XS: So what is your all time favourite album?
Jon: I think it’s got to be Love – Forever Changes. I luckily got to see them live when Arthur Love first got out of the nick in Leeds and it was amazing. When we met Thomas and started to have our first few practices as a band, he started to play Love tracks and he can pretty much play the whole album from start to finish perfectly and I thought “I want to be in a band with you!” It’s an album that I never get tired of.
XS: Yes, it’s a great album. I spoke to Mick Head from Shack not too long ago and he is a very big fan of Love.
Jon: They backed Love didn’t they, when he first got out of the nick?
XS: Yes, they did.
XS: So what are you currently listening to?
Jon: Because I DJ as well, I’ve been listening to a lot of Northern Soul and stuff, but in terms of new bands the new Eagulls album is excellent. I live with their press agent so was lucky enough to hear the album before it comes out and I can’t stop listening to it, it’s fantastic. Their first album came out a couple of years ago and they were on David Letterman and that was the first I’d heard of them. They’re also doing their own thing and they’ve got something – the album sounds like the early Cure albums which is never a bad thing. There’s a couple of tracks on Spotify at the moment.
XS: So what’s next for the band?
Jon: We’re trying to get more shows booked in the UK and abroad and we’re off to Germany at the end of May on tour and then we want to get on with the new record quite soon and aim to get a new song off the album released before the end of the year and keep the momentum up because we lost some momentum after Graceless. The reason it took so long to the second album was because of waiting for record labels and trying to get agents involved and now with doing it ourselves we have this free world where we can do what we want without having to run anything past anybody. All the best things we’ve done have been done by ourselves so we want to keep the momentum, get the music out and try and do as many shows as we can.
XS: Last question – Prince died just recently. Did Prince mean anything to you or the other members of the band?
Jon: Me personally, he wasn’t really my thing, although I know he was extremely talented and he was a legend. Michael Jackson was another one that didn’t strike a chord with me. Bowie on the other hand was a big influence for me on a personal level.