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Interview with Sunbeam Overdrive
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
For two of us it was simply triggered by Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”: Tom the guitarist was 11, at his grandparents’ with his brother in front of the small TV they used to watch cartoons on, and there they saw that video clip. When the chorus came in they were like « he’s shouting, that is awesome! ». As for Karim, the band’s vocalist, when he was 13, he heard that same Nirvana song played on the radio on the way to school, and he instantly knew that’s what he wanted to do, one way or another.
What would we do if we had not gotten into music?
Well, Tom has developed a passion and talent for fine coffee-making, so he would probably go for barista. As for Karim, apart from music, travel is what keeps him going and he’s done a few bike trips across Europe so far, retrieving a genuine feeling of adventure. So, he would probably just travel on a bike, satisfied with the most basic comfort possible, and feeding on whatever life offers on the way.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Travel, driving, sports (cycling, fitness), video games, movies... Tom gets his inspiration from the great outdoors, the shapes and colors he sees translate into musical prints in his mind. As for Karim, traveling and reading allow him to stay sane and find creativity in other things than pain, which is, unfortunately, the most powerful source of inspiration.
How long has your band been around?
The band is rather new, but Bruno (bass) and Karim (vocals) met Tom (guitars) when they went recording at his studio with their respective bands at the time, and Laurent (drums) has been around for a long time in the professional music scene of France’s South. So, we all knew each other before the band was formed in late 2019, and Tom picked the other three members because he thought they were the right choice when creating Sunbeam Overdrive. The first show was at Euroblast Festival in Germany, but then the pandemic happened so the band focused on composing and recording the first album throughout 2020 and 2021; getting back on stage in late 2021 to open for Psykup and Ze Gran Zeft.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
We’re from Marseille, 2nd biggest city in France, famous for providing many of France’s big rap names. However, we have a vibrant rock, metal and punk scene, especially underground, with a few references like Landmvrks, Eths, Acod, and more… Marseille is in the South, a region with several different landscapes (Mediterranean sea, hilly countryside, and the Alps nearby). The Alps mountains are the main inspiration for this record, as it’s about elevation, travel, adventure, and energy. It’s meant to lift you up yet make you endure the storm both inside and outside of yourself. Although not designed as a concept album, “Diama” nevertheless turns out to be crossed implicitly by a coherent line, which appeared to us once the album was finished. This line is the line of the crests of mountain summits, more precisely a notion of ascent, elevation, exterior as interior. It’s like an almost cinematic journey of initiation throughout the 10 songs!
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Sunbeam Overdrive » is a song from one of Tom’s former projects, about speed racing records established at Lake Bonneville (Utah, USA). « Sunbeam » is one of the car brands that were involved, and « Overdrive » hints at the blinding sun reflecting upon the endless horizons of the salty lake.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Safe to say Gojira at Hellfest 2019. They were closing a full day of French bands on one of the main stages, so they played at something like midnight, then they unleashed their massive full powerful sound and unbelievable visual show on the giant screens, then the full moon ascended from behind the stage… something transcendental happened right there. It was beyond imagination, and we can still feel it.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
“Molotov” in Marseille is one of the most iconic venues in the heart of Marseille, it’s small but welcomes all types of genres from metal to cumbia, rap, electro, reggae or punk, and both local bands to worldwide names. It hugely contributes to the Marseille scene and we love that place for that.
Of one of the many places we haven’t played and would love to, Karim would have loved to play New York’s legendary CBGB, but unfortunately, it’s been closed for a few years now… Otherwise, well, London’s Brixton Academy would be awesome.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
OK let’s get rowdy:
Drums: Eloy Casagrande (Sepultura)
Bass: Mike Inez (Alice in Chains)
Guitars: Greg Kubacki (Car Bomb) & Josh Homme (QOTSA)
Everything else: Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails)
Vocals: Mike Patton (Faith No More)
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Playing in a band is a collective, constructive, almost “family” adventure, and it comes along with the great potential of nurturing several personalities, capacities, and talents into one artistic entity, so embrace it with your entire being. Enjoy playing your instrument both on your own and with your bandmates, and do it a lot, be open to whatever idea the others bring into the band, and try to keep egos outside of the band as much as possible because that can be a huge threat to a lineup. Also, practice is good but there is no better training than hitting the stage time and time again until it becomes your own playground
And the main advice we could give our younger selves: FOLLOW THINGS THROUGH.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Still “follow things through”, don’t take anything for granted but believe, humbly, in your potential, and most of all: stay focused on your goal, and don’t let life and people around you make you deviate from your path. Choices and sacrifices are to be made, but it will be worth the effort eventually.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Karim: “Diama”, definitely, because these autobiographical lyrics are inspired by an extremely intense, burning, sudden, ephemeral, and ultimately volcanic adventure. Volcanism is the metaphor spun throughout the text because it evokes fusion, lava flows, eruption, and therefore, in the background, carnal, erotic union; heat that burns, but which fertilizes afterward (nothing like a volcanic rock for fertile soil).
Tom: “Diamond Shape”, because these lyrics, written by Tom, are about a difficult period of his life during which he didn’t even believe in anything he had lived before anymore.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Difficult to say, but “Out Of Plato’s Cave” is really intense yet very poetic in many ways, there’s so much going on in this piece of music, the instruments and lyrics taking you on an actual cinematic journey for elevation!
The song that gets requested the most is “Diamond Shape”, probably because of its very catchy and heavy chorus, and its slow, aerial, majestic pace, which makes it both relaxing and overwhelming.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
We have the need of expressing emotions through sounds and music because it’s the only way for us to feel them in their purest form.
Tom, the main composer in the band, doesn’t need to play the guitar or sit with his gear to search for the right riff or try to get the right sound. It’s more about searching for the right feeling by going outside hiking, biking, driving, watching shapes and colors, and when he feels something special it is automatically translated into music in his mind. So he writes it as he can in his head and when he gets home he can start producing the demo, with the certainty of being correct about what he felt. Sometimes it’s an energy at a given moment, which musically translates into riffs, sometimes one precise topic inspires the music, and sometimes the music calls for certain topics…
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
The lyrics, mostly written by Karim, are sometimes autobiographical, sometimes from the viewpoint of a spectator of social, human, and historic events, and sometimes more spiritual and philosophical. For example, if you take the two first singles we released prior to the album, first, you have “Out of Plato’s Cave”, our take on Plato's allegory of the Cave, describing how difficult it is to look away from the illusions that easily feed our minds, to stand your ground when everyone around you thinks you’re a fool, to look for the light, for elevation, for the truth, and have the strength to keep your eyes and soul open when it hits you.
Then, you have “Crimson Stains”, with lyrics about the mental load and burden, and sometimes physical aggressions that women can be faced with; based on the testimonies of many, and only just trying to imagine how it feels like to live with this disadvantage in a patriarchal world…
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
We have very few disagreements because we’ve done the work, in our past endeavors, of setting aside any kind of ego, and mostly because we get along really well in terms of musical influences. And as for decision-making for the band’s career, well we are learning together so it’s not like someone is claiming they have the better solution: we just discuss things and try to make the right decision together and stand behind it together.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Well, we have a couple of shows in our region right after the release, especially an exciting night opening for ten56 at Toulon’s Omega Live venue. Beyond that, we will be looking into our possibilities to work with a booking agency to get on tour in other parts of France and beyond borders, because the sunbeam needs to travel across Europe soon! The plan: get people to listen to our album « Diama », play shows everywhere we can, share the stage with cool bands, and start to prepare new material for future releases…
Music Video - Out of Plato's Cave -