Sunnyboys founder Peter Oxley looks back on a golden era of Aussie rock as the band reunites for their 40th anniversary.
Sunnyboys founder Peter Oxley looks back on a golden era of Aussie rock as the band reunites for their 40th anniversary.

Sunnyboys get the band back together for anniversary tour

SUNNYBOYS have the surf culture of their hometown of Kingscliff to thank for the sound that made them a formidable live act right from their earliest compositions.

Band founders the Oxley brothers would hang out at the older surfers' parties, taking in music from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to Neil Young and Bob Dylan.

By the time Peter Oxley started playing guitar his younger brother Jeremy immediately started writing songs, their heads filled with the sounds that made the sixties.

A 15-year-old Peter Oxley and 13-year-old Jeremy formed their first band Wooden Horse with Sunnyboys drummer Bil Bilson in Kingscliff in the mid-70s. After moving to Sydney they formed Sunnyboys with guitarist Richard Burgman in 1980.

"We were always into melody lines, Jeremy's vocals and our backing vocals," Peter says.

"Even though Jeremy's lyrics are quite dark - he's very introspective, he's singing about how he feels - the music was slightly different. It was very upbeat.

"Us playing live was great fun and exciting but Jeremy's lyrics were sometimes quite sad and pretty dark. It was this funny combination of the two."

The musical influences shine through in the powerful guitar arrangements, catchy melodies and backing vocals, a sound made for the pub circuit.

"It was perfect; crossover surfie pop, rock 'n' roll," Peter says. "All the coastal areas loved us, the Gold Coast, Brisbane. We just had a huge fan base all over Australia."

A 1982 publicity picture of the band from left, Richard Burgman, Bil Bilson, Peter Oxley and Jeremy Oxley.
A 1982 publicity picture of the band from left, Richard Burgman, Bil Bilson, Peter Oxley and Jeremy Oxley.

For the three or four years the band was together they released three albums and a live record and toured solidly, creating a reputation as one of the hardest working live acts.

"All the bands were in those days because there were plenty of places to play," Peter says. "You could do a two-week tour and not even leave Sydney.

"You could play six nights a week. Shows were on Tuesday to Sunday and you'd have Monday off.

"It was pretty fortunate to have a band around that time."

Jeremy Oxley on stage in 1988.
Jeremy Oxley on stage in 1988.

The band celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with the release of a remastered version of their long-lost self-titled and independently released four track EP, which featured the sound that made them with the tracks Alone With You, Love to Rule, What You Need and The Seeker.

The debut "yellow" EP sold out its initial pressing of 1000 copies in just two and a half weeks. A further pressing of 1000 followed but the master tapes disappeared after the band signed to Mushroom Records in February 1981.

The band also recorded new versions of four tracks written by Jeremy post Sunnyboys at Airlock Studios in Brisbane for the new release Sunnyboys 40.

From a reworking of Can't You Stop, a song Jeremy recorded in his first band post Sunnyboys The Fisherman in 1986, with all the trademark guitar and harmonies, to the beautifully haunting reworking of Jeremy's 1991 solo recording Way After Five, the second side of the release serves as an insight into what the band could have been.

 

The new Sunnyboys release.
The new Sunnyboys release.

The Sunnyboys broke up in 1984 and reformed for the Hoodoo Gurus' 2012 Dig It Up shows in Sydney, playing under the name "Kids In Dust".

"Word got out that it was us so we had a full house at the Enmore Theatre at 3.30 in the afternoon," Peter says.

"It went really well and we thought, 'Should we play more shows if people offer them to us?' Since then we've played every year.

"It feels good to be able to play those songs and we've got a good crowd that loves listening to us. We have a good time and so does the audience. That's what it's all about really. When we don't have fun and nobody wants to see us then we'll retire or maybe we'll start playing the blues."

Sunnyboys tours Sunnyboys 40 through February, playing The Tivoli with guests Painters and Dockers on February 14. $75, www.ticketmaster.com.au


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