Whatever Happened to The Sundays?

Occasionally, bands just drop out of existence, like they’ve accidentally stumbled into a musical Bermuda Triangle. After a selection of modest-to-smash hits, you’ll completely forget they exist, until years later when you hear one of their songs on the radio or in the background of a retro TV show and go “yeah, whatever happened to [insert name here] anyway?”.

The Sundays definitely fall under this banner. The English alt-rock band (oh, the numerous implications behind those words) carved out a very comfortable little niche for themselves between 1988-1997 in guitar-driven pop that seemed to dominate the airwaves whenever they bothered to release a new single. So, what happened to The Sundays?

First, we need to establish where they came from. It’s a terribly romantic story and terribly British story, if you’re interested in that kind of thing. Harriet Wheeler and David Gauvrin met at University and soon formed a relationship. As Wheeler did some side work singing for the band that would become Jim Jiminee, the pair began to look more seriously at fulfilling long-held dreams about becoming musicians. Come the end of university, they wrote music while on benefits and sought out bassist Paul Brindley and drummer Patrick Hannan to round off their group: thus, The Sundays were born.

The group soon caught the attention of the music industry after some positive reviews sparked a bidding war between record companies. They eventually decided to sign with Rough Trade Records, with whom they released their first album Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Their debut landed them in the UK top five in 1990, and things looked peachy for the foursome.

However, the group were not to be heard from again till 1992. Rough Trade suffered some major financial setbacks and the band decided to cut loose and manage themselves. But they were hampered by a number of setbacks: constant touring left their creation of new material at a low ebb, and their refusal to engage in high-profile publicity led many people to assume the band had actually broken up. They eventually released their sophomore effort, Blind, in 1992. It was received to great acclaim and popularity, shifting over half a million copies, but they had vanished from the airwaves again in a matter of months. The tour that followed the album was much appreciated by rabid fans, but had to finish early due to exhaustion and homesickness suffered by the band’s members.

After taking a break abroad, the band decided to take a break from their music too. Gauvrin and Wheeler were keen to settle down, and during the hiatus got married and had their daughter Billie. They built a recording studio in their home and continued to work on music, despite the fact that The Sundays were essentially silent for five years (save for a cover of Rolling Stone’s “Wild Horses” which was created for use in a 1994 American TV commercial). They eventually came back together to release what would become their final album (so far), Static & Sound, in 1997-despite spawning “Summertime,” their biggest hit to date, the album didn’t do so well and they had soon disappeared from the music scene once again.

So why did they go? Apparently, Gauvrin and Wheeler went back to family life and their second child Frank, while Hannan and Brindley have kept a similarly low profile as jobbing musicians. According to some sources, Harriet Wheeler was victim to an obsessive stalker, leading her and her husband to take up a particularly low profile in order to deflect any additional negative attention. The entire group — Wheeler and Gauvrin in particular — have been notoriously difficult to track down, usually refusing interviews and never commenting on the state of their once-glorious heydays as The Sundays. That is, until last month.

Wheeler and Gauvrin recently granted an interview to American Way, the in-flight magazine for American Airlines (of all places). In the interview, they discussed the effect of their fame (“For a brief paranoid period, you can think the whole world is following your every move.”), their songwriting (““Can’t Be Sure” and “Here’s Where the Story Ends” ….transport us to the minuscule boiler room attached to the equally cramped rented flat we were living in before our careers took off.”), and, more importantly, the constant speculation surrounding the status of the band: “The contentious bit unfortunately is the reunion gig —- first let’s see if the music we’re currently writing ever sees the light of day, and then we can get on to the enjoyable globe-trotting-meets-concert-planning stage.”

And with that simple comment, they sent the world a-chatter with talk of their potential reunion and possible new music. I know I, for one, will be fighting to the end for a ticket to that reunion gig, and I hope to see you there too. Long live nineties British pop.

Image Courtesy of Geffen Records

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