FOCUS: Sunflower Thieves

As the first flowers of spring begin to bloom, Leeds pop-folk duo Sunflower Thieves are back with a beautifully hazy daydream on their latest track Don’t Mind the Weather. Amber Frost caught up with the vibrant pair to discuss the new song, key influences, and their unique production process.

Amy Illingworth and Lily Sturt-Bolshaw are the ethereal voices behind Sunflower Thieves. Having released their first track Two Halves in 2018, the duo has kept their luscious harmonies and almost hypnotic soundscape and delved further with their latest release, Don’t Mind the Weather, which came out on the 26th February 2021. In an interview with them both, Amy reflects on the writing process and shares that this is the first song that has been co-written with another artist, Rachel Clark.

“We wrote it with our friend Rachel, it was one of the first co-writes we did, it was a cool experience. It was one of the first times that we weren’t directly writing about something really specific.” The track itself conveys the message that “no matter how the seasons and weather may change, the gravitational pull of the moon – the person you feel safe with – will keep you grounded and safe.” The track certainly does just that, it conveys a certain warmth and safety with its soundscape. Sunflower Thieves have continued on with the nature metaphors heard in their first release, as they explore the magic of space and the moon.

“One of my favourite gigs has been Beat the Streets at The Bodega. It felt like a home show, I can’t wait to play there again!”

“We based it [Don’t Mind the Weather] on the moon’s relationship with the tides, and the idea that it’s easy to get swept away in everything that’s going on, but that there’s beauty in that, and the relationship with this person overcome it all anyway.” Lily talks about how the stimulus for the theme and lyrics stems from one of her favourite artists and lyrical inspirations, Darwin Deez. “I’m absolutely fascinated by space and the musicians I really like tend to use a lot of these kinds of metaphors. That was the main reason, but it just fit nicely with what we were trying to say, and the rest of the song.”

Another of the duo’s joint-favourites is beloved indie starlet Phoebe Bridgers, who celestially and musically speaking, sound as though they could be related. The particular genre of dream-pop and dream-indie has definitely taken control of the music industry lately, but it’s a joy to keep discovering artists who so eloquently can discuss personal experiences and create a soundscape that is calming, especially after the turbulence of the past year.

Covid-19 has meant the duo have been unable able to perform any live gigs this past year, but they nostalgically recall one of their favourite performances and the dream to perform again. “One of my favourite gigs has been Beat the Streets when we played at Bodega. It felt like a home show, I can’t wait to play there again!” Micro-festivals of this kind, Beat the Streets, Hockley Hustle etc., are wonderful for smaller artists who oftentimes don’t know how to gain exposure. It was the former that first introduced me to the vibrant duo back in 2018 and it’s been wonderful to see how their creative project has blossomed and developed.

Alongside being a musician, Lily also produces all of Sunflower Thieves’ tracks. I asked her about the production process for their music: “When we write we usually demo with just an acoustic guitar and our vocals. I take the demo and just add whatever sounds nice. I haven’t really analysed what I do, I basically just keep building. I can hear these different melodies when I listen to the guitar and I’ll play around with a little keyboard. With one of the tracks that’s potentially on the EP, I heard this one melody line and thought that needs to be a cello. It’s fun but it’s scary as well, I guess it’s not, I don’t know, I get overwhelmed with it. It’s a lot, but I love doing it I wouldn’t change it for anything.” It’s relatively rare to find musicians who both write and produce their own music, but it really showcases the devotion that Amy and Lily have to crafting their truly unique sound.

“Soundscape wise, [our new EP] sound a lot more like Don’t Mind the Weather, as opposed to our previous releases.”

During the past year, Amy and Lily have written a lot, “more than we’ve ever done really.” The duo are currently working on an EP and shortlisting tracks to feature on that. Amy gives us a taster of what to expect from it: “Soundscape wise, it’ll sound a lot more like Don’t Mind the Weather, as opposed to our previous releases.” For now, however, their newest release alongside the track Come Play with Me will be available on vinyl from the 19th April.

Written by: Amber Frost

Edited by: Alex Duke

Featured image courtesy of Sunflower Thieves via Facebook.