“The only people who don’t like us are the people who haven’t heard us,” cracks frontman/musician/songwriter Shon Sullivan of his indie-pop band Goldenboy which also features Jon Crawford (drums), Katy Stone (bass guitar), Nicole Verhamme (guitar) and Keith Brown (keyboards).
If talent guaranteed popularity, the Southern California group would be a household name. But if you’re like most Americans, you probably missed their debut LP Blue Swan Orchestra when it was released in 2002.
Sullivan was influenced by the late Oscar-nominated songwriter Elliott Smith, who dubbed him “Goldenboy” for his prowess on guitar and keyboards. After touring with Smith for four years, Sullivan began developing the solo songs that would appear on Blue Swan Orchestra.
“Elliott Smith was one of the best composer-lyricists of my generation,” says Sullivan, “and working with him was really like a huge discovery, it pushed my abilities to the absolute. It was this idea that songwriting could be more.”
Lyrically groovy yet deeply intricate, the featured tracks on Blue Swan Orchestra caught the eye (and ear) of Johnny Marr, former guitarist of The Smiths who jammed with Sullivan.
In anticipation of October 9th’s 10th anniversary reissue of Blue Swan Orchestra on 12″ vinyl from Eenie Meenie Records, I caught up with Sullivan to ask him a few questions about the band’s upcoming release, current tour and past influences.
Janet Arvia: How did the idea to rerelease Blue Swan Orchestra come about?
Shon Sullivan: We wanted to put it out on a vinyl release because it was only available as an import and wasn’t available at all in the US…You can get it directly from us at our shows. The band will even sign it if you want us to!
JA: Your next Chicago show is slated for Monday, October 8 at the Double Door.
SS: We are really looking forward to it. We are going to be doing a live interview on Fearless Radio at 2:00 pm on the day of the show.
JA: How do Midwest crowds differ from those on either coasts?
SS: Back home in Southern California, if there’s a chance of rain people don’t go out. There’s a song on Blue Swan Orchestra called Twenty Months in a Hail Storm that talks about this.
JA: How did Elliott Smith influence the songs on Blue Swan Orchestra?
SS: On the song Summertime, he did the most beautifully haunting vocals for us. Honestly, the album is worth it for that in itself. It’s really special to me because the song was written on tour while playing in his band.
JA: What was it like collaborating with Johnny Marr?
SS: It’s kind of a surreal thing to get to play with people like Johnny Marr because he’s my favorite guitar player. Johnny would often come and join Neal Finn‘s band when I was playing in Neal’s band. But with Neal it was always like that. He would often just have these incredible people and friends showing up.
JA: Speaking of showing up, what can concert-goers expect to hear at the Double Door next week?
SS: We will be showcasing the genre of our style of music. We call the style, The New Familiar because it has elements that we are used to, but with our Southern California mindset, it still sounds new. Our new record will also be called The New Familiar.
Goldenboy’s The New Familiar comes out November 20, and can be preordered for only $8 at www.eeniemeenierecords.com. Equally affordably-priced are Double Door tickets at just $7 a pop. Doors open at 7:30 pm for the 8:00 pm show on Monday, October 8. For details, visit www.doubledoor.com.
The band will also play in St. Louis, MO on September 27; Indianapolis, IN on September 28; and Rock Island, IL on September 30, before coming to Chicago. For more information, visit www.goldenboyband.com