Sunshine Boys Live at Evanston Space
Photos © 2020 by: Roman Sobus
Biography: The recently launched Sunshine Boys are a Chicago-based trio of veteran recording and touring artists who’ve served in some of the most revered bands in indie rock, dating back to when the term ‘indie rock’ represented a work ethic, rather than a genre. Featuring Freda Love Smith (Blake Babies, Antenna, Mysteries of Life) on drums, Jacqueline Schimmel (Big Hello, Justin Roberts) on bass, and Dag Juhlin (Poi Dog Pondering, The Slugs) on guitar, Sunshine Boys offer a propulsive, melodic take on pop rock that runs the range from sparkling to dark, often within the same number.
Dag on the formation of the band and the writing of Blue Music:
“SUNSHINE BOYS started after Freda and I were separately asked to help round out a band being assembled by our friends Brett Neveu (yes, the amazing playwright) and Rich Sparks (yes, the amazing cartoonist), based on their spiky pop tunes. When Jason Narducy (yes, the famously elbowed musician) was unable to be a part of the team, I leaned in heavily and told Brett and Rich that we HAD to bring in Jackie Schimmel on bass. They kind of had no choice. This five-piece collective (called Sex Ritter: did you ever see us?) gelled quickly and we fleshed out and banged out Brett and Rich’s songs for a couple of really fun gigs. I think I had an ulterior motive, though, and that was to get Freda and Jackie together. I knew that Jackie’s brilliantly melodic basslines would fit perfectly within the hypnotic and musical gallop of Freda’s drums, as well as the unkempt jangle of my guitar. We knew right away that we had something as soon as we started rehearsing with Sex Ritter, and we decided immediately that the three of us were a band. After more than a few years of not writing songs (I was busy learning a couple hundred songs by other artists for my cover band Expo’76), I began to crank out a bunch of material which Sunshine Boys set about learning in the summer of 2016. Deadlines are great motivators, and we’d asked Brett and Rich if we could open a Sex Ritter show in November (our debut!) and we worked in earnest throughout the fall.
The material for Blue Music is almost entirely new and written specifically for the three of us, but when we found ourselves needing some songs for our gigs, and to keep our set list fresh, I admit I reached back into my archives for some previously written material, a couple of which (John Cage, Sign of Life) found their way onto Blue Music and into our live sets. A bulk of the material was written in a crazy weeklong outburst while I took a pair of short solo vacations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I kayaked, swam in Lake Superior, ate whitefish, had beer with my lunch, and wrote like a maniac in Marquette’s beautiful art deco public library. And because I’d brought my computer, guitar, and a microphone, I spent a couple of days recording some of these demos in the family cabin on scenic Perch Lake. It was kind of a golden week, and so much of our early material sprung from that trip. I suppose that explains a lot of the wind/sun/water references that seem to appear throughout. The songwriting gods were generous, my antennae were up, and the looming deadline of our November gig made for perhaps the most productive writing spell I’ve ever experienced. Other things factored in, too: the death of my Mother, the graduation of my son from high school, and just the general state of the world. But perhaps the biggest motivation for me is the sound the three of us make together and how easily we all work together. I want to keep writing for us if only to keep this sound alive. This sound keeps me going.”