Interview: Sunnyboys' Peter Oxley On Surfing and Performing Once Again

21 May 2013 0 Share

Big Sky Wire

By Andrew Kidman

Fans of Australian Post Punk are in for treat this weekend. The Sunnyboys, one of the great Australian bands from the early eighties, return to their roots to play the Coolangatta Hotel on Friday and Saturday night (the Saturday show is already sold out). The Oxley brothers, Jeremy and Peter along with Bill Bilson grew up surfing and playing music in Kingscliff. In 1980 they moved to Sydney and formed the Sunnyboys…the rest is history.

Last year at the ‘Dig it Up’ Festival in Sydney, the Sunnyboys original lineup performed for the first time since ’91 under the name ‘Kids in Dust’. This was Jeremy Oxley’s first time returning to the stage with confidence after a long hiatus battling schizophrenia. From all reports the shows were incredible - the band playing as well as ever. This week I spoke with bassist Peter Oxley about their surfing life, music and the reformation of the Sunnyboys.

Andrew: Back in your hey day, do you think surfers had a affinity with the band because you guys were surfers? Do you think a certain feeling of surfing was coming through in the music? Or do you think it was because you guys developed a following on the coast that it flowed from there?

Peter Oxley: There are probably a few reasons. Definitely because we were surfers and also surfers really like rock and roll and we played hard and fast, not entirely dissimilar to riding a big wave. The feeling you get, the adrenaline rush.

Andrew: When I was a kid I remember driving past The Playroom on the Gold Coast and seeing painted on the sideboard SUNNYBOYS. I was too young to get in but always wondered what it was like in there? How were those shows at The Playroom when you guys selling lots of records?

Peter: The shows at The Playroom were wild. Totally jammed. Quite a low ceiling so it was really hot. We used to go on at 1am and get back to our mum and dad's house at Kingscliff at dawn and our Dad would try to get us up saying it's a beautiful day not realizing we had just got to bed, even when we explained he still didn't get it.

Andrew: Who were the Sunnyboys inspired by musically?

Peter: The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, British new wave.

Andrew: I always found the reflective songs on the records very beautiful, “My Only Friend’ for example, the songs seemed to have this darker lyrical edge to them that you didn’t notice at first because a lot of the music was pretty up, for me it made the albums quite layered and really interesting, how did these kind of songs come about?

Peter: Jay (Jeremy Oxley) just wrote about how he felt. He wore his heart on his sleeve. He also wanted to write songs that kids could dance to.

Andrew: How was it growing up and surfing at Kingscliff? Jeremy was an Australian U/15 Schoolboy Champion, was surfing considered an option back then as a career or just something fun that you did? How good was Jeremy? Did you spend much time surfing with people like MP, PT and Rabbit, I’ve seen team photos from back in that period and Jeremy is in the shots with these guys. Who else was ripping back during this period, a little under the radar?

Peter: Surfing wasn't seen as career, it was for fun, bloody good fun. There were great surfers in Kingscliff. 1976 women's Australian Champion was Jill Sanotti, a Kingscliff girl. We surfed in contests for a few years until we discovered the guitar and then just surfed for fun. Jay was bloody good though, really smooth, beautiful style, like a young Nat Young.

Andrew: I heard Jeff Gilmore (Stephanie’s Father) taught you guys to surf? How was that?

Peter: Jeff taught us to surf. He was a really good swimmer and Mum trusted him to take us to the beach on his own. Yeah he still rips. Saw him at Snapper a few months back. Recognized him as soon as he stood up. Beautiful smooth style, just like when he was 20.

Andrew: Did you guys get into music at Kingscliff? Did you start off playing in the garage? 

Peter: We started playing music in Kingscliff under the house in the playroom. Bill was the drummer back then as well. We formed bands and put on dances at the local hall. Played in bands all through school, Wooden Horse, Jerry and the Jets, Golden Syrup and 4- Play. Jay played in the Strand when I left home.

Andrew: What was it like having “Tunnel of my Love” featured in Storm Riders? Did Jack McCoy approach the Sunnyboys to use that song for the film?

Peter: We didn't even know “Tunnel of my Love” was in Storm Riders till much later. It felt good though when we found out.

Andrew: I'm interested to know a little more about the Lobby Loyde factor/influence during the recording of debut LP. Did you guys actively seek Lobby or were you fans of The Coloured Balls or did Lobby see some of your first shows and see a direction for the sound? 

Peter: Lobby just walked into our rehearsal room one day and introduced himself. He said do you guys want to record and we said yeah. He didn't change our sound in anyway; he loved us the way we were.

Andrew: What was it like re-uniting as Kids in Dust...can you describe what it was like to play again together... I know as fan I was so excited to hear you guys were playing together again.

Peter: It was great playing again, just like yesterday. The best thing though was seeing Jay really enjoying himself and him getting his confidence back.

Andrew: Do you think you guys will work on any new material in the future as the Sunnyboys?

Peter: We will see what happens.

Andrew: I have a wood fire oven my place; I find them an incredible way to cook. Have you got any favourite recipes or pizza toppings you’d like to share with us?

Peter: Wood fired ovens. I love them. Cook everything and anything in them. Slow cooked lamb Greek style, the smell, the taste, yes.

Tickets for for Coolangatta Hotel show here:

Tickets for the Sunnyboys at the Sydney Opera House here:

This clipping shows Jeremy and Peter Oxley at the '74 Australian Schoolboy Titles. Classic.

This clipping shows Jeremy and Peter Oxley at the '74 Australian Schoolboy Titles. Classic.

Big Sky is the property on which Andrew Kidman and Michele Lockwood live with their two children in Northern New South Wales. Once a week they speak to writers, photographers, surfers, artists and musicians for Coastalwatch's Big Sky WireTo follow Andrew Kidman's film celebrating 40 years of Morning of The Earth, head to the Spirit of Akasha blog and to check out Michele Lockwood's blog click through here.

...and for more from Big Sky Wire click your link: Coastalwatch |Coastalwatch Plus

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