Sanctuary – a word that generally refers to a place of respite. A retreat or a haven. For Sydney’s Thunder Fox, the idea of Sanctuary comes fully realised as a collection of music that is both immersive and escapist. It’s fun and energetic, and unafraid to dabble in darkness and self-indulgence. It’s a new vibe for Thunder Fox but one that fans will love: for their second studio album, the Sydney group is leaving it all on the table. Sanctuary is the perfect jump off point for music fans looking to book a one way ticket into a soundscape that is fantastical, layered with groove; peppered with soulful and rich vocals. All wrapped up and delivered with unique flair. Sam Dawes from the band answers some questions about the album for Hi Fi Way.
Is the second album blues a thing and is there more pressure with a follow up?
There’s definitely a bit of a taboo around sophomore albums and I understand why some artists can feel concerned for sure. The pressure itself seems to be specifically if the first album was a roaring global success which, as much as I love our first album, wasn’t much of an issue for us! We’ve also come in to making Sanctuary as a whole new band in so many ways; new members, new experiences, new outlooks which meant we really didn’t feel we had anything at all to lose. Besides, if we went into writing and recording with a sense of pressure or trepidation, we would’ve probably come out with something tepid and listless.
Sonically, how would you describe Sanctuary?
In all seriousness, it’s been a blessing and a curse that we all find it difficult to summarise our overall sound but, Sanctuary is a pretty perfect representation of Thunder Fox, sonically, as a whole. The sound, in a word, is eclectic. We don’t like the idea of having to create a cohesive sonic aesthetic in order to maintain popularity or to be relevant, we just do whatever the bloody eff we want. With that ethos intact in our songwriting and recording process, I think we’ve come out with a record that’s bold, exciting, funky, introspective with an old school flavour and a modern sex appeal.
What was the biggest challenge you faced creating Sanctuary?
Making Sanctuary was an utterly blissful experience so, it’s quite tough to think of a huge amount of challenges we ran in to. That said, I think we wanted the album to have a consistent message so, for me, the challenge was writing lyrics that were indicative of my thoughts and feelings at the time and have each song be like a new page in a book where the story can unfold as the album plays out. I think I got there, it’s like a diary, baby.
Was there any learnings from your debut album that you were conscious of not repeating when making Sanctuary?
For me, the most important thing you learn when creating anything at all is to steer clear of expectations. When we made our first record, we all thought it’d be the best thing we could’ve possibly created; we thought it’d blow us up! In the end, whilst there are definitely fans of it and whilst we adore it ourselves, we quickly discovered we wanted to do more, better, bigger, fatter, faster, stronger and the goalposts moved. So my advice to anyone making art is go into it with the right reasons, make sure creating something you’re proud of is the primary goal otherwise your music will be shit.
Did COVID force you to work any differently?
Actually, we got pretty lucky COVID wise. We managed to snag a little window early in the year where restrictions weren’t as heavy to go up the coast to record the thing and whacked it out in a couple of weeks. After that, we managed to utilise the wonders of modern technology to share mixes as they took shape. Then again, COVID definitely wrecked just about every other aspect of being a musician for a while there!
What did you think when you played the final mix back for the first time?
I remember having the final product uploaded to a private Soundcloud link once it was mastered. It was a beautiful sunny day and I decided to go on a walk in the local bush to listen to it in peace. Every track sent chills down my spine and stretched my mouth into a cute little smile. The feeling is one of pure pride and excitement. My mind is forever blown at the idea that I have the ability to create something from scratch that will never die, even after my body does. It fills me with a sense of purpose and fulfilment when the projects are finished and released, no matter what people think of it. Equally, to be fair, it’s a scrumptious collection of bangers and I love listening to it period.
Is it hard to listen to your album like a fan would without thinking what you could tweak or change?
For me, yes, I definitely find it difficult to listen to any music at all and not try to analyse what you’re hearing as a musician. When I listen back to old songs now there’s a part of me that wishes I could re-record it because, although I love the songs, I’m way better at singing, playing guitar and just about everything else now. But, I also feel positive that I continue to work on my craft. In a way, it’s like having a shitty drunk tattoo, you might wish it was a cool lion or something rather than a wonky carton of soy milk but, it represents a time in your life and a memory that, hopefully, you wouldn’t change for anything.
Which artists/bands would you consider to be some of the biggest influences in shaping the album?
We always try hard to keep our influences as subconscious as possible so we can avoid the music becoming too derivative. That said, we definitely had our fair share of references that we were digging at the time and no doubt crept their way on to the record sonically. Specifically, it came down to Anderson.Paak, Jessie Ware, Gorillaz, Joni Mitchell maybe a smidge of Jamiroquai; anything that sounds good and has heart, we wanna aim for that.
How much are you looking forward to getting the green light to be able to tour and play shows?
Well, we’ve loved making the record for sure but, performing is our Valhalla baby, we are dying to get out on the road and see our friends, maybe even some fans along the way while we do what we do best.
What’s next for Thunder Fox?
Speaking of touring, 2022 is looking nice and plump with upcoming dates which we’ll be diving in to head first when the year kicks off. After that, we will just keep pumping out bangers and melting faces until the day we die. Stay tuned!
Interview By Rob Lyon