One of Britain’s brightest hopes is the post-metal band Sümer. The London quintet have dazzled and impressed many over their career, including myself at Bloodstock this year which was one of the best sets of the weekend. I had to find out more about the band, so I sat down with guitarist Tim Bonney to talk all things Sümer.
Jack: Hello, thanks for taking the time to speak to me. How are you?
Tim Bonney (Guitars/Vocals): Very well thanks!
Jack: Firstly, is your band named after the southernmost region of ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq and Kuwait) which is generally considered the cradle of civilisation?
Tim: It is, and you are the first person to get that!
Jack: That’s amazing! Anyway, how did you all meet?
Tim: Before Sümer formed the five of us used to play in two previous bands – myself, Toby and Taria were in a progressive band called Maiea, whilst Jim and Ian were in a metal band called Sinuism. Those bands came to an end, and myself Toby and Jim started jamming in what would later become Sümer. Taria joined us a few months later, followed shortly by Ian.
Jack: Did you start with the intention of being a post-metal band?
Tim: Not really, and there’s some debate about whether we actually are a post-metal band. We simply set out to write focused songs that paid credence to our musical roots. Whether that has made us post-metal, prog, post-prog, progressive metal or what we don’t know. In all honesty, it’s not really up to us to say!
Jack: You have three guitar players in the line-up. Does this cause problems when setting up at all?
Tim: I suppose it can amplify issues sometimes with set ups before a show, three times higher chance of something going wrong – but because of that we run extra checks, so we very rarely have problems, if we do, it’s probably because one of us hasn’t connected a lead properly (normally me)…
Jack: You played Bloodstock this year, how did it go?
Tim: Well, it took a few days for it all to sink in after we’ve played. To do a show like that in front of so many enthusiastic people was really just breathtaking for us, and pretty emotional. It’s at points like that where you can’t help but feel like all the hard work, pain, and love of the last 6 years has paid off. It was a huge deal for us, and feedback has been incredibly humbling.
Jack: Do you think being unique to all the other bands on the Thursday helped your show?
Tim: We get this surprisingly often, so I think generally it helps us a lot. But in terms of Bloodstock, it’s always polarising. We had one guy who said [we] were ’s**t’ because we sounded like Radiohead, but to us, that is a great accolade… perhaps we’re just eternally optimistic!
Jack: Did playing the festival in 2015 aid with your performance this year?
Tim: It certainly prepped us for the production side of things, the crew at Bloodstock are just the most helpful and professional crew we’ve ever worked with, so it was a real pleasure. Once we’re on stage though, it doesn’t matter whether it’s in front of 50 people or 5000. We just put our all into it regardless.
Jack: Even though you didn’t win the Metal 2 the Masses in 2014, do you have fond memories of playing the event?
Tim: It [was] an amazing event, and in the London heats we made so many great friends who we now gig regularly with as well as hang out with.
Jack: Battle of the bands contests like Metal 2 the Masses have been criticised by some bands for dividing the scene through competition instead of uniting the bands, what are your thoughts on this?
Tim: I’ve not really seen this at all, and I think if someone was saying that then they’re going into it with the wrong attitude. If anything, in our experience, it has united the metal scene in London.
Jack: You also supported Agent Fresco recently, how did that go?
Tim: Yep, it was in Dingwalls in Camden with a bunch of our favourite bands, many of whom we met for the first time when we played Tech-Fest so it was one big reunion really. Agent Fresco are probably our favourite current band, they are simply amazing, beautiful songwriters, great performers, and stand up dudes as well.
Jack: Your album The Animal You Are came out two years ago, looking back are you happy with the response?
Tim: We were overwhelmed by the response, we lost count of how many ‘Album of the Year’ lists we made it on to. Before we released it, we were extremely nervous about how it would be received but when the first reviews came through a weight was lifted from our shoulders, and they just kept getting better and better.
Jack: Is there a theme to the album?
Tim: The loose theme of the album is about political and personal relationships, how brutal we can be to each other and how that changes face-to-face versus when those actions are more distributed and carried out through dehumanised systems like in the political sphere.
Jack: What was the recording process like?
Tim: Long. We made a call to try and make our production sound different to a lot of our contemporaries by going all analogue and as live as possible – leaving just a few overlays of guitar lines and the vocals. We enlisted the help of our friend Sean Douglas to produce and mix, and his background is largely big, open, and natural sounding recordings for indie artists. We wanted avoid the over-produced, digitilised sound that a lot of bands end up with these days. All in, the process took almost a year, due to budget and schedule constraints.
Jack: What is the origin of the Walrus artwork?
Tim: The album artwork was put together by a good friend of ours, Nick Cordell, we basically let him put together the imagery for us and we opted for the walrus artwork as it spoke to the album name and looked really impactful as well.
Jack: You are currently working on your second album. How will it be different?
Tim: The songwriting has definitely progressed and I think it’s safe to say that it’s a touch heavier than The Animal You Are, but we’ve definitely retained and strengthened the dynamics of our writing. We’re putting a lot of effort into integrating all of our vocals as well as continuing the ethos of experimentation throughout.
Jack: What other plans do you have coming up?
Tim: Continue writing album two, we also have a couple of gigs booked between now and December. On the 8th October we play the Day of Rockening in Hollywater, Hampshire and then on the 11th October we support the amazing SubRosa at The Underwold, Camden. Then in the close of the year, we have our first headline tour starting on the 15th December at O2 Islington Academy 2 with Brutai (just of the London date) who are good mates of ours as well as For the Oracle, who are relative newcomers to the scene but are absolutely fantastic and will no doubt be making waves of their own over the coming months. We’ll be side-by-side with For The Oracle for the remainder of the tour.
Jack: Finally, Cult of Luna’s “Somewhere Along the Highway” turned 10 this year, what does this album mean to you?
Tim: Well, Ian and Jim would be able to answer that more fully, I only got into Cult of Luna after seeing them at Hellfest in 2008. They blew my mind, and as soon as I got back I rushed out to get Eternal Kingdom. As an album it ended up influencing us quite a lot at the time, along with bands like Gojira, Oceansize, and Karnivool.
Jack: Thank you so much for your time!