2020 is almost over. Rewind back to March, which feels like a lifetime, and I was sitting with Ollie Wride in a bar in Brighton by the beach, talking plans for the year and getting ready to mix a track we’d written called ‘Stranger Love’. Little did we know just a few weeks later, an apocalyptic pandemic would put a sledge hammer through everyone’s lives.
I was trying to finish an album that had been lying dormant on a dying PC for about a year and my newfound friendship with Ollie, and a track I was really excited about, was the ass kicking energy boost I needed to get back on the horse with album two.
I knew I didn’t have the mixing chops to get Stranger Love to the level we wanted, so Ollie called in the A-Team; with Michael Oakley whipping it into shape and Israel Medina polishing the final mix.
I hoped synthwave fans were going to like it, but I never imagined that before the year was out, we’d have passed a million plays on YouTube (via the behemoth New Retro Wave) and during the initial chaos of the lockdown, convince UK TV show Made In Chelsea to feature our song on the last episode they’d filmed before the virus shut down productions across the country.
After such a great experience with Israel on Stranger Love, I convinced him to mix my album Sophomore, and signed again with Aztec Records, whose support and faith in me were truly heart-warming.
Finishing the second album
I had many tracks in the bag, but Miranda Carey (who I’d always wanted back for the sequel) had become my unicorn and finally, we synced up during the lockdown and managed to get not one, but two jams done and dusted.
The SJ Bravo tracks had also been on ice. We’d actually already performed versions of them in 2019 at what was the last Night Arcade club night at the famous Melkweg in Amsterdam. Ironically, during that trip, our hotel got locked down amidst climate change protests, leaving me nervous I’d make it home! Sam also managed to find time during the new normal to finish up vocals and both tracks made it onto Sophomore.
With a bunch of ‘maybe’ tracks in half finished forms sitting around doing nothing much, I continued to write and share demos on my Instagram which hit 10K followers this year. One jam I cut to visuals from the ultra trashy 90s movie Show Girls, actually had a vibe I was really feeling, and at the same time, I got a ‘collab bro’ DM from Primo The Alien. I worked up the Showgirls idea into a full track and Primo laid down an insane vocal for the song that became Fixing Me With Love.
Bringing back New Jack
I was also very lucky to get the new jack swing style song ‘Chill’ finished up with Jay Diggs, mere days before he became a very busy boy on Instagram when his 60 second funk cover of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP went viral, drawing attention from both of the artists, as well as Snoop Dog and about 50,000 new fans who got to hear our collab when we dropped the hammer in September.
Teaming up with sexy sax man Tim Cappello
One track that had been kicking my ass was Neverending Dream. The instrumental had been passed around a few different artists who couldn’t quite strike the right note, until Megan McDuffee came along and slayed it. At the same time, I’d been interviewing friends and artists on my Instagram live lockdown sessions and via those, I got to know the talented Davey Oberlin AKA All The Damn Vampires. Davey kindly added guitars including a killer solo. After a last minute change of heart about the whole track, I re-composed it during the mix, Israel started over with it and we finally had it mastered and the album ready to roll.
But then, through a contact in the synthwave world, I found myself holding the email address for the legendary saxophonist, Tim Cappello. Tim toured with Tina Turner and played sax on both We Don’t Need Another Hero and One Of The Living, but is probably best known for his 12 second cameo as the sexy sax man on Santa Carla Boardwalk in cult 80s vampire movie, The Lost Boys.
One expertly crafted begging letter later, and Tim was onboard to play sax on Neverending Dream. Tim should have been on tour, but an unexpected consequence of the pandemic meant musicians and artists normally unavailable to someone like me, had a little time on their hands, and Tim not only laid down a killer solo, but also graciously did an interview with me for my Instagram channel.
Davey kindly let me sacrifice his guitar solo to make room for Tim, but as a die hard Lost Boys fan, he was still very happy to be part of the song. That being said, Neverending Dream will likely get an extended bonus cut in the future that will resurrect Davey’s lost licks and including additional Cappello outtakes that didn’t get included in the album edit.
With tracks featuring Iversen and Holoflash also wrapped, the album finally dropped in September and all of this had come together through one of the craziest times in history.
Looking back over this year, I realised music kept me sane. I also found having the extra time I wasn’t wasting on the London Underground, or down the pub, actually made me more productive and helped me get Sophomore done. As well as the music, I was also busting my ass on the artwork which needed to be prepped for vinyl, tape and CD layouts, so up to the week before release, I was squeezing every available minute out the apocalypse.
Coming in 2021
Next year, there are a number of commercial projects I’ll be working on that will have 80s at their core, but will be a step away from Sunglasses Kid.
You’ll also have an animated music video for Chill that New York based agency Metabomb Design have been working away on during lockdown in between the masses of commercial work they’ve been delivering for clients during this challenging time.
Whilst writing the album, I migrated to a new computer, upgraded my software and got a load of new soft toys I’ll be putting to good use in 2021, both as a ghostwriter or composer on commercial projects, but also with new Sunglasses Kid jams I’ll no doubt be sketching in my spare time.
We’re also aiming to get Graduation, my first album, out on tape and CD, and hopefully an EP of demos and tracks that didn’t make it onto Sophomore that fans keep asking me for.
This year has been immensely challenging and whilst it’s tempting to say 2021 will be different, I feel apprehensive about what lies ahead. All I can say is, music will continue to be my armour as I step into the next battle. I hope some of the songs I make along the way will also lift your spirits, as we continue the fight to get back to normal.
Thanks so much for the support kids. Wishing you all a very happy new year and I’ll see you on the battlefield in 2021.