Back in June, I received an email from sunshy, a duo based in Chicago. The two members, Wes Park and Haoshu Deng, debuted with “dissolve.” What stuck out about sunshy is that they are a shoegaze band which is one of my favorite genres.
Since their first email, they’ve released their third single, “Hyacinth.” I only know a few shoegaze bands outside of my South Korean favorites so I was really interested in learning more about how the pair decided to explore the genre.
Can you introduce sunshy? How did you come up with the name?
W: We are sunshy and we’re in Chicago. We are an alternative rock band that makes noisy pop songs. It’s from our favorite Alison’s Halo song. The chorus goes “I’ll hold your hand~” and it’s so cute and goes hard.
S: We’re also both homebodies. So I guess we don’t go out much which makes us “sunshy.”
How did you two meet and where did the decision to explore the shoegaze genre come from? There aren’t a lot of known bands in that style. Who plays what and how do you compose your songs?
S: Wesley and I met in college. We were both into textured, layered, music that produces walls of sound. We also both loved shoegaze classics like MBV and Slowdive. When we first met we were playing music that was just indie rock, but we always talked about branching off in a collaborative project.
I treat my music as personal diary so I already start off with the lyrics, kind of like poetry, which I then look for a melody and ultimately mold the two together, but I think Wesley is more melodically focused in his process.
W: There are a lot of sick bands in that genre now. We definitely leaned into the heavy side for “dissolve,” but I think our sound shifted with “Hyacinth.” It was the first one we wrote probably 2 years ago, and it was like the first time we went all distorted like that.
We ended up loving that kind of sound and I always knew I wanted to make an album like that. Sascha and I both play guitar and sing, trading off pretty often between rhythm and lead between us two. I like writing the sound and melody most, and I like shoegaze for that because I don’t really have to say a lot. I still like being able to sing along, but when I write melodies and record voice memos they’re all in gibberish. Sascha is the superior lyricist.
Were there any specific bands that influenced the band?
Right now, you have two previous singles and “Hyacinth” is your third. There’s a noticeable progression between songs especially with “Hyacinth” which sounds like it’s moving into an intersection of rock and shoegaze. Are you exploring sounds that come naturally or are you still looking to hone in on a specific sound?
S: “Hyacinth” was really the blueprint for sunshy. It was the first song we wrote together. We didn’t specifically aim for it to be a shoegaze tune per se when we wrote it a few years ago.
I like ethereal and noisy music but I enjoy a good simple tune too. I want there to be a lot of space for flexibility and experimentation in whatever direction we take with each song.
W: It’s funny because these songs were recorded all out of order, so I feel like whatever progression there is with the singles, it’s super wacky and unintentional. “Hyacinth” is always the earliest one in our heads. I think in general we just make songs that we would listen to.
We’ve been really into shoegaze yeah, but we like other things too. There’s a little bit of post-hardcore, there’s definitely dream pop, and there are even baggy or britpop aspects too. It’d be cool to try new things. I don’t like lingering on sounds too much.
There are a lot of Asian American artists emerging through the internet and identity seems to play a big part in the marketing, do you feel any pressure to promote this between the two of you? Do you take influences from your ethnic background when composing music?
S: I listened to a lot of cantopop growing up, like Faye Wong, Beyond, Tat Ming Par. I like borrowing styles and melodies from traditional folk and world music.
When I Come Home is very influenced by this music, but I don’t consciously try to include or promote our “Asianness” — we aren’t even the same ethnicity and I feel like our connection with our ethnicities comes up less prominently in our music compared to other creative influences. It’s more about the experience of being out of place, away from home, etc.
W: Yeah I agree with Sascha. Not really conscious in our marketing, but I definitely find myself pulling more inspiration from Asian bands lately—mostly because I like the sound better. It’s also inspiring to learn from our peers who make music too. I guess a lot of them just happen to be Asian.
Like, I recently became friends with Jeehye and Ethan from Precocious Neophyte who are a Korean shoegaze/dream pop act in Chicago. And one of my best friends is Justin from Highsunn who is a Filipino emo/shoegaze/brightcore act from SF.
What was your first challenge as sunshy? Did you have any expectations when you both started the band that hit a wall and/or how did you move past it?
W: Band practice. Making the transition to a full band for performances was a learning curve. Sascha and I haven’t played gigs regularly since before the pandemic. We were definitely stuck in demo mode too, since sunshy started out as a recorded project.
In our live set, Gwen Giedeman plays bass and John Golden (sap house) plays drums. I think we expected things to just go as smoothly as they sounded in the recordings, but we really had to figure out new arrangements and instrumentation to fit that 4-piece profile.
I’m super excited to keep developing our band chemistry and experimenting with the live sound. We were already tight with Gwen and John and I love being in a band with the homies. Even though we just started playing together in May, I feel like we’ve been together forever.
What are some of your more immediate goals as sunshy? How about long-term goals?
No time on this goal, but we wanna tour! It’s been hard trying to work around everyone’s schedule, but we’re hopeful we’ll get to hit the road soon for an extended tour sometime next year.
S: I want to experiment outside of the rock/shoegaze genre, just try our hand at some less conventional stuff. I want to learn to play the accordion.
W: I want to record in a studio so badly since we did all these songs in the bedroom. Live drums and everything. But right now I think the main short-term goal is getting this LP out. I’ve been obsessing over it a little too much the past year, and I think it’s about time to let others listen to it too.
Are there any bands that you think more people should listen to (either locally or internationally)?
S: Omnipotent youth society. They talk a lot about their working-class background and struggles too which I feel is something I miss seeing in similar-sounding Western independent music. My favorite memory from childhood was listening to them in the car with my dad.
W: Listen to Foliage and Highsunn, my besties from California. Listen to Precocious Neophyte. They’re shoegaze veterans, good friends, and incredible performers that we look up to in navigating the Chicago indie scene.
Is there a message or emotion that you want listeners to get when they listen to sunshy?
W: I hope that sunshy gives you hope!
Anything to say to readers?