From 2020’s It’s Cool to this year’s Fever Dream, I’ve loved the warm & contagious “beat-driven melancholy” made by Prague born, and now London based artist and producer David Zbirka, aka Sunnbrella. It’s more than just me tuning in too, as the 30k streams a month on Spotify shows he’s gaining fans everywhere. He has just released his latest track, A Week Or So, and to accompany it, he’s dared to face a Q&A grilling. So read on to find out more about the artist himself, his music creation and production, and whether he can moonwalk.
~ Hi David – your various online bios are a little mysterious, so please tell us a bit more about yourself?
I was born in Prague to a Czech mother and Slovak/English father. My dad was a musician and so I was surrounded by music all my life. I started playing in bands when I was 11 or 12 and never stopped. Around the same time, I also switched from a Czech school to an international school so my curriculum was all in English for the rest of my school years. I moved to London as soon as I graduated to study film and pursue music and I’ve been here ever since, freelancing as a videographer/editor/director and making music as much as possible.
~ For the past few years, up to your recent release ‘Wrong’, you have created some sun quenched shoegaze dance & dream pop gems, so what led you down this path, and who were your musical influences when growing up?
My earliest musical memories are of The Beatles as my dad was a massive fan and their music continues to have an impact on me to this day. In my early teens I got into Blink 182 and started playing in Pop Punk bands. This led me to a lot of other punk and punk-adjacent bands and through those I eventually discovered 90s emo like Sunny Day Real Estate and Mineral. That lead me to Fugazi and other post-hardcore artists and when I moved to London, I was deep into this 90s alternative phase, so I inevitably discovered My Bloody Valentine and fell in love with shoegaze and dream pop. A few years later I started listening to more electronic music and got into stuff like Moby or The Chemical Brothers and I started trying to incorporate that into my music. That pretty much brings us up to date. There are a lot of other important bands and artists that I could mention who I love and consider to be an influence like The Cure or Slowdive, but I could go on about that endlessly.
~ Tell us a bit about the new single?
The new single is called ‘A Week Or So’ and I wrote it with my girlfriend and band member Claire Peng during the first lockdown. I just bought a dodgy electric 12-string off eBay at the time, and this was the first song I wrote on it. Claire and I both approached the writing from different places, but I think in general, the song is about getting out of a toxic relationship and seeing all the red flags that you missed while you were in it.
~ You’re also involved in music production, yes, so do tell us more?
Yeah, I started producing my own stuff out of necessity as I didn’t know anyone else that could help me with my songs. Over the last couple of years, I gradually refined my skills and started working with sounds outside of the lofi/bedroom pop realm though I didn’t consider myself a producer until my dad asked me to work on his album a couple of years ago. We started the work together before he passed away in November 2021. I then finished the record with my friend and co-producer Patrick James Fitzroy earlier this year and it came out as a posthumous release in May. The process of making this album as well as my own upcoming debut album really pushed me to learn more about music production and made me comfortable with calling myself a producer and confident to work with other artists outside of Sunnbrella.
~ How would you best describe your live performances to people who have yet to see you?
I’m not sure how I would describe it personally, but I have had people say to me that the live sound has a bit more edge to it. I suppose it’s more raw and a bit noisier than the recordings, but we do try to get as close to the studio versions as possible.
~ If you were appearing on ‘Later with Jools Holland’, which of your songs would you choose to perform?
Fever Dream, as it’s the most representative of the sound that I’m going for at the moment.
~ Are there any other new bands or musicians from London (or back home in Prague) that you recommend we check out?
I recently started playing drums for Drug Store Romeos so if you haven’t heard of them yet, give them a listen. Their album ‘The world within out bedrooms’ is excellent. I’m also a big fan of Tapir! and Alien Tango.
I also have a lot of friends back home in Prague who make amazing music like Oliver Torr – who I’ve collaborated with a few times now, Chrysalism, and Amelie Siba to name a few. There are so many great bands and artists though that I can’t possibly list them all.
~ If you could collaborate with a famous musician or band, who would it be?
Probably Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine. He just makes the best guitar sounds I’ve ever heard.
~ Aside from music, do you have any other creative skills? (or obscure talents!)
As I mentioned previously, I do quite a bit of videography work – I’ve directed and edited all my music videos aside from Lost & Found so a lot of my time outside of making or playing music is spent on that. I also used to do a pretty good moonwalk, but I think I’ve lost that talent over the years!
~ What are your plans for 2023?
My debut album ‘Heartworn’ comes out in February 2023 and we’ve got a bunch of UK (and potentially EU) live dates booked in following the release, which we’ll hopefully be announcing soon.