Artist Interview Series: Sunbathe
As show coverage drops off during this period of quarantine, the "features" space on this site will feature more and more artist interviews, with the intention of keeping musicians connected with fans, and vice versa. This first installment spotlights Sunbathe, the solo project of Maggie Morris, who surprise-released a full-length album this past Friday. Through an email exchange, Morris laid out her creative approaches, musical influences, and future plans.
Photo credit: Jason Sievers
Maggie Morris is an involved member of the Portland music scene, having performed in a number of recognized bands over the past ten years. However, Sunbathe is her own, which has afforded her certain freedoms. "I think being in charge of my own project is just more freeing in terms of writing style," Morris explains. "I don't really have to think about whether or not the song I'm writing fits any particular vibe because this project is whatever I want it to be." This freedom carries over to local bookings and travel as well. Sunbathe performs as a full band, but the cast has rotated a few times. This flexible nature of the group means that Morris can plan around her own schedule, which she appreciates as well.
Though Sunbathe is Maggie Morris' brainchild, she can still name a handful of influences that bubble up in her music. Going back to her childhood in California, Morris ruminates that she "grew up listening to a LOT of oldies, doo-wop, motown, and all of the girl groups. I think that, above all else, has influenced me a lot." She continues that "I love vocal harmonies, catchy vocal melodies. That kind of stuff makes you feel good in the way that a sunny day might." Many listeners tend to distill Sunbathe down to "surf rock," but Morris balks at that narrow distinction. It's not that she does not appreciate the genre, but she wonders if people often jump to that conclusion only after they learn that she is originally from California.
Active artists that Morris has visited and revisited over the past few years include Angel Olsen, Alvvays, Palehound, and Land of Talk, but she also notes that pop artists such as Caroline Polachek increasingly influence her work. From a recording approach, she admires the playfulness and creativity of artists like Sneaks and Tierra Whack - unique musicians who push the boundaries of their respective genres. Morris notes one more influence which listeners might be able to pinpoint on the new Sunbathe album when she writes that "the percussion break-down part of P.M.A. was our attempt to mimic exactly the breakdown part of "Bad Brain" by The Ramones.
All of these influences and experiences have culminated in an exciting new album, available on Bandcamp now. Follow the hyperlink to grab a yourself a copy, with the editorial guarantee that it will brighten up your day a bit in these unsure times. The artwork is shown below. Morris had hoped to tour behind the album, but with the current state of everything, she is now unsure when that might happen. She hopes soon, because she loves performing for her supportive Portland community, but also because she takes great pride in the overall vibe of Sunbathe shows. "I think our live shows are just very real - there's not a lot of fake, performative BS about it," she writes. "Sometimes we fuck up and laugh about it, sometimes I say embarrassing things between songs, sometimes I make pretty good jokes between songs."
Besides an eventual tour, Morris does not know what the future might look like for Sunbathe, which is exciting in some ways. She explains that she continues to grow as a songwriter and is currently spending time constructing new creations in her bedroom, like many other artists. She even discloses that she has considered taking on an ESG-style dance music project (yes, please!). Though the future is a bit obscured right now, Maggie Morris will certainly make sure that Sunbathe continues to evolve, and carry on brightly in its own way.