The Sundays had a certain early 90s vibe: jangly guitars reminiscent of the Smiths, lyrics that were just a little bit (but not too) opaque, and Harriet Wheeler’s angelic voice soaring above it all. Their sound was as comfortable as the oversized sweaters that were in fashion at the time. They were darlings of the indie scene, and scored a couple of big hits including “Here’s Where The Story Ends.”
And then they were just … gone. So, whatever happened to The Sundays?
The group began when Wheeler met guitarist David Gavurin at college in the mid-80s. The two took to writing songs together, eventually adding bassist Paul Brindley and drummer Patrick Hannan to the mix. Demos were sent around to various London clubs until they landed a gig opening for another group. The music journalists in the crowd that night quickly forgot about the headliners they’d come to hear and started buzzing about The Sundays. A bidding war among record labels kicked off; their first single, “Can’t Be Sure,” came out in 1989 and landed on the list of the Best Indie Singles of the year. Oh, and that name? Turns out it was the only one all four members could agree on.
Their first album, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, dropped in 1990, garnering plenty of positive press, with heavy radio and MTV airplay for the single, “Here’s Where the Story Ends.”
It was followed in 1992 with Blind, also well-received with sold-out shows in the UK and America. However, the grueling pace of touring was sapping the physical and creative reserves of the group. They note that they preferred to focus on growing the listener base who’d first “gotten” them, namely, the college and alternative audiences, but found themselves overruled by their record label who knew commercial hits when they heard them.
So Gavurin and Wheeler took a breather to focus on raising their family (they have two grown kids now). In 1994, the group released a cover of the Stones’ “Wild Horses” which found its way into both a Budweiser ad and the 1996 Mark Wahlberg-stalks-Reese Witherspoon cheese fest, Fear.
A third (and final) album, Static and Silence (1997) received mixed reviews, even with a high-charting single, “Summertime.” And … that was it.
These days, Gavurin and Wheeler continue to make music in their home studio, although it’s uncertain if it will ever be released. Brindley is an entrepreneur in the music/tech space and Hannan lends his drum skills to various bands around the UK.
Always somewhat press-shy, the band members admit that mega-fame never interested them. They only wanted to release quality work, one reason their output was a bit sparse (there’s more than a touch of perfectionism running through them…) Wheeler told an interviewer, “There was never a time I wanted to be incredibly famous, or in a pop group. It just seemed a great thing to do to spend time working on something that’s your own.”
But for a couple of years in the 90s, The Sundays provided a warm, lo-fi ambiance to a fast-changing decade as it hurtled towards the uncertain “aughts.”
Photo: The Sundays (l-r: Patrick Hannan, Harriet Wheeler, Paul Brindley, David Gavurin) Fair use image via Wikimedia Commons