SUNSHINE & THE RAIN
Musicians Justin Angelo Morey and Ashley Anderson Morey, also known as Sunshine & The Rain, are the cool husband and wife duo playing the New York City downtown rock ‘n’ roll scene. We first saw them open for our friends, The Stompin’ Riffraffs, and knew that we had to feature them on Ponyboy! With their distorted, feedback 60s sound, these Jersey City residents turn heads with their super stylish look. Ashley, who goes by ‘Ash’, sings strong lead vocals and unknowingly demands your attention with her early 60s preppy outfits, long red hair and gorgeous features. Check them out! Debut album, In The Darkness Of My Night, releases May 12, 2017. Photography Alexander Thompson https://sunshineandtherain.bandcamp.com/ https://www.instagram.com/sunshineandtherainduo/?hl=en
PONYBOY: Sunshine & The Rain, an interesting name for the band.
ASH: That’s not a question! [Laughs] I take the band name as a balance between good and evil; the things we as humans struggle with every day. People will constantly ask us, “Which one is sunshine and which one is the rain?” But both of us are both things. It’s part of what reminds us we’re alive. You can’t know happiness without pain. You can’t have sunshine without rain.
JUSTIN: [Laughs] Actually, our name is more or less a shout-out to this old garage-rock group called Richard and the Young Lions. However, it was also directly drawn from the obvious lyrical content from that Frankie Beverly and Maze song, “Joy and Pain”. I said to Ash, “We should just call ourselves Sunshine & the Rain, because it will be funny when people come to the realization that it’s just the two of us and not a singer named “Sunshine” backed by an ensemble performing under the moniker, “The Rain”.
PONYBOY: You’re a husband and wife duo from Jersey City. How did the two of you meet?
JUSTIN: I’ll never forget that moment when our eyes locked in for the first time. I instantly fell in love with Ash.
ASH: Just like that, huh? We first met at the Empty Bottle in Chicago, near where I grew up. Justin was on tour with his band at the time, The Black Hollies, and I was a lowly 17-year-old shy, creative loner. I had heard of The Black Hollies through some other band friends who had played in their circle, and I was intrigued by their obvious ‘60s garage-psych inspiration. I didn’t know of anyone else doing that stuff at the time. Fast-forward a couple years, and every band was doing it! Typical, right? Needless to say, Empty Bottle is 21+ so I begged my parents to take me into the city to go with me so I’d get let in. The rest is history, I guess!
PONYBOY: And how did the band form?
JUSTIN: Spending the Christmas and New Years’ holidays with Ash and her parents, I woke up on the morning of New Year’s Eve with a song idea in my head. After many hours of persuading, I finally managed to convince Ash to collaborate with me. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t as challenging as I had initially thought it might be. I could see our chemistry right from the very start. Ash held her own, and her contributions to this little idea turned out to be massive on many levels. I knew right then and there we were both on the same page and would be able to work very well together. Later on that evening, we recorded that song by using both of our iPhones as multi-track recorders. [Laughs]
ASH: I remember the song idea vividly. I was so surprised; I thought it sounded different than the songs Justin released with The Black Hollies. It was sweet and poppy. My first reaction was “Oh my god, this sounds just like Paul McCartney!” [Laughs] I guess maybe we should’ve actually released that one, huh?
PONYBOY: What instruments do the two of you play?
ASH: Well, in Sunshine & the Rain I play fuzz bass, but I started off by playing guitar. Somehow I got transfixed by it and started taking guitar lessons when I was 12. So I play both of those instruments – badly, mind you. [Laughs] But I’ve always had a fascination with different instruments and a drive to learn them all. My dad was a drummer and I begged him for a drum set when I was a teenager. He would give me lessons, but without other musician friends, he ended up playing the kit more frequently than I did! At the moment, I’m totally enamored by the piano. Probably because it’s something I can’t play. I had a keyboard as a kid and messed around with it, but I never spent enough time with it. That’s my next goal!
JUSTIN: I play all different types of instruments. Sometimes I really just like to get behind the drum kit and kick out fat beats. In Sunshine & the Rain, I’m the one playing guitar, adding backup vocals when required, and operating our drum machine. Occasionally I’ll put our Farfisa Mini Compact to use. On recordings, we both utilize other instruments that we feel will serve the compositions best. We love the less-is-more aesthetic; however, there are times when you feel like having a kitchen sink production instead of a bologna and cheese sandwich. But trust me, I love a bologna and cheese sandwich as much as the next person!
PONYBOY: In The Darkness of My Night is your first full release. Tell us about the recording process.
JUSTIN: For starters, being able to work with Jon [Spencer], someone I always admired and respected, was fucking mind-blowing to me. Early on, I thought somebody was playing a trick on us and I thought somebody was gonna pull the rug out from underneath us! We had acquired all these songs leading up to the recording, and we had sessions booked for April 2016. We had planned to cut like 3, maybe 5 songs tops, and we were hoping to walk out with an EP. On the evening before the scheduled start date, we received word that the Studer tape deck wasn’t functioning properly and needed to be repaired. Unfortunately, for us, the repair was going to take a while and we had to reschedule for the time all parties involved were available, which ended up being June 2016. As awful as it sounds, it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The night we received that news, we ended up rehearsing and, for some reason, something magical occurred where we started playing our songs at different tempos and approached them all differently. I’d like to believe that was the night when we finally figured out our sound.
ASH: For lack of a better term, the recording process was rad as hell! Honestly, it was the best studio experience I’ve ever had. Jon had all of these ideas and this whole vision, which was different than what I’d experienced previously. It was honestly amazing. He was so invested in making sure our songs would sound as good as they possibly could. It’s really surreal to see anyone else standing by your art that you’ve kept private for so long, and taking care of it as if it’s their own, but let alone a legend like he is! We also had the best-ever engineer, Ted [Young], who was just super funny and made the whole experience feel comfortable and natural. He’s a true pro with analog tape recording. Plus, the fact that we were surrounded by Sonic Youth’s gear didn’t hurt. On some nights when we were tracking the guitars, we would drive back to the apartment and be like “oh my god, this is probably the first time Lee Renaldo’s guitars have ever been in standard tuning!!” P.S. Don’t tell Lee! [Laughs]
PONYBOY: Do you write the songs together?
ASH: It really varies. The completion of a song idea is done separately. I’m very private when I write. It’s usually something I prefer to do alone in our bedroom. As far as where a new song blossoms from, it goes back and forth. We’re lucky since both of us are songwriters, so it’s not left to one person to create the composition. A lot of times, I’ll work on songs when I’m by myself at home and I’ll demo the idea with just bass, vocals, and drum machine. When I first began writing for this project, I would demo all my songs on guitar, but after a point, I’d be like, I’m gonna be playing bass to these live, why don’t I just write the song over the bass line to make sure it’s something I can sing to? However, I think our secret comes from the fact that Justin’s a great musician and amazing arranger, so he can really make the songs come to life. He’s a good drummer, which really helps in his ability to program the drum beats. I’m more of a lyricist, but he makes the songs interesting. Being a bass player, it’s easy to find the vocal rhythms within the drum parts. For example, “I’m Not Your Girl”, the first single from our album, is actually a song he started. He had the whole instrumental composition and even some lyrical ideas. Then one day by myself, I was practicing it and just blew through the whole songwriting the lyrics. It didn’t end up being anything topically what it started as, but I find it interesting to witness the changes in those situations.
JUSTIN: What she said.
PONYBOY: We’re enamored with the raw, lo-fi sound. How would you describe it?
JUSTIN: We rehearse using our old Ampeg amplifiers and old fuzzboxes. We run our drum machine through an old guitar amp that’s probably not designed to handle the beats so it sounds fucked up to begin with. Ash runs her vocals through a tape echo to a guitar amplifier. More or less, we use what we have, and we’ve found a way to balance that sound where we can be noisy and dirty enough, but we’re also audible. When we rehearse, we really like the way we sound, and we move things around in the space so we’re comfortable. Well, either we like the way it sounds, or we’ve just become used to it! [Laughs] We like having a noisy, pop-type sound. We feel like it’s just an extension of us and our personalities. We appreciate sugary-pop hooks, but we also like heavy, dirtier content.
ASH: Yeah, I think our sound is just a crazy amalgamation of everything we listen to.
PONYBOY: What bands/musicians would you say inspire you?
JUSTIN: I’m a sponge, always listening to different types of music and trying to soak up the little bits that strike my heart. I tend to gravitate more towards raw, obscure records and recordings. They always tend to sound way more genuine and sincere. I love old ‘60s garage-rock, ‘60s R&B, soul, early rock ‘n’ roll, punk rock, hardcore, ‘60s girl group sounds, etc. Some of my most favorites are, but not limited to, the following: The Stooges, Velvet Underground, MC5, The Kinks, Rolling Stones, Shangri-Las, The Ramones, New York Dolls, The Ronettes, Sex Pistols, The Sonics, Germs, Black Flag, Pussy Galore, Generation X, 13th Floor Elevators, The Dead Boys, Suicide, Boss Hog, the Misfits, Lou Reed…bottom line being, Ash is my constant muse!
ASH: Oh my god, so many! Like Justin said, we’re all products of our environment, so I absorb and take to heart everything I listen to. I feel like music affects me in a way it doesn’t to everyone. If a song hits me the right way, I’m really feeling it. Justin and I are both shy, introverted people. Music is something I used to communicate with others. It’s kind of safe and innocent in that way. Like, here’s this song, how does it make YOU feel when you listen to it? One of the many reasons I feel like it’s the true universal language. Justin and I share a lot of the same artists we both love, but I’m also drawn to traditional songwriters and folk music in an extreme way. It seems easy to write a basic story song, but let me tell you, have you ever tried to duplicate “For the Sake of the Song” by Townes Van Zandt? One of the all-time best songs ever written. And don’t even get me started on Dylan. Geniuses.
PONYBOY: Who would be your dream band to open or tour with?
JUSTIN: If we could go back in time, it would be amazing to open for 13th Floor Elevators at the show Ash’s dad, Richard A., saw them at in Corpus Christi, Texas back in the day. With that being said, it might not have been a good combination because people would probably boo us off the stage! Otherwise, it might be nice to open up for the Foo Fighters because I could reconnect with old friends; but most importantly, I’d finally get to meet Pat Smear!
ASH: My constant dream is to open for other female-fronted bands who have been heroes to me in my musical exploration, like Mary Timony, or Boss Hog, to name a few.
PONYBOY: Ashley, your style is extraordinarily unique. Do you wear vintage? Are there any designers/labels that you favor?
ASH: Thanks! You know and have seen it all, so it means a lot coming from you! I do wear vintage but don’t necessarily limit myself to one particular designer. I love the classic ivy/trad styles from the early to mid-60s that inspired the mods. I’m a fan of keeping things clean and classic. That way it never goes out of style! I incorporate vintage pieces with modern pieces: Ralph Lauren, Tori Burch, Brooks Brothers, Bass Weejuns, Chanel ballet flats, and so on. A perfect easy outfit for me would be a classic Ralph Lauren oxford button-down paired with skinny jeans and my penny-loafers. But those button-downs are great, because you can also dress them up with a skirt. And who doesn’t like a classic, old-school cable-knit sweater? One day, I’d love to get a custom-made pair of Stubbs & Wootton loafers, where one loafer is a sun emblem and the other is an umbrella with raindrops on top. If you’re reading this, Justin… *wink wink*. Justin and I both believe that fashion is an expression of one’s inner self. Just because you listen to punk rock doesn’t mean you have to have a dyed Mohawk. Justin used to tell me about going to all-ages punk rock shows at ABC NO RIO in high school, and there were all walks of life coming together in that venue. They were just there to support the music. That’s what we’re all about.
PONYBOY: You’re a fairly new band, with a sprinkle of live performances in the New York City area. Do you plan on taking it on the road? What’s next?
ASH: We would love to continue to play live shows, but it’s most important for us to go where the interest is. We’re trying to get our name out there through other avenues first, whether it be radio or what, to generate interest and then go play. We both have day jobs, so we can’t just pack it up and go on tour. It has to be calculated. We’re hoping to play more regional shows around the release of our record, and then maybe hit L.A. with some people we’ve been talking to out there. We haven’t been to California in years and it would be an interesting change of pace. We’re also trying to get the word out a bit in the U.K., and it would be a dream to play over there!
JUSTIN: We plan to play as often as possible, provided that the interest is there. With all my past experience when it comes to touring and performing, I have zero desire to embark on any tour just for the sake of touring. I’d like for us to do it when people are psyched for us to come perform. If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense!