In case you haven’t heard, the iconic Australian power pop band Sunnyboys are back – bigger and better than ever. The group, who headlined Meredith Music Festival in 2012, are returning for a full Australian tour to celebrate the release of their Our Best Of compilation – a collection of songs hand-picked by the band members.

 

Last year also saw the release of The Sunnyboy, a Kaye Harrison documentary focusing on frontman Jeremy Oxley and his 30-year battle with schizophrenia, an issue that has been the catalyst for many events in the band’s history.

 

The impetus for the group to return, says original guitarist Richard Burgman, was their reuniting set at Dig It Up in 2012 – a concert led by the Hoodoo Gurus to celebrate being in the lucrative Australian recording industry for 30 years.

 

As it was the first time that all original members had reunited since 1991, the self-confessed ‘orange Sunnyboy lover’ (who didn’t even know the popular ice block brand had created more flavours!) says they knew the time was right to bring the Sunnyboys back.

 

“After the band first dismantled in 1984, Jeremy’s condition got worse and worse, and we just couldn’t do much more. We had a short tour in 1991, just the four of us, and we had thought about touring again in 2005 – but we could just see that Jeremy wasn’t in any place to do that. He was a mess.”

 

“Now, though, he’s in a much better place. He has turned his life around, and suddenly the phonecalls went out, and all sorts of people said yes – and there we were again, on stage in front of 2000 people at the Enmore. It felt so, so good, so we decided to see if we could do any more!”

 

The Dig It Up show, now an annual event, was the perfect setting for the Sunnyboys to really make a comeback, playing amongst bands who shared the Sydney group’s prime time such as Died Pretty and the Hoodoo Gurus.

 

[do action=”pullquote”]”I’m sure they all went ‘Who are these old bastards?’…the dinosaur band of the night!”[/do]

 

“I knew most of the people in most of the bands – had done for 30 years,” Burgman explains, “and I think I knew half the audience as well. It was brilliant! It was the best reunion we could have had. We played well, and the audience was overjoyed to see us. It was a wonderful day.”

 

Returning to the touring routine with the original lineup must be a daunting task. Would a modern audience still appreciate what was so incredibly well-loved back in the Sunnyboys’ heyday? Thankfully, a headline spot at Meredith in 2012 was the perfect way to ease the group back into the scene.

 

“It was interesting because it was our first real gig back as the Sunnyboys. Here we were, nine o’clock at night, the sun’s just about down, between five and eight thousand people waiting for us. We walk out and start playing, and I’m sure they all went ‘Who are these old bastards?’ We’re old, fat, grey – the dinosaur band of the night!”

 

“But then we played ‘Happy Man’, and I saw people turn around with a look in their eyes. You could see them go ‘oh, they’re THOSE guys!’ We played a few more well-known songs, and you could see the barriers go down and everyone just started to dance. It was brilliant.”

 

“I think,” Burgman muses, “it works because people remember those songs. They’re part of that Australian lexicon. It’s daunting because you never know, especially with Meredith’s young crowd. Australian audiences are very good, though. Very open and very receptive.”

 

Along with the 2014 tour, which is selling out at unprecedented speeds, the recent release was another way for the Sunnyboys to re-introduce themselves to the public – a factor that made it so important for them to have creative control.

 

“It was our release and our choice. We’re in charge now of what we release and what we do. It’s important for us to represent ourselves directly.”

 

Some of the tracks on the compilation are demos from before the band’s first record, as well as some live and other unreleased tracks that have been dug up especially.

 

“I got sent some files over the Internet and just went ‘oh my God, I haven’t heard this since we recorded in 1983’. It’s weird!” Burgman laughs.

 

[do action=”pullquote”]”We’re all very concerned with the band, how it’s represented, its legacy”[/do]

 

Despite the band’s extended hiatus, the members have kept in regular contact with each other and not allowed themselves to drift apart – particularly, Burgman notes, with Oxley.

 

“We’re all very concerned with the band, how it’s represented, its legacy, and we just all really liked being in it. That has continued. None of us said it was the wrong thing to do, ever.”

 

As fans will be able to tell from the recent documentary, frontman Oxley’s schizophrenia really was debilitating to him and those around him.

 

For someone who has watched a loved one struggle for 30 years with the condition, Burgman is open, honest, and full of advice for young people who might find themselves in a similar state of mind.

 

“Support. Try and get the person into a situation where they’re getting full support. For Jeremy, there’s now a network – his family, friends, peers, and now even the public who have really backed him.”

 

“His wife Mary really was the main catalyst for change with Jeremy. His mum and dad were heartbroken; they couldn’t think of what to do with him except commit him. What a terrible place for someone to be in. He met his wife, though, and everything just turned around. That’s what has got him to where he is now, that support network.”

 

“As a friend, the only thing you can do is listen to them and try to steer them to a place where they’ll be safe.”

 

So call your mum and dad, because the iconic Sunnyboys are well and truly back for a huge 2014 – and their reunion is not one to be missed. You’ll be a ‘Happy Man’, if you’ll excuse the pun, to get back on the bandwagon of a group who are well and truly rooted in Australian music history.

 

The Sunnyboys Australian Tour 2014

 

March 14th: Byron Bay, The Northern + The V-Rays
Tickets $55.00 + bf on sale from thenorthern.oztix.com.au, phone 6685 6454 or in person at all Oztix outlets..

March 15th: Byron Bay, The Northern + The Windy Hills 

Tickets $55.00 + bf on sale from thenorthern.oztix.com.au, phone 6685 6454 or in person at all Oztix outlets.

March 21st: Melbourne, The Forum + Ron S.Peno & The Superstitions
Tickets $70.95 (inc service fee, credit card fees may apply) from ticketmaster.com.au, phone 1300 111 011 or in person at all Ticketmaster outlets.

March 22nd: Melbourne, The Forum special guests Huxton Creepers
Tickets $70.95 (inc service fee, credit card fees may apply) from ticketmaster.com.au, phone 1300 111 011 or in person at all Ticketmaster outlets.

March 23rd: Adelaide, The Gov 

Tickets $60.00 + bf fromthegov.com.au, phone 8340 0744 or in person at all Oztix outlets.

March 28th: Brisbane, Eatons Hill Hotel + special guests The Stems 

Tickets $63.00 + bf from eatonshillhotel.oztix.com.au, phone 3325 6777 or in person at all Oztix outlets.

March 29th: Sydney, Enmore Theatre + special guests The Stems plus The Frowning Clouds & Dig It Up! dj’s
Tickets $75.10 (inc bf, transaction fee applies) from ticketek.com.au, phone 9550 3666 or in person at the venue and all Ticketek outlets.

Our Best Of is out now via Festival Records