Embracing the light before things get heavy, let’s start the latest chapter of Sunday Morning with the story of bean day. At one point in his sometimes nomadic life journey, Bruce Wilson found himself living in Japan—a country that can be difficult to navigate for outsiders, especially those who don’t speak the language or understand the deeply ingrained customs.
Travelling can, quite rewardingly, push us out of our comfort zones, and that’s one of the many topics that come up when the Vancouver indie-scene vet meets the Georgia Straight at Kafka Coffee and Tea on Main. Tellingly, rather than order a Spanish latte, cinnamon-infused Americano, or soy-milk cappuccino with two shots of hazelnut, Wilson opts for a basic drip coffee.
The reason Wilson is across the table is to discuss Consequence of Love (Side 2), the upcoming sophomore outing from Sunday Morning, a grandly dramatic musical project he’s spent his creative energies on for the past decade. But he’s equally happy to hold forth on subjects that include, but aren’t limited to, the indescribable joy of lighting up an American Marlboro, the mind-clearing benefits of carpentry, the healing power of art, and the crippling grip of addiction.
And, of course, bean day.
Looking back at his wandering years, Wilson recalls Japan being insanely rewarding. And, occasionally, insane in the best of ways.
“Culturally, it’s such a foreign country,” he marvels. ”It’s an island, and islands have a real way of preserving their culture. That makes it a really, truly foreign place. It’s why I didn’t know what was going on half the time, and I really enjoyed that.”
Because it seemed like it might make for a good adventure, Wilson ended up in Japan with a friend and then promptly moved in with her and her folks.
“One morning the family I was living with woke me up really early on a Sunday,” he recalls. “I was brutally hungover, and they said, ‘Okay, it’s bean day!’ I sat there thinking ‘I have no idea what bean day is.’ But they dragged me out to the country, where all these families go out to pick wheelbarrows full of soybeans. You then make edamame and get really, really drunk. When I think about it, I liked that I had no idea where I was going, and what was going on.”
For a lot of years the Vancouver-born Wilson was happy being lost somewhere else, and not just in Japan. After years of toiling in various Lotusland bands—the most notorious being glam-specked ’90s protogrungers Tankhog—he decided he was ready for a change of scenery. For a decade, starting with the implosion of Tankhog in 1995, he was a man constantly on the move, searching for something without knowing what it was.
TODAY, HAVING LIVED in Spain, New Mexico, Thailand, Massachusetts, Montreal, Morocco, New York, and more, he’s in no hurry to leave Lotusland anytime soon.
“I just have too much going on here,” Wilson says thankfully. “I have a really good, core group of totally creative people around me who are really inspiring. We feed off each other as we create stuff. And creating is what I love to do—it’s the thing that makes me happy.”
While Vancouver scene vet Stephen Hamm and ace producer Felix Fung were integral parts of the creative process, Consequence of Love (Side 2) is very much a deeply personal record, with Wilson looking back at various relationships in life. (The EP is being tagged as Side 2 because a story-completing Side 1 will be released in the future.)
As one might expect, there are glorious highs and emotionally devastating lows on songs that—quite admirably—will shift effortlessly from garage-grimed doo-wop to sun-faded ’60s French pop. Proving perspective is sometimes everything, the singer describes himself as profoundly grateful for every moment that inspired the songs.
“I think that my goal was to express the duality of love as a really broad topic,” he explains. “I think the reality of love is that it’s not all rose petals and white bedsheets. It’s far more complex than that. About a year and a half ago, I began to reflect on my past and how every relationship was all over the spectrum.”
The degree to which that was true is made clear right off the top with “The War Came to Us”, where, over dark cabaret piano and desert-oasis guitar, Wilson begins things with “The war came to us/In an Arizona motel/The sheets twisted like rope/When we ran outta dope.”
From there, Consequence of Love (Side 2) is indeed a record of winning contrasts. Over gorgeous grey-skies cello and soft-focus violin in “Michigan Winter”, Wilson plays black-hearted crooner with “Neither of us are doing very good/But we’re doing better than we used to/I guess it’s safe to call that progress.”
Channelling the neon-drenched darkwave ’80s—right down to the sax solo—”The Visitor” looks back at a long-gone ghost with “You always took me by surprise/You barely spoke/You never stayed/When you left you took it all.” And the distortion-swamped gutter-blues stomper “I’m in Love” captures all the beautiful sordidness of a relationship built on mutual self-destruction with “You took me home/And we did all the drugs/And I’m in love.”
Laughing, Wilson says that “I’m in Love” was described to him as the angriest love song ever.
“But I don’t ever feel like what I create isn’t hopeful,” he offers. “There was a real cathartic quality to the record, which made me feel good.”
For a long time, happiness was something that proved elusive to Wilson. After first experimenting with heroin in his teens, he eventually developed an addiction that lasted for years, following him from city to city. The roots of Sunday Morning can be traced back to his finally getting sober in ’06, getting divorced, and then moving back to Vancouver after a couple of years in Massachusetts.
Wilson may be the face of Sunday Morning, but he stresses the band has always been, and will remain very much a collaboration. The team that helped create Consequence of Love (Side 2) included Fung and Hamm, as well as bassist Max Sample (Ballantynes), guitarist Kyle Schick, drummer Jay Shreib (Rain City), ace trumpeter JP Carter, and Trailerhawk roots chanteuse Carmen Bruno.
More than bandmates, Wilson suggests they’ve become family. The kind of family, one might posit, that anyone would be happy to celebrate bean day with in Japan, although preferably not screamingly hung over.
Asked when he realized that Vancouver was maybe home after his nomadic years, Wilson flashes back to the start of last decade. After returning to this city, he took up residence at the Waldorf Hotel on Hastings, which was at the time a thrillingly electric hub for those interested in art, music, photography, or, really, anything creative.
“That’s where I started to write the first Sunday Morning album,” he says. “Living in that hotel room for a year, I remember really connecting with the artistic community in Vancouver.”
The power of that connection is simple, he muses. Some people look back at their life and have nothing but regrets about the dark times. When Wilson reflects on where he’s been, he feels in many ways blessed for where he is today.
“Everything is part of a process,” he says philosophically. “Cleaning up is an ongoing process. I spent so many years completely shut off and shut down. But all experiences are valuable. Over the last 13-plus years, I’ve learned how to process things through creating things, and I’ve found that really works for me. It helps me enjoy being alive.”
Sunday Morning plays a Consequence of Love (Side 2) release party at the Rickshaw on Saturday (March 14).