Happy Mondays Interview Series: The Underwater Sounds


One of the great things about a musical destination such as Asbury Park, New Jersey is that bands from all over the state, the country and the world, want to come through the city that Bruce built. Today, Philadelphia-based reggae/funk/jazz outfit The Underwater Sounds will depart the City of Brotherly love to perform at our rock ‘n’ roll city-by-the-sea. Fronted by Sonni Shine, The Underwater Sounds has this fat, infectious and undeniably groovy and fun sound that will just wash over you and make you feel good.

Pop-Break caught up with the band last week to talk about their new record, their style and their sound.

The Underwater Sounds Are: (Members of the Band & The Instruments They Play): Sonni Shine – Vocals, Guitar, Kenny Shumski – Bass, Billy Campion – Lead Guitar, Sean Youngman – Drums

We’re Based Out Of: Philadelphia, PA

Any New Music Coming Out Soon: We have a new 5-song EP, Visions of Love and Light Part 1 coming out September 30. We intend to follow up this EP with a Part 2 in the Spring of 2015.

You’ve Seen Us Before [In Other Bands]: We played under the name “Sonni Shine & The Underwater Sounds” for several years and you may have seen Sonni in reggae-rock band Infinite Detour before she joined forces with The Sounds once she moved to Philly from Jersey. We can also be seen collaborating with other tri-state bands such as Plato Zorba, Philly Funk Hustle, and Cultureal.

Our Sound Has Been Likened to: We honestly haven’t been compared to any other bands, but in terms of genre we’ve been called “funky reggae” “reggae-fusion” “psychedelic reggae” “jazzy reggae” etc. you get the picture!

Cool/Famous Bands We’ve Played With: We’ve shared the stage with The Slackers, John Brown’s Body, Snarky Puppy, Groundation, Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad, Pimps of Joytime, Zach Deputy, and Dumpstaphunk (The Neville Brothers), and Orgone to name a few!


You guys have a very cool and unique sound, can you talk about how you guys decided to make this the sound of the band?

Sonni Shine: It wasn’t that we consciously decided to make this our sound, it was that we decided to let our “sound” come out organically, from all of us mixing our influences together and seeing what we could create. All of us are mainly self-taught musicians and so we weren’t trained in any one genre but simply adored many kinds of music. Once we realized that our “experimental” reggae was really resonating with people, we started to go more in the direction of pushing boundaries in the reggae genre. Now we are thinking, why not incorporate some jazz, funk, rock, and soul in there too to create our own unique stew?

September Happy Mondays

You’ve got a new record coming in October can you talk about how this album stands out from the rest of your body of work?

Sonni Shine: With these two EPs I feel that we are defining “our sound” as a four-piece collaborative band. Although 2012’s Que Se Queda was full of original tunes, Visions of Love and Light will be the first album that we truly co-wrote together. This time around we started to really step back and be able to produce our songs in a more mature way. We are refining what message we want to convey with our lyrics and our music; it’s one of empowerment, self-determination, and hope.

On your Facebook page, it says, “THE UNDERWATER SOUNDS strive to keep their crowd moving and surprise them regularly with a variety of styles and unexpected covers.” Can you talk about the “unexpected covers” and what are some of the ones that your crowds dig the most?

Sonni Shine: This weekend we played at Peace of Mind Music Festival in Elizabethville, PA and surprised the crowd with “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book. We like doing songs like that; songs people wouldn’t necessary expect from us that we can put our own spin on–give it a funky or soulful feel. Also lately we have been playing a sort of reggae version of Bjork’s “Joga” and that has gotten a great response!

A bit of more broad, sweeping question — what is it that you love about being in Underwater Sounds?

Sonni Shine: Well I can’t speak for everyone but as myself, Sonni, I’d say that being in this band has allowed all of us the freedom to develop ourselves musically in a supportive and loving environment (usually our practice space in West Philly). Seeing how we grow together as musicians throughout the years is a really exciting part of it.

If someone’s coming out to Happy Mondays and has never heard you before, what song would you recommend them to check out to fully get what the Underwater Sounds is all about?


Sonni Shine: Listen to our new song “Work it Out.” It’s a good example of the direction we are taking lately. We love messing around with different time signatures, mixing in high energy funk with contemplative lyrics. You can stream it on our website underwatersounds.net or check out a full live set on archive.org!

What can the people coming out to Happy Mondays expect to see from you guys in terms of a live experience?

Sonni Shine: You can always expect to see a set we’ve never played before. We strive to keep the sets fresh, for ourselves and the audience. It’s exciting to attempt something ridiculous at a show we’ve never done before (blending songs together, creating medleys) and I also think that for people who have seen us maybe 10 or 12 times it adds a new element of excitement.

What do you have planned for the rest of 2014?

Sonni Shine: After our record release party October 3rd at the North Star Bar in Philly, we will do a 10-day northeast tour and then get right back to work beginning pre-production for Part 2 of Visions of Love and Light. We have most of the songs written already, just gotta get into the studio!

The Underwater Sounds perform at Happy Mondays at The Wonder Bar along with Swift Technique and Western Star.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites