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Sun Shines in the Underground: The reggae-funk-pop of Sonni Shine and the Underwater Sounds | December 2011

written by John Powell

The unexpected is always worth noting, and it’s Sonni Shine that picks up an electric guitar and lays down the reggae/funk rhythm riffs as the undercurrent of Sonni Shine and the Underwater Sounds, a four-piece out of Philadelphia with a sound much in line with west coast reggae and ska, an upbeat and speedy inclusion of guitar licks, thumping bass, and spattering drums. Not only is her voice sweet and sour, but Sonni’s dual ability is an exciting surprise.

Sonni Shine and the Underwater Sounds

The band’s eight-song self-titled LP was released in 2010, at the peak of summer, an album perfect for windows down. They’ve been touring in various capacities ever since, and now two years deep, they are working towards their follow-up album, this time with guest musicians including keys and sax.

The Underwater Sounds did not come first. Sonni Schwartzbach had been performing solo for a while, with an acoustic sound, and heading into the studio, Sonni met Sean Youngman, who was asked in as a sessions drummer. “I thought she was cool,” Sean explains the connection, shrugging. They picked up Kenny Shumski and Billy Campion along the way. Kenny’s bass is responsible for the band’s bopping quality, the forward moving energy. Billy says, “I got all my education from music,” and scores as the lead guitarist. Between Billy and Sonni, the guitar sounds bridge pop-reggae and rock-funk.

“We do it all ourselves,” Sean says about touring. “It’s good that way.” They’ve taken Billy’s pick-up truck on the road. It has a cab in the back where they store their gear and have also situated a comfy chair. “It’s cold back there,” Billy laughs, “but we actually fight over it.”


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