Sure Boy: Wellington’s Baddest Girl Band

Solomon Powell

From left: Freyja Appleyard, Beth Stewart, Lily Fulton and Simone McCarthy. Photo / Georgia Shannon.

Before Beth Stewart, front woman of pop rock band Sure Boy, moved to Wellington to study music, she tried studying communication in Auckland. “I just couldn’t do it. Couldn’t kick it” she said. “Do you remember in high school when you had to take that test of careers and find what career you had to do? I took it crying the whole time because none of them had anything to do with music”. Halfway through her degree she’d had enough and proposed moving to Wellington to study commercial music at Massey University. “It was a feeling of like, I just want to sing. I know that sounds corny as fuck every time I say it. But that’s what it was like”. She was met with support from her mum, who saw it coming. However, her dad was slightly more reluctant. “It took a little bit of persuading,” said Beth. Nonetheless, she followed her heart to Wellington, and so began the story of Sure Boy.

Shortly after starting the commercial music course at Massey, Beth met fellow student and guitarist Simone McCarthy.  Like Beth, Simone was a diehard music fan, even since before she could play music. “For my eighth birthday party I was like, I wanna be a rock star” says Simone. “So the party was rock star themed.  All my friends came in like, band dress-up, and I had this massive guitar shaped cake and everything. Then I got a guitar for Christmas from my mom, and that was it” she said. “My parents pushed me to do music and they were really supportive when I realized this was what I wanted to do”. Simone and Beth were a good match, so they started writing songs together. They were work-shopping the material that would go on to become Sure Boy’s first songs.

Massive guitar shaped cake by Margherita Cornali

When their course required them to start performing the music, they got in touch with fellow students Freyja Appleyard, who plays drums, and Lily Fulton, who was originally a guitar player, but switched to bass. Freyja, who plays in another Massey-born band, King Fish, pins her musical influences on her mum showing her “some real out-the-gate stuff when I was far too young”. Freyja cites Kate Bush as being particularly influential.  As for why she picked drums, it was a no-brainer. “No clue why I picked drums. I just kind of stumbled into it and I liked it” she says. Lily, the most under-spoken member of the band, explains she switched to bass just to play in Sure Boy. “I didn’t think I was gonna play bass… but now I love it!” she says. The members of Sure Boy all share an interest in artists like The Beths and Stella Donnelly, but for the most part musical influences are diverse. “All four of us have very different music tastes, but when we all come together, it kind of meshes into a little nice sound. We all bring something to the table” says Simone. The resulting sound, something akin to pop rock, is described by the band as “mum-rock”. This is a likely a play on the “dad-rock” term used to describe bands like Dire Straits and Pearl Jam. “I love all those dad bands” says Simone, enthusiastically.

The type of song writing Beth and Simone brought to Sure Boy is based on storytelling, where heavy themes are discussed, but garnished with a humorous tone. ‘You think you want to be with me? / I think you just need therapy’ goes a line from one of their fan favorites, ‘Better’. “The main theme is often poking fun at some really shitty things that have happened and trying to put them in more of a humorous light” explains Beth. In this regard, the process of writing can be therapeutic for the band. “There’s areas of song writing that I know I don’t feel ready to write about just yet. But I know that there will come a point where I will want to write about it. But yeah, I think right now we are kind of masking it with a bit of humour” she says.  Even when talking amongst themselves, this sense of humour is on display. When asked what they would do after graduating, Beth responded: “we haven’t got many years left. We’re old by the time we’re twenty-six, for women in a band!”. Simone responds, “nah we can be like the Rolling Stones. When we’re 80 we’ll still be onstage”. Beth says “sure, I’ll have a voice like Tom Waits but it’ll be fine!”.

“It was a feeling of like, I just want to sing. I know that sounds corny as fuck every time I say it. But that’s what it was like”

Beth

This sense of humour comes in handy, as the all-female line up unfortunately means “good for a girl band” is a statement the group have heard more than once. The band have had a fair share of encounters Beth patiently describes as: “testing”. She says, “the best one that I can think of is when we were starting a show, and someone came up and was like: “do you know how to work the mic stand?”. And I’m like, yeah, I’ve been singing my whole life. You think I don’t know how to work the mic stand?”. Simone: “I was asked if I knew what the standby switch was”. Beth bursts into laughter. Simone: “most of the time I find it quite funny. Cause I know we’re good at what we do”. Beth: “but it’s hard cause sometimes you’re like maybe they are just being kind and want to help. But when it comes from a certain face, or a certain person, it can feel a touch condescending, and it can knock your confidence a little bit”. Freyja: “a lot of the stuff that’s said to us, I don’t think the people saying it think there’s anything wrong, so it’s not going to be addressed”.

Yet, Sure Boy’s most memorable experiences gigging are defined by their positive audience interactions. During their time performing, they have managed to garner a fan-base, and you can observe audience members singing along to their songs. “Moments when people come up, and they’re like: I had so much fun. I had the best time. That feels really good. That’s exactly what you want people to feel: safe and included and able to have a good boogie” says Beth. In response to popular demand, Sure Boy have also recorded two of their songs, one of which they plan to release as a single before the end of the year. “Then, over summer, we’ll be recording an EP” says Simone. “Every bloody gig we do people are like, so: can I find you on Spotify? And you gotta be like yeah, no, soon! Then three months later someone asks the same thing we’re like, no! We also want to try to get some music out before we get tired of it. Not tired, but like, it gives the music a new life. We’ve been playing these songs for quite a while. It’ll be nice to just get them out in the world”.

“I’ve been singing my whole life. You think I don’t know how to work the mic stand?”

Beth

Since Sure Boy started, its fair to say a lot has changed. At first, Beth and Simone would write songs together, only then bringing them to workshop with the band. “Now, over the past year, there’s a lot of songs that we’ve just written in a band practice having a jam together” says Beth. “We’ve all got closer and more comfortable with each other”. Also, while Beth’s dad was initially reluctant to let her move to Wellington and study music, he is now Sure Boy’s number one fan. Beth says “he watches like all of our TikToks over and over again and shows his friends at the pub. He messages me when we haven’t posted in a while. He’s like, excuse me, where’s the Sure Boy content? So yeah. He’s a huge fan now”.

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