The sunbirds

Former Housemartin Flies The Nest – Dave Hemmingway

by Sophia Smith

Dave Hemmingway
Dave Hemmingway

You do not need to have been born in the eighties to know the iconic hits of The Housemartins. I remember sneaking a 7” vinyl of ‘Happy Hour’ with a B side of ‘The Mighty Ship’ from my Auntie’s collection when she was a teenager. No matter what age you are you can sing along to ‘Rotterdam’, ‘Dream A Little Dream’ or ‘Song for Whoever’.

From The Housemartins, to the Beautiful South and then to The South, drummer Dave Hemmingway flew the nest to create his new band, The Sunbirds.

“I got tired of playing old Housemartins’ songs. I still felt like I had some new music to offer. I stopped playing with The South and had a break for a couple of years, and then these new songs came up from our guitarist Phil (Barton), and I felt they were the right songs to start up again and make a go of to work with, with a new album and a new band.”

Dave Hemingway, is back and set to have his first gig in Hull this June with his new band, Sunbirds. Since retiring from the music scene in 2016, he has returned with their ‘Cool To Be Kind’ album which was released in November 2020 and are set to play at the Adelphi Club in Hull on Saturday the 19th of June.

‘Cool To Be Kind’ is the result of a few transitional years. It tells stories that cover modern-day themes as well as longstanding matters of the heart – all viewed through the bottom of a recently drained pint glass.

“It was a good two years from doing the demos. It was a long process and we did manage to finish it before the first lockdown happened which was fortunate.

“We didn’t try to make it one style of music, the songs just came out as they felt right, wherever that may take you, and whatever musical form it takes and best suits the song.”

The first of the 12 tracks on the album is ‘Meet You On The Northside’. A song that Dave co-wrote, ” It’s about the Hull that I grew up in, in the sixties, when I was a kid. All the references in the song are about the pubs and the trawlers.”

There was one certain song for me that I’m drawn to ‘Gene Kelly’, as soon as I played it, I was up boogieing …

‘A poster of Gary Lineker, the stench of piss and vinegar, and an oily rainbow in a puddle at my feet. I don’t mind, I really don’t mind, let it rain, let it rain, on this god forsaken town.’

It’s one of those songs that make you reminisce to the summer times pre-lockdowns, live music, dancing with mates, drinks in hands, laughing.

“We need to get out again, go to gigs, the pubs, see each other and feel good again. Hopefully, that comes across in that song,” grins Dave.

“Sadly, some part of the music industry won’t recover, some venues have closed down and some may never open again,” says Dave. “I’m thinking The Welly Club in Hull, and places like that which have had bands on for many years and thriving but sadly no more.

“I hope the industry does come back and people can get back working, everyone in the business, not just the bands, people behind the scenes, roadies, writers etc. We’ve all suffered.”

The sunbirds
The sunbirds

One chance opportunity changed Dave’s life, but he made it clear to me that no matter what direction life had taken him, whether he would be working a 9-5 job, he would always have time for music.

“The Housemartins were the first band to really make it from Hull, and I was at school with their original drummer Hugh Whitaker. I used to play in bands with him before he joined them, and when they made it, he quit the band, and I’m still not sure why. They’d just had a number 1 single, ‘Caravan of Love’. He put my name forward and said: ‘I’m not gonna do the drums anymore, try Dave’. So, thanks to Hugh I was in The Housemartins and it went from there. I went from a ‘one man and his dog’ type audience to thousands in the blink of an eye!

“I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had good things happen in bands. Performing on ‘Top of the Pops’ for the first time, a show I’d watched a kid, then suddenly I get to be on there, that was a big thrill. Playing the main stage at Glastonbury as well, that was a fantastic experience. I’ve been very fortunate.”

From the man who once told us he loved us from the bottom of his pencil case, I sensed the fire in his belly eager to get music back into the world. “I can’t wait to get out there and perform again. Music, it uplifts people, it’s one of the joys of life.” he grins.

For info about future gigs visit