"It's a myth, for sure, but it's one way of framing what was a very weird way to make a record."

A Sunny Day in Glasgow's fourth full-length, Sea When Absent, was their first in almost four years, and if you believe the popular narrative that seems to have followed it around in the press since its release, it was made without the individual members of the group ever being in the same room. If that sounds fantastical, it's because it's totally false - in actual fact, the six-piece spent plenty of time working together in Philadelphia, the city where they formed and are spiritually anchored, but as the old adage goes, if you have to choose between the truth and legend, it's certainly more engaging to print the legend.

To say that the shoegazers have never done things quite by the book would be a crashing understatement, but even by their own unorthodox standards, the prospect of putting together an album whilst separated by geography posed quite the challenge. Bandleader Ben Daniels and vocalist Annie Frederickson both live and work in Australia, a hell of a long way from where the band began. Frederickson's fellow singer Jen Goma is based in Brooklyn, whilst Josh Meakim - guitars - and Adam Herndon - drums - both remain in Philly. They would snatch weeks here and weeks there together to work on ideas in person, but for the most part, email became the primary means of communication.

The result, at the end of a protracted and often hugely frustrating creative process, is a magnificently eccentric pop record - arguably 2014's best. It genuinely sounds like what it is, the unvarnished collision of ideas from six far-flung creative minds - at once brash and considered, both catchily immediate and admirably complex. "We definitely had to regroup afterwards," says Goma over Skype from her New York home. "We had to ask ourselves how we'd really felt about the process, and whether or not we'd want to do it again. Some of us really thrive on self-motivating, and some of us need structures, and a disciplined way to work. Not everyone enjoyed making the record the way we did; over a long period of time and with a lot miles between us."

On a long-distance call from Sydney, Daniels agrees. "I feel like none of us would ever want to make an album like this again. Making this record the way we did, it threw up a ton of difficulties. It was an awkward, awkward process. The time that we did get together, we basically snatched whilst I was over in Philly visiting family at Christmas. I'd stay through into January, and we'd get together as often as possible."

Goma, for one, seemed amenable to the long-distance process of completing Sea When Absent, even if some of her bandmates struggled with it. "I found it to be workable, because I don't think I've ever had a system or tradition when I've made an album. Every single one I've made has been totally different, so I never had any beef with the fact that this one evolved in the way it did. It's not like we're the sort of band who would jam or whatever, even if we were all together all the time. Having to take things home, tweak them and bring them back suited me fine, even if I was emailing them rather than playing them back in person."

Sea When Absent wasn't even the only outstanding record of 2014 that Goma was heavily involved with, either; she took on lead vocal duties on a slew of tracks on The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's criminally underrated Days of Abandon, and the fact that she always seems to have several music projects on the go seems to contribute to the fact that she's comfortable with A Sunny Day's often chaotic way of working. "I feel like you're always working to a personal deadline," she explains, "because you don't ever want to release music that's irrelevant. You want it out there in a timely manner. The thing with this record was that, because we didn't have a label to set a proper cutoff point for us, it was up to us to motivate ourselves to gradually keep chipping away at what was a very complicated body of work to pull together. It was totally different to, say, when we made Almost Autumn, where we were together for nearly all of it; we were on tour, so there was a lot of hanging mics in hotel rooms and getting to venues early so that we could use the soundcheck to work through ideas. In the end, we had that down in three or four months, and I must admit that I missed that, this time around; that kind of carefree momentum."

The sheer variety of approaches to writing and recording seems essentially to have been born out of necessity, but Daniels contends that even if it hadn't, things might have followed a similar tack anyway. "I feel like I need that," he admits. "The first record was just me, really, recording everything in my apartment and getting my sisters to come down at the weekends to help me out with melody ideas. That was totally simple, and then on Ashes Grammar, everything just went to hell! It was mainly Josh and I in this warehouse that had been converted into a dance studio, making a lot of noise for as long as we wanted; we'd be working really late, ten hours straight there, just doing whatever we wanted. Since then, we've had the current lineup, more or less, and as challenging as it's become to piece everything together, at least it's different. It is exhilarating, to a degree."

In the end, Sea When Absent has come together sounding so eclectic, with such a clash of styles, that it's hard to imagine it would have sounded the same if had been made conventionally. Daniels concurs. "The truth is, we've never ever just gone into a studio and laid everything down together - it's always been strange. It's impossible to envision how this would have turned out if we'd done that, but even if we had, I still don't think we'd do things normally anyway. We'd still be radically changing parts we'd already recorded. The studio recording of 'Never Nothing' actually sounds totally different to the one that you hear on the album, just as one example."

The lyrical content on Sea When Absent feels like a thematic maelstrom; often opaque and clearly diffuse, it's obvious that the different ideas belong to the different vocalists singing them, whether that's Goma, Frederickson, or the words contributed by Daniels. Again, it's something that fits in perfectly with the sense of disorientation that the record's scored through with. "I think, eventually, we hit a time marker where the thing that was most prevalent in our lives was the record itself," says Goma. "So, weirdly, the lyrics reflect the album, and the frame of mind that this protracted process was forcing us into. At the start, Ben had some pretty grand ideas - he wanted to tap into the Greek myths and science fiction he'd been reading - and whilst those are in there, I think they ended up being channeled through this prism of frustration and, to a degree, disillusionment with how long everything was taking, and how we felt like we were coming up against some pretty immovable walls trying to make this album bit by bit. There's definitely themes of separation and longing, for sure."

The title, therefore, also seems to mesh nicely with the concepts the album wrestles with. It was Goma's suggestion - "I think it was a working title for a Hemingway novel, or something" - but Daniels could spot the poetry and relevance in it. "It does seem appropriate. I knew it fitted with a lot of the things that the lyrics were talking about, but until you mentioned it, I guess I hadn't thought about how it kind of ties up in a bow the process of working through these songs. I like it, though. It works."

The other question that the band's complex geography throws up is whether they can ever really function as a viable live band any more. "We tried to get something together for earlier this year in the UK and northern Europe, and it just wouldn't work out," says Daniels. "I mean, it'd be hard enough anyway; just the concept of trying to ship six people from a mostly obscure band around the world and not lose money is nigh-on impossible. Last time we were in Europe, we lost a ton of money. We can't do that again, but it's an odd one, because we feel like we do well in Europe - historically, the shows have always been great. We're still holding out hope that it might happen."

What did come to pass, last summer, was a tour across the U.S., something that Daniels has mixed feelings about in retrospect. "I've never been so hot in my life," he laughs. "I got back home, the sun showed up in Philly, and then followed us the whole way. We did so much rehearsing in this incredibly humid practice space, and even though the shows were fantastic - probably the best we've ever done in America - I think I kind of hated everything about the tour outside of the shows! There was no air conditioning in the van - it was terrible, every time you got in that thing. We some pretty massive, soul-crushing drives, so the gigs themselves were the saving grace."

It isn't really unreasonable to wonder how sustainable the very future of the band is, but it's clear from speaking to both Goma and Daniels that they both have a genuine commitment to making more music. "Like I said, I don't ever want to make a record like this again," Daniels concedes. "But, at the same time, the fact of the matter is that I just became a permanent resident here in Australia, and next year I'll gain my citizenship. I'm going to be here for a while, so the distance is going to be a factor for the foreseeable future. Before we make any kind of a start on a new record, we have to talk about how we can make this work better for everybody, because as tricky as it's proved in the past, we all want to make more music. We all need this band."

Sea When Absent is available now via Lefse Records