The first time I listened to Sonny and the Sunsets’ music was around a year ago when I played their 2012 album Longtime Companion back to back – something I rarely do. The brainchild of musician Sonny Smith, the band released their first album Tomorrow is Alright in 2009, followed by 4 more and an EP. Their music tells a story, yet their lyrics are splendidly melodic. The brilliance of their work was a sign that the source of influence and inspiration was as rich and diverse. I was curious to know more about the artist and maybe uncover the secret recipe for making great music.
Can you tell us a bit about how everything started? When and how did the project turn from Sonny Smith to Sonny and the Sunsets?
Shayde Sartin coined the title, we were playing around town under Sonny Smith, he called it that, and it felt right…
I read on your Wikipedia page that your trip to central America was an influence musically? How did that trip change your style considering that your sounds seems partially rooted Americana?
I was living on a commune, and I was playing guitar around a campfire every night, or in the communal kitchen, or just somewhere in the jungle. I was also working on screenplays. I wanted to make movies and I thought that was where I was going. I thought I was going to return to the states and make films. And as I was playing guitar a lot, with friends, I was improvising a lot and searching for lyrics and I began to dip into these screenplays I was writing, using them as scrap heaps to sift through and pull lyrics. That’s pretty much how I began writing my own songs and coming up with something that felt original. Those first years making my own music, the songs were really long and had a lot of characters and dialogue and plots and stuff. So yeah, those times in the jungle, they didn’t have much to do with American or latin American music, it just had to do with me and making weird new stuff.
What music elements are you yet to explore and what do you have your eyes on for future?
Oh nothing at moment. It works the opposite way. You don’t concioously decide where to go and then go there, like travel vacations. In art, you just instinctively go somewhere, and you don’t even realize it, and after you’re there or half way there, your conscious mind catches up. So at the moment, I have no idea what’s next.
I discovered your music on Spotify, and I personally (controversially) think that [Spotify] it’s the best thing that happened to music. What do you think of the current industry landscape and how do you see the future of music consumption?
I think musicians have been getting ripped off and taken for granted since there was music. Spotify is the latest and there will be something else after it.
Who are some of the contemporary artists that you admire and would like to one day collaborate with?
I love Dynasty Handbag, and I love Frank Ocean and I love Chain & the Gang, and I love Ricky Gervais. I’d love to work with Ricky Gervais somehow.
Revolver is obsessed with lists, and more recently with album suggestions. Can you name some albums you grew up listening to?
Back in Black and Bark at the Moon were a big deal at one point. I was also into breakdancing music so I had Newcleus records and stuff. I was into skating as well so I had weird Thrash music like Exodus and DRI and Victims Family. I was all over the place.
Is there a music festival that you’d like to perform at?
Yeah sure, All Tomorrow’s Parties, I haven’t done that one yet.
Can we see you in Europe any time soon?
Yeah hopefully in July…
photo credit: sonnysmith.com