Unlike many other genres and music communities, the indie/alt culture appreciates new and rising artists that create diversity and new insights within the genre.
We constantly feature notable indie and alternative artists on the verge of success. Meet this week’s featured artist in an exclusive interview, the Miami native group SunGhosts who pump out "the finest surf rock sock hop punk rock your ears can taste.”
If you’re into nostalgic 90s-punk inspired cinematic sound narratives that retain modern charm and edge, then the winding and witty melodies of these guys' engagingly infectious alternative psych-surf have come to haunt you like a teenage Casper.
We recently talked in-depth with the Polterguy SunGhosts themselves, Nik Olas, Arminio Rivero, Jared Steingold and Louie Estopinan. Read on to find out more about the group's influences, creative process, and of course their take on all things alternative culture.
Nik: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Greatest Hits; The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth; Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
Arminio: Let start by saying that this question took me hours to think about and I had a list of about 20 albums I started out with, and after putting myself back to my 13 year old mindset this seems to be my final verdict... for now: The Doors - Strange Days; Nirvana – Nevermind; and a tie between AC/DC - Highway to Hell, and Sublime - Self-titled
Louie: Incubus- Morning View; Deftones- Saturday Night Wrist; Mars Volta- Deloused in the Comatorium
Jared: Moving Pictures – Rush; Ride the Lightning – Metallica; Vulgar Display of Power - Pantera
What are your fondest musical memories?
Nik: My fondest memory as a listener is traveling to Coachella in 2013 and experiencing my own personal epiphany thanks to the headlining RHCP, who helped me find my music again after I had lost it. Fondest memory as a band, the feeling I get when a new song comes together and we play it live for the crowd, and it thrills them :)
Armi: Everytime I play with SunGhosts. Seeing Paul McCartney and AC/DC play live. Touring and performing at Summerfest. As well as the first time I ever played guitar live, Louie was there too ask him about it he'll tell you everything. *Keep quiet Louie*
Louie: *keeps quiet*
Jared: Our last tour was crazy! What an experience! We played so many excellent shows and got even tighter as friends on the road. As a listener it would have to be listening to the Moving Pictures album by Rush over and over again trying to sing as high as Geddy Lee and air drumming to Neil Peart.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener?
Nik: I'm working on transitioning my music listening hub from Spotify to Apple Music, so I'm doing a lot organizing with my personal playlists and fav albums, etc. I'm relistening to the bands that got me into playing music, a lot of bands from the 2000's.
Armi: Lots of classic stuff like The Doors, The Beatles, Elvis, The Stones, Buddy Holly, etc. Surf rock and garage rock from the 60's, Iggy and The Stooges, traditional Hawaiian music, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, and pretty much anything on any Quentin Tarantino film soundtrack.
Nik: I could write a book about this. Hell, maybe I will one day. For now, I'll share that the process almost always starts with a guitar riff or rhythm. Then I brainstorm what I want to convey in the song: the emotion, the message, the colour, the mood, and then I let the lyrics flow out. The brainstorming piece involves word banks, word maps, lists of imagery, etc. All of which are great creative exercises to get those juices a-juicin'.
Armi: Whether I'm playing guitar(or any other instrument I have around the house, and I have quite a few), writing random jibberish in my notebooks, coming up with movie plots for my imaginary Tarantino inspired filmography (Gimme a call Quentin I got some ideas for ya), or drawing characters for my imaginary slacker kid friendly cartoons(as you can tell I have too much time on my hands) I like to do the following: watch gnarly over the top action and B-horror movies, read books with far out plots, nap, listen to surfy and tropicalesque music, go to the beach, research random interesting topics on Wikipedia, and watch MMA highlights to name a just a few of the educational activities that stimulate my mind.
Something we find interesting here at IndieBeat is how the base city of artists impacts their creative process and sound formation. Your bio mentions that your sound aesthetic is a “unique style redefining the sound of Miami.” How has Miami shaped the way you create your music? How would you describe the music scene?
Nik: This is a great question. Miami has shaped the manner in which we create music in a lot of ways. It affects the sound first and foremost through cultural influence. I grew up listening to a good amount of Latin music and soul/funk. So groove is a big thing for me; playing music that makes dancing happen haha. The heat, traffic, clutter & complication of the city life definitely mix up to inspire some solid punk tunes and a lot of the energy in our music, which we channel as aggressive positivity (that’s what our artist Trooper calls our style of music).
You guys have such high energy personalities. Does that contribute to how you construct your live performances? What does a SunGhosts live show look like? How does your “love, explosions, bikini contests, and good times” sound translate to the stage?
Nik: Of couuurrrrrse our high energy contributes to our live shows! We love thinking about how we can blow people away at every show, whether it's a new intro, or a brief stop after a song in which we start the next explosively. It's what keeps the live shows interesting.
Louie: When we are on stage, we just become this ball of wild-fun-chaotic-adrenaline that doesn't really stop. We've all become brothers and love each other so we show our comfortability and passion on stage. Lol you know we should throw a bikini contest event and play throughout the contest. Who wouldn't wanna see that? Ya know? TELL ME WHO?!
Armi: I gotta agree with Louie let's make the bikini contest thing happen.
Nik: Hah! You wouldn't believe me when I say the concept conception happened by accident. I was at a Starbucks with our artist Trooper and a long-time friend and supporter Cory discussing the EP's album art. Back story: I have my iPhone set so that when I triple click the home button it inverts the colors on the display. So I had some coffee in me and I clicked the home button 1 time more than I should've while the album art was up and VOILA! the subtle blues and light fading colors of the serene forest were inverted to a haunting, somber scene of dark trees. It knocked us out of our seats. We forced ourselves to find a use for it. So I thought, heavily inspired by the Pokémon games, we could release the light and dark EPs with a different 4th track on them. It was a really cool idea and I'm glad we did it.
Louie: It was a brilliant miracle. It's like life. There's a light side and a dark side. Good and evil. Yin and yang. SunGhosts. Am I wrong or am I right? :0
Armi: It was really such a happy accident. I love the concept of the light "Sun" side, and the dark "Ghosts" side.
You guys just finished up a seven state tour, playing a couple festival gigs. Do you have any interesting road stories from this tour? How have these shows differed from all the South Florida shows you guys are used to playing?
Jared: I gotta say touring was quite the experience with all the different personalities we brought along with us and let me tell ya we have stories that would take at least 3 camping trips to tell them all! We had just finished playing Summerfest in Milwaukee and checked into the hotel that night when I had a craving for a hot pocket (which were made conveniently available down at the lobby). I was doing my thing in my PJ’s purchasing a pizza stuffed treat minding my own business when all of a sudden these super fly hipster lookin’ kids recognized me and told me our show was the bees knees! They wanted to know what party I was headed to or what club I was going to be at later on that night. Then they took a closer look at me in my family guy pajamas chilling with a hot pocket and started cracking up! They really dug how I was doing my thing relaxing at the hotel just having a good time. I talked with them a bit more and they just thought it was the coolest thing that I was just super approachable and took the time to hang out. None of us have ever felt the need to adopt some kind of “Rock Star” persona. We’re all just best buds having a kick ass time traveling the country and spreading positivity through our shared love of rock n’ roll.
Armi: Oh man the tour was so gnarly, and there are so many awesome stories. I'll summarize as many as I can: Watching Jurassic World in North Carolina, that Merry-go-round in St. Louis, the homeless dude in Chicago who was yelling about some dude named Mike that he apparently didn't know, Hotlanta (‘nuff said), all our super cool Uber drivers, getting recognized at Summerfest in Milwaukee, peeing together on the side of a random Iowa highway, tornado warnings in Illinois, free pizza, free beer, that random music fest in Nashville, and so many more that I'd get in trouble for saying hehe.
As an indie artist in the digital age, social media and streaming are essential tools for marketing and promotion. What do you think about online music sharing, both as a music fan and as a musician? How do you think social media/music streaming services impacts the rising musician?
Nik: Great question. I've heard a lot of people express their discontent with the state of sharing/streaming music since the big bang Napster started. I believe that things are always changing, and you can choose to fight the current, or ride the wave. The new music industry seems to be operating in the exact opposite way that it once did. Artists used to go on tour to promote their record, and record sales would profit. Now, artists release their music for free to urge fans to support them via live shows & merch. It's a different time, and different skill sets are required to overcome new challenges such as social media, DIY touring, standing out in a sea of talent, all while still writing music that people want to hear. I love social media and music streaming, it gives people the power to connect to whoever and listen to whatever.
Armi: Oh boy... Let's just say this online stuff takes up about 50% of my day.
Nik: I never really thought of it, but I do like the idea of singing a duet with a lovely miss. She'd have that old school 50's style of vocal, maybe even some grit to her style. Rawr.
Armi: My dream collaboration would involve me somehow alongside The Ventures, a Jim Morrison hologram, The Cramps, some of The Nameless Ghouls from Ghost, a world class didgeridoo ensemble, Brazilian dancers, Ringo Starr on drums, and Dave Grohl producing the whole thing.
What are you currently working on? Any new projects?
We are currently working on our first full-length album. It’s really exciting! Full of some of the fan favorites plus several new songs. We just finished three full days in the studio and have many more to go.
Finally, a question we ask all of artists: which songs are you currently obsessed with? What new acts do you recommend to our listeners? What bands do you believe are your best kept secret in the indie community?
Nik: OoOoOoOo interview us more pleeease your questions are so awesome! Let's see... Since I just started using Apple Music, I'm relistening to all the indie rock albums that first fueled my musical ambitions. Among them are The Fratellis' first album, everything by The Strokes, all of Arctic Monkeys (especially Favourite Worst Nightmare), The Hives' Tyrannosaurus Hives which just gets my gears goin, The Shins, Spoon's album GaGaGaGaGa, The Kooks' album Konk, to name a handful.
As for new acts, I love listening to the bands I find through pitchfork and multiple indie labels. I'll highly recommend Twin Peaks' album Wild Onion, Turbo Fruits' album Butter, Temples' album Sun Structures, and I'll say the most amazing album I've heard this year is The Island of Dr. Electrico by a random Australian Bollywood band The Bombay Royale. Sooooo gewwwddd!
Armi: Right now I'm hooked on new bands like Cayucas, The Growlers, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, Broncho, Cloud Nothings, Wavves, and Royal Bloods. I'm also binging a bunch of classic/all time favorite bands that I've seen live this year: I saw AC/DC at Coachella, Paul McCartney at Lollapalooza, The Strokes at Shaky Knees, at the American Airlines arena here in Miami I saw The Eagles, Motley Crue, and Alice Cooper, it's been such a good year man.
Thanks once again to the guys from SunGhosts for talking with us. You can stay up to date with them via the social links below. If you like what you've heard, you're in luck! SunGhosts have a few shows on the near horizon, including:
Sept 19 at the Everglades Awareness Benefit
Oct. 2 at Bardot Miami
Nov 5 in Tampa/St. Pete
Nov 7 in Tallahassee.
You can get all the all the info via sunghosts.com