At first glance, at least three-quarters of the band SunGhosts — with their long, greasy hair and Lennon-style glasses — do not appear to be the picture of ambition. But on the band's long-awaited, full-length self-titled debut, you can hear the hunger that's made them a success the past two years.
SunGhosts kicks off with a scream on the ska-inspired “Sunnyside Uppercut.” The album will be available to stream and purchase across all music platforms on August 23. Physical copies will be available at the album release show at the Open Stage Club on Sunday, August 14, with supporting acts Magic City Hippies, Alex Di Leo, and SALAS.
The release show had originally been scheduled to take place during Saturday’s Wynwood Art Walk but has been cancelled and replaced with Sunday's show due to concerns about the Zika virus. The show will also serve as the kickoff to the group's Magical Mischief Tour in support of the new album.
The booking process for the tour is just one example of SunGhosts’ steadfast dedication to forging its own success as a band. As guitarist Arminio Rivero (nicknamed “Crocodile” by the band) explains it: “We didn't have enough money to pay for a touring or booking company to do it, so me and my girlfriend started a company. We're planning the tour and we're pulling all nighters, but we got 22 shows in 30 days. And if we had to, we would've recorded our album in [singer/songwriter] Nik’s garage.”
On the full-length debut, the band had assistance from Grammy-winning producer Joel Someillán, who they met when he and his business partner, Christine de la Huerta, went to see the band play at Bougainvillea’s at the request of de la Huerta’s daughter, who is a fan. “They were trying to find some kind of new Miami sound — something that they could start their record label with and build with one band,” says Nik Olas.
“[Someillán] comes from a very different side of the industry. He's worked with a lot of Latin artists, but he grew up in the ‘80s. He was a teenager in his garage rocking out to Van Halen and AC/DC. That was his shit. He went through Berklee and worked with Latin artists and got two Grammys for making these albums sound perfect and pristine, and now he's working with us and we're like, ‘Oh, we want it to sound like shit. We want it to sound dirty.'”
The band found that while it had a pretty clear sense of the sound it was aiming for, the group was open to Someillán’s suggestions and expertise. “That's why the album doesn't sound like a lo-fi album," Olas says. "But it doesn't sound like Maroon 5.”
Album highlight “Til the City Goes Under” is Olas’ commentary on the struggles of Miami youth, particularly immigrant children who face parental pressure to pursue lucrative career paths, sometimes at the expense of their artistic passions.
Its music video is an endearing tribute to the Miami music scene, featuring cameos from Magic City Hippies, AstroMaps, Long Shore Drift, and more.
The song was the first SunGhosts ever put out, and it immediately struck a chord. “Nik got really excited and made a Facebook for the band,” remembers bassist Jared Steingold. “We posted just ‘Till the City Goes Under,’ and that's kind of how we got our first shows. There were no pictures of us or anything, it was just that song.”
Recently, the guys watched a middle school band cover the song. “It was the little sister of this one girl that always comes to our shows. She invited us. Three of us were able to go see it, and it was something else,” says Olas.
Their experience with “Till the City Goes Under” affirms SunGhosts' belief in the power of new media and word of mouth, but their producer needed some convincing. “Joel knows about the way the music industry was before everything changed with streaming. We know all about streaming and SoundCloud and Snapchat and all of these new ways of marketing. They know the old school way, and we know the new school way.”
Although assisted by a label and an award-winning producer, SunGhosts are pursuing success on their own terms, and the band is too tenacious to let anything stop them.
At a recent Summer of Sharkface show, the band was in the middle of a set when the power went out. Olas motioned to drummer Louie Estopiñan, who instinctively kicked into a drum solo. When the lights came back on they launched into their next song.
Reflecting on the mishap that might have derailed another band's set, Steingold's response is simple, a pragmatic example of the band's drive: “There's a solution to every problem.”
SunGhosts. 6 p.m. Sunday, August 14, at Open Stage Club, 2325 Galiano St., Coral Gables; 305-441-7902; openstageclub.com. Tickets cost $5 at the door.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.