The Echo Presents
Sonny & The Sunsets
Mystic Braves, The Blank Tapes (Acoustic set)
1822 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, California, 90026
This event is 18 and over
Watch & Listen
Sonny & The Sunsets
The modern age sends love letters on yellowed, empty pages. It’s got telepathic advice gurus in its timeline and
deep sea creatures washing up on its shores. It’s got plugs, buttons, and illusions, and a grocery store whose aisles
correspond to Dante’s infernal circles, plus a nebulous sense of ephemeral weirdness. It’s got Moods Baby Moods and
the existential angst it yields has Sonny Smith in a funk, but he’s turned it into funk.
On previous records, the Sunsets have plundered a wide spectrum of musical appropriation (garage-rock, forgotten
AM radio fodder, Modern Lovers, late-era Clash, Doo-Wop, and the Velvet Underground, to name a few.) Mood
Baby Moods follows suit, and on this outing we find the Sunsets, along with producer Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs,
repurposing early ‘80s funk and new wave with rap beats and collages from both sides of the ocean (be it Niles
Rogers, Jah Wobble, The Gap Band, Orange Juice, Trans-era Neil Young or The Tom Tom Club.) These are songs that
juxtapose the haze of today with a vibrant and colorful explosion of sounds and 180 degree turns.
Sonny’s gift for vivid storytelling is no secret. His last album with the Sunsets, Talent Night at the Ashram, was
peopled by characters he’d created for scripts that never saw the light of day. He greeted 2016 with a solo LP (Sees
All Knows All) that involved no singing at all — a winding tale of one musician’s quest to find himself set to music.
Moods Baby Moods is no less inventive and arguably more musically sophisticated than Smith’s previous records.
“Death Cream Part 2” picks up a comic book tale started on 2009’s Tomorrow Is Alright, tracing that titular tube of
heinous goop back to a grocery store/hell. “Modern Age” transfers from a party to a string quartet, with elements of
dub, while the narrator comes to grips with meaninglessness – ‘modern age/nothing to say.’ “Well but Strangely Hung
Men” bridges a gap between Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud and Richard Brautigan over a driving post disco beat.
The real life cast supporting Moods Baby Moods is fittingly rife with outsider talent. Garbus’ voice can be heard
throughout. Shayde Sartin’s bass, Edmund Xavier’s drum machine beats and Smith’s guitar form the foundations, and
regular Tahlia Harbour continues her back and forth banter with Smith. Cold Beat’s Hannah Lew brings a Kleenex/
Young Marble Giants flavor to the songs. Shannon Shaw and Jibz Cameron drop by for a skit, and Kaznary Mutoh of
Tokyo’s Boys Age lends guitars and garbles the outro of “Modern Age.”
Lyrically, Smith is playing with the grand themes of today. In his search for purpose in the cruel realities of the
modern age, he’s trying to make sense out of chaos and suffering, and to find a way to live and be real. This is not
an easy task in a time of synthetic feelings (“Moods”), computer created confusion (“Modern Age”), climate change
(“Dead Meat on the Beach”), civil rights abuse (“White Cops on Trial”), and the uneasy feeling of numbness in our
chaotic world (“Check Out”).
But in the final moments of Moods Baby Moods, Sonny delivers a line that not only speaks truth to his philosophy
as played out across his career, but to what it means to be human in any era, regardless of our relationships with
technology, spirituality, authority, or art: “I’m full of love, and shit, all the time.”
It’s no wonder why The Zombies asked Mystic Braves to open their L.A. show last year. While the hometown favorites were barely even a blip on their respective parents’ radars when Odessey and Oracle was released, the psych-steeped five-piece sounds like they stepped straight out of the ’60s. And not in an obvious, someone’s-been-studying-their Nuggets-comps-until-the-grooves-give-out sort of way, either. We’re talking a richer, fuller plot of references (garage-borne greats like The Electric Prunes, The Chocolate Watchband and The Music Machine) that filter the band’s hook-centric purple haze through robust organ rolls, runaway guitar riffs, heat-stroked horns and a rhythm section that can only be described as “restless”.
Especially on Desert Island, a scrappy extension of the self-titled debut Mystic Braves dropped in 2013. From the ravenous opening remarks of “Bright Blue Day Haze”—the first song frontman Julian Ducatenzeiler wrote for the outfit, making it their mission statement in more ways than one—right on through the wild-eyed melodies of “Earthshake,” the filler-free effort is more aggressive than their last album yet about as immediately accessible as vapor-trailed rock music gets these days. It’s sunshine in a bottle, really, which can only be expected from a group with such deep California roots.
“The west coast has it all really—beaches, mountains, deserts, cities, suburbs,” explains Ducatenzeiler, who’s rounded out by drummer Cameron Gartung, guitarist Shane Stotsenberg, bassist Tony Malacara and organist/tambourinist Ignacio Gonzalez. “Our sound is merely a byproduct of the environments we grew up in and the experiences we had. We’re not trying to deliberately channel ’60s music, either; we simply write sensible pop songs from the heart with psychedelic textures and tones. It just comes natural to us.”
– Filter Magazine
The Blank Tapes (Acoustic set)
Matt Adams, a soft-spoken kid from a Southern California suburb who learned to play practically every instrument a good garage band needs, and then started making beautifully idiosyncratic records on his trusty home eight-track because … well, why wait? When he first heard the Beatles and the Kinks, he knew he needed to make his own songs, too, and so in 2003 he did, with the kind of inspiration and confidence and personality you’d think have faded out in 1967. By the time he left his home in Orange County for San Francisco in 2005, he’d put dozens if not a hundred of his own songs on tape, all lovingly and painstakingly and perfectly recorded in a series of ever more modest bedrooms and sheds. The local press loved him and when he landed in the Bay Area, the press there loved him just as much, too. (“Somebody sign him, quick!” said Rolling Stone.)