SunGhosts describe themselves as “sun-drenched” and they’re right.
The band is upbeat and bright – both in character and sound – and emulate that into everything they do. Their latest self-titled 14-song release begins in a hurly-burly jam- including segments of choppy guitars and melodies with a glimmer of metal influences alongside ska strokes – “The misfits we were born to be/ We gotta spread the SunGhost mischief/ From sea to sea” sleekly sings vocalist Nik Balisario on “Sunnyside Uppercut.” It’s part tagline and part fun, but wholly expression- regarding women, weather, and woes. It’s pop-oriented rock. A sound that could considerably reach commercial radio.
Balisario grew up in Miami and has been playing music in the city for over eight years, in several other bands building up to the creation of SunGhosts. Following Rivero was former metal bassist Jared Steingold, who Balasario met at a party, and drummer Louie Estopiñan, who quit his job to join the band.
“The whole semester we [Rivero] were just joking the whole time, laughing a lot, obviously learning about music business,” says Balisario. “Then we were talking about quitting our bands we were with, because there were bad people in them who weren’t working hard. And we’re like, ‘oh! let’s start a garage/surf rock band.’ we were super into that […] It felt good and it was fun and it was like three random dudes who didn’t know each other at all just getting together and playing music. And it worked.”
SunGhosts have gained notoriety both in the media and their fandom – from young girls crying over missing the band’s set, to being chosen to perform the first annual Okeechobee Fest back in March via a Battle of the Band’s showcase at Gramps in Wynwood, to playing at Austin’s SXSW festival, as well as booking a slot on the Sunday date of Miami’s iii Points festival. Currently they’re enduring a full-length national tour, and continuously they’re working towards being future proprietors of the music festival circuit.
How did SunGhosts start off?
Nik: We started two years of us doing our own thing and handling/maning our own social media and going out to shows and meeting people, we have a big campaign. [We] just made some really cool stickers thanks to our artist Trooper, he lives in Orlando and we started passing out these stickers as a way to get the word around. Make a cool sticker, pass it out. Before doing any social media posts it was like,‘coming soon: our album.’ People have to be able to hear music, so I recorded a three-song EP within like half a year of us getting together and we released it and that’s been holding us off for two years.
Talk about your music
Nik: We finally released a new EP with a record label and indie start-up that signed us last year, with gentlemen Joel Someillan, an engineer and he has two Grammy’s, really really awesome cool dude. And Christine De la Huerta, she works like PR and marketing, she helps us as our personal manager with everything we do. So our team is like, us four, then them two and then our artist Trooper, who is long distance right now. So we’re building our team little by little and our goals are to start touring more often, play more festivals, and we’re about to release our album.
Where does the band name come from?
Nik: The term “Sunghosts,” it’s like a scientific thing that happens, but what happens when the sun is rising or setting and there’s some kind of reflection in the sky on either side and it looks like there’s three suns, like a big one in the middle and they’re like, two reflections of the sun on either side, and so that’s what sunghosts is and parhelion is. It kind of looks like a ring around the sun.
Who are your influences, both musically and personally?
Jared: There’s a lot of people who’ve influenced me, and most of them are not bass players. Like Freddie Mercury. When I saw this Live at Wembley Stadium on video cassette that my dad had and I saw that in our entertainment system like at the house i was like ‘WHOA! that’s what I wanna do!’ which is cool because I play in a band with a guy that looks like Freddie Mercury, so I’m pretty close.
If I had to pick a bass player that really got me, it was the second bassist for Metallica, Cliff Burton. I saw this thing called Cliff Em’ All and it’s like an homage to him and he has this solo called “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)” and that was the first time that I heard bass kind of more isolated as a solo instrument that you could do all this stuff with. I was like oh man, I kinda wanna do that.
Nik: When I was growing up, my first two role models were Jim Carrey and Robin Williams. I was a hyper kid. I’m still hyper, you could tell, but I love humor so much. It’s one of the best parts of life. And if you see us we’re always fucking around we’re always laughing and making jokes and we like cartoons a lot, like we watch Rick and Morty and Armenio and the dudes love Regular Show, which I still need to get into.
(the artists and songs on this playlist were chosen by SunGhosts)
Nik: And in music, Anthony Kiedis from the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers. I read his book Scar Tissue so many times. And Julian Casablanca from the Strokes. I met him and had him sign my arm to get it tattooed on. That guy is a real role model. So many people go crazy to meet him in that huge ass line and he just gives everybody the time of day, looks them in the eye, smiles at them, and signs whatever the hell they want. Like that’s the way to do it, man. That’s how you make people happy. So that’s a good role model right there.
Arminio: I’m gonna say my mom, the Doors, Nirvana, Quentin Tarantino, and my dog Torpedo.
Louie: My whole family in general but especially my brother, ‘cause my brother introduced me to playing an instrument and that started my whole path into that musical direction. So I really gotta thank my brother. And then other influences, definitely my favorite bands of all time are Incubus and Deftones so all of them.I fucking love Christian Bale, Jared Leto and Dave Grohl, because Christian Bale, well he’s like my favorite actor ‘cause of how serious and how much he gets into his roles, but with Jared Leto and Dave Grohl it’s like they’re just a ball of talent that really inspires me and I love that.
Louie:There was a bunch of random gigs where these teenage girls they missed us and they got, like, really upset like, “nooo what the fuck!” I don’t remember if I’d seen one of them cry but I’m pretty sure they were.
Jared: It was one of our earlier shows too but somebody missed out set, and just started crying. Like, they were like “are they done?” and they guy was like “yeah,yeah they’re done it was fuckin’ awesome.’ it’s more of like crazy in a good way
Nik: Yeah it’s a good crazy. I think fan interaction is really important. Especially because everyone’s a person and they have a life and it’s good to treat another human being like a human being.’
Louie:That’s what has also helped us definitely gain a lot of attention like interacting on social media.
Nik: It’s a big deal right now.
Growing up in Miami, how do you feel about the way music is changing around here as well as the rest of South Florida?
Nik: I’m so glad it’s finally growing. It’s been years, and I know usually the South Florida scene goes up and down, and that’s what I’ve heard and that’s what I’ve seen, but now the internet has really helped a lot to just connect people and South Florida’s finally catching on. And there’s a lot of really good bands here. They just need more all ages venues.
Like my cousin would pass out stickers at his high school. And one of our friends went there, so we were able to get in with the teen crowd. They love rock n’ roll. They’re super into bands and all they need is a place to hear bands. It’s hard for us to play an all ages show. We have people sending us Snapchats like ‘hey! when are you guys playing again. Like where I can actually go that’s gonna be close by.’
Jared: It’s cool to see, like, a lot more local bands kind of taking matters into their own hands. Now, there’s house parties all the time where people are playing that we go to all the time and we played a lot of them too for a while before we started getting booked in a lot of other places. And kids are super into it. There’s way more shows there’s tons of venues that are now kind of like, if they were 21+ they’re all ages now. At least they have all ages shows. It’s like – Seattle had nothing, they didn’t have anything and then it happened there, this is just how these things happen. It’s not for any, maybe, particular reason, but just because it has to.