Since fall of 2015, Fort Lauderdale band Fat Sun have played a massive amount of shows around Florida. That’s when the band had just begun – and now, just over a year later, they’re still picking up in rapid pace around the local scene.
Fat Sun is music made by best friends at both a studious and passionate standpoint – from jazz school at Broward College (Where bassist Daniel Zerbo and guitarist Jesse Small met) to a job at Guitar Center (Where vocalist/guitarist Jesus Artega and drummer Franco Ruiz became co-workers), to their Oakland Park warehouse deemed under the name and DIY label Fuzz Baby Records – a practice space and recording studio for them alongside other local bands.
Fat Sun have become the middle brother between bands Sandratz and Milk Spot, sharing members between the two. They balance out family tree by taking in a notch down, in contrast to the rubber band ball of cowpunk and erratic rock-n-roll that the other two provide.
Like Johnny Thunders’ cover of “Pipeline” by the Chantays, the rest of the band’s music doesn’t revolve around surf rock solos but more so a jumpy presence of power-pop; they’ll sing a surf song about global crisis’ with solemnly questioning lyrics (“Why Why”), then transition to a solid cover of “Uranium Rock” by the Cramps! then you hear the slip of riff and sonic grip via short but sweet original songs “Shelia” and “Waitin” and it makes one wonder – where the hell is Alex Chilton! And what would the frontman of two extremely underrated bands (The Box Tops, Big Star) think of this sort of reflection?
Chilton is dead, so we’ll never know. But listen to what Fat Sun’s released so far and make your own convictions. Or wait for their split EP with St. Pete’s Johnny Mile and the Kilometers via Cheap Miami Tapes, followed by their debut EP produced by Rob Kingsley (also of Milk Spot and Killmama). Both to be released in the next month. It’ll be worth it.
How did the band get together?
Zerbo: We tried doing a band a year earlier with different people and it didn’t really work out. But we were linked through our mutual friend. Our drummer Frankie kind of introduced most of us and we’ve known Preston for a while. I met him in jazz school.
Jesus: I met him through Jesse.
Preston: I met Jesus pretty much when we started. I play in another band, called Milk Spot, and Jesse worked with Jesus. And then we all just started jammin’.
How has it been for you guys in the South Florida scene? You’re all in each other’s bands that have been around for some time, so has it been an ease-in?
Jesus: Me and him are in Sandratz. And me and him [Preston] are also in Milk Spot.
Yeah see! And you guys [Milk Spot] have been together for a while, right?
Zerbo: Yeah. They’ve been like the nucleus of the group for forever; since they were kids. They’ve been Milk Spot since they were born.
Before they came out of the womb
Jesus: Jesse [Small] was just waiting outside of [Preston’s] mom’s vagina like, “C’mon Preston!”
Zerbo: So basically it’s like the brothers Small with different rhythm sections and currently it’s me. And our friend Robby [Kingsley] does a lot of recordings for us. He also plays for Killmama […] it’s fun. We kind of, like, slipped in ‘cause most of us already have connections in bands that we started playing in. There’s a sort of new DIY punk houses around town and then there’s, you know, Church[hill’s] and stuff. We’ve been playing all over, like up and down and stuff so it’s cool.
Jesus: Yeah, we’ve been playing up [in Boca] a lot. We played Respectables and shit, Lake Worth and Propaganda. We’re also trying to get something going on for Broward, ‘cause there was the Poorhouse but there’s not really much in Fort Lauderdale.
Zerbo: It’s different. The music is a little different , but it’s fun because there are certain themes that tie together and there are different aspects to every group. So we bring it together, and it’s not gonna be obvious but it’s fun for us so it’s cool. Like, all the groups use different things from different groups; we take stuff from this group and use it for Milk Spot and Sandratz and vice versa.
Preston: We all play in different bands but each band has it’s own style and when we all play we have our own unique sound. We all kind of play in more punk rock bands
Zerbo: And this is a little more mellower. Our songs played are our two surfs songs. We have another one, maybe.
Is that how you might want to describe it?
Zerbo: it’s hard because they’re all not surfy. Yeah it’s hard, I don’t know. Like psych is sort of a blanket term.
Ronit Golan [Vocalist in “Why Why”]: Alien rock.
Jesus: Freak… shit?
Zerbo: We didn’t think of anything yet. Like, guitar sixties rock, kind of.
And is that what you’re influenced by?
Zerbo: We all like a lot of weird stuff. Like Preston likes a lot of old bands and we all listen to a lot of different stuff.
Like what I got from Milk Spot was Half Japanese
Preston: Oh yeah, totally. They’ve always been an inspiration because they just do what they do, y’know. It’s good mixed with bad, unintentionally.
Zerbo: We listen to a lot of Meat Puppets, Butthole Surfers and Ween.
Preston: It’s weird because, like, we all kind of have similar music tastes. Frankie, he’s a DJ-
Jesus But he likes punk rock and shit too
Zerbo: He likes a lot of old-school jazz. We all like jazz.
Preston: I think what makes it work is that we all kind of have an open taste in music, we all love everything.
Jesus: The thing with like Sandratz is that we kind of stick with not one thing like punk, but maybe like high energy. As with this, we’re like fuck it – we’re gonna do whatever the fuck we want.
Zerbo: But we don’t really play like street punk like, oi! shit or anything.
Jesus: We could!
Zerbo: There’s a lot of sub genres we talk about. There’s a lot of weird sub genres in music.
Jesus: It’s a lot more laid back it’s more like musical maybe then, like, energy-driven.
Zerbo: It kind of gives us an excuse to jam more, we can kind of have free sections than have guitar solos and certain parts where we all just play free.
Jesus: But at the same time having a song, y’know what I mean. Not some fuckin’ Phish shit. I like Phish, but you know what I mean!
Zerbo: Some of the other tunes we’re playing in the band are more pop-derived, so like a pop format and stuff, so we’re trying to keep it a three-minute thing. Like in-and-out, y’know, but then we also have our longer songs. It’s different. It’s pretty sporadic I guess…we just play a lot of different..stuff.
Zerbo: So unique. Such a unique interview
Ronit: Your music’s so musical
Jesus: So different
Preston: We like to play notes!
Jesus: We turn our amps on
“We play guitars and we sing”
Zerbo: I use my fingers and they use their hands and stuff
Jesus: But not our fingers
Zerbo: We all really like the Beatles and we all share a lot of groups and then we have groups we like and dislike.
It all kind of meshes together. You seem to have a general consensus. Would you say the Beatles are a big influence?
Jesus: Oh fuck yeah
Zerbo: Yeah we love the Beatles
Preston: I feel like we like a lot of sixties mixed with seventies kind of pre-punk.
Jesus: Big Star kind of stuff
Zerbo: Yeah we love proto-punk and all that shit.
Preston: Yeah, not just like straight-up punk. Just the stuff that influenced it like Television, like Richard Hell.
Zerbo: We all really like Todd Rundgren too.
I keep running into bands who love him [Todd Rundgren]!
Zerbo: He [Jesus] really likes Tame Impala. So does Preston.
Zerbo: Growlers are really good.
Jesus: He really likes the Butthole Surfers. Tell em’, Zerbo.
Zerbo: Me and Preston really like the Butthole Surfers. I like them a lot just because their early stuff is just, like, weird like psych and really odd shit and I like Gibby Haynes and stuff.
Preston: Just that really noisy stuff.
Where does the band name come from?
Zerbo: Basically we were going back and forth forever and we kind of boiled it down to two names and Jesus was like,“Let’s call it Fat Sun” and we were like “yeah.” That’s kind of not an exciting answer.
Jesus: We were just trying to come up with something and we were all like, “Fuck it.”
Sometimes it has some “deep meaning” to it
Ronit: Like, “That is one fat sun!”
Like you’re looking up at the sun, tanning, and go, “holy shit!”
Zerbo: and I…Saw the Light
It all comes full circle.
Zerbo: Sometimes I ask Jesse [Small] if he’s found the light and he says, “I think I found the light when I was 16 but I was really high.”