The Long Beach based band Fathers & Suns is on a roll. After releasing their critically acclaimed debut album “Mama Provides” they went on to win last year’s Buskerfest with an unforgettable live performance. Now they find themselves with an ever increasing fanbase that is eagerly awaiting their next record. We had a chance to talk to them about the past, present and future of the band.
Jody [LBI]: Can you tell us how the band came together?
Arturo Bandini (guitar, lead vocals): “Luis, Jesus and I played together for a few years in a band called Program Love. Jay auditioned as a bassist right as he moved to Long Beach and joined the band. Several months later, we decided to start Fathers & Suns. We are long-lost brothers.”
Jay Penev (bass, vocals): “We off-shot from Program Love and branched out as a new band to pursue a different direction and a different sound.”
Jesus Lara (guitar, lead vocals): “And we always wanted to play in a cumbia band.”
Jay: “I guess we haven’t gotten there yet. [laughs]”
Luis Renteria (drums): “I grew up in East LA, Arturo is from a place near the Grapevine, Jesus was born and raised in Long Beach and Jay is from Europe by way of Portland, Oregon.”
The music that you guys create is so unique. Can you tell us a little about the band’s influences?
Jesus: “Well a good amount of influences for me would be a lot of oldies, Bob Dylan, The Talking Heads. The former two are very influential for me. Obviously, The Beatles, too. They were pretty easy to catch up to [meaning, to learn all the songs].”
Bandini: “I grew up with a lot of oldies, 50s and 60s rock ‘n roll, and jazz has really changed my life but I’m also influenced by a lot of authors, such as Alan Watts, Jack Kerouac and Lao Tzu. Authors, writers, free thinkers, whatever you want to call them.”
Jay: “The beautiful thing about this band is that our main individual influences are so far apart from each other stylistically, yet there are many points of overlapping in terms of the artistic intention. For example, we could be mashing African rhythms and The Everly Brothers with reggae and the occasional odd meter all within the same song. But we never really spend time to hyper-analyze what we’re blending and why. It just works and we keep going. When we write, we just respond to each other and write parts that resonate with us, individually and collectively. And since we’re very open in our writing style, we give creative feedback to each other and so, the resulting sound is a cohesive collaborative collage. Now, there’s an alliteration.”
Luis: “Lots of caffeine, my personal favorite, spicy Micheladas, and of course, great music. In the beginning, I always described our sound as Fleet Foxes meets The Flaming Lips. From the days of Program Love, I took pride in being the softest band at the party, but as of late, I’m taking pride in being the loudest. My drumming is mostly influenced by Lars Ulrich (seriously) and Ringo. I like the idea of playing with the music and finding that soul in between them notes. Math and technicality try to describe an object. But, they ain’t the object. Also, Alan Watts died of liver disease. I respect that.”
Where does the inspiration for your songs come from? Are they autobiographical? Do you tend to write songs fast or is it a process?
Bandini: “I can’t tell you exactly where they come from. It’s just from inspiration itself. The songs are not exactly autobiographical, some are and some aren’t. Some will happen really fast and some are definitely a process.”
Jay: “We definitely run everything through the Fathers & Suns arrangement machine, but it’s mostly Jesus and Arturo that write the skeleton of the songs. They bring them in and we each add our own twist and flavor to them.”
Jesus: “Most of them are semi-autobiographical, but a lot of them have surreal dream characteristics and themes.”
Luis: “We also credit our songs as written by “Fathers & Suns.” Like Jay said, the songs are run through the F&S arrangement machine. I’d shudder to think of what the songs would sound like with even just one of us not putting in a little input as to where a melody, or arrangement should go. However, Jesus just brought in a song I ended up code-naming . . . well, “Code.” When we heard the main guitar melody, we all looked at each other, pulled out the iPhone recorder and jammed it. That impromptu arrangement, that jam, is what we ended up keeping and recording on the new record. No F&S machine there. Just pure inspiration.”
We really love your first record “Mama Provides.” Can you tell us a little about how you came up with the title?
Bandini: “After sitting down thinking about our name and band members and realizing how masculine it all was, I wanted to also represent a feminine side to our debut and I saw a Facebook post that said “Mama Provides” and I asked the guys about naming the album that. So we did and it became an homage to our mothers…”
Jay: “…and everything maternal. Loving, nurturing and all. I also saw it as a nod to the environment and Mother Earth.”
Luis: “Since the very beginning, I’ve always felt that we needed a female presence in the band. I actually asked some female musician friends of ours to jam, and possibly join. Nothing ever panned out. I do remember asking Lisa Narinian (Panther Heart) at the time. She declined with, “But you’re my favorite Long Beach boy band.” So, when Arturo introduced the concept, I thought it a no brainer. A little ying for that yang? Yes, please.”
Tell us about the experience of winning last year’s Buskerfest.
Jay: “That was an amazing experience! When we got on stage, a switch flipped. It no longer mattered that there was a prize to be won. The crowd had grown immensely and all that mattered anymore was rocking that hell out of all these people. Wooden nickels flew everywhere and dance circles erupted. It was spontaneous and I felt so alive and overwhelmed at the same time. It was very surreal how it all happened in a flash. I just remember surrendering to the moment. With Buskerfest, even though we had been a band for almost two years at that point, I feel that we officially introduced our musical presence in Long Beach.”
Luis: “There was a lot of love being projected at us. Gosh, that was so nice! I remember really feeling it when the crowd was singing along to the refrain, “Well you’re here and that’s alright with me,” during the song “It’s A Change.” And, also when they were humming along to the vocal intro of “Realize (Real Eyes).” Wow!”
We shot the video below at last year’s Buskerfest.
You mentioned at your recent show that the new album is 2/3 complete. Do you have a title or has a release date been set?
Jay: “Currently, we are still focused on completing the recording process. Afterwards, we’ll begin mixing and then, spending time on the sequencing and final selection of the songs. Then, artwork, formats (CD, LP, digital) and packaging.”
Bandini: “There are some titles/concepts in the air but nothing settled yet.”
Luis: “I’m actually all done with my drum tracks. I got my feets kicked up and I’m enjoying the mixes Jay is sending us. We’re shooting for a June release date.”
How do you feel like your sound has evolved since “Mama Provides?”
Luis: A lot of the songs from “Mama Provides” were Program Love songs. There was definitely more of a folkie vibe to those songs. The evolution started when Jay joined the band, actually. A lot of the songs on “Mama” we’re molded into rock songs, with a certain reluctance. As we supported “Mama,” a lot of the reluctancy started fading away. We once, very briefly, discussed, early on in the tracking process for the new album, if we should pay any mind to sounding like “Fathers & Suns.” I think we shrugged and I continued tracking a real crazy song called “On The One.” The drums sound as if Rick Rubin produced them.”
Bandini: “My approach to writing/playing music hasn’t’ changed at all. I would say our music has evolved through all the better recording gear and new instruments we’ve been using.”
Jay: “I remember the moment Luis was describing. I always strive for a balance, so I wanted to make sure we were all on-board with the new sound. The preamps we are using for the new record definitely give everything a big, impactful sound. We concern ourselves only with whether the sound and the songs resonate with us and are a true artistic and musical representation of who we are collectively at the moment.
You guys have been playing a cover of the Talking Heads song “This Must Be the Place” at your live shows? Are you guys big fans of the Talking Heads? Will this track be included on your new album?
Jesus: “No, it won’t be included, but we are really big fans.”
Bandini: “However, there is a free download of a live version of the song on our webpage FathersandSuns.com.”
Luis: “We actually used to play “(Nothing But) Flowers.” Maybe we’ll bring it back.”
What are your plans after the album is done? Do you have plans for a record release party or any plans to tour?
Jesus: “We’ll have an album release party, but the date is yet to be determined.”
Luis: “We’ve discussed a listening party, too.”
Bandini: “No plans to tour. I guess we will tour when people want it. It’s definitely not on my mind.”
Jay: “The real plan is to release this record to the world and see where it takes us.”
Check out Fathers & Suns latest video for “All My Friends Are Animals” from the album “Mama Provides.”