Jonathan Sakas may not look like the new face of electro-pop, but you've probably seen his mug plastered on the walls of your favorite bar or on your friend's refrigerator.
The 26-year-old Arizona native takes his full-time job as a musician seriously, relentlessly self-promoting around the Valley with stickers and magnets in his quest for exposure. In addition to his visage popping up on random bathroom stalls, he also creates his own music videos and sets up a stimulating stage show, mostly on his own.
Tall and lanky, Sakas looks more like a basketball player than a musician who makes catchy hooks and dance beats reminiscent of Ke$ha, yet Sakas has carefully crafted a striking image that stands out among male singer-songwriters in the Valley. He wears shiny sunglasses on stage. He has costume changes. And the sound of his music fits right in with Top 40 dance tracks, like those of bands he's inspired by, such as The Black Eyed Peas.
"As a solo artist, people expect me to be acoustic guitar and tender vocals, but it's a lot more than that," Sakas says. "All the programming and layers, it's like a full radio pop song."
Sakas got his start in the local scene playing for indie bands such as data_STORM and Underwater Getdown, but he says the beat-making process, being able to utilize technology to create songs, and having full creative freedom is what drew him to life as a solo electro-pop artist. Plus, the music is just a heck of a lot of fun.
"I'd rather do a soundtrack to a party night out than someone moping at home," Sakas says. "For me, making a song that everyone can enjoy is a lot more challenging than making a song that six people in Norway can enjoy."
Sakas started releasing his own stuff in 2009 and has an EP and a full-length under his belt. He's now gearing up for his upcoming sophomore album, Tomorrow. It's a concept album both musically and lyrically, with all the songs flowing together like a DJ set.
"It tells the ups and downs of a relationship and all the things that go with it," Sakas says.
At his Valley show this week, he'll be playing some of the new tracks live for the first time — but that's not the only reason you should come out, he says, promising lighting effects and a variety of outfits to provide eye candy.
And it's not just Sakas pressing play on a computer and singing. The multi-instrumentalist uses various synthesizers and a vocoder on stage, making a lot of work for a one-man show.
Even more impressive is the new music video for "I Just Wanna Rock," the first single off Tomorrrow. The slick, stylized clip, filmed in downtown Phoenix at spots such as the Icehouse, was co-directed by Sakas and Devin Berko, who's also directed videos for indie acts Born Loser and The Hangers On, and LV Sharp. "I Just Wanna Rock" is pretty and polished and features a lot of hot girl extras, and Sakas hopes the video exposes him to a wider Internet audience.
He seems to be doing just fine so far, producing beats for up-and-coming rappers and singer-songwriters around the country in addition to his solo gig. The prolific writer crafted 100 songs prepping for his second album, but only the best 10 made the cut.
Sakas doesn't talk in detail about each of his songs. He says he prefers to leave things intentionally vague "so people can take their own interpretations from it." The grooves, however, are universal.