It’s Veterans Day, and a scraggly parade is rolling down Seventh Street past Urban Beans. Between pauses to admire the procession — which includes a few old men with neat mustaches and a star-spangled rooster float — Curt Griffin is telling the story of how Sun System came to be. It all started in 2015 with a Craigslist ad and a random band name generator.
“I played in more rock bands, and just boring, kind of generic stuff, so I wanted to get hyper-specific,” the bassist says about his post seeking fellow shoegaze and emo musicians. “Might as well be in a cover band if you aren’t playing new and interesting things or expressing yourself.”
“Oh, wait. I was under the impression this was a Bon Jovi tribute band. This is over,” jokes guitarist Nathan Bolek, who is also sporting a terrific mustache.
Bolek responded to the ad, and soon after, he recruited his classmate and drummer Lorenzo Paniagua, and his former bandmate and keyboardist Christopher Garcia to join the group. Cory Nicol, a singer and guitar player who had recently relocated from Ohio, also replied to the Craigslist post, and the five became Sun System (which narrowly beat “Crystal Sleep” from the internet-produced name choices).
The members have diverse musical backgrounds, ranging from Bolek’s bluegrass roots and Paniagua’s Latin ballad-filled childhood to Garcia’s stint in an experimental stoner rock band, and plenty in between. Despite this grab bag of influences, the group stays on the same page when it comes to their songs. Sun System’s sound is layered with lush distorted guitars, dreamy dissonance, and melancholy vibes.
Sun System’s forthcoming EP, Strange Ways We Meet, kicks off with the single “Smiles with No Teeth,” a Trumpian nightmare sequence. Garcia, who often serves as the band’s engineer and art director, created the psychedelic visuals for the recent video. The EP’s other tracks depict doomed romance and breakups.
“We’re all in happy relationships, so that doesn’t quite make sense,” Nicol says. “I think my fiancée yelled at me for something, so I wrote [the song] ‘Alone Together’ out of spite. I told her, so she knows that.”
On December 1, Sun System will unveil Strange Ways We Meet with a release show at Last Exit Live featuring guests Celebration Guns, Citrus Clouds, and Panic Baby. They’re excited to share the stage with three of their favorite local acts, and they want to focus on building up the Phoenix music scene through more strategic collaborations in 2018.
The group is set to launch a podcast that will highlight other bands’ work and feature guests from Broken Girls, LUAU, and Phantom Party, to name a few. They’re also starting a blog to showcase some of these projects, and planning to record songs with other artists on a quarterly basis. They see power in cross-promoting and celebrating the home team.
“There is a lot of talent coming out of here, and it’s important to have that nucleus of everyone being out there to support each other,” Paniagua says.
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Another big goal for the coming year is to get a little weird.
Sun System plan to release a new song each month, culminating in a 12-track album at the end. They’re not quite sure what’s going to come out of this challenge, but they hope it will push them to take risks and mingle their broad personal tastes and perspectives.
“One song a month is kind of interesting because we could completely change, and it could be completely different,” Nicol says. Keep an eye on Sun System to find out.
Sun System are scheduled to perform at Last Exit Live on Friday, December 1. Tickets are $8. See