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It's Getting Sonny in San Diego

SoundDiego chatted with Sonny Smith of Sonny and the Sunsets about psychics, the afterlife and Bob Dylan

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    Sonny & the Sunsets
    Sonny Smith of Sonny & the Sunsets

    Sonny & the Sunsets break the mold of the typical indie band, boasting a refreshingly eclectic discography that's worth a listen.

    Fronted by eccentric artist and songwriter Sonny Smith, the San Francisco-based outfit has released a handful of genre-hopping albums, mixing futuristic Blade Runner-esque synths with beach pop and even throwing in a country-infused twinge.

    Smith said the band’s evolving sounds keeps things interesting and prevents the group from being locked into under a single genre.

    “I want to keep changing things around and making new challenges,” Smith said. “I'd hate to have five records that all sound the same. I admire artists like Miles Davis and Bob Dylan -- people who are constantly changing and transforming, but it works.”

    Sonny & the Sunsets' 2013 album, Antenna to the Afterworld, unabashedly delves into the fantastical realm, playing up New Wave synths, surf-rock beats and otherworldly lyrics to create a wonderfully weird listen. The album was inspired by several deaths in Smith’s life and a visit with a psychic. The combined experiences left Smith with a newfound curiosity for the paranormal, which he channeled into the record.

    “The albums wasn’t so much about being sad about death but more being interested in the afterlife and what happens when we die,” Smith said. “I had questions we’ve all asked, but maybe the record happened because I was asking more than usual.”

    Smith’s musical mantra is simple: Let it happen. The key to his success is letting the creative process flow without interruptions or expectations that could complicate the final product.

    “Most of the process is scratching around in the dark for what feels right,” Smith said. “If you’re imposing your will too much, you end up not doing anything. To some extent it’s a give-and-take; you have to be at the mercy of what comes out, and if it's cheesy and stupid, you have the ability to let it go. It’s important to jus have the ability to let it all out.”

    Sonny & the Sunsets headline a bill with the Cat Burglar and Christy at the Casbah on Sunday. Get more information here.