“We basically sat in a circle and recorded the album in one day. Any of the effects, anything you hear is just the room and the air and the space.”
John Pita, Avi Snow, and Zach Para of Brooklyn-based instrumental group City of the Sun are celebrating the release of their recent record, “To the Sun and All the Cities in Between.” Regular buskers at Union Square and Central Park, they’ve build a dedicated following of fans who liken their music to sonic poetry, as one listener tweeted.
City of the Sun is gearing up to play their biggest stage yet, from the streets of New York City to opening for the legendary Charles Bradley at the Beacon Theater. Hit “play” on the mix City of the Sun created for Classic Specs below. Read on to see where their journey has taken them to so far, and where they’ll be headed soon.
CONGRATULATIONS ON RELEASING YOUR RECORD, “TO THE SUN AND ALL THE CITIES IN BETWEEN.” WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING ON A BIG PROJECT LIKE THAT?
John: We were approached by this label called Chesky Records. They had this cool space where they invited us to do a live recording. We basically sat in a circle and recorded the album in one day. We recorded in a church. It had great acoustics and it goes with our music.
Avi: They put microphones inside a dummy’s head so that the microphone gives this perception that you’re there live listening to the album. They positioned us around these microphones. It’s not like your classic album, I guess, where we did everything multi-tracked. We did everything just on these two mics. Any of the effects, anything you hear is just the room and the air and the space.
How did you all meet and get your start?
John: Avi and I met through a mutual friend. A week later we started playing, busking on the street. We had such a good time that we just kept doing it.
Avi: John and I had been playing for almost a year. I met Zach at a jam session and asked he wanted to come jam with us. We met up and started busking. We’ve been playing together since then.
YOU BUSK A LOT AND HAVE BEEN SINCE THE FORMATION OF CITY OF THE SUN. ASIDE FROM ATTRACTING AN AUDIENCE, WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT BUSKING?
John: One of the main things that has helped us in New York City is the fact that we play outside. A lot of people know us because of that. We go outside and we play, but there’s nothing more to it than, “You guys want to go play outside today? It’s nice out.”
What is your creative process like? What goes into writing, arranging and composing your songs?
John: It depends on the song. A lot of the songs sort of organically build around an idea. Someone will bring in an idea and we develop it together. I think that’s mainly what we do. We’re very “jamming” oriented so we play on-the-spot. Each person writes their own parts.
Avi: We’ll sit on each other’s parts to the point where we can give each other advice. We work on the song as a whole together. Each person’s part is something that they brought. There are times where a song is inspired by one person. There’s room for more than one idea.
Zach: From those ideas we’ll start jamming and maybe someone will do a change. Either a chord progression change or a rhythm change and that could inspire a second part of the song.
Avi: We do try to make our music sound like a journey.
YOUR MUSIC CAN BE CONSIDERED “ GENRE-BENDING” OR “GENRE-BLENDING.” WHAT ARE SOME YOUR INFLUENCES AND HOW DID THEY SHAPE YOU TO FORM YOUR UNIQUE SOUND?
John: I think it’s spontaneity, really. I like post-rock music a lot, which is cinematic guitar-inspired music. We don’t really have any kind of “intention” for our songs to sound one way or another. We don’t decide, “We’re gonna keep this song ‘Spanish,’ or ‘Middle Eastern’ or ‘Rock and Roll’.” Sometimes is has a nice, unexpected outcome.
Avi: I think we don’t really specify genre but sometimes the intention we’ll have is a “vibe.” We’ll bring in different influences because we all come from different backgrounds. I think we have a wide palette of musical influences of our own and that’s maybe where the “genre-bending” aspect of our sound comes from.
What new music or up-and-coming artists are you currently listening to?
John: I really like the new song from The 1975, “Somebody Else.”
Avi: I’ve really been liking José González lately.
Zach: I’ve been checking out this artist King Krule. Dig it.
What are your favorite things to do in Brooklyn?
Zach: My favorite thing about living in New York, besides playing music, is food. There are some pretty cool spots within walking distance from my house to grab food. One that I found recently is this pupuseria this El Salvadorian lady has. They’re two dollars and they’re really good. I like finding hidden spots like that.
John: I go to Skytown a lot. Once or twice a week. I also go to Little Mo’s. That place is really cool.
Avi: I go to Union Pool. But I’m not really proud of that.