Geoffrey CK and Alexandra Steele have been quietly making music under the moniker SUNMONKS since 2012. Why so quiet?
“We wanted to surprise people. It seemed like a challenge,” explained CK, a day after the digital release of their first EP entitled In A Desert Of Plenty.
“We’re pretty involved in the Northern California music scene – but we’re not very loud about it,” CK continued. He said they’ve been working with other bands and playing lots of shows, just not publicising their activities very much.
The quiet approach to their music is all part of Steele and CK’s philosophy, something they’ve cultivated an almost decade long friendship. “We were doing music because we just liked to do it. Not because we wanted to be more highly valued by people,” CK said. “I think a lot of people do music for a lot of different reasons and none of them are wrong – our philosophy is to do stuff that excites us first.”
Recently SUNMONKS added a few more people to their lineup. Julian Loy on drums and Dave Middleton on bass and Jason Ellis on guitar have replaced the band’s old method of looping tracks at live shows.
“We want to make something really human. Music is really easy to make. You can get a software program for free and basically paint-by-numbers without knowing the historical context,” said CK. “Something I take very seriously is trying to make music that is organic and not necessarily reliant on digital technology.”
He said in the beginning recording the loops live was a way to create organic music without organisms, but it was really time intensive. The full band allows them to get closer to the sound they want.
“I think for me, pop is an interesting format because you’re forced to say something in a very short period of time,” said CK. “Whereas with opera you have potentially hours to say what you want to say. With pop if you have a grandiose idea you can’t go on and on about it.”
No better example of that is the title track from the new SUNMONKS EP. CK explained In A Desert Of Plenty is a coming of age story.
“It’s essentially a discussion with ourselves about whether we should go work for a pharmaceutical company or hangout with each other and sing songs all day,” CK said.
Steele focuses on the melody. She often takes the CK’s raw material and edits down, bringing forward an exact SUNMONKS sound. “For me it’s more about melodies than meaning,” she said. “I’m always drawn to melodies. I find feeling in that, I attach my own idea to it.”
SUNMONKS new album is out now on Crossbill Records and they are playing Saturday, Nov. 1, at Old Ironsides. They’ll also be on Insight With Beth Ruyak on Nov. 20.