I would describe the experience of doing an interview with Cameron Stallones of Sun Araw as both thrilling and nerve-racking. Thrilling in that you’re likely to end up with something really thought-provoking and surprising. Nerve-racking because considering how much care Stallones puts into his output, I knew that I really had to bring my A-game. After several hours of bleeding over questions, several spirited email exchanges, and much anticipation, I am at last able to present to you the interview you see here, along with the track “The Stakeout: Reprise” off of ON PATROL, Sun Araw’s latest album. I don’t know about you, but I think this song could be the soundtrack to the buddy cop movie that exists somewhere in my subconscious.
Samantha Cornwell: I know that you do all of your own album art work for Sun Araw, and seem to have a pretty clear vision of how you want your music to be represented visually. How do you feel this aesthetic unity effects the Sun Araw experience and sets it apart from other musical projects that you are familiar with? Have you applied a similar rigor to previous musical projects of your own?
Cameron Stallones: I want the zones to flow all the way through, start to finish, eyes to ears, brainpan to inner visions. That’s really powerful and important to me. I just can’t help but get stoked about the object-creation side of it anyhow, such a heavy scene! Not to mention the ability to physically realize for others the inner-zones that you’ve been dwelling in so long while recording. Thankfully, in most of the other bands I’ve been in, people have been down and had similar goals. In Magic Lantern the artwork is always a collab, but those dudes like getting down into it, making something really thorough. I guess those are complicated ways of saying I can be super picky, though. But a lot of the bands I idolize are those that were super singular in their aesthetic visions as well as their music. I just see it as preparing the way for the jams, folding them in love.
In a previous interview, when discussing the difference in vibes between HEAVY DEEDS and ON PATROL you described HEAVY DEEDS as having a “perfect world” vibe; in ON PATROL, those energies meet the real world. You also described ON PATROL as an “application” or a “compromise”. Based on this, would it be wrong to say that the quest for Utopia is an important theme in your work?
Woa, well, I wouldn’t say quest for Utopia myself, but I’m definitely looking for how to live. I can’t really help bending most of the stuff on my mind into the shape of what I’m working on, and for me Sun Araw has always been a pretty spiritual project. ON PATROL was a direct result of the major “All Night Long” hangover, you know? I lost two of my dearest voyaging partners to Portland a while back, and was kinda finding myself going it alone, floating free, and it seemed important for me to figure out how to keep on the night after HEAVY DEEDS are done. That sort of energy is vital, powerful, and the real deal, but it’s not sustainable — nor is it meant to be. Those ascendant moments are short lived for our own benefit, I think. So for the rest of the time, you gotta get On Patrol, you gotta Mind Psalm and get on it. I was really surprised to see how that energy manifests itself so pro-actively: it’s a job, it’s a beat. But that’s how it came out, and seeing it now, it makes a lot of sense. It’s full-time! But it’s joyful work, the only work, and it keeps you out of deep trouble.
Is there anyone making music right now who you feel a strong aesthetic connection with, other than people that you’ve been grouped with through a label, or through the press?
Definitely there’s a lot of people around that I love and respect, some of whom are a huge influence on me personally, if not musically. But I usually process Sun Araw as a fairly solo inner-voyage: letting down the nets in the dead of night, hoping to catch some food, you know? There’s a lot of people who do that, but I think working that way produces pretty disparate voices. That said, some of those big fish are running amok, tearing through the nets of a lot of like-minded people. So I’m always pleasantly surprised to see similar vibes cropping up and blooming all over jams from people I’ve never met, people I know, people I wish I knew. But almost always, when you hold those similarities up to the light you see how they’re appropriated from completely different, even contrary angles. But that’s the strength in it: angle after angle after angle, I want that Picasso vision. Let me see every side of it at once.
Since I know that you do illustrations for your album artwork, and are currently working on a music video that you directed yourself, I want to talk a little bit about your interaction with visual art. Who are some visual artists (from any era) who you really connect to? Do any of these artists influence your visual style at all? Your musical style?
Musically I’m mostly influenced by filmmakers, especially long-take brothers: Tarkovsky, Altman, Bela Tarr, Greenaway. I’m pretty devoted to long-form, mantric music and so I’m all about straight lampin’ in deep focus: angle after angle on the melodic object. I get a lot of inspiration from that breakdown of the illusion of fixed perspective. As far as my album artwork, I probably get more inspired by typography, first-wave independent jazz covers, and yeah probably other record covers mostly. I get way down with anyone creating mystical spaces. I love Augustin Lesage, some of the darker, more tripped abstract Gorky’s. Something about true early twentieth century zoners is so much heavier than anything you see in painting today, especially those abstractions that flew in right before the whole thing got intellectualized and manifesto-ed. Those dudes trained their mystic sight; they saw some serious business.
On a related note, what do you find to be some of the challenges of connecting your musical style to a visual medium?
It can be a real struggle, but for me to feel the total flow it’s really necessary. It’s always the last part of the process, and up to that point you’ve spent so much time inside those jams, turning them over and over, that assigning visuals seems kinda reductive, even though it’s important. I try not to illustrate or show the whole situation. You want it to be an expansive force, so I look for a powerful portion that can turn the floodlights on, light it up from the inside.
What do you find most exciting about working on a solo project? Would you ever consider including additional collaborators?
I don’t like to ever put rules or restrictions on anything, but I think Sun Araw will most likely remain a solo voyage. I’ve done collaborations in the past and will in the future. I’m working on three right now, actually. I love writing and jamming with other people, but that just usually compels me to start a new project with them, if it seems like it’s bearing fruit for the long haul. Araw is a Tagalog word that means “sun” or “day,” and there’s a heavy Sun Day zone for me in there: sacred rest, that’s a big part of it. I think it will always kind of be a retreat for me, from whatever else I’m doing at the time.
Do you think you will continue to make music as “Sun Araw” for the long haul? If you ever stopped making music, what do you think you would do instead?
Oh yeah I hope to. But I hope to do a lot of other stuff. I’m a big film geek, and I work with film in my day job. Directing the “Deep Cover” video and shooting it on film as opposed to digital, was a calculated move to force a serious re-stretch of those muscles, get some juices flowing in ’em. I’d really like to make some films. I’ve got some stuff I’m working on casually. We’ll see what happens.
Sun Araw, “THE STAKEOUT: REPRISE” (ON PATROL, Not Not Fun)
Interview: Samantha Cornwell
Photos: Cole Prentice