The Sunmonks latest incarnation makes them bigger, better, zestier

The Sacramento ensemble thinks outside the pop music box

<p><b>Sunmonks, supreme.</b></p>

Sunmonks, supreme.

photo courtesy of sunmonks

Sunmonks celebrates its vinyl-release show at 7 p.m. on Sunday, December 14, at LowBrau, 1015 20th Street, Suite 100. No cover. For more, visit

Apparently not too indie for fast food chains, Geoffrey CK’s favorite word to describe his band is “zesty.” Or, he says, “anything the Taco Bell marketing firm would use.”

Said band is Sunmonks, a local up-and-coming five-piece that melds melodic pop, soulful R&B and indie rock into a tasty, cheesy Chalupa at 2 a.m. Of sorts.

“We just like a lot of different genres. We like to do things that excite us. And sometimes those things seem to be very different, but I think that we just like,” CK stops abruptly. A ladybug has been crawling on his hand back-and-forth for at least 10 minutes.

“To do the good shit,” he finally concludes.

Sunmonks’ debut EP In A Desert Aplenty, released in October on Crossbill Records, definitely has some “good shit” going on. Peppered with lovely harmonies and just a dash of synth, the four tracks show impressive range and focus for a band that’s remained relatively underground since its start in 2012.

Originally, the band comprised just CK and Alexandra Steele. They played around town with live loops, but CK said he’d always wanted Sunmonks to eventually become a full band. In fact, he still wants it to be way bigger—a 10-piece horn section would suit his vision nicely.

But CK and Steele continued to play in a bunch of other people’s bands instead—Sea of Bees, Life in 24 Frames, Be Brave Bold Robot, Green Audio, Broken Iris and the list goes on.

“That was fun—you get to be a cog in something and not necessarily have the weight of art on you,” CK says.

The band’s latest venture presents new challenges, he adds.

“This is extremely scary but also more fulfilling than anything we’ve done before,” he says.

Last year, Dave Middleton and Julian Loy (Cold Eskimo) joined on drums and bass, respectively. Guitarist Jason Ellis (Dance Gavin Dance) hopped on just a couple of months ago.

But again, it all happened quietly. Sunmonks has a “man behind the curtain,”—a.k.a. a manager of sorts. Middleton says. That man is John Baccigaluppi, who previously owned the legendary Hangar Studios and manages beloved local talent Sea of Bees.

“It’s a little more old-world, traditional industry,” Middleton says. “And that involves timing, withholding things. It’s cool, and a striking difference to the sort of unmanaged chaos of being an unsigned band.”

It’s sometimes difficult for Sunmonks to take direction—namely, to not release music as its created, to not update fans regularly. They’ve even had to ask folks to take videos off YouTube and Facebook—you won’t find any real evidence online that Sunmonks has ever played. Hopefully the mystery fades when Sunmonks’ debut full-length drops sometime early next year.

For those who have managed to catch a show, note that Sunmonks comes across as more of a rock band than intended—CK writes brass-flourished pop, and he plays all the horns on the EP. But live, he focuses on singing and his band ends up playing horn parts on guitar. And apparently it’s tough to find brass players who like performing pop music.

“Why don’t people play air sax, or air trumpet or air trombone? I think it’s sort of like an instrument relegated to academia or history,” he says. “One thing I want to do is move the language in independent music away from guitar-based, post-Civil War drum kit … I just want to make nerdy instruments super awesome and cool.”

First up: bassoons.

“A section of brass or a very large ensemble is a sensual experience,” CK says. “You’re surrounded by speakers but you’re also surrounded by the speakers of the horns themselves. There’s this very primal thing that happens. It’s visceral. And intense. And orgasmic.

“And zesty. And supreme. And baja.”