Interview with Sonny Smith About 100 Records, The Unique New Fictitious Record Cover Art Show at SF's Gallery 16

Posted by Billyjam, April 8, 2010 04:36am | Post a Comment
100 Records 16 Gallery exhibit piece  by Reed AndersonEver since the music industry tried to quietly kill off vinyl, it appears that the medium, complete with its accompanying cover art form, has triumphantly resisted eradication. In fact, not only have records, along with album & singles & ten-inch cover art, refused to die -- they've actually grown in popularity with a whole new generation of appreciative vinyl fans.

As we well know, these days vinyl sales are continually going up and it seems you can't go a week without encountering some wonderful new album cover art show somewhere. Not only are curators presenting classic album cover art on exhibition, but this week one most innovative individual is presenting an exhibit of all new & original record cover art by many different artists complete with all-new corresponding music -- fictitious songs for fictitious bands!

Bay Area artist Sonny Smith (of Sonny & the Sunsets) melds his love of both music and art in a unique new gallery show titled 100 Records that opens tomorrow (April 9th) at Gallery 16 in San Francisco. The diverse & tireless San Francisco artist, who just recently returned from SXSW in Austin, TX with the Sunsets (the band he formed three years ago with Tim Cohen and Kelley Stoltz and whose changing lineup now includes Ryan Browne, Tahlia Harbour and Zack Ehrlich), spent the past year meticulously piecing together the 100 Records show in which he created the names and song titles for 100 different fictitious bands.

After creating the names and titles, Smith then had a hundred different visual artists [including William Wylie, Chris Johanson (who did the Sunsets' Tomorrow Is Alright cover art), Tucker Nichols, Rex Ray, Reed Anderson, Chris Duncan, and Emily Prince] create the cover artwork for each fictitious record. Being a truly obsessive creative type, Smith didn't stop there. Nope! He then went and penned 200 songs (100 for all the Side A's and 100 for the B sides) for each imaginary act and their imaginary record. At the Gallery 16 show, in addition to the cover artwork  on exhibition, there will also be a jukebox playing all two hundred songs that were recorded by Smith along with many other notable musicians.

Ever the renaissance man, the prolific Smith's recordings, in addition to the Sunsets' material, include 2002's This Is My Story, This Is My Song; Sordid Tales of Love and Woe (2003); and Fruitvale, a collaboration with Wilco’s Leroy Bach and others. He also wrote and directed the short film Kid Gus Man. He was commissioned to produce the album One Act Plays by Watchword Literary Magazine, which featured such artists as Edith Frost, Neko Case, Miranda July, Jolie Holland, Mark Eitzel, John Dwyer and the Mekons Rico Bell. Five years ago he earned a residency at Marin's Headlands Center for the Arts to write and perform the play The Dangerous Stranger, and a year later he received a residency from The LAB in San Francisco to produce part two of the saga, Stranger Danger!  Recently I caught up with the always active artist to ask him about the 100 Records show at Gallery 16.
Gallery 16 100 Records Chris Johanson art

Amoeblog: Had you ever done something like this before & how did the idea for the project come to you?

Sonny Smith: I've done plays and character based songs and stuff but not quite of this magnitude. I started a novel last year and it had a bunch of fictitious musicians, singers, bands in it and I thought it would be cool to draw some sketches of what their record covers would look like, and write some songs for the characters. Then I got a residency at the Headlands to realize some of those album covers and some of those songs. Then it became its own animal from there and I shelved the novel and this project was born.

Amoeblog: Was the whole project even more work than you initially envisioned and was it difficult staying on track with it?
Sonny Smith
Sonny Smith: It has been more work, but for some reason I haven't had a hard time staying with it. Once a week or so I would get home and there would be a package under my gate -- some one of a kind record cover that an artist had sent me. That was great. I knew I would give this one whole year and it's been a good year.

Amoeblog: What guidelines did you give the artists before they created their visual pieces?

Sonny Smith: I gave them the fictitious band name and the a side and b side of their single. Sometimes I stated their fake label or some detailed info like that. But not much else.

Amoeblog: For the music, who recorded the songs with you -- was it members of the Sunsets?

Sonny Smith: I recorded some songs with the Sunsets, that will appear on the next Sunsets record 'cause I thought they were so good. Then I recorded some with the Fuckaroos, which was Rusty Miller of Jackpot and James Finch, Kelley Stoltz, Spencer Owen. Then I recorded some in my camper, some at the Headlands, some at home, some at a buddy's house. Some in Portland with Stoltz and Dwyer. All over.

Amoeblog: And will these songs be released at some stage?Sonny & The Sunsets

Sonny Smith: Gallery 16 is putting out a Volume 1 that comes with 15 songs and 12 of the art covers. Then Turn-Up Records is putting out Volume 2 that is a box set of five 7"'s, all splits, so it will represent 10 of the art covers and ten corresponding songs. There is a Volume 3,4,5 in the works.

Amoeblog: When you were coming up with song titles and band names did you often find (after research) that someone else already had such an artist name or such a song title?
Sonny Smith: No. But I will mention that for a long time, years maybe, I thought there was a band called Loud Fast Fools. I thought I read about them in a Beastie Boys magazine or something. I always remembered the name because I thought it was a funny name. And I always thought I'd run across their record at some point. Then, during this last year I looked them up on the internet. Nothing. There was never a Loud Fast Fools. I don't know how it got in my head years ago. Was there? Am I crazy? I don't think so. So I used the name. And now it's a band with Tim Cohen and me singing on it. And I think they have a gig coming up [tonight, April 8] at the Knock-Out Room.

Amoeblog: What do you hope to achieve from this show?

Sonny Smith: Just people come in and [get] lost in a parallel universe. Like being inside a big fake Harry Smith anthology.


Gallery 16 is located at 501 Third St, San Francisco, CA 94107. 415 626 1616

Relevant Tags

Vinyl Sales (2), Sonny Smith (5), Sonny & The Sunsets (14), Tim Cohen (12), Gallery 16 (2), Kelley Stolz (1), Reed Anderson (1), Loud Fast Fools (1), Interview (341), Album Cover Art (3)