Welcome to the world of Sun Spin! This new band, formed during the strange year that was 2020 by Michael Rosenbaum and Rob Danson, was raised and honed on StageIt, Patreon and InstaLive. The band has now released a debut full-length album titled “Best Days”. This has been a decade of friendship and music in the making; a slow burn melding of skill sets and talents, which led to an album over the past four months. We had the chance to sit down (virtually) with Sun Spin and get their thoughts on new music, this virtual landscape, and the love and support of the fans and friends that brought it all together.
As we get settled in to start the interview, Rosenbaum and Danson are seated in Rosenbaum’s basement, a recognizable view to those that have been following the duo’s monthly StageIt shows. With the arrival of “Best Days’”on Feb 8th (the date the band had wanted, but was never a guarantee with streaming services), this marks the culmination of a lockdown’s worth of new musical stories, all told in their unique style.
Nerds and Beyond: How about a little background – Sun Spin? Rosenbaum & Danson? How did you meet? How long have you been playing together? And – GO!
Rosenbaum: In a nutshell…Sean Gunn would have these parties called ‘Sunset Sundays’ and we’d go and there was wine and there was cheese and there was people just kind of mingling outside and music. It was kind of a tradition every Sunday thing. I met Rob at one of those, and it wasn’t until some [other] functions that we started hanging out a little bit, playing this game called Mafia…and we just hit it off. Then the next thing you know, he’s scoring my short films, scoring my feature film, and a friendship sort of blossomed, and everything kind of took off from there.
Danson: Yeah, that’s pretty much it… This was like 10 years ago, and he came over to my house one time [he had a little recording studio], and he was like “Hey I have this one song, it’s called ‘One of ‘Em’, and I’d like to record it”, so I recorded this one little demo of it… little did we know that 10 years later, in 2020, we would be recording that song again, for reals, with a full band and all of that.
Rosenbaum: That’s sort of how we got the name Sun Spin…well, we met at Sunset Sundays, so we wanted Sun in the title, or Sundays in the title, and we just thought records, albums, LA, sun, spinning records, and it just kind of came together. And, we liked the simplicity of it. We didn’t think it was pretentious, we thought it was just simple: Sun Spin. And that was it. Rob and I work incredibly well together, and it doesn’t take us a long time to make decisions. We sit down. We talk about it. We go through names for about an hour, two hours. Maybe it took us two sessions, but we pretty much go “Huh.” It sat with us, and we liked the name.. So that was it.
N&B: StageIt must have played a pretty big role during the pandemic – this new virtual reality – with a lack of live shows.
Rosenbaum: Absolutely. I felt like it was a chance for us to play the songs that we were working on and gauge the audience. And it’s hard, too, when you’re playing acoustically, because I always imagined these songs produced and some of them with horns, and electric guitar, and when you’re playing acoustically, at least you can sense if a song works, if people are digging it. So we knew that “Kicking Off My Shoes” people liked that. People liked “The Letter”. We knew “Summertime Neighbor” was kind of a fun song. And that’s pretty much it. And it’s thanks to StageIt and all of my (Inside of You Podcast) Patreons that we made this album. Without them it wouldn’t have happened, and they just stuck with us, and supported us and supported the album, supported the making of the album – it’s been fantastic.
N&B: When you’re writing – Lyrics before music? Music before lyrics? Depends?
Danson: Yeah, it really depends, and I’ll have Michael talk a little bit after me on this.. there’s some songs that Michael brings to me that he’s already sort of fleshed out, but then there’s other songs that we’ve kind of created completely together. Michael has a podcast room, and there are three microphones that are already set up with a mixing board. And it was his idea to say, “Let’s go in there and just record some demos with the three mics.” So I put one mic up for his vocals, another mic down for his guitar, and the third… I mic’d my electric guitar, and we just started jamming, improvising. There were a few songs – in particular “Walking on Two Feet” and “Summertime Neighbor” – were these two songs where –
Rosenbaum: I just started rocking.
Danson: – he just started playing some chords and I just started playing some lead to it, and then all of a sudden he just started riffing vocals without coming up with anything before that, it was just right on the spot, and with those two particular songs, what you hear on the album is basically like 90% of what he just riffed, just improvised.
Rosenbaum: At least 80%, that’s true. You know, I think we’re going to work that way more, because we just get in a room, and I go [air guitar] and he’ll go, “Keep playing that,” and he’ll start playing his lead, and I’ll start making shit up, and many times that’s what we end up with. And there were some times when I was in CT, and I’d write a song and send it to him over voice memo, and he’d go, “Love it” and all of a sudden he’d come back with lead guitar over it and I could start hearing things…so it’s just sort of easy. “You like this?” “Not really.” “Ok.” As much as we’re nice to each other, and very supportive and complimentary, I think that overall, there is definitely the.. we can sometimes say “No, fuck off,” in a very pleasant way.
Danson: We both come from totally different backgrounds, different experiences, different inspirations. My favorite bands aren’t his favorite bands and vice versa. At the end of the day we can kind of push each other and help each other grow. There are time he’ll write something, and I’m like, “That’s not great,” and then I help him make it better; there are times I’ll write a guitar riff, and he’ll be like, “You gotta do something completely different, I don’t like it.” But it’s fun. But, we do it in the name of constructive criticism. And it works.
Rosenbaum: Yeah – 100%. And it’s a fun process. Like today I’m in the car, and I just started tapping my foot, and started riffing and a song came out… And it might be shit, but there’s something there and I don’t know what it is, and I’m going to get my guitar out and Rob’s going to get his guitar out, and we’re going to flesh it out and see if there is something there. And that’s how it just works.
Danson: And we have a lot of those. We went up to Ojai in October, took out our acoustic guitars and just started riffing; one of the songs we wrote there was “Best Days”, and I have a lot of ideas saved on my phone from that session that now we can kind of revisit and see if there is anything there.
Rosenbaum: I think when we get out of this… we’re so used to being here in this COVID, in my basement… breaking from the norm, breaking from the everyday scenery is incredibly helpful, so we’re going to go to Joshua Tree for a weekend. I know we’ll probably sit around and play a little guitar, and hopefully something comes out of it. But, we’re going there to let go and just kind of relax. I think a lot of times when you’re relaxed and you’re not trying is when the good stuff comes.
N&B: Recording at Capitol Records – how cool was that?
Danson: We had two full days at Capitol – first part of the recording is the rhythm section – drums, bass, guitar. Michael did sing, but more for placement to guide all of us. We ended up re-recording all of his vocals in my bedroom closet of all places. Capitol was great. We approached this album thinking we were going to record about four, maybe five songs; we just wanted to do an EP. But, we had hired an amazing rhythm section (Billy Moran – rhythm guitar, Joel Gottschalk – bass, Rob Humphreys – drums), and we decided to give them like 11 songs, even though our goal was four or five. And we went in there and they knocked out all 11 [one didn’t make the album cut.] They killed it, they absolutely killed it. It was super fun, easy. Kind of like a dream come true.
Rosenbaum: It’s amazing when you work with seasoned musicians who just know; you don’t have to tell them twice. It was a great experience for me; I learned a hell of a lot. And it makes you better. Playing with people that are better; it makes you better.
N&B: Do you hear the full song in your head? Not just guitar – horns, strings, etc?
Rosenbaum: Always. Always in my head. Sometimes it’s enhanced by adding certain things, but always. Rob can tell you – how many times did I say horn in “Barrel of a Gun”… I would say in almost every song I heard strings or horn – we both heard some strings in a lot of songs together. But, horns – I always wanted to experiment with them.
Danson: When people do career changes, change professions, they always say what sort of transferrable skills can you apply to this new job or this new industry you’re going into, and with Michael, what I’ve seen – for years he’s been an actor, director, screenwriter, and what he’s been able to do is take all of those skill sets and when he applies it to the music, he is seeing this bigger picture, and he is basically the director for all of this. Just like a movie, looking at the cast and all the different characters and where they go and what they say. So in his head, he’s like, “There’s going to be violin here, there’s going to be horns here, there’s going to be this here,” and it really takes a type of talent and personality to do that. The first time I saw it was in the studio with Left On Laurel [their previous collaboration], and you would have never known that that was his first time in a recording studio doing this shit.
Rosenbaum: Thanks man! Thank you. And, kudos to Rob; he facilitates and helps me see that vision through. He’s like, “Great. Try it. Let’s go.” And I like that freedom to explore. When you can explore – these are the songs; they are the bare bones – how can we build them? Let’s get harmonies in there. I need something rich. Let’s hear some strings. And we just start playing with it. We both heard pedal steel guitar for sure – it elevates those songs like “Something Special” and “The Letter”; it’s about the freedom to explore. There’s no saying “No”. Let’s just do it.
N&B: Let’s talk about “The Letter” – we originally could not imagine it as a duet – now we can’t not hear it as two parts of the conversation…
Rosenbaum: Great story! I always thought Emma [Fitzpatrick], but originally we thought: chorus. Emma would just be the chorus and I’d sing the verse. And as time went on – we had to record her from Nashville – I realized, “Wait a minute… Emma I want you to sing the second verse.” So I just rewrote the second verse the night before, sent it to her, and we went through it and she did it over and over, and it just kind of became something bigger. And I wanted it to feel like a throwback ‘80s duet. And it’s people’s favorite song.
N&B: What’s in the future for Sun Spin?
Rosenbaum: I really want to get this album out, play StageIts, let these songs grow on people, enjoy it – take a little bit of a break. Play StageIts once a month. Maybe get some show or movie placements. We made an album. Just enjoy it.
Danson: I’m personally ready for a little bit of a break. I’ve still got a day job (laughs). From October to January was just work, work, work, work with the band – I’m pretty tired. I want a little vacay.
Rosenbaum: I felt like it was fast. COVID – song, song, song. Then October – recording. Done by the new year. Got a name. Did a photo shoot. Got a website. Got merch.
Danson: All the while playing shows every month.
Rosenbaum: It’s been cool, man. I have such a passion for it. And it can just be my Patreons listening to it. Or, you hope everybody wants to listen to it, but I’m so proud of it. It was such a passion project. We love the music. We love what we do. We do it because we really like it, we really enjoy it. I just want to make good music, and continue to do something I love.
N&B: Let’s give some love for your producer – Zackary Darling.
Rosenbaum: We knew exactly the guy for the job was Zack. We were really excited when he wanted to produce the album. He is so patient, and I can be incredibly neurotic as you know – I want all of these different things going on. Rob’s the more patient one. I want to keep the ball rolling. Zack was consistently on point. He was always there to bounce things off of. If something wasn’t right, he’d say, “I gotta disagree with you.” He was just a joy to work with. I’d work with him forever. I love him – a wonderful human being and a super talented engineer.
Danson: He pushed us a lot.
N&B: Any last words from the band?
Rosenbaum: Thank you to everyone who supported us throughout this COVID pandemic and was with us every month watching us on StageIt. Rooting for us, and wanting the album to come out, and pushing us and just enjoying life with us – taking a break from life to be with us. All my Patreons, all my followers. My dad liked “Something Special” – that was enough for me. I’m really proud of it, and I hope everyone else is too.
Danson: I echo what Michael said – we couldn’t have done this without everybody’s support. It was really just amazing to have people encourage us month after month. Coming to our StageIts and really making us realize that, “Wow, people actually like our songs.” It was awesome, and it was a big support, and we’re just super thrilled about it.
Many thanks to Michael and Rob for chatting with us. “Best Days” is available to download on iTunes and Amazon. CD’s, including signed copies, and other merch are available on SunSpin.com!
Keep an eye out for the band to drop the Rosenbaum-directed music video for “Summertime Neighbor” in the very near future. Be sure to check out their monthly StageIts on the last Saturday of the month, an afternoon and an evening show to try and cover their fan’s time zones. Prizes and Zooms with the band are available for each show.