Photo: Kelly Hammond

Introducing: Sun Room

It’s not often that a band without a debut album has already traveled the world a few times over, playing their music wherever they go. For Sun Room, however, this has been their reality for the past year. Having toured with the likes of Inhaler – who they’ll be joining again this year – and Louis Tomlinson, they’ve been able to play to crowds across the globe: In 2022, Luke Asgian, Ashton Minnich, Max Pinamonti, and Gibby Anderson played 115 shows in 24 different countries. Even though they might be a young and up-and-coming band, it’d be a disservice not to point out that they’re already seasoned live performers.

It’s at this strange intersection of experience and novelty that we find ourselves when talking to lead singer Luke. The first thing he does is apologize profusely for having missed the initial meeting. True to the laid-back surfer lifestyle the band exudes, he’d been preoccupied with catching waves. “I’m so sorry I missed the last time – I totally forgot, I was surfing and then I got back out of the water and had like 10 missed calls. I was like, oh no, when I read that.”

Funnily enough, it illustrates perfectly how it’s still taking some time for them all to get used to this new reality – being in a successful band that does things like promotional tours and interviews. It’s different from just jamming with peers and friends in people’s garages, interspersed with catching a few waves. “We all grew up in beach towns around Southern California, where everyone played in different bands during high school,” Luke tells me of the band’s origins. Starting a band is almost like a rite of passage, he explains – specifically a surf rock band straight out of your garage. “You do like backyard shows growing up where there’s maybe 15 kids at the show. It’s super low-key, but a huge part of growing up there.” In fact, he can easily name four different bands he’d been in by the time he went off to University.

Luke is quick to clarify that none of those bands were Sun Room, who actually only ended up finding each other as a result of the pandemic. “During my second year of university, COVID hit and we all got sent home. I was back home with my parents, quarantining and had nothing to do. So I was like, I want to start a new music project. I wrote the first EP by myself at home. Then together with an old buddy, we recorded it and put it out. It started gaining traction, but when things opened up again, I didn’t really have anyone to perform with.” He started hitting up all his friends, seeing if anyone wanted to just come to play these songs with him. “I met Ashton first, and then a little bit later Max and Gibby joined the band. Two weeks after we all met we were on tour together, and it’s been non-stop ever since. I’ve only known them for under two years, but we’ve spent so much time together now – it’s been a pretty wild ride,” he grins.

Since then, he’s dropped out of college, but it still serves as a huge cornerstone of Luke’s frame of reference when writing music. “I still live in a house with all my friends from college – a lot of them are still in school. One of the main things that I write about is just life down here, this college town that we live in San Diego, and all my friends that I live with. We go on tour and it’s crazy and stuff. But when I get home it’s just jumping right back into a normal life with all my friends and surfing – that kind of thing.”

It’s also the overarching story of Sun Room’s latest EP Outta Their Minds, although that wasn’t necessarily on purpose. “There wasn’t a pre-thought-out main storyline, but the four songs all kind of come together in being about our life right now in San Diego. It features our friends, one song is called Kaden’s Van – it’s literally about my buddy named Kaden, and piling into his van,” Luke laughs. It’s also a recurring element in the video for the track. “Cadillac [the first single of the EP] was very professionally planned out. For Kaden’s Van, we just got all my friends in San Diego and ran around town skateboarding and throwing firecrackers. It was just us causing chaos and we filmed it all. We even lit a guitar on fire – it was super fun.”

Staying true to reality, it was his own guitar that got sacrificed. “But it was already broken and just collecting dust, so really this was better than throwing it out,” he grins. “And while it wasn’t Kaden’s Van we used – his van had broken down, rest in peace – we spray-painted some flames on my buddy Levi’s car and used that instead.”

He’s not too worried about potentially losing touch with any of them as the band continues to grow and evolve.  “I’m more just excited to see what happens. I think even one year ago from now, I never could’ve thought that we would’ve done all the things we did this year. It’s cool to think – where are we going to be one year from now? What’s it going to be like, and what will I be writing about then?”

Still, Luke can’t imagine ever not wanting to surround himself with the familiarity and simplicity that he experiences whenever he’s back home.  “I don’t feel any different when we’re on tour, but I think maybe some fans would look at me differently because I’m on stage. They might build up something about us in the band in their head, they see us live, and that’s a crazy experience for them. But then I get home, and all my friends treat me the exact same as they did three years ago. And I love that because it’s kind of weird going on tour and having people freak out when they meet you. You don’t know what to do sometimes,” he confesses. “You’re just like, we’re four totally normal dudes. There’s nothing that special about us. So it’s refreshing to get home and have everyone know who you are and treat you normally.”

Indeed, there’s a huge difference between being famous and being known. Luke’s aware that as the band continues to grow, it also means expectations about them – be it as persons or as musicians – will shift. “This past year was definitely the biggest year for us,” he starts. “We toured with Louis Tomlinson, which is huge for us. And then we started getting a lot more attention than we were used to. It got to my head for a little bit, where I was starting to think that maybe I needed to write more commercial music. Pop music or something that would go more to the masses instead of the garage surf rock that we’re used to. But I feel like I’m finally adjusting to it and realizing that I don’t want to change our sound. Just because we have more attention now – I don’t want to be in a pop band and I don’t want to make that kind of music.”

Rather, the experience made Luke want to double down on staying true to his roots. “Even though we just did a headlining tour, we still will do shows with just like 30 of our friends here in San Diego. Literally, two weeks ago we did a house show in my buddy’s backyard, and it was super fun. I think we’ll always continue to do all those things that we’ve been doing from the start. I want to keep making the stuff that all my friends down here would be excited about – I never want to lose that.”

He says that it’s actually been nice to tour with big artists and see that they might face similar struggles. “You never really expect to get attention. When you do, it’s like – well how can I maintain this? We wall want to do music as a living, so once you get a taste of it, you don’t want to lose it. So you’ll go, shoot, I have to write a viral TikTok pop song, and that’ll allow us to keep touring or something. But I’m glad we’re not worried about that anymore.”

If anything, the fact that audiences around the world are waiting for Sun Room to come to play their music demonstrates that it’s their garage rock roots people fell in love with in the first place. Their new EP Outta Their Mind feels like a beautiful little capsule of the raw and unfiltered 60’s inspired grunge that Sun Room offers its fans. It also exudes more confidence, without losing any of its signature boisterous loudness. Indeed, Luke says they tried to get back to their roots on this record. “We went back to our OG producer who I’ve known since I was 15. It was super cool to do this new EP with him, where we got to hone in on the garage and surf rock sounds. His studio is in Long Beach, where I grew up. It was just nice to work on the songs in a place where I have a lot of history and stuff. The project just feels very true to us.”

In other words, it’s an organic process that’s as close as possible to reality before the band was his day job. Luke writes most of the songs at home – the one he shares with 10 college roommates. Then, the band gets together in the garage where he shows the ideas and they piece together the song from that. While it’s always in the back of their minds whether or not their friends will vibe with the tracks, they do trust their own gut the most. “I’m pretty confident in what I like – I’m just making music that I’d want to listen to. So if I write a song where I think, dang, if another band were to put this out it’d be my favorite song, then I know I’m doing something right,” Luke elaborates. On the opposite end of that spectrum, he’s also very certain of which tracks are somehow not right for the band. “At the end of the day, we have a bunch of songs that we’ve played on tour but aren’t out yet because they’re just not ready. For this EP, there were a couple of things I wanted to change, and now the songs on there are in their final form.”

One of the bigger challenges was trying to capture the same speed and loudness from the shows they’d done over the past year in the new record. “Garage rock is a lot more similar to live performances than other genres,” Luke agrees. “The only difference live for us is that it’s usually a bit more chaotic. Our shows are pretty loud and fast, and we weren’t used to recording that way for this new EP. But once we got it, and figured it out, it came very naturally.”

In fact, now that they’ve gotten a taste of it, the band is ready to dive straight back into the studio after the release of Outta Their Minds. “We’re definitely gonna put out more music this year. We’ve got four songs done that I’m very excited about, and we’re gonna try to crank those out in time before summer. It’ll be fun!” Most of all, they’re looking forward to getting out there again on the road – they’re rejoining Inhaler across the States this year – and playing their new and improved material during their own headline shows.

So is there something that they’ve learned from their experiences as tour openers for Inhaler or Louis Tomlinson that they’ll incorporate in their own headlining tour? Luke immediately emphasizes how welcoming both crews and artists were. “They’re both a lot bigger than us and have been around longer, so we were super nervous – we felt a little out of our league. And now we’re good friends with both groups and I think that’s the best thing we took from them, that is to be welcoming and treat people warmly. I hope that we’ll always be like that to other bands we come across as well.”

Also, to take time to actually visit the cities that they’re playing in – not rush through them just to play a setlist. Maybe catch a wave, in true surf rock fashion, if time allows. “We got to surf in Rio, Brazil, which was sick. And then we got to surf again in Costa Rica, which was super cool. I feel like we actually got a cool snapshot of each city – on show days after soundcheck we’d try and explore the city instead of just sleeping. And on days off we’d just go around eating as much food and drinking as much coffee as we could, trying to see everything,” Luke reminisces. “The only other country I’d even been to before the band was Norway and Mexico. After this year, I’ve gone to like 32 countries in a year – I still can’t believe it. To imagine our music being played anywhere other than Southern California is pretty hard. It’s a very local sound, I never thought it’d be possible to do this style of music we do in all these different places so far from home.”

And even though surfing is much more appealing to him than perhaps doing an interview, his love for music might be just as strong as his love for waves. Most of all, Sun Room stands for youthful exuberance and laid-back joy. There’s no pretense, no goalposts, they’re not striving to be anything they’re not. And perhaps that’s the key to their success as touring musicians.

As Luke says: “Who knows what exactly we’ll be doing in six months, but I’m sure it’ll be fun.” And that is all that matters.

Sun Room’s new EP, Outta Their Minds, is out now. Aside from supporting Inhaler on their North American tour, the band is also headlining their own East Coast tour. Tickets are available now.