Love, heartache, tenderness, and pain coalesce in Sonny Santos’ beautiful debut album ‘Hotel de Londres,’ the product of a tortured soul turning his demons into sublime beauty.
for fans of Wilco, Billie Marten, Elliott Smith
Stream: ‘Hotel de Londres’ – Sonny Santos
I’m a difficult guy with an attitude, but I’m willing to try if you’re looking to lose.
Sonny Santos is a tortured soul turning his demons into sublime beauty.
A singer/songwriter intent on letting his music speak for itself, Santos sprang his breathtaking art upon the music world earlier this summer with “swear 2 g-d,” a raw expression of both hurt and devotion featuring English artist Billie Marten. A reworking of a song Santos’ old band The Shivers released on their 2007 album Phone Calls, “swear 2 g-d” introduced Santos, who calls both London and New York home (and has been doing so since childhood), as a transient spirit seeking balance and stability, meaningful connection and understanding.
“swear 2 g-d” is also the perfect set-up for Santos’ debut album Hotel de Londres, a moving catalog of music brimming with heartbreak and romance that captures “a 15 year, on again/off again (mostly off again) relationship,” according to the artist.
He puts it more bluntly: “All of my songs are about one woman.”
Oh, to be so young
So free, so cool… Cruel
Oh, to take, to break
Our love; the rules
Oh, but you know I swear to God
That don’t mean anything
And it is only for your kisses I stay alive
And your body in the night
– “swear 2 g-d,” Sonny Santos ft. Billie Marten
Love, heartache, tenderness, and pain contributed to the making of Santos’ debut album Hotel de Londres, out August 15th. Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the record today ahead of its release, and to shed some light on its intimate depth. “This particular album is meant to be consumed as a whole for maximum effect,” Santos says of his music.
From a pure sonics perspective, Hotel de Londres is an exercise in space and juxtaposition. Opener “Capricorn and Cancer” (“This woman I speak of is a Capricorn and I’m a Cancer. Polar opposites, but you know they say opposites attract”) sets the scene with a melancholy mix of cool electric guitars and keys mixed into a bed of acoustic warmth. Slowly, as if every step forward is a great undertaking, the song ricochets itself forward from a somber beginning toward a raucous finale. Serenity is broken with utter chaos, quite like the emotional rollercoaster that defines any ill-fated passion. Juxtaposing whispers and explosions, Santos embarks upon his debut with prudence and grace.
You leave me in the morning
I turn and look away
It’s raining in my heart,
but I’m Sonny every day
So go on, if you want to
I mean, what else could I say?
The sky’s a moonlight blue
But I’m still Sonny…
And I’ll be alright
Long as I’m dreaming
– “Sonny Everyday,” Sonny Santos
What follows across the ensuing forty-one minutes is a nonstop series of reflections, musings, and confessions on the tilt-a-whirl nature of intimate connection. The sweetly-sung “Foregone Conclusion” wanders innocently amongst the annals of a scattered, complex history; meanwhile, the crunchy electric guitar-driven “Nothing At All” throbs with the vicious pain of loss in a time of need: “You were gone with the wind, but the wind was pretend – where were you when I needed a call?” Santos sings. “You were nowhere, and now you’re nothing at all.“
If one thing can be said of Hotel de Londres with absolute certainty, it is that Sonny Santos is honest, vulnerable, and utterly true to himself.
Every Sonny Santos song bears another mark, like a scar on a wounded heart: Some scars just bleed brighter than others. Despite their age and the vast, storied 15-year history Santos shares with his once-(still)-love interest, these songs all burn with the immediacy and intensity of unabridged heartbreak and connection. Hotel de Londres is essentially a time capsule of love and loss in the moment; what began 15 years ago sees its contents enshrined today, permanently frozen in time for all to see, hear, and feel.
“I think I am trying to reflect in my songs the vastness and loneliness of the natural world,” Sonny Santos says. “If I was to continue with music, I think I would in the future just want to do music without words.”
The words he expressed on this album just might be enough for one lifetime. Stream Hotel de Londres exclusively on Atwood Magazine, and get to know Sonny Santos through our interview below!
Hotel de Londres is out everywhere August 15, 2019.
Stream: ‘Hotel de Londres’ – Sonny Santos
MEET SONNY SANTOS
Atwood Magazine: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me Sonny! For starters, how did you get into music and songwriting, and what is the significance of songwriting for you?
Sonny Santos: I started off as a painter before ever thinking about music. I always played guitar from 15 but was very bad for a very long time. I only switched to music in my 20s after I realized I was a shit painter. Still I love painting and think of music as I think of painting. Really the same thing.
What does the songwriting process look like for you? How, for you, does an idea or melody become a full-length track?
Sonny Santos: Like a lot of people, I can only write a song when I’m not trying… it’s mostly while walking down the street, the idea will come in my head spontaneously and I’ll start humming and then if it sticks enough I’ll try to work it out once in front of a guitar or piano…it usually only happens while physically in motion. Anytime I sit down and try, it doesn’t come.
The saying goes that it takes a lifetime to make your debut album. Did it feel that way to you? How does your life up to this point shine through these songs?
Sonny Santos: Without saying too much, this album is about a 15 year, on again/off again (mostly off again) relationship. All of my songs are about one woman.
Your debut single “Swear 2 g-d” is a haunting reworking of The Shivers’, your former band’s, somber song. Why embark on your solo career with this song?
Sonny Santos: Well, I tried for a little while to come out again as a new man. That band, The Shivers existed for many years with not much notice. That song was actually written by myself and the woman I speak of 15 years ago. I had this version of her and me singing it in a basement apartment in Queens on a 4-track recorder. When she reached out to me in the summer of 2017 after no contact for 7 years and we briefly re-kindled, all the songs on the album came in a matter of a couple days with no thought or effort. I had finished the bulk of the album a couple years ago but then I had this thought that maybe a new version of this song was the final piece of the puzzle, so I attempted to re-create it, which is when I reached out to Billie Marten to capture the female as me and the woman don’t speak anymore. So really, this album started 15 years ago with that song.
Why do you open the album with “Capricorn & Cancer”?
Sonny Santos: This woman I speak of is a Capricorn and I’m a Cancer. Polar opposites, but you know they say opposites attract. It seems like a fitting introduction.
Something else I hear prominently in your music is space; you let your songs breathe and give them the room to grow. Is this something you actively seeking to do in your music, and why do you think that might be?
Sonny Santos: I’m glad you mention that, I think space is so important. The funny thing is, I rarely listen to singer/songwriter type music…only once in awhile…I listen to much more ambient/experimental/minimalist instrumental music or simply just the sounds of nature or recordings of underwater seals and whales. I think I am trying to reflect in my songs the vastness and loneliness of the natural world. If I was to continue with music, I think I would in the future just want to do music without words.
What do you help people feel at the end of the album, as “I’m on Your Side” fades to black?
Sonny Santos: I would never tell people what to feel or would even hope for anything, but what I will say is I hope that people can listen to the album as a whole. The only thing I feel compelled to say is, I think the streaming model of music consumption is very bad for the album as an art form, where each song is part of a larger story and cohesive whole. I think these days, we’ve gone back to the single, like in the ’40s and ’50s with 70’s. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with that, but this particular album is meant to be consumed as a whole for maximum effect.
Thank you so much, Sonny! We're excited about premiering this record, and looking forward to seeing it out in the world.
Stream: ‘Hotel de Londres’ – Sonny Santos
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