This week we’re chatting with California reggae-rock artist Sunny State and Austin’s synth-babes Moonray, for an insightful interview on the songwriting process, touring, and their personal heroes and inspiration (among tons of other things like their favorite food and albums!)
Sunny State: Please explain your songwriting process. Does one of you bring the other an idea fully or partially formed? Do you compose music/chord progressions first or Lyrics or Melody? What instrument(s) do you usually write on?
Moonray: We have many ways we come up with songs. Sometimes a melody will pop into our head and has a snowball effect into completion quite quickly. Other times, we will come up with a beat we like on a specific drum machine and work on it over time. Other times we let our instruments guide us. We may take a travel-size setup while traveling or camping and the destination may inspire us. We typically start with a drum machine and a synthesizer.
Moonray : Is there a certain state, city, country that inspires your music more than others?
Sunny State: When writing new songs, my biggest inspiration has always come from traveling to new places. There is something liberating and freeing about being in a new place. Inspired by different surroundings, sounds, smells, tastes, cultures.
Sunny State is based out of San Jose, CA A.K.A. The Silicon Valley. Here in the Bay Area, we are surrounded by various cultures and ways of life, but the majority of people here also have a lot in common. There’s an energy here since the cost of living is so high that you can’t work hard enough and there is always something more you can do. I think, in Sunny State, we try to combat that heavy energy radiating with positive laid back vibes. As a way to remind people to stop and smell the roses. “Relax, it’s all going to be ok and it’s ok to feel good and be happy.” So, in one way or another, our environment certainly inspires what we create.
Sunny State: What is your favorite thing about being in a musical project as a couple?
Moonray: We challenge each other and we eat, breathe and sleep it! It’s nice being able to keep each other accountable for not just the music aspect but our health and our lifestyle. We try to take care of our vessels so we can travel through the stars. Our musical project would not be where it is if we hadn’t both committed to our health first. It’s great when you have a partner that you can rely on during the tough times and we love being able to make music together.
Moonray: If there is one thing in the world you could change what would it be?
Sunny State: Just one thing? Hmm… That’s a really tough question.
As I sit here debating what the ONE thing would be, looking at environmental, ethical, sociological, political.
Any way I look at it, there is no ONE RIGHT ANSWER…
If I, truly, had the power to change ONE thing, I don’t think I could, in good conscious, change a thing. In my humble opinion, everything, ultimately, works out for the best, despite how long it may take to get there or the horrific sacrifices made. The turmoil is what helps us all to grow and makes us stronger. It is what determines and molds us into who we are.
Sunny State: What do you look forward to most before one of your shows?
Moonray: The thrill of getting to connect with our fans and share our music.
Moonray: Who are your top five heroes?
- My Brother Frane
- My Wife
- My Mother
- The spider living in our room—ya never know where he’ll end up
Sunny State: Describe what your perfect, most fantastic day, would look like.
Moonray: It’s such a hard question to answer but I think every day is perfect in its own way, living in the moment is what keeps us going. But if there is no limit to this perfect day, we’d both be super heroes flying over the world saving those from danger and curing diseases.
Moonray: If you could take one CD or Album on a deserted island which one would it be and why?
Sunny State: WHAT!?! One!?! Another JUST ONE question!?! Hahahahah Just kidding… But seriously, how could you choose just one? Ok, ok… I would probably take one of the Buddha Bar Albums because they’re so epic. That way, I would never get tired of someone’s voice or lyrics and could continuously reimagine the song for the rest of my life on this deserted island.
Sunny State: Tell us about your favorite performance ever.
Moonray: Our favorite performance has been opening for Alice Merton on her first No Roots tour at Stubbs in Austin, TX.
Moonray: What is your favorite part about creating music ?
Sunny State: Watching a song go from the seed of the idea and evolve through the studio and, eventually on stage, is a powerful process for me. It takes so much time and passion that it is a wonder songs get finished hahaha. That is a very satisfying process.
The other side is that music is food for my soul.
I recently took a step back from music and didn’t even realize until I had stepped back into it, how much my soul was longing for the outlet of writing lyrics and melody and singing at the top of my lungs. Talk about liberating! Creating music makes me feel like I am flying from mountain top to mountain top, stopping for little picnics along the way with my favorite people and family, only to leap off the next peak and do it all again.
Moonray: What’s your favorite thing to put on toast ?
Sunny State: Ummm, Duh! Avocado with Everything-but-the-bagel seasoning.
Sunny State: What is one thing you often feel others would understand you better if they knew?
Moonray: We both come from a past history of dealing with drug and alcohol abuse and have overcome a lot of obstacles to create our music and our business and stay on a healthier path of light.
Sunny State captures a fresh modern reggae vibe through their energetic and positive songs of love and empowerment. With powerful vocals, ukulele and guitar, Sunny State brings island vibes to each and every gig. Their diverse line up of songs tantalizes the ears in English, French, Spanish and even Croatian, using the island heritage of their frontman “Cristo”, Chris Reed, whose family originates from an island in the Adriatic Sea.
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Influenced by the genius of legends including Prince, Madonna, Jimi Hendrix, and more, Moonray’s music glimmers and shines with the brilliance of ‘80s synths, dynamic electric guitar, free-spirited ‘70s vibes, and lots of positive energy.
In addition to forming a working partnership, the duo is also a real-life couple and draws on their individual experiences and strengths to speak to their listeners in an uplifting, relatable way. Jonray, a fifth generation Texan and multi-instrumentalist, and Barbara, a business-savvy lover of theater who grew up between Mexico and Austin, create freely and without limits, using their worldly melodies and lyrics to shine a restorative, hopeful light for those who need it.
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Bands Interviewing Bands: Sunny State (top) Photo Credit: Arabella Espinoza. Moonray (bottom) photo credit:Taylor Prinsen Photography