Whether facing the world with an HD video camera or a boombox blasting Bing Crosby samples, one-man lounge act Guy Sands is committed to the solitary pursuit of magic.
“I’ve never been able to create a magic sound with other people that isn’t just voice and guitar,” says the singer/songwriter/philosopher/filmmaker from his home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where he recently moved in preparation for graduate film classes at the City University Of New York’s Staten Island campus. “But I want to make the sound more full, and that pushed me toward using samples. Using these bits of someone who did make magic sounds is something to work off of. It’s inspiring.”
Guy is adept at acoustic guitar, piano and harmonica among other instruments, but you’ll never catch him using turntables. When it comes to samples, Guy’s weapon of choice is a ghetto-blaster tape-deck, and his ammunition consists of 15-minute cassettes charged with loops of Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole—two-chord ditties of the ’40s and ’50s that capture the “lounge, warm feeling” Guy strives to recreate in his own music.
Anthologized recordings and demos from Guy’s six years of noise-making swell with a mingled love of folk poets (Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen) and lounge crooners (Rod McKuen, Bing Crosby). The song “Caroline” is a two-minute monument to Guy’s sentimental sensibility. 60-year-old static from a warm woodwind sample flickers like candlelight at a Parisian cafe where Guy sits at a piano, staring at the barmaid’s baby-blues and crooning sweet nothings like “I’m so proud/And surprised/You lived up/To your eyes.” Meanwhile, the invitingly simple hum and nylon strum of “Valhalla” plays like an Andrew Bird outtake stricken from Noble Beast because listeners don’t require an encyclopedia to understand the infectious lyrics. Throughout all of this, cassette tapes remain Guy’s sole collaborators.
Guy released and sold out of the 50 copies of his debut EP, Save Some Of The Day, but lost the master tapes before he could print more. He spent the following years “bumming around” the Western hemisphere, recording bits and pieces as he went. Earning a philosophy degree in Olympia, WA, playing gigs with Kimya Dawson and Calvin Johnson in Portland, OR, de-roaching George Whitman’s apartment above the Shakespeare And Company bookstore in London and playing festivals in Prague and Germany kept Guy occupied but never fully inspired.
Brooklyn finally offered a welcoming artistic culture where Guy can simultaneously tend to his loves of music and film (top three directors: Michael Leigh, Cristi Puiu and Maurice Pialat). This intersection of song and cinema is a subject Guy often grapples with. “I’m still getting a grip on how to make my own music worthwhile,” he says. “It doesn’t have the scope of a 3-hour movie. But it’s closer to daily life. I bring music with me all day, every day. I need it.”
Guy aims to release an LP tentatively titled Love Won’t Let Me by summer, if he can wrap recording before the grad school bustle kicks in. Some songs remain unfinished, but their thematic trajectory is clear. “I’ve been engaging a lot with resentment,” Guy says. “I resent the Northwest in a lot of ways, and then there’s girls—girls just kind of ruin your life. It’s nothing mean-spirited. Resentment is just a good engine to talk to yourself.”
Look for Love Won’t Let Me later this year.
Artists, submit for your own chance to be the Sonicbids Spotlight.