Jonathan Berlin Discusses Halloween, Covering The Beatles, New Sunbears! LP, Zoetrope Vinyl and Stroboscope iPhone App

Sunbears has been busy!

Their new album Future Sounds will be released on November 11th by New Granada Records, with a “Special Limited Edition Zoetrope Disc” and “Psychedelic Stroboscope! iPhone app” to follow on Record Store Day. They’re supporting the new disc with an East Coast tour to kick-off with a costume show on Halloween night. They’re also featured on With a Little Help From My Fwends, The Flaming Lips-curated tribute to The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, covering “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” with Puscifer. Read what frontman Jonathan Berlin has to say about all of that after this must-see video:

The Future Heart: First things first. That video of the ReANIMATED LP is awesome! What can you say about the vinyl?

Jonathan Berlin: My son was watching this movie one day, I don’t remember what movie it was, but there was this toy that one of the kids was playing with. It was this toy that spun, and when it spun it showed an animation of a cowboy riding a horse or something. I thought, I bet I could put that on a vinyl. So I looked into it and it’s actually called “Zoetrope.” It’s a technique that’s been around for a long time. People make all kinds of Zoetropes, spin then, and them put strobes on them. We just put it on a vinyl!! As for the strobe side of it, we are developing an iPhone app that you can download to your phone and it strobes at the appropriate rate to reveal the animation… “Sunbears! Psychedelic Stroboscope.”

My good friend Ben Wallis at Beardy Glasses Illustration and I worked on the design together. We make a little looping video and then pasted each frame around the disc template (which we also came up with). We are cutting the records 1 by 1 here at Twin Hill studio. They will be hand assembled / direct lathe cuts. Only 50 will exist. We cut these things in real time. No pressing house involved. Each disc is its own master disc!

This is going to be a Black Friday release. The standard version of our LP will be available on tour!

Speaking of which, your album release tour kicks off on Halloween night. Any surprises or special plans for that show? 

We are having our good friend from Jacksonville, “Civil Brute” play. They are pretty chill, but really rock out at shows. I’m really excited to have them be a part. Also New Granada Record’s “Fistful” will be playing. Aside from that, we will have the posters printed, numbered and signed, early release of the LP and CD versions of Future Sounds. Also the venue will be doing costume party and the whole Halloween thing! We’ll be dressed up too, of course!

Any anecdotes about working on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”? How did you come to record that song?

Wayne had us pick a song, and we chose “She’s Leaving Home.” Recorded it and all, but what I think happened was a lot of people chose that song too! So eventually Wayne texted me one night at like midnight and said “I need you to do a version of Mr. Kite!” I think at that point only Lips had messed around with it. So I stayed up all night working on the song and sent it back to Wayne.

Who exactly did what for the track? 

Wayne basically had everyone cover their songs and send him the multitracks, then he mashed them all together. It’s really pretty incredible the outcome of the whole thing. Not sure what all Maynard did, or the Lips did, but a lot of what was used from our track were the atmospheric trippy stuff during the instrumental sections and I’m also singing background vocals. That’s me and my friends laughing, that’s my harp. Came out pretty cool!

How long have you known Wayne or any other Lips? How did you meet? 

I’ve known Wayne for about four years. We met down here in Florida and recorded this weird video where I’m attacking him. All that happened because of twitter. We’ve been goin’ back and forth ever since. Played a few of the same festivals down here in the South East. Been a fan for a long time. One of the first CDs I ever got was an import of “Bad Days” from the EU, I think. Also, one of the first CDs that my parents wouldn’t let me listen to because it talked about “Blowing someone’s head off.” Ha!

What does it mean to you to be on this Sgt Pepper tribute?

The Beatles were one of first examples of music that I ever heard. My dad was a big Beatles head and also was a late night DJ at an oldies station in Gainesville, TX where I grew up. I remember my dad playing “Michelle” on guitar when I was just a little little guy and that was one of the songs that made me want to be a musician. I started on piano at age four and I remember trying my damndest to learn “Lady Madonna.” Needless to say, I don’t know where I would be without the Beatles in my life. Being on the Pepper’s tribe feels pretty surreal. Kind of like a lifelong dream that I never really knew I was having. Doing a collab with one of my favorite childhood bands for a tribute to the band that really taught me what music was.

Side note, Sir Paul just played Jacksonville over the weekend [October 25th] and my wife and I went. I was surprised to hear that about one third of the way thru the set, Paul played “Mr. Kite!” I didn’t expect him to play it at all, but it felt really full circle after having covered that song, and that song being a Lennon song too! Kind of hard to describe the feeling I had, watching him play that tune, but it was a great one.

Who makes your videos? I love how colorful they usually are . . . very George Salisbury-esque . . .

I pretty much do everything in the film world. I love George, so of course he’s an influence! But I’ve been doing this thing for a while. Started doing videos in my old band that I had called “Bernard.” I actually hadn’t seen a Flaming Lips show until 2010… never really saw the whole thing in full effect before that. Having said that though, yeah. If The Flaming Lips weren’t around doing their thing, I dunno what I’d be doing. It’d be something else. But I also attribute a lot of it to Beatles, Monkeys, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Queen, and Jellyfish.  Those bands really spoke to be in those ways at an early, early age. That’s probably why I like the Lips so much, because in a way, they remind me of everything I love from before. That’s a good thing.

Future Sounds Tour 2014

Jacksonville, FL – Oct 31st
Ybor City, FL – Nov 1st
Atlanta, GA – Nov 3rd
Richmond, VA – Nov 4th
Pittsburgh, PA – Nov 5th
Philadelphia, PA – Nov 6th
New York City, NY – Nov 7th
Boston, MA – Nov 9th
Brooklyn, NY – Nov 11th
Winston Salem, NC – Nov 13th
Savannah, GA – Nov 14th
Athens, GA – Nov 15th


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