5 Questions: Sansyou

There’s something magical about the way DC instrumentalists SANSYOU capture your attention with their delicate guitar chimes and spacey atmospherics.

Sansyou live at DC9_June 2022
Led by guitarist and long-time DC musician David Nicholas, Sansyou has always been a band that revels as much in the spaces in-between sounds as it does the ecstasy from a slow build and release of pure guitar magic. To put in more elemental terms, this is the kind of music that evokes the beauty and wonder of the California sunshine glistening across the waves and the restorative power of nature itself. It’s no wonder I keep going back to listen. And every time, I feel an inner calm and a connection to the natural world that is hard to explain.

It’s good news then that Sansyou is back with a sparkling new EP, “True North Coast.” The six-track release may be the instrumental collective’s finest offering to date. With contributions from Scott Gould (percussion loops), Michael Blank (bass) and Failure’s Kelli Scott (drums), the record sees Sansyou shine like never before, with their trademark guitar lines and melodies evoking The Durutti Column and The Chameleons U.K. Do yourself a favor and pick up “True North Coast.”

With a brand new release now out to the world, Sansyou is back playing live shows. We are especially excited that the band is returning for a special show at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE at the Marx Cafe in Mt. Pleasant on Friday, August 5th at 10pm. A perfect time then for another chat with Sansyou guitarist David Nicholas about their new release…

1) First off, congratulations on the new EP! It sounds amazing. What can you tell us about the title “True North Coast”?

David: Thanks. Over the past few years, I think we’ve all felt a bit lost and dislocated to some degree. As the songs came together for this record, so many references and paths led to southern California in ways I couldn’t plan or explain. When travel became possible, that feeling was affirmed over several trips to Los Angeles as people there became more involved in the record. So, it was really a west coast feeling that guided the whole project.

True North Coast cover2) The cover for “True North Coast” is just as atmospheric as the sounds contained within. How did the cover come about?

David: I’m glad you felt that connection. That’s what happens when everyone involved has the same intentions for the images and music to work together. It’s always important to me, especially with instrumental music, that the artwork pull the listener into the same space as the music. Michael Blank, who played bass on the record is a photographer in LA and he felt the same way about the relationship of the images and music. I wanted some continuity from the last one, Eyes Front, and to capture the seaside feeling in the songs. He took the images in Laguna Beach and I think the music comes through perfectly in each shot we used.


David N with Pink Paisley_January 2022

3) From a production perspective, I don’t think Sansyou’s music has ever been captured more clearly than it has on “True North Coast.” What can you tell me about the recording process? Did it differ from previous releases?

David: More time. I’ve usually recorded all my guitar parts in one day. This time I decided to take that pressure off and do multiple sessions. Quite a few songs were recorded that didn’t end up on this one. I gave myself a chance to listen and live with the basic tracks for some time before committing to develop them. The luxury of editing without a deadline I suppose? Bass and drums were recorded in Los Angeles, some percussion in Pennsylvania, and the rest here in DC. At this point, recording parts remotely which the pandemic may have accelerated is actually an easy way to work. It allowed me to take advantage of Kelli Scott’s availability to drum on it before Failure left Los Angeles for their tour. Yet more LA connections.

Back cover art sansyou4) I love that fans have the option of purchasing “True North Coast” on cassette? What made you decide to release it this way?

David: I’ve been buying new music on tape for some time and find that I listen to it differently. It definitely encourages listening to a full side without interruption so I focus and absorb the music more I think. Plus the tape available now is vastly superior to what we grew up with. For this one, I found a source for high ferric cobalt tape -if you want to geek out on the tech specs as I do. And from a production standpoint, tape is fast to turnaround and very affordable. So given the fidelity on top of that, it was an easy choice.

Sansyou live DC9 May 2022 Nancy pic

5) What has it been like to bring these magical sounding compositions from “True North Coast” to a live audience? Especially after quite a period where livestreams from home were the only option.

David: Everything is different now so live performances have changed too. The songs get a different spin in the duo format that we’re performing with now. I’m having fun using loops for the chords and my friend Scott Gould is on percussion. He uses a self-contained kit that sounds amazing with brushes in a way I’ve always wanted to hear but never could until now. This will be our third show together and it’s been a lot of fun since we go back many years and are just now getting around to playing out together. It’s great to have live music coming back and we appreciate the chance to play with the Big One again.

Listen to and purchase Sansyou’s music on Bandcamp. Be sure to catch Sansyou at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE at the Marx Cafe (3203 Mt. Pleasant St NW) on Friday, August 5, 2022 at 10pm. Hometown Sounds Podcast Host and DJ Paul Vodra will be joining us behind the turntables. Join us for the fun!