Sammy Boller Discusses Going Instrumental on ‘Kingdom of the Sun’

2020-10-06

Sammy Boller recently released his debut instrumental album, "Kingdom of the Sun."

Sammy Boller – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Joe Gall

Local Music Beat: Detroit guitarist and songwriter Sammy Boller discusses his new, instrumental album, “Kingdom of the Sun,” and what it was like to record an entire album without vocals

Sammy Boller is one of the hottest up-and-coming guitarists on the rock scene, and his latest project is extra ambitious. Boller recently released his first-ever instrumental album, “Kingdom of the Sun,” featuring 11 imaginative tracks, heavy on guitar, and without any vocals.

Boller checked in with Audio Ink Radio to discuss “Kingdom of the Sun,” what it was like creating an instrumental album and how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted music in 2020. Read the full interview below.

Anne Erickson: Congrats on your new album, “Kingdom of the Sun.” You released this on March 20, literally days after most of the U.S. was shut down due to coronavirus. What was it like releasing a new album during that wild time?

Sammy Boller: It was a little bit crazy leading up to it. But, it’s one of those things where, being a musician, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s a day-by-day thing. So, you just kind of roll with it. Everybody’s in the same boat. It’s a little bit of a bummer, because this summer was going to be the first time I was going to be out with my own band, so we were really looking forward to that and had a bunch of stuff planned. But, the whole world shut down, so it’s just one of those things. But, I’ve been all right. I’ve been able to record at home, so I’ve just been working on new music and trying to be safe.

Did you think about holding the album last minute, or would it have been too late for that?

We were kind of thinking about it, but it’s one of those things where it was planned so far in advance. It’s like, we might as well just go with it. it hasn’t been bad, by any means, because there’s still so much stuff you can do online. We’ve done a couple of live stream shows and Zooms and stuff like that, which I’m sure you’ve been doing, as well. It’s just one of those things where I think all the plans we had for this year, we’re just pushing them back a year. With rock ‘n’ roll, you have to play it live. So, that’s been kind of strange, and this is the first summer I’ve been home not touring in so long. But, I’ve been finding new stuff to do, and it’s just a new way to get your music out there.

You recorded this new EP at Rustbelt Studios in Detroit with Steve Lehane. What was it like recording at Rustbelt? It’s a famous studio in the Detroit area.

It was great. Rustbelt is such an amazing place. I’m really lucky, in that I first started recording there when I was 19. I used to play in Citizen Zero, and we recorded with Al Sutton, who owns Rustbelt. I feel really lucky to have had him as a mentor, because he’s so knowledgeable and has done so many great records. So, it was just the natural place to record the new album. Steve Lehane is like my best friend, and we worked on a lot of the Citizen Zero stuff, so it was like recording it at home base.

What makes “Kingdom of the Sun” different from what you’ve done in the past?

It’s my first time doing an instrumental song, let alone whole record, so as a guitar player, it’s different to write a whole record and make it interesting with no vocals and no lyrics. It was an exciting challenge, and the more and more songs I wrote and finished, it was like, all right, now it’s becoming clear. The vision of it was becoming clearer and clearer. So, it was a blast. I’m proud of it, and it was a group effort, because a lot of my friends worked on it with me. That’s something I’ll always treasure, and I can’t wait to do the next one.

What made you want to do an instrumental album?

A few years ago, I had gotten off the road and started working on new guitar techniques, just coming up with arrangements, just on my own, and challenged myself. At first, I was just recording demos at my apartment, just for fun, and once I had a few of them together, I showed them to Steve, who produced the album. He was like, “Man, you should really record these, and we’ll get a couple more, and we can do a whole record.” It all kind of fell into place, with my previous band breaking up at the same time. I grew up loving instrumental rock, as well. It just all lined up, and I did it more for fun at first, but music is best when you do it for yourself, and then it turns into something other people enjoy, as well.

How would you describe the Detroit music scene today? I’m from the Detroit area and am truly inspired by new music here every day.

It’s an amazing place to be a musician. The artists are all really supportive of each other. I think one really unique thing about Detroit is that compared to maybe some other places, here in Detroit, the general attitude is, “I am who I am, take it or leave it.” I think that’s a really, really cool spirit for a city to have. It’s not just the music, it’s art and everything. Becoming an artist is knowing who you are, and I think Detroit is definitely a city that allows you to be that.

How do you think rock music can survive without touring, indefinitely?

That’s a great question. A big thing in rock ‘n’ roll is going to the show, playing live and experiencing the whole thing. But, right now, there’s such an appetite for great new rock, that I don’t think it could ever go away. People are listening to so much music at home. It’ll survive until things come back and get back to normal.

What’s next for you in 2021?

Like with a lot of bands, we’re taking our plans for 2020 and moving them up to 2021. I’ve got a new single coming out in November, and I’m recording a couple of new songs right now. Then, at the top of year, we’re probably going to record a whole new record. So, by the time we finally go on the road, we’ll have two albums, which is going to be fun.

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