The Sultans Dust off Their Amps to Conquer the Continental Room

John Reis
John Reis
Greg Jacobs

There’s only one problem with The Sultans and that’s the fact that the band hardly ever plays. Luckily, the San Diego-based group—singer/guitarist John Reis, bassist Dean Reis and drummer Tony DiPrima—are remedying this with a rare performance at The Continental Room. The show, John Reis says, is slated to be the first of a monthly series in which the 47-year-old will spin records, perform on stage and do whatever else he feels like doing because when your musical resumé includes Rocket from the Crypt, Hot Snakes, The Night Marchers, Drive Like Jehu, Pitchfork and Swami John Reis & The Blind Shake, you’re allowed to throw whatever kind of party you want.

OC Weekly (Ryan Ritchie): The Sultans haven’t played in years, so why are you playing the Continental Room?
John Reis: I was asked to do a monthly deejay thing and do kind of like what I did on my radio show, which is play a bunch of music that I saw as fitting into this perfect universe of mainly primal and savage kinds of sounds. I’m not really a deejay and I find doing it to be kind of embarrassing, to be honest. I thought I’d approach it more like a party and then bring The Sultans because it’ll add a live element as opposed to watching someone play records on a Monday night. Hopefully it’ll turn into something cool. And if not, we tried.

For the first time in your career, it seems like every band you’ve ever been in is available to play, right?
If someone calls and says they want to hear one of the bands, there’s a good chance we might be able to do it. The reason we’re doing this show is the same reason we started doing The Sultans: it’s something fun to do with friends. The Sultans formed because I wanted to be more spontaneous and Rocket at that point wasn’t about to go back and play house parties. And with Hot Snakes, half the band is on the other side of the country. I do all music for fun, but The Sultans I could do with little coordination and effort in terms of trying to make things happen. Once again, I’m feeling the need to show up and play with my friends with little or no expectations other than to have a good time.

What do The Sultans mean to you?
It’s the most immediate and there’s less of a persona. It’s more me in my pajamas, I guess. I look at the band as very decidedly traditional. When you put limitations on yourself, sometimes it frees you—like working in haiku. What can you do with the form and convention? I like a lot of music that’s more expansive and will take a theme into uncharted territory, but I also really love the familiarity of classic rock ‘n’ roll music. For me, it still resonates deeply with me. That’s what I blast at my house.

You’re in Philadelphia recording new Hot Snakes songs. What about new Sultans material?
We did a song for a compilation to benefit the music program at the school my kid goes to. We did the title track “Hardcore Matinee.” There’s been talk about reissuing our second record and putting it on vinyl because it was never on vinyl, but I don’t know. I have a studio in my backyard, so if we have stuff to work on, it’d be very easy to do something. There’s a bunch of stuff that never came out and I’m hoping to put that with the vinyl version of Shipwrecked.

What’s with the new Hot Snakes recordings?
They’re new songs, but we’ll see. If they’re good, people will hear them. If they’re not, we’ll go back to the drawing board.

SWAMI SOUND SYSTEM LIVE with The Sultans, The Continental Room, 115 W. Santa Fe Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-4529; Monday, 9 p.m. Free. 21+.


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