Sonny Apollo's upcoming single and album aim to STIMULATE your senses
Words, photographs, and video by Joshua M. Jenkins (@callmefag)
I often daydream of the future of human interaction. Long before the television show Black Mirror scared humanity shitless by showcasing the harsh realities of our social media addictions, global political mayhem, and the inevitability of a robot takeover, I envisioned a world in which the entirety of human interaction existed solely through technology. Saying hello to your boss, kissing your partner, even the sensation of an orgasm, may only be experienced through screens, implants, and sensors. Our senses - touch, taste, sound, smell, and sight - should not be taken for granted. Through his upcoming single, "DOPE", releasing June 21, a fall album called "STIMULATE", and a new residency in Los Angeles, 26 year-old, Frederick, Maryland-born artist Sonny Apollo hopes to inspire humanity to maintain our connections through love, building communities, and being true to yourself.
"I am stronger because of adversity. I don't shy away from challenges or risks. I welcome and embrace them."
Joshua: Describe yourself in five words.
Sonny: Passionate, focused, determined, adventurous, curious.
Joshua: We both lived in Chicago for seven years, at the same time, and moved to LA at the same time! It's wild we hadn't met before. What prompted your move to LA?
Sonny: The entertainment industry. I wanted to accelerate my opportunities, and I felt as though I had reached my ceiling in Chicago…I felt the best way to expand as a creative and as a business person was to move to Los Angeles.
Joshua: How long were you in Chicago? Do you have any favorite hangout spots?
Sonny: Seven years! Favorite hangout spots…Pick-me-up Cafe! (One of my fav hangover breakfast spots everrrrr). Honestly, the lobby of my apartment building in Uptown.
Joshua: How does LA compare to Chicago? Anything you miss about living there?
Sonny: I love being outdoors, so both offer lots of parks to roam around. Granted I’ve only been in Los Angeles eight months, but I miss the feeling of being grounded. Los Angeles is definitely more of a cliquey, "connected" city - where as Chicago is more grass-roots / foot soldier and sweatshirt hangout vibes. LA is still discovering its own identity - there’s still something new about it, whereas Chicago is like, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Love me, or get out.” What I love about LA is the demystification of what happened to me since moving here. I had this perception that it would be this very glamorous city, Hollywood lights etc..., and I get here and it’s a very regular city. Feels very blue collar, industrial, and under-developed.
Joshua: As someone who is working on their own residency in LA, how do you feel about spaces curated and intended for QPOC (queer people of color) being taken over by cis, white, muscly guys? Have you faced adversity on any of these fronts?
Sonny: One of those moments of demystification I mentioned… Being here, people who run nightlife and own the spaces aren’t as diverse as I expected, which is surprising considering this city itself is so diverse. As far as adversities faced being black/queer, discrimination sometimes occurs separately, but also at the same time. I sometimes joke and say, the adversities I’ve faced within the greater entertainment industry have come because I’m black, not queer, whereas others are because I’m queer, not black. Others are because of both combined…it’s just the nature of the beast. Now, because I’m pretty good about managing my expectations, it hasn’t deterred me. It motivates me. The opportunities that have come out as a result of that have come because of the folks who have hired me, the people who see the value in what I’m doing for the entertainment industry. I appreciate them. I am stronger because of adversity. I don't shy away from challenges or risks. I welcome and embrace them.
"...I hope to spark a flame in other POC who think it’s impossible to exist within the current existing nightlife structure..."
Joshua: You recently piloted a burlesque/theatrical residency at Bang Bang Room in DTLA called FUNHOUSE - tell me all about it! What do you hope to accomplish?
Sonny: Regarding the concept...What’s crazy is that it’s been in incubation in my dreams for a few years. I always wanted a circus themed show. I’m giving my personality in this show. There is a rigidness to me, and I don’t mind waiting ten years for something to come to fruition as long as all the right pieces are in place and it’s the right time. Once upon a time, I put together this concept, this vibe, this circus, and one night while stumbling around downtown after moving to LA, I came across a venue - the Bang Bang Room - and the interior really stuck out to me. The sequins, the glitter, the lights…I walked in and talked to the bartender, asked him about the space, he showed me around. I knew it would be perfect for this concept in my mind. From there, I got the contact info of “the suits”. I talked with them, auditioned for them even! And you know, I’m not above that! If I gotta bust out a 32-count if I need to, so be it. They liked what they saw and I got the green light. As for the residency itself, my upcoming EP is called “STIMULATE” - so keeping on brand, I hope to stimulate interest in me, Sonny Apollo. I want this party to appeal to every single sense. We have specialty food drinks for taste, special songs for your ears and unique lighting. I am completely new to everything LA. Before September 2018 I had never been to LA or California before. I hope to strike curiosity in each attendee about the different ways their senses can be experienced. I want to use FUNHOUSE as a rough draft for my forthcoming series of live experiences. There are many ways I want to stimulate kids like me this year. On a deeper level, following up on your question about disparity and lack of POC representation in the nightlife, I hope to spark a flame in other POC who think it’s impossible to exist within the current existing nightlife structure in LA. I don't know, I hope they see what I am doing and it makes them smile. I'm following my path and I recommend they continue to follow their path.
Joshua: When did you first realize your passion for music and performance?
Sonny: [It] started at age 3...realized I loved it at age 9. Stevie Wonder is a huge deal to me and my musicianship. I was on the church choir, banging on the drums, the piano…maybe not well :laughs: But I had that inclination. Church drama plays, dance classes. I built energy from, again, Stevie Wonder, Usher, Michael Jackson, Musiq Soulchild, Jackson 5, but the Stevie Wonder Greatest Hits Volume Two was the best. I learned to play the harmonica, and started taking piano and singing and musicianship more seriously. My mom bought me my first boombox from Walmart, [and I] would listen to all the radio stations and just practice. My mom supported me from day one and I appreciate her for it.
Joshua: Who are some of your other music icons?
Sonny: My musical "Mount Rushmore" consists of Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Lady Gaga, Freddy Mercury, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Sammy Davis Junior, Janet Jackson, Prince, Earth Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan...a lot of Aries! I’m not an Aries, but Spotify told me I listen to a lot of Aries women.
"You know, that euphoria you feel from a one night stand...you sometimes forget the practical elements of that person, such as them not being compatible. But you’ll still take the lies..."
Joshua: Let's talk about your latest single, "CLOUDS", currently streaming on all platforms. You begin the track explaining you're "having the time of your life", referencing an "everlasting love"...you then suggest taking your pain and joy and running away. Sounds like guy problems :laughs:
Sonny: You hit the nail on the head! At the basement of “CLOUDS”, it’s about love being blind…well, if there is love. It’s about having a great sexual experience that you mistake for love and romance. I’ve confused sex with love many times in my life. You know, that euphoria you feel from a one night stand, or that euphoria you feel for someone you have a crush on…but, you sometimes forget the practical elements of that person, such as them not being compatible. But you’ll still take the lies, I’ll take your joy and your pain, and I’ll run away. But next thing I know, that person is the clouds, their voice is the clouds, their touch is the clouds. It’s a very hysterical song. A very manic song. I felt as though I’ve elevated my musical identity and career and everything about my transition to LA was very hysterical and manic, so it fit with what is going on in my life at the time.
Joshua: Tell me about this upcoming single, "DOPE", releasing on June 21st!
Sonny: DOPE celebrates...you know, you’d think I was in love with romance because DOPE is about that :laughs: You see someone who pulls your attention, pulls your eyes, and you just wanna spend the rest of this moment with them. Think of "DOPE" as the prequel to "CLOUDS". "CLOUDS" is about, “I think you’re attractive, I think you’re pretty cool, I don’t know much about you but I want you in my life” sort of vibe. "Let me try to woo you, let me speak some fresh-learned French to you." It’s definitely a pride song - at the moment of writing it, I hadn’t considered the lyrical content or how meaningful it will be for me during its release. I remember talking about this with my engineer - I really hope this song outlives me, I hope it’s iconic. I don’t care if it isn’t huge while I’m alive. How I discovered Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real”...That song is iconic in LGBTQ disco nightlife and I’m hopeful for that. It is light and breezy. The mood of "DOPE" gives nightclub or amusement park vibes. I worked on the track with Chicago Dj Stormchaser. We worked together on my second single from my first project. The single was called "Outside." "DOPE" is house, it's club, it's vogue, it's pride. It's a nod to my core support. It's the next song of mine that I hope outlives me.
Joshua: When does your EP come out?
Sonny: Fall! Stay tuned :grins: STIMULATE will be my 2nd EP. This project had gone through three working titles before settling on STIMULATE, “In My Head”, "Mental", and "To Mentally Stimulate" were under consideration...STIMULATE felt all-encompassing because this project conceptually touches on all the senses: sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste. Each sense is discussed and/or felt through the music and lyrics. The title was inspired initially by the last eight months of my life. I want to stimulate my career, I want to stimulate my audience with some ear candy and bops to lift them up, I want to stimulate myself (in that I want to challenge myself and will stop at nothing to achieve satisfaction). STIMULATE is to be a very involved experience. STIMULATE will be broken into 2 parts. We're getting closer to the release of WAV1.
Joshua: I'm so grateful for your time. Let's end on a silly note. We're going to do a little "this-or-that" - I'll list two things, and you have to choose between the two.
Joshua: Dinner and a movie, or hiking Runyon Canyon with a joint?
Sonny: Definitely Runyon
Joshua: Top or bottom?
Sonny: You'll have to find out :grins:
Joshua: Ramen, or cheeseburger?
Sonny: Oooh, ramen.
Joshua: Nicki or Cardi?
Sonny: Oooh, that depends. I was listening to “Hard White” by Nicki today. I don’t want anyone to take this the wrong way, but…if I want bars, Nicki. But if I want a pre-club bop, Cardi. I’m an east coast guy - I need bars. Nicki, I think.
Joshua: Eat ass, or ass eaten?