Photo by Kiki Allgeier

Sean “Bones” Sullivan first appeared on and in the pages of Relix as the guitarist in New York-based indie rock band Sam Champion. While waiting for Sam Champion to release its sophomore album Heavenly Bender, Sullivan started toying around with a less likely set of influences: reggae, dub and rocksteady. Though the resulting album Rings is still rooted in Brooklyn rock, the concept was the type of left-field idea that piqued the interest of both taste-making bloggers and musicians like Norah Jones, Joe Russo and RANA’s Ryan Thornton—all of whom appear on the album. Below, Sean Bones discusses the roots of Rings, working with his high profile guests and how he ended up staring in a Jamaican film with Norah Jones.

Most of our readers know you as the guitarist in Sam Champion. How did you go from playing indie guitar-rock to reggae-dub?

I guess reggae and dub music are antidotes for playing too much guitar music. At first I was listening to it at home when I wasn’t rehearsing or on tour. It was taking a long time to put out [Sam Champion’s] Heavenly Bender last year, and I was getting kind of creatively blocked up while we were waiting. So I imagined this project where I would put out a 7’ in this rocksteady musical style. I also did this record to work outside the record industry a little bit. I originally put out the record as a part of a fake fashion line I did with my girlfriend—we released the record with a pair of swim trunks. So my music as of last summer was a little bit kind of homey, but that’s how I started releasing music on my own.

Concurrently, you also shot a movie with Norah Jones down in Jamaica, correct?

Yeah, I met a guy named Sam Fleischner while Sam Champion was doing a video shoot. He had heard my record and was talking to me about a project he was planning to do in Jamaica [which also features Norah Jones and Yeasayer’s Ira Wolf Tuton]. I kept in touch and one day he called me and said that in ten days they were going to shoot the movie in Jamaica—but they didn’t have a lead actor they were comfortable with. So they kind of convinced me to do it.

Do you have an acting background?

Not at all! But I got through it—it was pretty fun [laughter]. I was actually just thinking that it was last year at this time that I was there. Rainy days like this kind of remind me of Jamaica. It is hot rain, it rains a lot there.

After you did the movie did you go back and finish the record?

I was supposed to do the record last fall. I started talking to Frenchkiss in maybe September of last year and then they’re like, “We want more of this music that you make— like soon. Can you like start recording in November?” I just kept saying “Yes.” I was excited to be talking to them, but I didn’t quite have the material. Then when these guys asked me to do the movie at first I was really, really reluctant, so I was kind of calling around, trying to get people to tell me it was a bad idea. But everyone was like, “You should do it.” So I decided to call the label, thinking that since they want me to record that fall they’d say I can’t go because it will fuck up our whole schedule. But when I called Frenchkiss and they said, “Dude, you have to do this movie.” I made the trip and came back and recorded in like January or in February, so I had a couple of months to organize the ideas. I brought some gear down to Jamaica and worked on some of my thoughts on the trip. It was really rugged productions down there, and we were kind of caravanning around but I was able to like get some things started. I didn’t really start recording until I returned.

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