By Emma Hug Rosenstein | July 15, 2023

Hailing from Staten Island, Above The Sun is an emerging band with a classic rock sound and lyrics that always paint a story. The band includes Matthew Barouch (vocals and rhythm), Shaun Gold (lead guitar), Omar Chowdhury (bass), and Gary Boardman (drums). Their sound is rooted in classic rock, but with a modern twist. Their songs are defined by a deep sincerity and a compelling sense of urgency – you can tell that they truly love making music. Their song, “Make Music Not Money,” is a true ode to old time rock ‘n’ roll. We got to see them play at The Bitter End, a venue that’s been providing authentic musical experiences since 1961. They began their set with “Make Music Not Money,” singing, ‘Do you remember when being on the cover of the Rolling Stone used to mean something? Now all you gotta do is put a bomb at the end of the Boston marathon.’ One of their most popular songs, “Lost & Found (End of the World),” seemed to inspire the audience to go out and experience life, not take things too seriously and try to enjoy the time we all have. 

We sat down with Above The Sun after their show at The Bitter End on July 8th, where they answered a few questions for the groovement. 

How did you all meet?
Matt: We’re all from Staten Island, New York. Gary’s my cousin, so we’ve known each other for a long time. Shaun Gold, on lead guitar, we went to high school together, that’s how we know each other. Omar on bass, I met him through a mutual friend of ours, my guitar teacher for a while, they were friends. I had Gary and Shaun. I was looking for a bass player, and my guitar teacher told me about Omar. And then the first rehearsal we ever had, which was 6 years ago in 2017, we were in my parents garage, and it was the first time all four of us were in the same room. 

What was your first gig together?
Matt: It was right here [The Bitter End]. Our first ever gig. I know the exact day, it was Wednesday, September 27th, 2017. 

Shaun: This band is steeped in legend already. 

How’d you get the Bitter End gig?
Matt: Asked for it. 

Is that the life lesson for the day?
Matt: Yeah, ask for what you want. I don’t really have a more interesting answer than that, that’s pretty much what it is. 

During that time did you have music written, or were you playing covers for your first shows? 
Matt: There always were originals around, but we had fewer than we do now. 

Omar: When I got tracks to learn, it was all your songs. There were some covers. We started out really doing originals. 

What is the origin of the name?
Matt: I haven’t thought about this for a while. The first show we ever played was actually under a different name. 

What was the other name you played under? 
Matt: It was the Matthew Paul Band. My middle name is Paul and I didn’t want that to be our name. I had a list of band names, and one of them was ‘Under The Sun.’ I thought it was a cool phrase but it’s common, a little too common I think. I’m sure there’s a thousand bands with that name. That was sitting for a while. But then, I was hanging out with a friend of mine in Brooklyn, and right before our second gig we needed a name and I threw out some ideas. I said there’s also ‘Under The Sun.’ He said that’s cool, I like the imagery, but what if you just flipped it, just say above instead. It’s different and cool. It’s at the beginning of the alphabet which is important for logistics reasons. 

Shaun: It helps find us in the Yellow Book pages. 

Matt: There we go, that’s the one. 

Who are some of your musical inspirations? 
Matt: I think initially I had a Green Day thing going on, but then I had this Paul Simon thing going on. Those are two of my favorite artists. I guess Oasis is in there too. That’s still the case, they’re still influences on my writing. But I think lately, the last set of songs are more on the Paul Simon side of things than the Green Day rock side. 

Do you notice a change as you get older between how you write now? 
Matt: Absolutely. I couldn’t write any of those earlier songs again. Not saying they’re better or worse or anything, that’s just where I was then and what came out. Like our song, “Lost and Found,” which is one of the earliest ones. I don’t think I would ever write that now. I don’t know if I could. That was then. It’s definitely a shift, and it’s still shifting. I don’t know what’s next exactly. 

Gary: We have a bond over classic rock. I consider myself knowledgeable about classic rock bands, but these three are encyclopedias when it comes to Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Who. We all love them. They know every single thing about them. 

You’ve been releasing songs on a 6 week basis. So far for 2023 you have three out now, “Hotel Dream Girl,” “Something Stranger,” and “Athena Sunset.” Once all the songs have been released are they going to be a full length album?
Omar: That was the original plan. We recorded them all. We were toying with the idea of singles. I don’t know what the final outcome will be. 

Gary: That’s our adaptation to the current music landscape. 

Matt: It’s a very singles driven thing.

Gary: We don’t have a strategy for releasing an album. It’s more powerful for us to be releasing singles. 

Can you talk about the inspiration for the new collection itself? 
Matt: It’s a song by song basis. Neither the first album or, I guess what we’ll call the second album, it wasn’t written as an album. It’s sort of the collection of the songs. These are the collections of songs I have in that time period.

Omar: Matt played us a bunch of demos and picked a bunch. 

Matt: Then deciding what order to record in and making them.

Is there more of a formula used when writing songs? 
Gary: They were put together and recorded during quarantine, during the uncertainty of covid. There wasn’t much going on with the band either, not being able to perform. So it was a slow process being passed among each other. Omar is our producer; he’s a stellar producer, he’s the chief of all of this coming together. His production team guided us. 

Matt: It started with like the skeleton of the song, the framework is there. I’ll basically sit down with my guitar, and however long it takes I’ll write it. I have the song with the lyrics, the melody, the chord changes, all that. Not like super intricate parts, more just the underlying harmony with the lyrics and melodies on top. It’s enough that I can perform them all on an acoustic guitar, but they’re kind of bare-boned. Those are what get brought to the group. Everyone listens to them, and we figure out what it should sound like. They really come to life when everyone gets involved. Some really unexpected things that I really love happen. It’s a team effort for sure. 

Gary: Everyone’s personality really comes out. 

A few years ago you were on the ballot for a Grammy nomination. Can you explain how that came to be and the process a bit more? 
Matt: We were on the ballot for nomination for the song “Empty Words.” In each category a lot of things are put forward, in some cases many hundreds, or even thousands per category. And that’s the situation we were in with “Empty Words.” It was put forward, it was on the ballot. It was put up by this company called Big Noise out of Rhode Island. 

You guys are based out of Staten Island. Can you give a bit of insight of what life is like there? 
Omar: It’s not what people think. 

Matt: Shaun’s very active in the Staten Island community. 

Shaun: There’s a great local music scene, local art scene in Staten Island. 

Omar: It’s unfortunate we don’t have a legitimate performance space. 

Sounds like you guys should start a new venue? 
Shaun: There’s a very good chance of something like that trying to happen in the future. There’s never a dead scene but it comes in waves. 

Do you musically feel inspired from the scene there?
Shaun: I’m in another band that plays locally in Staten Island, so I’m a little bit more plugged in to what’s going on over there. There’s a lot of different bands that are doing a bunch of different things. I’m in a band that’s doing a lot of rock. There’s alt bands, emo-minded bands, and some punk bands, and a lot of rappers and producers on the island too. There’s kind of a melding of the minds going on. I’ve been asked to hop on a couple producers albums, a couple rappers albums. There’s definitely an inspiring pull, might not clock you over the head all the time, but there’s definitely really really interesting people on the island. 

Gary: I feel inspired from growing up there and the experiences we had from there. 

Matt: I’ll happily go on record and say I love Staten Island, and I’m very happy I grew up there. I made a lot of good friends.

Connect with Above The Sun on Instagram, Spotify, and their TikTok.

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