Beautiful You Are

If you ask Suns of July vocalist, Kosta Dimos, he will tell you the band’s anti-bullying anthem, ‘Beautiful You Are’ has been over three decades in the making.  The soaring and poignant track is one of ten painstakingly crafted offerings slated for release with the band’s inaugural album, ‘Hello People’, in the spring of 2020.  While Kosta is a fully grown man juggling a demanding career as a lawyer with his passion for writing and recording music, the scars he endured at the hands of his elementary school bullies cut deep.

“It’s harmful to the development of a child to live in fear of physical abuse in the school setting. While I’m sure most bullied kids go on to lead normal lives, the feelings of insecurity, self-doubt and even self-loathing triggered by bullying during those formative years live on; they don’t just vanish when you grow up,” Kosta remarks.

It was early on in the writing process for ‘Hello People” that the band decided to breathe life into an old guitar riff created by Suns of July guitarist, Colonel, in 2010.  “This song resonates because it’s real”, Kosta continues.  “The lyrics during the bridge “Alright, alright, you can cry on my shoulder and I’ll promise you, when you get older … You’ll see how beautiful, beautiful you are” come right from my dearly departed mother who would sit at the foot of my bed in the evenings consoling me and offering strength to face the next day.”

The honest approach of this song also resonated with television producer, Kali Kyriazis, whom the band’s drummer, Anastazio Dimos, randomly met after a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game in the early spring of 2019.  The two kept in touch and the band forwarded various rough mixes of the album’s songs to Kali, who became particularly enamoured with the anti-bullying track.  During a conference call one evening in late summer of 2019, Kali suggested producing a video in support of the song as she felt it could have a positive social impact.  Kali marshalled her resources and enlisted the services of director, Victoria Long, along with a professional film crew to capture the footage.

The video was shot at the Metamorphosis Greek Orthodox School on November 30, 2019, and the band was blessed to have over eighty children participate in the filming.  “It was a whirlwind day”, recalled Anastazio, “aside from providing the song we [the band] were limited in terms of any additional value we could add to the shoot.  We spent the day making sure that all the children and their parents were well fed. It was a 10-hour filming day.”

The end product is a moving sonic and visual portrayal of children and young teens finding the strength within themselves to cast aside feelings of fear, insecurity and self-doubt in favour of a renewed, positive sense of self.  The band’s intent is for the video to strike a chord with both children and educators which will, hopefully, contribute towards fostering school environments which are positive, inclusive and free of physical and emotional abuse.

Suns of July gave ‘Beautiful You Are’ a test-run in the school context with an acoustic performance at Toronto’s Yorkview Public School during its annual anti-bullying rally in late November, 2019.  The school’s music teacher, Hayley Ruskin, was provided with a mix of the track along with the sheet music in advance and the result was a moving performance of the song with the school’s choir standing on risers behind the Kosta, Anastazio and Colonel and energetically singing the choruses. “It was touching and the kids did great! Hayley did an excellent job preparing them. I had some nice conversations with a few of the children afterwards. I think the message resonated”, remarked Kosta,

Suns of July are currently scheduling more acoustic performances at various Toronto and Greater Toronto Area schools during February of 2020; which is ‘International Anti-Bullying Month’.  The band has already ordered scores of pink “Suns of July” t-shirts which it will provide to the children attending the performances.  Once the album drops, the band will make an instrumental version of ‘Beautiful You Are’ freely available to all school boards along with the sheet music.


SUNS OF JULY GET SET TO RELEASE THEIR DEBUT LP

Excitement builds following the success of their anti-bullying song ‘Beautiful You Are’.

By Ayah Victoria McKhail

        In the Spring of 2020, Suns of July will release their 10-song debut LP. Aptly titled Hello People, the rock and roll tune captures the essence of the album perfectly, both as an introduction to the band’s music and great expectation, since it was five years in the making.

The three main members of the band consist of two brothers: Kosta Dimos, lead singer and rhythm guitarist; Anastazio Dimos, drummer; and Nick David (a.k.a. The Colonel), lead guitarist. The trio has been writing and performing music together since high school, in addition to rocking out in three bands since university. Adding to their lineup, pivotal roles are also played by Cary Corvair on bass guitar and Mark Burnes on piano and synthesizer. The album’s eclectic musical landscape is enhanced by guest vocalist, Effie Star, who duets with Kosta on the melodic hip hop ballad, Forever. A Toronto rap artist and friend of the band, Feature, also adds hip hop flair to it and the mental health awareness track, Misunderstood.

         The album’s major highlight is the anti-bullying song, Beautiful You Are. Professionally filmed at Metamorphosis Greek Orthodox School, the touching video features a diverse group of students who exemplify the importance of acceptance and inclusion.

         As Kosta indicates, “The intent of the video is to strike a chord with both children and educators, which will hopefully contribute towards fostering school environments, which are positive, inclusive and free of physical and emotional abuse.” The song holds great significance to him, as he was also bullied as an elementary school student. Beautiful You Are has become an artistic endeavour to turn his traumatic experience into an inspirational message of strength and resilience for a new generation of students, who are often encountering bullying through a variety of means.

Indeed, the band continues to generate buzz with their heartfelt song and an acoustic performance took place at Yorkview Public School with the school’s choir enchanting the audience with a moving rendition.

Currently, more acoustic performances are being scheduled at various Toronto and Greater Toronto Area schools during February, which is ‘International Anti-Bullying Month’. It will culminate with ‘Pink Shirt Day’ on February 26, 2020; (Pink Shirt Day encourages everyone to demonstrate kindness and to wear pink to symbolize opposition to bullying). The band will also be providing pink T-shirts emblazoned with their logo to the children attending the performances and once the album drops, they’ll make an instrumental version of their song available for use at all school boards along with the sheet music. The music video and single for Beautiful You Are will be available for viewing, streaming and downloading on February 4, 2020.

         With all the growing anticipation, as Colonel attests,“Writing and recording this album has been an emotionally intense process, but we’re very excited to share our new music with the universe.” Distinct in nature, the songs also explore other themes such as lust; love; loss; and mental illness, striking the right tone every time, whether upbeat and hopeful, or painful and sombre.

         Produced by Nicolas Londoño (a.k.a. Nick Name), the album’s been a work in progress for a lengthy amount of time due to a series of life circumstances, which served as the catalyst for meaningful introspection.

Two other very poignant songs on the album, Mother and Wishing on a Star, were inspired by the untimely passing of the brothers’ mother, Lolita, exemplifying how sorrow ushered in a period of creativity to cherish her memory.

For Anastazio, not only did the tragedy present him with a great challenge, but it also marked his growth as a musician. “The process of writing Mother before recording resulted in the most difficult band rehearsals I’ve had to endure. After our mother’s passing I stopped playing drums for half the year; I then reconvened with the band to a song Colonel and my brother had written on their acoustic guitars about her. I originally hated listening to the lyrics as I tried to come up with a beat and mood that would complement what was already there.”

         The process was onerous, but over time, it coalesced. As Anastazio admits, “Although it was tough, I knew that this song was going to be special. At the start of Mother, you can hear a very light and organic timbre on the hi-hat during the first verse, which eventually explodes into thundering toms expressing sorrow and anger with the sudden loss of our mother. The percussion then bleeds into brightness on the ride cymbal during the chorus to convey our love and hope that we will honour her memory.”     

An eclectic blend of musical genres ranging from classic to modern rock, alternative and grunge influence the band’s unique sound, which combines melodic guitar riffs with synth-laden and infectious drum and bass grooves. Acts such as Bruce Springsteen, U2, REM, Oasis, Nirvana, Killers and many more all serve as sources of inspiration. Yet beyond the influential role such musical sensations play in their lives, the Dimos brothers derive their greatest sense of inspiration from their late father, George. Fondly remembered as a musical prodigy who captivated people with his knack for singing and playing the accordion, throughout their childhood and into their late teens, he fronted a Greek wedding band, so there was always live music in the house.

“We were always in awe of his talent and wanted to create our own little bit of musical magic and make people sing and dance just the way he did,” Kostareminisces.

And they sure know how to rouse a crowd. On March 8, 2019, they were one of the acts featured at The Bout Music Festival and Competition, which is held annually at The Hideout, in addition to being one of six bands (out of 120) to make it to the finals for a riveting show on May 3, 2019.

In addition to playing at popular Toronto venues, the band’s keen on making a difference in the lives of people undergoing challenges, so they’ve embarked on fundraising efforts for a variety of causes, such as The Hospital for Sick Children and the Elpida Autism Foundation.

A noteworthy initiative took place on April 24, 2019 when they and several other musicians played at Revival, successfully raising over $5,000 for the Elpida Autism Foundation. As Kosta states, “It’s a blessing to be able to jam out and raise money to help people in need.  We feel an obligation to give back whenever one can.”

And if you’re curious about the band’s name, it’s evocative of the three main members’ penchant for basking in the glow of the sun, which they attribute to their Greek ethnicity. As Anastazio explains, “Our DNA prefers warmer temperatures, so we’re big fans of the summertime; particularly the month of July. We wanted a name with a warm and positive energy. We think we nailed it with this one by including both the warmest month and the source.”

As Hello People nears release – it’ll be available on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and Amazon – a sense of excitement characterizes the mood. As Colonel shares, “We’re very proud of our new album; we hope people find something in this record they can emotionally connect to and they come out to future gigs and enjoy the music with us.”

Ayah Victoria McKhail is a Toronto-based writer with a post-graduate degree in journalism from Ryerson University. She loves music and her writing has appeared in numerous publications such as The Globe and Mail, the Literary Review of Canada and NOW.