When schoolmates Bernie Mapili and Josh Reyes crafted their first song together in 2019, they simply viewed their collaboration as a joke between friends. Now, only two years later, the high school seniors have released a hit single and two EPs, featuring songs with over 2,000 streams.
As they continue to perfect their sound, singer-songwriter Mapili declares that the duo has set their next goal: “We want the 818 area to know who we are.”
While listening to video game soundtracks and radio pop in their early childhoods, the boys were immediately intrigued by music-making but doubted that they could take it on seriously. In summer 2019, Mapili approached middle school friend, producer-artist Reyes with an idea for a parody song, so they attempted to produce it.
“We recorded it and made it in like, a day. Around six hours,” Reyes said.
They did not think much of the piece until they started to receive positive feedback from the few friends they shared it with. While the acclamations came as a surprise, the support initiated a new conversation regarding the future of the pair. “
If they like our joke, how would they like it if we actually tried?” Reyes said.
From then on, the duo committed to creating more earnest work. After selecting the band name Sunset Pirates in less than five minutes, they dedicated time to developing their individual skills and constructing their aggregated sound.
“We’re mostly in sync with what we want,” Reyes said, explaining they evolved by simply talking to each other.
By discussing their wide range of musical influences, including Brakence and Brockhampton, they quickly understood the direction they wanted to travel sonically. While they easily found their groove, they admitted to initially being too ambitious. Feeling slightly overwhelmed, the duo scrapped their original plan to debut with a 16-song album and opted for an EP instead.
To present another challenge, COVID-19 heightened in the midst of their production process, interfering with their collaboration style.
“When I’m making something, I like Bernie there,” Reyes said, referencing the pair’s struggle to receive instant feedback while isolated.
The team also agreed that the coronavirus significantly limited their motivation, and they entered a period of writer’s block. However, the unique circumstances also provided some benefits. They used their newfound free time to work as often as possible, and they were ready to release their first EP, entitled “with love,” in February 2021.
The record was met with an exceedingly positive reaction, which came as a surprise to the boys. Mapili said that one of his favorite memories was celebrating with Reyes when it reached its first 1,000 streams on Spotify. The EP’s opening track, “toxic,” immediately became a fan favorite, now sitting at over 2,400 listens. “
We thought people were gonna hate it,” Mapili said.
It remains the group’s most popular release and even earned an accompanying music video. Similar to their first song’s reception, the unexpected success of “with love,” served as a beacon of hope.
“We didn’t realize how many people were gonna put their eyes on us and give us a chance,” Mapili said.
They were inspired to work even harder on their next EP, “breeze,” which arrived only three months later, featuring collaborations with artists such as Glenhaven. The duo used the five-song collection to capture their instrumental and lyrical maturity.
“I think that’s our best thing we’ve put out yet,” Reyes said.
Following these two major releases, Sunset Pirates now looks to the future. Not wanting to give away too much about their upcoming projects, they disclosed that they are currently working on a “more focused, synergetic thing” that will be released in early 2022.
As they progress in their music career, their ultimate goal is to connect to others.
“Neither of us are asking to be big icons. I just want to know that there’s people who like me as a person and want to hear our music,” Mapili said.
By crafting their music around the human experience, the pair has been able to relate with their audience while producing music they truly love.
“I was discouraged for a very long time because I thought music was for people who had money or prior knowledge to it, but that’s not it at all,” Reyes said.
Their growth within the last two years has served as a manifestation of their passion, and it will continue to fuel their journey as they take on the Valley.